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Posted on Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 12:57 p.m.

Michigan football recruiting class light on five-star players, heavy on good fits

By Dave Birkett


Pittsburgh Penn Hills High School's Cullen Christian takes down North Hills Max Creighan in November. (Photo courtesy of Matt Freed | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

No one is declaring that the Michigan football program put together the bluest-chip of recruiting classes.

The Wolverines have one commitment ranked in’s top 100 players (cornerback Cullen Christian, No. 99), one ranked in ESPNU’s top 150 (quarterback Devin Gardner, No. 128), and more wide-receiver recruits (five) than any other school in the Big Ten.

But what Michigan lacks in five-star power, recruiting analysts say it more than makes up for with fit.

“They’re getting the type of players they want, which is real important to (Michigan coach Rich) Rodriguez,” CBS College Sports analyst Tom Lemming said. “That’s how you win ballgames.

“Everything’s arbitrary anyway. Four- and five-star rankings are done by guys like me. All that matters is whether (coaches) think they’re four or five stars.”


Inkster High School quarterback Devin Gardner enrolled early at Michigan. (File photo)

Michigan is expected to sign at least 26 players Wednesday, the first day recruits can ink binding letters of intent. Seven commitments already have enrolled in classes, including Gardner, running back Stephen Hopkins and Ann Arbor receivers Jeremy Jackson and Ricardo Miller.

Lemming ranks Michigan’s class 14th nationally and second in the Big Ten behind Penn State. Rivals (20), ESPN (20) and (ninth) all have the Wolverines in the top 20.

“I’m a big fan of what they did on the defensive side of the ball,” national recruiting editor Jeremy Crabtree said. “We saw them make steps forward on the offensive side of the ball in the past couple classes and it reflected on the field. This year it was very important for them to do better on the defensive side of the ball and bring in talent.”

Thumbnail image for RICARDO-MILLER.jpg

Pioneer High School wide receiver Ricardo Miller already is enrolled at Michigan. (File photo)

After loading up on offensive commitments last spring, Michigan spent the fall addressing a porous defense that allowed the second most points in school history last year.

The Wolverines have 15 defensive commitments, including six defensive backs, and are awaiting the signing-day decisions of safety prospects Sean Parker and Rashad Knight. Parker is choosing between Michigan, USC and Washington; Knight between Michigan and Rutgers.

Christian, ranked the No. 3 cornerback in the country by, and safety/linebacker Marvin Robinson are among those who could see immediate playing time.

“You don’t want too many of these guys playing early, but we know that they’re going to,” Crabtree said. “I’m sure Coach Rodriguez would like to redshirt as many of these kids as you can.”

Punter Will Hagerup also should play as a true freshman, but the ultimate success of Michigan’s class may come down to Gardner, a raw but athletic dual-threat quarterback who will take part in spring practice.

ESPN national recruiting director Tom Luginbill said Gardner has the physical tools to push Tate Forcier for the starting job next year, and Crabtree said he’s the type of player who “might look horrible in a camp setting, but then you put him in a game setting and he’s pretty darn special.”

“Gardner is their Terrelle Pryor,” Lemming said, referring to the Ohio State quarterback who picked the Buckeyes over Michigan two Februaries ago. “I think everything’s going to kind of hinge on him doing well, and I think he will. I think he’ll develop as a passer. He’s got a very good arm, he’s got an NFL body already, and I think he’s a leader. I think he’s going to be the kind of guy that can lead them to the next level.”

• The Michigan football recruiting list, with links to videos.

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.


Blue Marker

Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 4:44 p.m.

2-2? That means Michigan starts 0-2 because they're not going to lose to BG or UMass. UConn will be a tough game and so will ND but both are winnable. I say 3-1 start at worse.

PE #1

Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 4:39 p.m.

I agree. Part of the problem is coaching. Maybe the new athletic director will make a certain person gone.


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 10:32 a.m.

Does that guarantee us 5 wins this year? My prediction is if M is 2-2 after 4 games, RichRod is history.

Sean T.

Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 5:32 a.m.

Actually, Indianas "Pistol" offense is not a gimmick. It's another run-based spread that uses more TE's and a better downhill running style. The reason that RR's spread is called a gimmick is because it's based on the athletic prowess of the QB. Problem is you may need to be about 3 starting QB's deep because of the risk of injury. Indiana's lowly program went from having the same basic offense as "ours" to a more productive balanced offense. We were one bad call from being upset by the Hoosiers Yes, I'm a naysayer!!!!!!!!!


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 3:10 a.m.

i stand corrected. i didn't get a chance to look and conference only stats. not suprizing one bit that the passing game was that bad in conference. true freshman playing with a busted wing. in an offense not designed to pass. and top 2 running backs out most of the 2nd half of season. the good part of that is it forced the play of younger guys. and it will be interesting to see how much development goes on this spring. having said that. its hardly a gimmick offense. if any team in the big 10 has a gimmick offense its indiana


Wed, Feb 3, 2010 : 2:19 a.m.

Well cant wait on signing day, hopefully we could pickup Dorsey and Parker. Atleast one of em. The recruiting class may not be ranked high but the players look very promising. The defense will improve guarantee, many dont believe it but i think there is another Brandon Graham or Lamar Woodley or even a Charles Woodson in every player on the Defense. They just have to play with the intensity as those legends did. They all might not be great as them but if they all play with intensity the Defense will improve and make plays. As for the offense, Many Defenses should fear UM's offense. Young, dangerous, and very FAST. There is some power but the speed is what makes more plays and hlps win games nowadays. Its funny also to hear fans of other teams trashn UM cuz they r SCARED!!!! many UM fans know it. And some of u RR-haters i know its tough watchn losing seasons but its kind of hard to change an entire system in one or even 2 years. Many of u will say Nick Saban did it and Urban Meyer did it. Well first of all they already had players on their teams that fit their system. And also they didn't try to change the entire system like how RR is. Just give RR time and he'll get UM back ontop. GOT TO HAVE FAITH. HAIL TO MICHIGAN THE CHAMPIONS OF THE WEST!!!!!!!!!

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 9:55 p.m.

wersch, as I explained to you before, the spread is just a concept. It's about as detailed as the "West Coast" or "Dink 'n Dunk." Rodriguez coaches a specific variation on the spread concept that is very heavy on the quarterback himself executing zone-read runs. That's a gimmick, in that it doesn't fool opponents very long. It also puts a lot of wear and tear on a quarterback, especially one who doesn't throw well enough to back the linebackers up. That you continue to repeat the same nonsense in response to my criticism indicates a lack of comprehension of basic football strategy. So you're probably not qualified to express an opinion here. Or are being deliberately obtuse. What Michigan team was 3rd in the conference in anything, leathercouch? The Wolverines were 9th in scoring on offense, and 11th on defense. They were the only team to cough up 200 yards per game against the run and were 10th in passing offense. They were 3rd in scoring only when you add in the non-conference games, which is an exercise akin to tilting at windmills. No one else played a team as low in Division I-AA as Delaware State, and the 63 points Michigan piled on this helpless opponent was by far the highest output any team in the conference had against anyone.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 8:43 p.m.

Steve Slaton Pat White both pro's, both recruited and played for RR, both 3 Star recruits, stars mean nothing, does the player fit the system, look at the struggles Pryor has had in a Pro Style O. Go Blue!


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 7:40 p.m.

Yeah I'll admit I didn't know too much about this recruiting info before and only went to the one site I heard of,, but of course every differnt site is going to have differnt rankings. Who knows...according to Rivals MSU is the only one that has a 5 star. You know if sites like that keep track of the differnt star levels and their ability to pick them correctly?


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 7:10 p.m.

Fair enough Blue bad. "That's funny I see a big 0 on the number of five stars for OSU as well. I also don't see the Spartys anywhere on the list!!!" I see OSU gettting better class of recruits at a higher percentage. I don't really know what that post was soppossed to pump anyone up about.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 6:57 p.m.

Fit or not, I still say it's not a good sign for UM to go O-fer on 5 stars. My big fear is that if UM has a season close to the last two (and from what we've witnessed it's not unlikely) RR will be be given the door. In comes a new coach to take over a team of 65 wideouts and 20 D-backs. THEN the rebuilding with B10 players starts all over. This may not be over for a loooong time.

Blue Marker

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 6:39 p.m.

A reply to a reply...I didn't name anyone by name in my original post, so perhaps your being a bit sensitive to think I was talking about you. Further more, I'm never questioned why there were so many articles about Michigan on so I'm not sure why you felt compelled to counter a point I didn't make. As for Michigan fans posting negatively on Michigan stories, I completely understand. The last two years have been brutal on all Michigan fans. However, I chose to stand behind them especially in times of trouble. I'll be true blue til the day I die. That doesn't mean I'm blind to the state of the program, but that I'll trust the people in charge know more than I do and are doing their best to turn things around....imagine that.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 6 p.m.

I didn't know the local Ann Arbor naysayers had such an extensive knowledge of football! Please guys, leave this rebuilding process to people who possess football intelligence and a positive outlook on life, Okay? This team is going to run all over a weak Big10 next year. The only people who want Rich Rodriguez fired are the ones who are scared to see him succeed (MSU and OSU). You are either with us or against us. Fairweather fans need not apply.

The Grinch

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 5:22 p.m.

Macabre Sunset and I agree on few things in these discussions, but in this we are in complete agreement. We will be lucky to have a 4-8 season this fall. No, I'm not hoping that this will happen, but the upside will be that this will be the end of the NimRod era.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 5:07 p.m.

Possibly becasue the other teams were playing a soft D as they had already won in the first half. Put the scrubs in, prevent defense, points.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 4:58 p.m.

Macabre Sunset - Call it what you need to but this "gimmick" offense was top 3 in the conference in points per game with underclassmen filling most of the skill positions.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 4:43 p.m.

"But post an article on Michigan and watch them come out of the woodwork." Actually I'm here everyday, thanks. There's probably, and I'm just taking a wild guess, more posts about michigan becasue most of us are in Ann Arbor. Ya think that might have something to do with it? Many of the peopl eyou call "haters" and need to comment "on their own team" are Michigan fans upset with the 2 worst seasons of michigan Football...imgaine that.

Blue Marker

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 4:27 p.m.

I love the haters on here. I don't post on articles for MSU or OSU because I could care less about those programs. But post an article on Michigan and watch them come out of the woodwork. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but obsession can't be far behind. Do you trolls comment as much on your own teams as you do Michigan?


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 4:03 p.m.

However this class turns out won't be enough to save his job. RR is recruiting guys to run the spread and still has to stop other teams from covering the spread. Mass, BG and Indiana are the only sure things on the schedule this year. I suspect they will be underdogs in more than 1/2 of this seasons games. Hopefully for U of M the next coach will be able to use these recruits to restore the program after what might be another medicore season.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 3:40 p.m.

In 1952 TCU coaching legend Leo "Dutch" Meyer wrote a book entitled Spread Formation Football, detailing his ideas about football formations, in which the first sentence was, "Spread formations are not new to football."[3] Any other gimmicks you'd like to reference, maybe the 1-3-1 defense?? SSSSHHHH little brother...we'll compare recruiting classes tomorrow if you really want to


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 3:27 p.m.

A gimmick is changing a logo to try and find an identity. Rich Rodriguez is implementing is his variation of an offense system that has been around for decades. BTW, Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson were little too and that worked out well for everybody :)


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 3:25 p.m.

Stevieboy i hear what you're saying and pretty much agree, but people use things like this to set the value of a program, which helps people decide if they wan't to goto a school or not. The fact UofM has 0 top 5s and schools like Florida & Alabama & OSU have handfulls of them doesn't look good to recruits coming in.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 3:17 p.m.

I am so tired of the spin. Michigan is always in the top ten recruiting. Always. GimmickRod won in the Big East because he didn't have to compete against the best, week-in, week-out. He could play his little games and have a chance at an upset here and there. Yes, he did a better job this year recruiting on defense. But there were good athletes from the Carr era (just watch the first round of April's draft and count how many schools send two players to the first round) and he had absolutely no idea how to construct a defense. So there's no sign the record-setting bad performance will do anything but continue. On offense, it's all gimmickry. Jake Long would never consider attending the U of Rod. I have no idea what he's looking for in a lineman, only that he didn't recruit any this year. That will kill the offense 2-3 years from now. Of course, with a 4-8 season coming, he won't be around, thankfully, for the rebuilding. Carr left the cupboard quite full. Rodriguez will leave it stocked with cheese and crackers in a conference full of steak and caviar.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 3:09 p.m.

Do you want to believe a writer rating a football player or a football coach rating a football player? You can't believe everything you read, especially if they never played the game before. There are some players who were rated a "5-Star or 4-Star" that turned out to be flops. So I think these coaches who do this on a daily basics knows what they are doing.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 2:47 p.m.

"You can't get much lighter than 0." Same thing I was thinking when I read it.


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 1:55 p.m.

"No one is declaring that the Michigan football program put together the bluest-chip of recruiting classes." Author doesn't do much hanging around this site I guess :)


Tue, Feb 2, 2010 : 1:51 p.m.

Your forgetting Demar Dorsey.