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Posted on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan football team to welcome top-five recruiting class thanks to fast start, Ohio connection

By Kyle Meinke

The Michigan football team has one of the most highly regarded recruiting classes in the country.

Perhaps the most impressive part about it, though, is that the heavy lifting was done well before the Wolverines' 11-2 season and Sugar Bowl title. In fact, they have as many decommits (one) as commits (one) since that BCS win.

But, Michigan had an impressive 21 commitments before August -- impressive not only for the quantity, but also the quality of its early class. and CBS ranked it the best in the country, and Rivals pegged it at No. 3.

Few expected that kind of early burst from Michigan because the two factors most closely correlated to recruiting success — wins and stability — were not part of the formula. The program was 15-22 the previous three seasons and had a first-year coach in Brady Hoke.

The Michigan recruiting class

    Five stars
    Kyle Kalis (OL, Ohio), Ondre Pipkins (DL, Missouri)

    Four stars
    Blake Bars (OL, Tennessee), Joe Bolden* (LB, Ohio), Amara Darboh (WR, Sierra Leone), Royce Jenkins-Stone (LB, Michigan), Erik Magnuson (OL, California), Terry Richardson (CB, Michigan), James Ross (LB, Michigan), Tom Strobel (DE, Ohio), Jarrod Wilson* (S, Ohio)

    Three stars
    Ben Braden (OL, Michigan), Jehu Chesson (WR, Missouri), Jeremy Clark (S, Kentucky), Devin Funchess (TE, Michigan), Allen Gant (S, Ohio), Matt Godin (DL, Michigan), Willie Henry (DL, Ohio), Drake Johnson (RB, Michigan), Sione Houma (FB, Utah), Mario Ojemudia (DL, Michigan), Kaleb Ringer* (LB, Ohio), A.J. Williams (TE, Ohio), Chris Wormley (DL, Ohio)

    Breakdown by state
    Ohio: 9
    Michigan: 8
    Missouri: 2
    Iowa: 1
    California: 1
    Utah: 1
    Tennessee: 1
    Kentucky: 1

    Big Ten rankings (Rivals)
    Ohio State
    Michigan State
    Penn State

    NOTE: Stars given by Rivals
    * -- Already enrolled in school

"It's really surprised me. I haven't really seen something like it," said Scout's Allen Trieu, who has covered Midwest recruiting since 2005. "I thought it would take the new coaches some time to establish themselves a little bit in recruiting.

"They were the new guys on the block, so I didn’t expect as many early commitments as they got. But if you look at the way they finished out the previous class, they finished that real strong, then they started real strong (for 2012), so I think it became clear right away this staff is full of good recruiters."

High school players can sign official letters of intent Wednesday. Michigan has 24 commits in its class, although three — safety Jarrod Wilson and linebackers Kaleb Ringer and Joe Bolden — already are enrolled in school.

That group ranks No. 4 in the country, according to Scout, trailing only Alabama, Texas and Ohio State. It's No. 5, according to Rivals.

Trieu said the key was getting early verbal commitments from magnetic, in-state personalities such as James Ross, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Terry Richardson and Devin Funchess.

Those recruits played PAL football together in Detroit and have sway with other players in this state.

"Once a few dominoes fell, more committed," Trieu said. "Then, kids started seeing spots fill up in the class and knew they better commit early if they wanted a spot.

"The out-of-state kids followed."

When Hoke took over, he expressed two areas of emphasis: Defense and line play. He wasted little time addressing either.

Offensive lineman Ben Braden was the first commit of the 2012 class. Nine of the next 12 pledges came on the defensive side of the ball, including one stretch of seven in a row.


Offensive lineman Kyle Kalis (left) is a five-star recruit.

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Michigan also snagged a pair of linemen — Erik Magnuson, an offensive guard from Carlsbad, Calif,, and Ondre Pipkins, a defensive tackle from Kansas City — who have turned into recruiters of their own.

"They’re both really personable guys," Rivals analyst Tim Sullivan said. "They're guys who want to play with the best talent, so they’re out there trying to build the best class they can."

For as much as the Wolverines did to get off to a fast start, they also cashed in on some good fortune, including the brewing scandal at Ohio State.

Ohio long has been a linchpin state for Michigan recruiting. Not only is it one of the country's great producers of high school talent, it also is a border state and home to the Wolverines' biggest rival. Any kind of footprint that can be established there is significant.

For the past decade, that connection was modest as the Wolverines pulled an average of four Ohio recruits per class. With the commitment of defensive tackle Willie Henry on Monday, Michigan now has nine in this class.

More importantly, it won head-to-head battles against Ohio State.

Tight end Kevin Koger was the only Ohioan on the entire team last season who had spurned the Buckeyes. The 2012 class has four itself.

Hoke happens to be from Ohio, which surely has helped. But he also was the beneficiary of the scandal that cost Jim Tressel his job.

Michigan snagged its only consensus five-star recruit, offensive lineman Kyle Kalis, in the aftermath of Tressel's forced resignation.

"I certainly think Kalis would have stuck with Ohio State, if that didn't happen," Trieu said. "Michigan took advantage of the opening, and they’ve established themselves in Ohio. Now, it’ll be interesting to see what happens now that Urban Meyer is down there."

Since Meyer has been hired by the Buckeyes, the Wolverines' pull from that state has reached an impasse. They already lost head-to-head battles for five-star running back Bri'onte Dunn and four-star cornerback Armani Reeves.

Those positions are two of the three biggest weaknesses in Michigan's class. It has only one corner, Terry Richardson, and one running back, Drake Johnson. And, Johnson is more of a speedster in the Vincent Smith or Justice Hayes mold, rather than the bigger back that offensive coordinator Al Borges is seeking.

The team's other big weakness is at offensive line. The top-end talent, paced by Kalis and Magnuson, is elite, but a decommit from Caleb Stacey on Jan. 21 has left the position at least one and probably two players short.

Michigan isn't quite done yet. It is a finalist to land four-star offensive lineman Jordan Diamond on Friday. Trieu said the Wolverines are the leader for him, although have work left to do.

A commit from Diamond could give the Wolverines the best class at that position in the country.

"Ohio State is nipping at the heels, but they're the only ones who are even close," Sullivan said. “It’ll be close between those two, but I guess they’re used to going at it.”

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 11:14 p.m.

Let's just change the name from University of Michigan to Ohio-North University. Has a nice ring to it doesn't it?


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 7:02 a.m.

Can you really blame a kid for wanting to leave ohio....sheesh..

Terry Star21

Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 12:17 a.m.

You are frightened.......very frightened........


Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.

I have seen some of these recruits play in person. I came away really impressed with Royce Jenkins-Stone. The kid made play after play for the Div 1. State Champions. Can't wait to see the next group of Michigan Men! Go Blue!

Terry Star21

Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 7:04 p.m.

I think we all can agree that a top ten football recruit ranking is all Michigan needs to continue their success. I enjoy reading about our recruits as Kyle fills us in but seriously; all recruits from all colleges are just names on paper for now. Hoke has shown that he can make the difference with the coaching he and his staff provide and the other college coaches and fans (and their commenters here) have shown their obvious fear by the close following of our program. He and his staff wiped away three years of down coaching and taught their charges 'How to Win'. Look forward to what they can do with brand new recruits - north and south teams be Very frightened. I welcome all our recruits to Ann Arbor, to not only the Michigan Football family but to the fans and the faithfuls family and we will support you to the end of time. You will find that Bo's 'Those that stay will be champions' so true in so many ways in your academics and athletics. MgoBlueForTiM.....welcoming our recruits, our heros - our champions.

Terry Star21

Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 5:30 a.m.

thank you.....and keep contributing your support in comments for Michigan Football (and don't let the outsiders bug you, they're just frightened of M !).

Blu n Tpa

Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

That might be the best thing you ever wrote. You are Michigan! This is Michigan! Go Blue!

Chad Williams

Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 4:55 p.m.

All excuses aside 2013 will be a fair fight. For three years osu used michigans troubles to keep guys away from ann arbor. This year michigan took advantage of osu problems. Meyer is more established and more celebrated nationally for hoke to compete he needs to be the same. Meyer has the same advantage as he did in florida, which is the luxury to recruit without leaving the state and then go nationally if needed. Hoke doesnt have that as michigan doesn't boast depth in four and five star guys. I thought more california guys would be in this class since he was at sdsu. Hoke is good but he must be great next year cause the meyer buzz and ohio will improve and michigan plays at the shoe.


Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 4:53 p.m.

Next up: On / After Signing Day -- hope we'll see a comparison of results for Michigan vs Ohio and Alabama. Toss in: how Ohio / MSU coach Dantonio did in recruiting. (Tressel's BFF bears watching. ) After that: hope we get an overview of 2012 seniors and juniors: who will be the core of Team 133. a

Kyle Meinke

Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 5:05 p.m.

Tru2Blu76, I do plan to do a recruiting comparison between Ohio State and Michigan sometime after signing day. Don't think I'll do 'bama, because Michigan plays them only once and the recruiting classes won't have much impact on the game. And, definitely, there will be a look at the seniors and juniors as we move toward next season. Thanks for the ideas.


Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

The main reason Michigan had such a fast start with recruiting this year is because of 3 guys Brady, Greg, and Al. When you talk with those folks you don't need wins they make you feel like a winner and they will make you one. Young kids are impressionable and the ones that come to Michigan will be a step ahead of of the rest because of the way those 3 gentleman approach recruiting. Urban Meyer is a good coach and it will be fun again watching the close battles between these two schools in the future with U of M coming out on top. I am very high on Brady Hoke and what he brings to our game in Michigan. If anyone still wonders what you mean by a Michigan man they are going to find out!


Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

The 2012 recruitment is a huge success for Brady Hoke and staff. I am hopeful these young men will have a great career playing for the Maize and Blue. A Top 5 or even Top 10 recruiting ranking is fine with me. Go Blue!.


Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

Well of course we would bring up the fact that Charles Woodson, Desmond Howard, Bo, now Kyle Kalis, Trey Burke....are all from OHIO.(among others) Why wouldn't we? That is where the pride from Ohio comes from. We don't have much else I mean have you been to Ohio? It certainly is not as beautiful as parts of Michigan. All we have is our athletes and we feel our athletes are better than yours. Half of Sparty's football team is from Ohio. So of course we are going to say that cause it makes us feel better.

Terry Star21

Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 6:51 p.m.

You have to love the of ohio commenters, following our pages very closely - every word, every can smell the fear.


Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 6:35 p.m.

Hey man, you seem to be a reasonable ohio fan, thanks for all the imports too, we'll keep taking them, we're kinda really smart like that, lol! I'm still mad that the Rock n roll Hall of Fame is not in Detroit, I mean music from Detroit is 2nd to none, how that happened that Cleveland got it is still mystifying to me.


Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

George Clooney is from Ohio. he's been making some pretty good movies lately.

Matt Patercsak

Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

drake johnson is 6'0 205lbs. that is not in the mold of 180lbs hayes and smith. also, what about sione houma? he's a ball-carrying fullback thats 211lbs. ?! c'mon man!


Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 8:59 p.m.

Lesean McCoy, Maurice Jones Drew, and Ray Rice are all in the 200-210lbs range. Not saying Johnson is going to be those players but lets not act like you have to be 230lbs either. He's 17 or 18 yrs old. He has time to put on weight too.


Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

205 lbs. ain't what it used to be.


Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

Fans of Ohio State tend to take credit for Michigan's success and scorn us when we fail. It's pretty hilarious. When we beat them, it's because of all the talent that Michigan picked up from the state of Ohio. When we lose, it's because kids from Ohio are better than the kids from Michigan. Wait... what? Yeah... that's what we call buckeye logic. Michigan's overall record against Ohio State is 58-43-6. But if you take away all the games before the 1950s then... um... yeah... if you butcher up the timeline to negate Ohio State victories from the historical record, Michigan is undefeted against Ohio State! Why is it ok for Buckeyes to disregard an era of MIchigan success over Ohio State as if it never happened? Gotta love buckeye logic.

Terry Star21

Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 5:27 a.m.

This is nice....they come to this site because they are worried, and by their comments you can clearly see - they are frightened, very frightened !


Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

So very true! Well said!


Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 1:27 p.m. missed the placement...this REALLY IS sports-related, and belongs in the Sports section.

Blu n Tpa

Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

There are enough positives about this recruiting cycle that Michigan fans should be very happy moving forward. Coach Hoke and staff took over a underprepared squad and turned them and the program around in a very short time. Anyone, and that means visitors to MichiganWorld, only have to look at recent events to understand the new reality. With better classes over the last several years, virtually the same coaching staff, minus one lying cheating vest, ohio came into AA and lost. And, with their entire prior season erased, it will be close to 1000 days before those higher rated classes will have the chance to lose again to the Michigan Wolverines. UM has a 0.00 winning % vs UofM. UM has a 0.00 winning % Coach Hoke. The ranking of each university's recruiting class IS NOT going to alter those numbers in any way. This is Michigan! We are Michigan! Go Blue!


Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 11:49 a.m.

U-M & that school in ohio will always recruit at the top, it's just a given. That's why both programs have sustained greatness for the most part in their histories. I know one thing for sure, U-M recruits will be coached very well and improve under the staff we have now. I really believe that 3 star and underrated players will succeed greatly in AA, especially with not only the coaching but the top notch facilities that are 2nd to none. One more thing, I know ohio fans are all excited about their Urban dude but I think Hoke is a better coach and will prove it going forward and future M recruiting classes are going to be just as good as the 2012 one or better. Thank you again Mr. Brandon for making the change to bring in Hoke, what a difference. Go Blue for TiM!!!

Terry Star21

Tue, Jan 31, 2012 : 6:48 p.m.

Agree Mick, the recruit story is only names on a piece of paper - Hoke is the better coach of the schools north and south of here. Go Blue !