Securing Top In-State Talent: "Hold Me TomVH"

Submitted by Magnum P.I. on February 19th, 2011 at 5:17 PM

There has been some squirming lately about the potential college choices of some of our top in-state talent in the class of 2012. I, personally, hate the idea of losing out on the best Michigan high schoolers, and some have been predicting doom for the program if we aren't able to secure the likes of Ross, Jenkins-Stone, and Richardson this year. Jon Chait over on Rivals has laid the gauntlet, suggesting that this recruiting cycle will determine the destiny of the program for the foreseeable future (how great is it, by the way, that Jon Chait, a world-class writer and social commentator, contributes to our piddly Rivals site?).

Facts, data, and stuff

In response to the anxiety, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the college-selection fate of Michigan's top H.S. talent over the course of the past ten years. Using Rivals recruiting rankings, I compiled data for all the 4- and 5-star recruits out of the state of Michigan since Rivals launched their rankings in 2002. In the ten recruiting classes between then and now, there have been 76 such recruits out of Michigan high schools. That’s an average of seven or eight top-end athletes per year, and most of these recruits are regional—if not national—targets. Now, Michigan does not pursue every four-star athlete in the state, and there is less regional and national attention for some four-star players versus others. However, Rivals rankings are a close approximation for identifying the top in-state talent in any given year.

What fate befell Quincy Landingham?

The data show that, of the 76 top recruits from 2002-2011, 28 (or 37%) chose to play for U-M. Fewer than half of the top high-school players opted for the Maize and Blue. Our biggest competition, as you may expect, was Michigan State, which reeled in 24 (32%) of all 4- and 5-star players. Another 24 of these players went out of state, with Penn State being the most popular destination (four players), followed by Purdue and Ohio State (three players each). Tennessee and USC are the only other schools to sign more than one top state-of-Michigan recruit during this period (Landingham, out of Bloomfield Hills Lahser in 2007, is the only four-star guy to choose Wisconsin).  

There has been some variation from year to year in U-M’s success in securing top in-state talent. Some attribute this variation to the head coach’s recruiting prowess, our on-field success, or the historical relationship between recruits’ high schools and U-M. The table below shows the college destination of top in-state talent by year from 2002 to 2011.


A few things stand out from the data. U-M has typically been able to pull in roughly half of the top in-state recruits in any given year, but got hammered in 2010, 2009, and especially 2007, a year in which the state was loaded with top-end talent. The former two classes were Rodriguez’s first two full classes and the latter 2007 class was Carr’s final full class. The 2010 and 2009 classes followed losing seasons. The 2007 class followed an excellent season, capped by one of the most high-profile games in Michigan football history. Only two of the 13 best in-state players seemed to care.

And your point is?  

Few would argue that we don't need to bring in the best in-state recruits in order to achieve a high level of play. However, even during the “stable” years of the program in the early part of the decade, U-M still lost out on roughly half of the top in-state recruits on an annual basis (save 2005, a weak year talent-wise in which U-M pulled in all three 4/5 stars). Another semi-myth that the data dispel is that Ohio State has been making major inroads on state-of-Michigan talent. Ohio State has signed three total Michigan 4/5 stars during the past ten years: Gholston in 2004, Taurian Washington (meh) in 2007, and James Jackson (meh) in 2009. That record hardly constitutes an impending coup.

MichiganState is by far the biggest threat in stealing in-state talent, and one could view the last three recruiting cycles as disturbing in that regard, as MSU has signed 12 of the top recruits to our six. The Ohio States, Penn States, and USCs are much smaller threats.

Of course, U-M recruits nationally, and thus has a distinct advantage over MSU in overall recruiting. But if we want to dominate in-state recruiting, MSU has been our biggest historical obstacle. Not pulling in Ross, Jenkins-Stone, and Richardson this year would be wrenching. Precedent suggests that it may not spell doom for Michigan football, but it sure would feel goddam good.

 77 74jd


Moe Greene

February 19th, 2011 at 5:48 PM ^

I like how far we are removed from 2009 and the year that Sparty cleaned up on instate recruiting....maybe a few more data points will put a dagger in that meme...


February 19th, 2011 at 5:52 PM ^

While recruiting in state is important, whether you get commitments or not, the ability to recruit nationally is an even bigger advantage. Looking at the 2007 class, not only did we only get two four star guys from Michigan, we didn't sign a single player from Ohio. Yet the class was still a top ten class in the country. Now Hoke and co. won't have the advantage of coming off of a top ten performance on the field (it's unlikely at least) when recruiting their first class, but RR got multiple players from Flroida et al without an overall winning record or Greg Mattison.

As for worrying about in state guys this year, it's awfully early. And when guys like RJS and Godin come out and specifically say they are frustrated with Michigan not giving them a lot of attention, that tells me that they really like Michigan. Ross, Richardson and O'Brien are going to test out the waters of other top national programs because they're good enough. If my son was that good I would want him to check out those schools as well. We still have a great shot at them though. A much better shot than MSU has, at that. If it were November and we were hearing these things I'd be worried. It's only February, though. These are just kids afterall, yet they have family and coaches around them who won't let them make hasty decisions this early in the process.

And Jon Chait is completely wrong if he thinks a single recruiting class defines the future of a program.



February 19th, 2011 at 6:29 PM ^

I believe that the program has been in trouble for a while, longer than even the RR years.  The Horror was definitely a major data point, as was the post-2004 record vs. OSU.  This data supports that hypothesis.

Old School Wolverine

February 19th, 2011 at 8:15 PM ^

The fact is, that once Carr started slipping every year to OSU, say, in 2005, he should have been replaced in 2005, because that is approximately when recruiting started to fall...when it was obvious that OSU has the best of us at that time. Then word is Les Miles told a big recruit Eugene that Carr had the onset of Parkinsons, around then. And you can imagine how fast that would spread among the close knit elite recruit crowd. But rest easily, because Hoke and Mattison are gonna save the program, and are recruiting like its going out of style. Thank God for Hoke and Mattison. Seriously. And Brandon, too, for hiring them.


February 19th, 2011 at 7:56 PM ^

I just hate losing to MSU, tOSU, or ND - whether it's recruiting or actual games.  In a year where talent in the Midwest is crazy good, let's own the mutha!

Maize and Blue…

February 19th, 2011 at 9:16 PM ^

I would , in most cases, take a player with one less star that played in a hotbed area over a Michigan kid ranked higher.  Even the recruiting services don't think much of the state's recruits for 2012.  Despite Sam Webb telling us how loaded the state is this year, it's just not true.  Rivals has 6 players in the 250 watch list, ESPN has 5 in the 150 watch list which is 16 pages long, and Scout has 15 (1 four star and 14 three stars) out of 472 players.

It is important to get some of the top notch guys, but counting on Michigan as your main recruiting area won't bring a Big Ten title yet alone a NC.


February 19th, 2011 at 11:57 PM ^

There is a certain myopia that comes from "winning" the instate battle for recruiting with Sparty. The problem with this sort of thinking is that the sort of talent to win at the national level might not be located, consistently, in Michigan (many examples but perhaps Dann O'Neill is the most glaring and recent). The sort of talent needed to win National Championships ('97 friends) or to even win Capital One Bowls (god bless you Lloyd Carr) let alone beat tOSU is located across the nation. If you "lose" the instate battle overall just getting the players you need but pick up a better calibre player elsewhere things are probably going to be okay.


February 20th, 2011 at 9:29 AM ^

I think the term loaded for this state is better stated by counting B1G caliber prospects, rather than ESPN150 or top 100 type guys since we hardly ever have an abundance of those type of players anyway. This is a deep class as far as guys that Michigan wouldn't be reaching to offer. Guys like Ron Thompson, Devin Funchess,Matt Godin, and Mario Ojemudia are guys that will get offered by most of the B1G, but won't be cracking any top 150 lists anytime soon. I guess it depends on what your definition of a good prospect is.

Just my humble opinion on the matter.

Lloyd's Boy

February 20th, 2011 at 12:55 AM ^

Seems to me that having a highly regarded in state player go elsewhere is more a pride/morale hit than anything else. Generally not a huge overall impact but just stings seeing them choose another school, but in the end it is something that looks worse than it really is.

MMB 82

February 20th, 2011 at 10:20 AM ^

for wanting to take the opportunity to see/live in a different part of the country. We should definitely recruit nationally, the in-state students who come are the ones who were UM fans from early on. I know that when it was time for me to pick a college, one major criteria for me was that it was located at least 1000 miles from home.


February 20th, 2011 at 10:37 AM ^

If we really want Danny OBrien, we need to offer Matt Godin. these guys are best friends who grew up in Fenton Mi together, played sports thru middle school together,travel to all the combines together, and still socialize together.They are also
17 year old boys and the thought of leaving Fenton scares them. MSU is the 1rst to now have officially offered both , but Wiscy, NW, and Iowa have been constantly calling both of them and tell them separately or together that if they take a visit, they will be offered. What is troubling to me is Hoke's comments about in state recruiting, and I know for sure NO ONE on the current staff has even communicated withGodin....AT ALL. There is also a viable rumor that they haven't been communicating much with Danny either. if they want Danny , they better start at least communicating (and hopefully offering) both of them.


February 23rd, 2011 at 1:00 PM ^

Just because he's got the Vols high on his list doesn't mean that it's not intimidating for a teenager to start college away from home. Having someone you're close to go with makes a huge difference. If Godin was looking at UT then the deal would probably be done by now. If we can reel in Godin, it will go a long way with O'Brien.


February 20th, 2011 at 11:52 AM ^

We need to do better than our brand new position coach talking to Matt, especially if Matt (or his family) initiated it. The kid isn't stupid. He has head coaches from some of this country's major programs personally visiting and hosting him (MD), or emailing him asking him to visit. If M gets with it (RR personally met Matt several times and Dews was on him regularly), and offers him soon, they can land both he and Danny O ....... right now! Otherwise, it's going to be a roll of the dice as they both BLOW UP.


February 20th, 2011 at 1:03 PM ^

I think we will respectfully agree to disagree as to how much Matt will blow up. I saw him play a couple of times, and me personally, think he would be a solid addition to the class, but do not think he is a must have type of recruit,especially this early in the recruiting season.

 I have a feeling the coaches may feel the same way considering how many defensive line offers they have out, and them dragging their feet on an offer for Matt.

I do agree though that considering his relationship with Danny O'Brien, that if they want O'Brien that bad, they will have to tread carefully in regard to Matt's recruitment.


February 20th, 2011 at 1:24 PM ^

I can tell you through personal relationships my son has with both kids...and I promise you this so save it and call me out if I end up wrong ; Danny's headed to either Tennessee by himself, or to a competitive B10 school with Godin. Let's see how Matts senior year plays out at CC, before we conclude " what type of addition" he will be to any school's program.

Blue in Seattle

February 20th, 2011 at 1:55 PM ^

As long as we increase the average star level of talent each year, we will be competitive on the national stage talent-wise.  The only advantage to dominating In State recruiting is that we create a significant recruiting disadvantage for MSU.  In essence Bo's success at dominating the Spartans was greatly assisted by a scholarship level or 105 and the fact that Michigan dominated the TV.

For me dominating in state recruiting is nice, but being competitive against Alabama in 2012 in the state of Texas is a stage that could do quite a bit to bringing Michigan solidly into the top ten of recruiting classes.


February 22nd, 2011 at 2:30 AM ^

look at wisconsin they take 3 star talent and have an elite program...tho i think they help give an idea they are not the end all be all. Hoke will restablish michiganin the state of michigan :)