This is National Signing Day. Christmas. The day for which we recruitniks have been pining. The day that marks the culmination of a year or more of obsessive daily blog-checking, commentary, frustration, disappointment and elation. Most of all, especially in the case of Michigan fans, this day signifies Hope. After having suffered through the 2008 and 2009 seasons, marred by inappropriate personnel, youth and underachievement, we can once again look towards the future of Michigan football. Signing day gives us the opportunity to watch firsthand how Rich Rodriguez intends to build the program by stocking it with "his" type of players. As ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill aptly put it:
"You don’t take a program that for years and decades and decades was based up strength, size and power, and then all of a sudden, with a 180-degree turn, hire a coach that’s going to be about speed, quickness and agility and change an 85-man roster over night," he said. "I don’t think that’s reality. I think that takes some time. I don’t think you can wave a magic wand."
True dat. Now that the future of Michigan football has been inked, having signed 27 student athletes to letters of intent, we can discuss the general trends that have arisen--both from this year and the previous two years of recruiting--in what RR is trying to with the program by examining the personnel he's gathering.
First, a word on star ranking. One trend that is clear from the past three years of recruiting is that Coach Rod and Co give little credence to what the professional services (ie Scout, Rivals) rate a recruit. The Michigan coaching staff recruits players that they believe are best suited for their system, which, as a spread offense, requires a different type of player (both on offense and defense) than would be best suited for, say, a pro-style system like USC or Ohio State. This has led to the recruitment of many "tweeners" who's size or skills do not translate directly to the ideal mold of a traditional position (QB, defensive end, etc..), and are thus ranked lower by these services--who rate based on NFL potential--than a recruit with an ideal skill set for that position. However, especially at West Virginia, the coaches have had great success by unearthing lower-ranked talent (All American Steve Slaton-3 star, All Time NCAA total yards leader Pat White-3 star, first round draft pick an all around solid human 1-star Adam Jones). They have come to trust their own judgement for their system, as have I.
That being said, the qualities that are coveted and sought out to the coaching staff are clear: we want speed, speed, speed, athleticism at all positions, and we want kids who "love football" and are willing to dedicate themselves to the program. With these basic tenants in mind, this recruiting class is very strong. As AnnArbor.com's Dave Birkett agrees, Michigan is light on five star players, heavy on good fits.
Following two losing seasons at Michigan, to sign a top 15 class according to Scout.com is quite a feat. Despite a surge early in the recruiting process of recruits on the offensive side of the ball (including 6 receivers) , the 2010 class rounded out nicely to include 10 offensive recruits and 16 defensive recruits (as well as one heck of a punter). In this class, the coaching staff addressed their needs well, including the painfully obvious depth and talent issues on D, the need for a marquee QB recruit, and addressing the need at the WR position.
For a complete list of recruits in Michigan's 2010 class, complete with AA.com fluff and video, check out AnnArbor.com's Commitment List. The following are some of the highlights of the class:
QB Devin Gardner:
(6-4, 201lbs. Detroit, MI: Inkster) Rivals (#1 dual threat QB), Scout (#5 QB)
Gardner is the gem of the class. He is physically the prototype for a Rich Rodriguez QB; an essential cog to the offense which Michigan has been so clearly and desperately lacking. He is a physical specimen with great size and a very strong arm, though decidedly raw with his passing mechanics. After committing to Michigan last April, he spent his summer working on improving his passing mechanics, turning heads at the Elite 11 Camp. Having enrolled early, Gardner will get the crucial benefit of reps and instruction in the spring practices (which many believe aided Tate Forcier in shoring up the starting job last year over Denard Robinson, who enrolled in the fall). Gardner is expected to compete immediately at the QB position, challenging the incumbent Tate Forcier and the lightening-quick (yet turnover prone) Denard Robinson for playing time, but most believe he would be best served taking a year to redshirt and work on his mechanics. This is a hot topic with Michigan football fanatics, and will be the subject of a blogpost later on this spring.
Highlights: Junior rushing highlights, Elite 11 Highlights, Senior Year vs. Edsel Ford, Southgate Anderson, Redford Thurston and many other senior year game highlights here.
WR Ricardo Miller
(6-2, 205lbs, Ann Arbor, MI: Pioneer) Rivals (#66 WR) Scout (#27 WR)
Ricardo Miller was the first commit of the 2010 class. Originally a projected top 10 player in the state of Florida (!!!) after his junior season (out of Orlando Dr. Philips HS), his rankings dropped precipitously when he and his family decided to pack up and move to Ann Arbor, MI where he would spend his senior year playing for Ann Arbor Pioneer high. Miller, who turned down offers from Florida, LSU and Miami for the Wolverines, grew up a Michigan fan as a result of the influence of his mother, who is an alumna. Miller has been the mouthpiece of the 2010 class, getting on the horn to every potential Meech prospect to try and steer them to AA. He has great size for a WR, with a big body and a very physical style of play before and after the catch. Miller is a true #1 receiver that Michigan has been lacking since the RR took over, and looks to make an impact at that position where the competition is wide open. He has enrolled in the spring as well, and should definitely benefit from the added reps and instruction, in addition to his uber familiarity with the program, having spent his senior year going to high school across the street from the Big House. This kid loves the University of Michigan, he's an excellent student (3.8 GPA), as well as a top quality football player and a key element of the 2010 class.
Highlights: 2007 highlights, 2008 highlights
S/LB Josh Furman
(6-2, 200 lbs, Millersville, MD: Old Mill) Rivals (#38 Ath) Scout (#7 S)
Simply put, Josh Furman is a freak athlete. Despite being a 2,000+ yard rusher on offense his senior year of high school, he projects to play on the defensive side of the ball at Michigan. With a 4.37 in the 40 yard dash (one of the fastest prospects in the state of Maryland and the second fastest in Meech's class), he will inject some much-needed athleticism and talent into a vastly underperforming defensive unit. In Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson's 4-3 scheme, he will most likely be used as a hybrid OLB/Safety, Stevie Brown's position last year, given a redshirt year to bulk up a bit. With his athleticism, Furman looks to provide some excellent versatility for the Michigan defense, whether it in coverage, run support or rushing the passer. Furman is the prototype for the type of player that Coach Rod wants to build this team out of. Furman's development should be very exciting to watch.
Highlights: Offensive highlights, Defensive highlights
CB Cullen Christian
(6-0, 180lbs, Pittsburgh, PA: Penn Hills) Rivals (#8 CB), Scout (#3 CB)
Christian was a huge get for the Wolverines, and is the top rated player in their class according to Rivals. With the early departure for the NFL of blue-chip 3 year starter Donovan Warren, and the dismissal of former 5-star CB Boubacar Cissoko (otherwise known as "Toast" by ND's Michael Floyd), Michigan is extremely thin at CB. Christian is a long, big-bodied CB who is very physical at the line with great ball skills. Even though praised as having a natural feel for the position, it has been reported that his technique needs some improvement. Given a year to redshirt, he should serve as the ideal compliment to 5-star RS freshman JT Turner in the defensive backfield by his RS freshman year. But who knows, perhaps he could be thrown into the mix immediately. With a bevy of other young CB's recruited in this class, including hard-hitting Terrance Talbott and the Ohio Cardinal Conference Offensive (you heard right) Player Of The Year Courtney Avery, there should be much exciting competition at that position down the road. The sole two commits in Michigan's 2011 class are both highly-rated cornerbacks as well (Greg Brown, Delonte Hollowell), so buckle up your chinstrap for THE FUTURE!
Highlights: Junior Year highlights
DE/DT Jibreel Black
(6-2, 260, Wyoming, OH: Wyoming HS) Rivals (#25 DE), Scout (#7 DT)
After having originally decomitted from both Indiana (where his brother plays), and, most recently Cincinatti (after the coaching switch), Black committed to the Wolverines on Jan. 24, 2010. The player to which Black most frequently draws comparisons is 1st team All Big Ten and future first rounder, Brandon Graham. This is great news, if you're a Michigan fan. Though without Graham's devastating initial burst (which, let's be honest, few have), Black has displayed excellent ability in both his pass rush and stopping the run. He's a very explosive big fella with a motor that just doesn't stop, and was at the top of the board for the Michigan coaching staff for DE's. The DL is the only area of the defense with reasonable depth, so expect Black to redshirt unless he greatly impresses in summer workouts. Black joins the big man, 4-star DT Richard Ash (Pahokee pipeline, baby!), and the impressive DT Terry Talbott to round out a very solid 2010 DL class for the Wolverines.
Highlights: Junior Year Highlights
LB/S Marvin Robsinson
(6-1, 204lbs. Eagle Lake, FL: Lake Region) Rivals (#28 OLB) Scout (#18 S)
After camping at Michigan and being offered under Lloyd Carr in 2007 (summer after his freshman year!), Robinson has been Blue ever since. Turning down offers from Florida, USC and Ohio State, Robinson has been an ace in the hole for the Wolverines as one of the most talented 2010 safeties in the state of Florida (arguably the best talent producing state in the nation). Though hampered by a nagging injury his senior year, Robinson has shown excellent tackling skills and great speed. Many project him to move to LB, the position at which Michigan is arguably the weakest and has the least depth/experience. His speed and ball-skills should be a great asset to Michigan, and he is an excellent pickup for Meech in the 2010 class.
Highlights: Sophomore highlights
S/CB Demar Dorsey
(6-0, 175 lbs. Lauderdale Lakes, FL: Boyd H. Anderson) Rivals (#13 S) Scout (#19 S)
DeMar Dorsey was Michigan's final signee in their 2010 class, and boy was he a doozy. Coach Rod snatched Dorsey away from the likes of Florida (from whom he had decomitted the week prior to signing day), USC, Miami and FSU, further confirming the ability of Coach Rod to finish strong on signing day (last year on signing day, Meech netted 4-star OT Quinton Washington, 4-star WR Je'Ron Stokes and 4-star QB Denard Robinson). Demar Dorsey is a remarkable, remarkable athlete. With 4.35 speed in the 40, he is the fastest recruit in Michigan's 2010 class. And boy can this kid hit (see the highlight film). The consistent knock on the Under Armor All American Dorsey is that he has excelled in high school more on sheer athleticism than on technique. However, with some further refinement, Dorsey could pan out to be the coveted hard-hitting, ball-hawking safety that Michigan hasn't had since... well... longer than I can remember. Coach Rod and Co. pitched the Charles Woodson offense/defense role to Dorsey during his recruitment. Given his dangerous speed, he could certainly be an asset on both sides of the ball to the Wolverines. Great get on signing day to put the cap on an extremely athletic class.
SR/KR Drew Dileo
(5-10, 170lbs. Greenwell Springs, LA: Parkview Baptists) Rivals (#73 ATH) Scout (#101 WR)
Drew Dileo was initially the cause of much consternation on the recruiting boards. Why in the world were RR and Co throwing out an offer, and a coveted early one at that, to this kid nobody had ever heard of? Heck, his only other offer at the time was Tulane (he was interested in LA Tech, but they didn't even offer). Not to mention the bottleneck of top talent at slot receiver (Roundtree, Odoms, Gallon, Stokes, possibly Denard Robinson in the future. All competing for one position) that was already on campus. Michigan fans were furious with the coaching staff, to put it lightly. But after seeing Dileo's tape, it was clear to me why the staff felt this little unknown kid from a small LA school merited an offer. The obligatory Wes Welker comparison was surprisingly apt for Dileo: he's very quick, scrappy, and has the innate sense to find the seam and hit it hard on kick returns, the position at which he is most likely to see early time. Though size is his limiting factor, he makes up for it in athleticism (he played CB, KR, SR, WR and RB in high school. He also won 2 state titles in baseball) and grit. I'm giving Dileo (a 3.75 GPA, btw) my darkhorse seal of approval (previously recipient: the marvelous Vincent Smith) as the lowest ranked recruit in this class that I expect to make some noise. Don't get excited though, he may not have "it" like Smith. But he's got something good cookin'.
Highlights: Sophomore/Junior highlights