Michigan football recruiting class light on five-star players, heavy on good fits
The Wolverines have one commitment ranked in Rivals.com’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.”
Lemming ranks Michigan’s class 14th nationally and second in the Big Ten behind Penn State. Rivals (20), ESPN (20) and Scout.com (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,” Rivals.com 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.”
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 Scout.com, 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.”
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.