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Posted on Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 5:29 p.m.

Recruiting analysts weigh in on Michigan football team's class

By Dave Birkett

With the Michigan football team's disappointing 5-7 season in the books and national signing day two months from Thursday, the focus now turns to recruiting.

The Wolverines received a non-binding verbal commitment from Pennsylvania cornerback Cullen Christian last week and are down to their final few scholarships for the class of 2010. asked 2 analysts to weigh in on Michigan’s recruiting efforts, how the Wolverines are faring so far and what is ahead.

What are your impressions of Michigan’s class so far?

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High school quarterback Devin Gardner, right, should do well as a freshman, recruiting experts say. (Photo: Associated Press)

• Tom Lemming, CBS College Sports: “I think it’s a very good class. … They have a lot of athletes, just like last year’s class. Guys like Marvin Robinson, Cullen Christian and Devin Gardner are all big-, big-time guys and guys that should contribute as true freshman. Gardner could be the answer, teaming up with Tate Forcier at quarterback. He’s their type of guy. It took them 4, 5 years at West Virginia to get rolling and I think you’ll see it happening slowly but surely at Michigan 'cause he’s getting his kind of athletes in there. Every kid they’re getting is an athlete, maybe lacking a little bit in size, but sure can run.”

• Allen Wallace, “Good, not a great class. … It’s not amongst the average rankings of the top 10 schools, but it’s still pretty solid. I’ve always felt if you can recruit a top-20 class every year then you put yourself in the position to win the glass trophy. It’s not like you have to get top-5, top-10 classes, but if you’ve got classes in the top 20 then you’ve got the kind of athletes that should be able to compete and should be able to compete at the highest level."

Who’s the biggest impact recruit in Michigan’s current class? • TL: “I think Devin Gardner. Tate Forcier kind of slowed up (late in the year), but team up those two guys next year and they’ll have quite an offense, in my opinion. And then you’ve got Marvin Robinson who, to me, when I saw him back in February, I thought this guy’s got great range. … I really like Cullen Christian because he’s a big cornerback who can play. So I like a lot of their guys. They’ve done well. And they’re still in on some big-name guys nationally, so I think they’re going to finish real strong, too.”

• AW: “Just looking at the list you’d say Devin Gardner is the most notable amongst these kids based upon his star ranking and the fact that a quarterback is so important to Michigan’s offense. … It’ll come down to whether Gardner can really throw at the college level. I think he needs to work on his mechanics, so in that sense how quickly he moves forward will depend upon a lot of what the talent amounts to, can he pass in the college game, and then also can the guys currently in the program hold him off. ... I’d say he’s the guy who stands out, but it’s very tough to predict that quarterback position.”

What’s Michigan's biggest area of need left to fill? • TL: “Defensive tackles and cornerbacks still. I know they got Cullen Christian, but when I watch them that’s what I would say. Those 2 positions seem to me to be the ones they have to fill. … Defensive tackles are always tough. There’s Bruce Gaston here in Chicago who I think is the best in the Midwest, and Beau Allen, who they offered up in Minnesota, so there’s still some out there. And then they got the kid down at Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, Ga,, who I kind of like, (Mike) Thornton, he’s come on strong this year. He’s a pretty good player, so he’s another one. If they can get one or two of those guys then they’re in business.”

• AW: “I think all of us have a lot of confidence in Rich Rodriguez’s ability to put together a good offense at Michigan, at least I felt that way because he did at West Virginia. You have good athletes at a pedigree school like Michigan, so I expect the offense to be fine. What you need to see is recruiting defensive depth, so you can avoid the problems that Notre Dame faced where they showed they can really score the ball on pretty much anybody despite the lack of a consistent running game, but their defense couldn’t stop anybody when it counted. …I’m kind of an old-fashioned guy, just looking at what it takes at the college level, you have to be able to run the ball consistently when it counts, you’ve got to be able to keep the ball away from the other team, and you have to be able to stop the run. And Michigan had problem in both those areas.”

Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.



Sun, Dec 6, 2009 : 1:20 a.m.

Cant wait to see what the final recruiting class will look like, Last year was a great recruiting class even thou with 3 wins. this year it is only 5 wins so most likely it will be lil better or the same as lasts year recruiting. And you 3-star prospects haters, some of them turn out to be explosive players, they may not Be a Noel Devine or C.J spiller but will do enough to help their teams win. I trust RichRod knows wat hes doin on recruiting. REMEMBER HE RECRUITED PAT WHITE AND NOEL DEVINE. those players may not be on UM but i have a feeling RichRod will find players who are more explosive than them. CMON PEOPLE THIS IS MICHIGAN ITS A LOT EASIER TO RECRUIT TOP PLAYERS HERE THAN IN WEST VIRGINIA. you cant just recruit any kind player. WAT GET A POCKET PASSER OR A POWER RB WHO ARE 5-STAR FOR A SPREAD OFFENSE? He wants speed, its a different game now, you UM fans for a long time may not be used to speed and high scoring offenses but trust me be patient, RichRod is the same as where he was at West Virginia. And for those who say O HE LOST TO PITT WHEN HE COULD OF WNE TO NAT CHAMP, THINK HE DIDNT HAVE THE TALENT THERE LIKE WAT HE COULD HAVE HERE IN UM. O YEAH HE UPSET SEC POWER GEORGIA AND KILLED BIG 12 POWERHOUSE OKLAHOMA IN SUGAR AND FIESTA BOWL WITH WEST VIRGINIA WHO IS HARDLY UP AT THE TOP OF RECRUITING CLASS LIKE WAT MICHIGAN USUALLY IS AT. IF HE CAN BEAT THOSE TEAMS HE WILL BE ABLE TO BEAT TEAMS IN OTHER BCS CONFERENCES AND IN THE BIG 10. HAVE FAITH IN MICHIGAN CMON. GO BLUE!!!!


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 7:17 p.m.

With all the poison pen articles and comments about RR in the media its no wonder 4 and 5 star athletes are skepticle about signing with UofM. I can just imagine RR at a recruits home being asked how long are you going to be at UofM? Well, well "I have to prove myself next year or I'M dog meat". He will have to settle for what he can get for the time being and develop players for key positions. He is on the right track, so don't count him out of recruiting skill players for the defense. I think he was so busy building a first class offense he under estimated the need for a great defense. As Yogi Bera said "I think the team that scores the most will win".


Fri, Dec 4, 2009 : 9:27 a.m.

"He is getting it done, on both sides of the ball right now." What were you watching this season, NEWE82? It wasn't the football team I watched. They didn't get it done on either side of the ball, and they got worse as the season went on. Most of it was funadamentals. Blocking, tackling, etc. That's coaching. RR is trying to lower expectations for next year because he knows he is in over his head. Maybe the NCAA will do us a favor and give us an excuse.....


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 10:38 p.m.

A few things: First, I wish all the kids the best of luck. The University of Michigan is a very special place and they will learn to love it, regardless of what happens with the football program. Second,RR had nothing to turn around. Nothing. The prior two seasons we had won 11 and 9 games respectively. RR hasn't won 9 games combined in his 2 seasons. Whether we lost to App State and Oregon or not, the fact is the team won plenty of games and was competing for a spot in the BCS championship game just 2 seasons before he got here. Don't make up your own facts. Third, the reason a lot of folks were excited about his hiring was that he was going to be able to get the elite atheletes at UofM that he couldn't get at WVU. Now, we're supposed to be happy that he's getting classes that look like his WVU recruiting classes. What???? Sorry, that was not supposed to be the script. He was supposed to turn us into perennial NC contenders, not turn us into a 2nd rate WVU. He's got one more year to prove himself.


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 9:47 p.m.

Goblue: Check the facts. RR was "given time" at WVU to build his program? He was given time because after winning 3 games in his first year he followed up with 9 Ws in his second year. I can guarantee that if he can turn around a crap program like WVU in 2 years he sure the heck should be able to do it at the U. if it's about the coaching. But then again, the Big East is not the Big Ten. Just keep on being patient with RR and we will be having this same discussion 2 years from now.


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 5:24 p.m.

One important aspect I think everyone seems to overlook is that one strength of this coaching staff is to be able to get lower rated but very athletic kids and develop them into very good (great) players. If you look at the classes RR got at WVU from a ratings standpoint they were not great at all, but they were the types of players he needed to play in his system regardless of how many stars they been rated at - he was given the TIME and developed that program into something special. Remember - Pat White and Steve Slaton? both were 3 star recruits. This staff for example will recruit a saftey with a specific skill set(speed,athleticism etc..) and build him up to play LB without losing speed or skills - same goes for basically all positions. They are not going to get big, slow guys and try to slim them down to try and make them quicker. He has already had more talent from a ratings standpoint in the last class and this years class then he EVER had a west v. I'm not a HUGE RR fan, but I do think given the time he will turn this into a top 5 national championship caliber program. I mean if you really think about it, although it was another losing season, it's pretty remarkable how well we actually did with the amount of TRUE freshman, redshirt freshman, and sophomores we had on the field starting. Just keep in mind next season that this team will STILL be very young compared to the players on the teams we will be playing. I'm hoping for the best next year as is everyone here, and watching the team struggle is painful, but I just think year 4 for RR is the season that will give us a true measure of whether or not he is going to work out as Michigan's coach good or bad.


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 3:18 p.m.

I applaud all of the Kool aid drinkers out there, but come on. What improvement was there this year. One win in a weak conference, no bowl, worst defense in school history, collapse on offense and defense and no improvement from year one to year two. Michigan had two legitimate wins all year. WMU and Eastern and both of those teams stunk. Notre Dame was proven to be a joke and don't even count the Delaware state game. Indiana probably would have been a loss if not for the blown call. There is nothing to look forward to next year. The offense ran up big numbers against crap teams and were shown as frauds against the good defensive teams. Good coaches don't need 4 or 5 years to turn around big time football programs. Look at Meyer and Saban, they took average teams and turn them into national powers in a couple of years. Michigan is turning into a second to third tier football program under RR watch. I think 2010 is going to be awful and it will be bad from the beginning with a loss to Connecticut.


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 2:45 p.m.

Speed and athleticism don't matter if you're injured and can't play or can't play up to your ability from injury. That's how the undersized guys will be in the Big Ten.


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 1:01 p.m.

Tate matures nicely at QB next year. Denard moves to receiver where he belongs. Will Campbell begins to turn into the player he should be. Gardner is the backup QB, learns a lot and plays a little. Michigan once again scores 35 a game. Michigan gives up 30 a game. Hey - Baby Steps, Man.


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 9:59 a.m.

To much emphasis on stars in my opinion! West Virginia did just fine with 1, 2, and 3 star players. Granted, the Big Ten may be a different breed and we have gotsome 4 star players,and a 5 star QB. I think Gardner contributes! Tate Forcier did not show much progress as the season went on. I know his year in the system will help, but the best prepared will play and I totally expect Gardner to push Forcier for playing time, even if he does not enroll early.


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 9:16 a.m.

Sparky79 your on the money about patience. I just can't understand why certain individuals think that anyone can turn a team and system around in just 2yrs. I suppose there are those that just don't get the mechanics of the game and just like to argue for the sake of arguing. RR is going to turn this thing around you can take that to the bank and I'm betting the complainers know that and simply don't like this guy for who he is and that he's going to get Mich. back to the top makes no sense otherwise.


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 7:57 a.m.

What i find funny about recruiting here in ann arbor is sam webb. He says Monday that Michigan is in serious contention for Tony Jefferson (a kid UM desperately needs), but then Espn's west coast recruiting guru has a quote from Jefferson saying that his choice is either USC or Oklahoma. Also when we get a 3 star guy he speaks like the evaluators are ignorant and the guy should be a 4 or 5 star guy, however when Michigan loses out on a guy then he points out he was a 3 star guy, wasn't a priority, his 40 time wasn't that good..etc... These guys are freshmen....who knows how they will turn out. We have had better luck at UM with guys who were 3 stars than the 5 star recruits. Hopefully the redshirts will start next season and make Rich look like a genius, but then again they could also go out and have their size exploited again. Recruituing is a crap shoot


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 6:36 a.m.

We have a intelligent, dedicated, head coach in Rich Rodriguez, who is clearly doing everything he can to bring the right kids to Michigan, yet you still have doubters who are trying to do everything in their negativity power to oust the man. No, he's not "defensive minded," but he's surrounded himself with people like Robinson who are; lest we forget, Rodriguez played on the defensive side of the ball in college. He is getting it done, on both sides of the ball right now.


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 12:11 a.m.

It does not really matter how good the incoming recruits are. They are not going to be well coached. It is very likely they will only play for RR one year. In 2011, (after the 4-8 2010 season) Michigan needs to get a defensive minded head coach. Notre Dame is a perfect example of coach focusing way to much on offense. Football is not fun to watch when you know you have to score on every possession to stay in the game. You could tell Michigan was in trouble this year when a couple of weeks before the WMU game Rodriguez had no clue on how the defense was progressing. Recruiting is important, but the new AD should look at recruiting a head coach for 2011.


Thu, Dec 3, 2009 : 12:10 a.m.

RR is buliding the foundation with alot of the 3 star guys, theres still a few guys out there that we have a chance at and need to make some big pushes,We need to recruit are home state better there alot of players in the mich ohio penn area we are leavin out..


Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 10:52 p.m.

This year's class is OK, but not as good as last years. That's probably to be expected given the crappy year we had. Here are my thoughts on this class so far: 1. Weak in offensive line. But, with some of the guys brought in last year, we can afford an off year. Next year though, we'll need to have a big O-line class. 2. Linebacker - this is an area of huge need. Marvin Robinson, at 190 lb. is too small to play this position right now. The other guy Kinard may be OK down the road. But, we need bigger, faster athletes at this position than we have now. 3. D-line. So far, this is a weak class given the extreme needs we have. Only 1 interior lineman commit so far. 4. Receivers: OK. We don't need much in this area, so the few guys we got will add more depth. 5. Cornerbacks: Need at least one more good player. 6. Kickers: Getting a good punter like Hagerup was HUGE. 7. QB: Very good with Gardner. He's going to be THE MAN sometime down the road. 8. RB: OK, but not great. Without any big backs next year, it's hard to imagine who will get the really tough yards for a first down or TD. Stephen Hopkins has size, so we'll have to see how he develops. Hopefully, the coaches can finish strong and get a few more really good players.


Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 10:49 p.m.

Agree with Sparky. You will see flashes of talent from incoming freshman but we had a great recuriting class last year and there were a handful that didnt even play. Emilien, JT Turner, Jeremy Gallon, Trousaint (sp) This team is headed in the right direction. I love the guys hes bringing in and like the article notes they may be alittle but smaller than your typical Big 10 players but they can flat out run. The offense doesnt worry me. It would be nice to develop a dependible 3rd and short running game but thats part of the spread. Another year in the system on D will be very healpful. You could see the players were learning all season and they were in position to make plays they just came up short. Another summer will help them out. I like what im seeing.


Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 9:23 p.m.

What fans need to keep in mind is that you're not going to win plugging in a bunch of true freshmen. Gardner is highly rated, but so was Tate, and we went through growing pains this season. Don't expect Gardner to just magically appear and all is better. Playing musical chairs with another true freshmen quarterback and throwing him into the fire prematurely is going to keep this team going nowhere fast. We still have Tate and Denard, we still got options, I expect both to come back stronger and wiser next season. As for another position of need, defensive backs. Yes, the analysts are spouting off some good recruits we have coming in, but have we already forgotten last year's recruits? Cornerback Justin Turner was the top rated player coming out of Ohio last year and he red shirted. If anyone should be making an impact next year, it's him, not a true freshman defensive back, yet all these sort of articles do is blow up hype and make fans expect miracles of the incoming class, when their true impact is probably a year or two down the line. It's great to see these kids come to Michigan and hear good things about them, but keep your expectations in check on immediate impact.


Wed, Dec 2, 2009 : 5:42 p.m.

Given the record the past couple years I think it is great we will finish somewhere between 15th and 12th best recruiting class in the country. RR may have made a slight error in offering so may 3 stars scholarships early on when there are now better athletes wanting to play here. I hope he can make some room to recruit any late 4 stars but at the same time keep his promise to the 3 star kids early on. The 3 stars will build depth on your team and they won't quit if they don't get to start like some of the four and five star kids do.