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Posted on Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 4:30 p.m.

Michigan football recruiting class is strongest in the trenches, coaches say

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan football coach Brady Hoke on his offensive line recruits: "We have a tremendous quarterback, but he can’t do anything if those guys up front aren’t blocking."

Melanie Maxwell |

The Michigan football team's 25-member recruiting class is official, with a couple of possibilities still on the horizon.

It's a strong class, ranked No. 4 according to Scout and No. 6 according to Rivals.

Where it's strongest, though, pleases Wolverines coach Brady Hoke.

Up front.

"Our numbers have been down there, for one reason or another, so we tried to address that, and, as you know, that is where the game is played," Hoke said. "We have a tremendous quarterback, but he can’t do anything if those guys up front aren’t blocking."

Hoke introduced his class for the first time Wednesday after each verbal commitment — including surprise early morning addition Dennis Norfleet, a four-star tailback from Detroit — faxed in his letter of intent.

Running back Drake Johnson, a Pioneer High School product, was the first to file his letter. Three others followed within the hour.

Defensive lineman Mario Ojemudia, of Farmington Hills Harrison, wrapped things up shortly after noon.

Little drama, just the way Hoke liked it.

"I know none of you will ask the question, ‘Is this a good class?’ because it is. We don’t try to recruit bad classes," said Hoke, bags under his eyes after getting 4.5 hours sleep the previous night. "Hoping to save you some embarrassment."

Yet, with a class full of the country's finest high school players, Hoke focused on replenishing the talent in the trenches.

The class got its start with a fitting commitment from three-star Ben Braden, an offensive tackle from Rockford. He set the tone for three elite offensive line prospects to follow suit.

Five-star Kyle Kalis and four-stars Blake Bars and Erik Magnuson, along with Braden, combine for a formidable class rivaled in the Big Ten by only Ohio State.

"I didn’t really feel like I needed to wait," Braden said. "Once I was sure, I was sure, and if I was 100 percent about this, why wait?


Michigan offensive line coach Darrell Funk: "It’s going to be a few years, but I’m telling you, the quality of this class is killer."

Melanie Maxwell |

"I definitely think it’s going to take a huge step toward bringing back a lot of the tradition of Michigan (on the offensive line). We got a lot of talent already there, and we’ve got more coming, so it’s going to be a lot of fun at Michigan for the next four or five years."

Michigan offensive line coach Darrell Funk said Braden, who stands 6-foot-6, 319 pounds, will factor in at either tackle. The plan right now is he won't redshirt, Braden said.

Funk said Kalis wants to play right tackle, and that's where he'll start when he gets to campus, although also can play guard. Magnuson is projected to be a candidate to earn the left tackle spot down the road.

Bars can play anywhere on the line besides center.

Funk said this class of offensive lineman is the best he's ever had — better than the one he had at Colorado State that produced four four-year starters who each played in the NFL.

"This class is more talented than that one," he said. "It’s going to be a few years, but I’m telling you, the quality of this class is killer."

Three-star tight end pledge A.J. Williams, projected by several analysts to play offensive line in college — at 6-6, 275 pounds, he's bigger than Bars and as big as Magnuson — will stick to tight end, Funk said.

Michigan loses two starters from last year's offensive line in center David Molk and right tackle Mark Huyge. Although the Wolverines are most likely to address those departures with returners, they likely will lean on one or two for depth and insurance should a starter go down with injury.

Although it's rare for true freshmen to play large roles on the offensive line, Michigan has the luxury of having three players — Kalis, Magnuson and Braden — who could step in right away, if needed.

"If these four kids come in and tear it up (as true freshmen) and they’re in the two-deep immediately, and they’re pushing for playing time, I’ll let it play out.

"If they’re better than the other guys, then I’ll let ‘em go."

The Wolverines also remain in play for four-star offensive lineman Jordan Diamond. If they receive a commitment from the Chicago native, that would give them the nation's clear No. 1 haul at that position.

They trail only USC right now, according to Rivals. They hadn't cracked the top-15 offensive line classes since 2008, and didn't even finish in the top 50 in 2010.

They haven't finished as high as No. 2 since 2004, and have never had the top offensive line class.

This could be it.

And coaches couldn't be happier on signing day.



Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:29 p.m.

MICK. . . albee doesn't get it. . . he would take ten more years of tressel ball (cheating, lying, cover-up) if that's what it takes to win!! MICHIGAN will play the game of football on the field!!! he playes his games on the keyboard. packman, pong any one. . . be carefull he cheats!! GO BLUE!!!!!!


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

When i wrote "he," I meant the coach with the initials "UM!"


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

I guess Albee thinks ohio has unlimited scholarships to offer. He's 3 over the limit now. I don't know how he'll justify that, let alone wait for Diggs or Neal. Of course, over signing was the norm in the SEC, so he's trying it here. ohio fans think its ok because they're used to a culture of cheating. 10 years of Tressel taught them that. So the cheat goes on....


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 6:57 a.m.

Big whoop Albee, Diggs was being recruited by us but we stopped recruiting him because he's a Prima Donna, perfect for ohio. His ex-teammate is our future star CB Blake Countess who played w/him in HS, you can have guys like Diggs, those are the types of players that will get your school in trouble because it is about them and not the program. Do you really want guys like that anymore? I would think ohio has learned their lesson, we shall see.

Albee Macaw

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 6:45 a.m.

No. 10 Stefon Diggs will wait until Feb. 10. And No. 53 Davonte Neal—a player with a comparable skill set to Diggs—will also wait and see and doesn't have a timetable in place yet. He may be watching to see what Diggs does—as Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has contacted both of them to fill that hybrid playmaker spot that Percy Harvin did at Florida.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 6:38 p.m.

As of right now o-lie-o has 85 on the roster.They have to have 81 by fall so who is getting dropped by urban?


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 4:23 p.m.

Speaking of Percy Harvin, remind me how he did against Michigan in the 2008 Capital One bowl? Oh yeah, HE LOST! As did Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow, and the rest of the defending national champion Florida Gators.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 3:47 a.m.

Hey Cutty man my man....did you happen to look at some of the speed our recruits have? Or did you just decide to jump on the Albee bandwagon and just make any claim that cracks yourself up? Just go over and see for yourself, but if you're too lazy to do that, let me help you: -Our 2 WR's run 4.5 or sub forty -Northfleet that we got today, yeah see he runs a 4.3/4.4 forty -Our LB's we got, yeah they run 4.5 to 4.7 forty, that's LB's in case you missed it -Pipkins, yeah Pipkins, if you happened to watch the Army All-American Game you would have seen a 6'3" 320 lb. DT run down Stefan Diggs from one sideline to the other and laid a hit on him like no other. Diggs is considered a 5 star WR and he's supposed to be really fast. -Drake Johnson the RB has won the 110 meter race in THE WHOLE STATE of MICHIGAN as a soph & jr in high school, yeah see guys like that usually have the goods to try out for the Olympics, you've heard of the Olympics right? They're known for having really, really fast dudes. Oh yeah, Drake ran for almost 3,000 yds last season. Have I made my point Cutty? Cause I'm tired of having to do your homework for you. Also, to, why is this Albee guy allowed to try to antagonize us M fans on an M site and if we say something to retaliate our comment has a really good chance of being censored? Something just isn't right about it and I among many others I'm sure, would like to see you address this issue. Look, I don't mind competitive banter, but Albee always makes nasty, derogatory comments, it's not right.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 6:51 a.m.

No we aren't, we're classier though

Albee Macaw

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 5:04 a.m.

Bit thin skinned arent we?


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 4:22 a.m.

I meant Norfleet


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 3:05 a.m.

Gotta hand it to Coach Hoke and his staff. The prospects ( and that is all that they are at this point, prospects) that they have landed should build a solid foundation for years to come. We may not see the direct impact of this stellar class in the upcoming season, but the future sure looks bright for UM football when you get 4 & 5 star players in the trenches. Couple that with the QB's in the clip ( Gardner, Morris) and some promising WR's, RB's, LB's and DB's and I could see this group contending for more than just the B1G title in 2013/14. GO BLUE!!!


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 1:58 a.m.

Your OL Coach,who by the way Looks like Gary Busey.He said this is his best class since Col.State come on Man,you can't be serious.But i guess this is the way Michigan people won't to go.Back to Big and Slow.Time will tell.Football nowadays is won up front,for sure.But you saw What Urban Did,got all those DL.You have to have OL with Great feet that can Move,and Block those Big and Speedy DL.Well you will get a dose of it when you Play The Crimson Tide.DR may not finish game.Remember Speed Kills.John Chavis THE BEST DEFENSE COACH IN THE COLLEGE GAME SAID THIS.LUCK FOLLOWS SPEED.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:11 a.m.

Saban's success in Alabama was in redefining the Crimson Tide. It now refers to what happens to roster players as he oversigns another class, there is a wave of players getting kicked off for &quot;medical hardships&quot; or transferring to another school (<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. But then again, some 'bama fans wear rose-colored glasses... roll tide, right over your recruits.

Albee Macaw

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 1:02 a.m.

Sure this was a big part of the Urbanator landing by far the best defensive line recruits in the country. Not bad for 2 months work Urb. Congratulations.


Sat, Feb 4, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

While Oscar Meyer was busy stealing other recruits and oversigning?


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 5:36 a.m.

Oh, you mean while OSU was using two coaching staffs and Urban had nothing else to do?


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 12:14 a.m.

after friday we can take a break. monday we start on the 2013 class. never ends. i hope brady takes a vacation.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 6:02 a.m.

Ditto- it's a brutal job and he is pouring his heart and soul into it. He's a fine man and I hope his health doesn't suffer.

Terry Star21

Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 11:57 p.m.

&quot;Our numbers have been down there, for one reason or another, so we tried to address that, and, as you know, that is where the game is played,&quot; Hoke said. &quot;We have a tremendous quarterback, but he can't do anything if those guys up front aren't blocking.&quot; This pretty much sums up Michigan Footballs long tradition - defense (offensive blocking) wins games - just look as near and as far back as our last two bowl games. MgoBlueForTiM.........beefing it up, holding them down, winning them all.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 6 a.m.

Hoke speaks wisdom. Denard is tremendous. In that VT game our OL was totally dominated by VT's DL and LB's. We just need to pull through next year until the monsters on both sides of the line get coached and muscled up. By 2013 , 2014, 2015 we'll be as good s it gets.

Terry Star21

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 12:03 a.m.

Sorry, should read 'last two bowl Wins'.....


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 10:51 p.m.

Although Brady and his staff did a great job stretching the talent of our 2011 team it is my opinion that this years, (2012) recruited class is the foundation of the future of Michigan football under coach Brady Hoke and in this fans eyes, the future is looking pretty darn good.


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 10:36 p.m.

His name is Darrell..... Darrell Funk! As cute as BIG AL...but certainly not a HUNK!! Offense, defense, special teams, IT'S all about our wolverines!! MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEANchigan football is no longer the punk!! As we roll with BIG AL and Michigan offensive line coach Darrell Funk !!!!!


Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 10:06 p.m.

If Hoke continues to have this kind of success, he could go down as one of the great coaches in Michigan history Go Blue!

Terry Star21

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 12:01 a.m.

Agree...but remember after one season, he has done something that only too other coaches have done at M (and one was called Fielding 'something') !

Robyn Crombie

Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 9:58 p.m.

I coached offensive linemen for 5 years, you win with big, aggressive wide bodies. It's very obvious what Hoke is trying to do, it's old school Michigan Football. We will run 65% of the time a pass 35% of the time. GO get'em !!


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

Albee, and even if that's true, he beat ohio, and 10 other universities.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 10:56 a.m.

I think you're way off base, Hoke isn't Carr at all, he just coached for him as an assistant for a small amount of time. Hoke will run a lot of zone read stuff now and later deep passing mixed in with lots of underneath routes. Go look at his previous jobs. 50/50 max for running....

Albee Macaw

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 1:05 a.m.

Can't blame him considering the starting QB now could not hit the ocean while standing on the beach.

Matt Patercsak

Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 9:40 p.m.

Football is a bottom-up game. Meaning that your success is built on the foundations of your offensive and defensive lines. This is the correct philosophy. RR seemed to stress that slot receivers and lateral speed are the foundations of football. true, speed kills, but when paired with HOGS up front it is unstoppable.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 5:53 a.m.

Right on. Huge guys up frot paired with speed and athleticism. Some of the old Michigan and some of a new emphasis on speed. The signing of Drake and the late pickup of Norfleet show our coaches want both.

Terry Star21

Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 11:59 p.m.

Matt, you hit it right on the head !