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Varsity Blue

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Everyone knew Michigan was going to struggle this year. Maybe nobody thought the Wolverines would fall to Toledo, but everyone except the most fanatically-blind Michigan supporters knew that a Big Ten title was likely out of the question, and a bowl game might be a reasonable goal. There was always the future to look forward to. A year of learning under the spread system. A year of Barwis. A good 2009 recruiting class. The future was looking bright, because Michigan fans certainly weren't planning to bail after one trying year under Rich Rodriguez. The members of that 2009 recruiting class, on the other hand? Some may not stick around to help clean up the carnage.

There are competing schools of thought on the link between winning and success on the recruiting trail. On one hand, you have the fans who hope prospects see the opportunity to come in and compete right away (and, realistically, some recruits do follow this train of thought). On the other side, one can find those who think a recruit will want to stay as far away as possible from anything that could be perceived as a "sinking ship" (again, some recruits think this, as well).

I personally think, from my trials and tribulations in following recruiting, that there is something of a hybrid between these two schools of thought. We'll start when a recruit is young. If a child grows up watching a program succeed regularly, he might become something of a fan of that program. More likely, however, it may become "familiar" to him, if only on the most shallow name-recognition basis. Actual wins and losses (of course, except in the case where a recruit grows up a diehard fan of a certain program) probably don't really become a factor until a high schooler becomes something of a potential recruit. Once a young man realizes that he might have an opportunity to play division 1 football (brother), the attention becomes a little more focused on the programs who might be potential destinations. This typically happens around a prospect's junior year.

Senior year, however, is not likely a time for recruits to radically alter their perceptions of a program. If a team struggles during the 2008 season (this is completely hypothetical, of course), a young quarterback from San Diego or Wichita Falls (again, completely hypothetical, and I randomly selected those cities) will see that as an opportunity to come in and compete for a starting position right away. This is especially true of those hypothetical recruits who intend to hypothetically enroll early hypothetically. Hypothetically. Only the more loosely-committed players, or those who look at depth charts and realize that, although there is playing time up for grabs, it is not at their position, are the ones who might be swayed from the 2009 class.

So, who might fall into the category for this class? Bryce McNeal (who of course has already decommitted), Brandin Hawthorne, Anthony Fera, and DeWayne Peace have taken or plan to take visits elsewhere, along with former commitment William Campbell. DeQuinta Jones has been heard from very little since he committed, and his status is a virtual mystery to Michigan fans - though this Scout headline is far from promising. As long as Michigan's coaches continue to do a good job recruiting these players, they should retain those that they really want.

So, let's bring this back to the 2010 recruiting class. If high school juniors see a program lose, and form their perception from that, it means Michigan's 2010 class could be pretty bad, right? Well, yes and no. Michigan already has 2 commits, both of whom are likely to be 4-star or 5-star prospects. A third is presumably on the way, another 4-star or better player. All three of these players have Michigan ties from long before their junior years of high school, and their perception of the Wolverines isn't bound to change radically. Joining a class of highly-ranked prospects is one of the antidotes to a less-than-stellar year. Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, and hopefully Marvin Robinson all will be an incentive for other good recruits to join the class.

This may be one of the factors in some of the more inexplicably-good recruiting classes in recent memory. Notre Dame can sell its tradition, but one would think a 3-9 year would deter top prospects from joining the class of 2008 in South Bend. At the end of the day, however, the Irish finished with the #2 class in the nation. The only team that finished ahead of the Irish? Alabama, a team that had a recent history of mediocrity, despite its history. Nick Saban, in his second year in Tuscaloosa, and coming off a 7-6 record that didn't exactly scream "WOO PROGRAM ON THE RISE" pulled in a stellar group of players to help turn the Tide's fortunes around.

So, can Michigan, with its young, exciting coach pull in top classes in 2009 and 2010, despite a 2008 season that will likely end well below .500? The recruits aren't stuck with Michigan, but we fans are hoping that Rich Rod can keep the snake oil flowing.

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  1. Blogger Anthony S Says:

    I'm not sure where I read it, but I thought I saw an article recently about DeQuinta Jones saying he was solid on Michigan. Sorry, I don't have the reference.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    If McNeal wants to look elsewhere that is his business. The last thing we want is a kid who is un-happy or doesn't want to be there (which may be the case with some of our actual players now). Think about it, you were recruited by Lloyd Carr or Ron English and you bust ass for them to get yourself on the field and ready for a payday come draft time. Then all of the sudden you are back to square one trying to figure out what a new coach likes and wants to see out of you. Do you bust ass or do you go through the motions looking for the quickest way to pay dirt? I say right now we have about 50/50 guys who want to be there vs. guys who don't and are stuck trying to get to the NFL. My poin tis we need guys here who want to be a part of something and want to work their asses off for Coach Rod. If Bryce isn't up for it then good luck to him, but we don't need to cry over losing him.

  3. Anonymous Obes Says:

    sweet post

  4. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    We are seeing a developing pattern in which our highest-ranked, most desired 2009 commits choose to reopen their recruiting. Not encouraging.

    I think it began with Pryor, followed by Russell Shepherd. Both quarterbacks, both a "perfect match" to Rodriquez' spread. In each case, the chance to play for national title favorites (LSU, OSU) may explain the choices, but in both cases UM made the final cut, only to lose out.

    Kevin Newsome's commitment to UM quickly made us forget Shepherd and Pryor. Newsome's subsequent decommitment stung, however, and although some explained that he was never really a firm commmit, it was never clear why he dropped us. When he reopened his recruiting, UM was off his list.

    McNeal's decommitment, following Newsome's and Campbell's, is beginning to make me wonder if we're seeing a trend, or a pattern.

    The question, is, why do our most desired commits change their minds after they commit?

    Is the UM "brand" declining among 4+ and 5 star prospects? Or is the coaching staff failing to really seal the deal? Both of the above? What?

    I know that Beaver's and Forcier's commitments have given us solid propects at quarterback. But let's not forget that Rodriguez whiffed three times on higher-ranked quarterback prospects, even after one of them committed to UM.

    In Carr's last 2-3 years and continuing to the present, we seem to be losing out on 5 star prospects. Last year, none; current year, none so far after Campbell's decision.


  5. Blogger Keegan Says:


    Shepherd was never a commit, Pryor wasn't even in the fold until RR came here. Newsome is in Tech's backyard and most were shocked when he committed to UM and not shocked when he decommitted. Over 400 kids last year decommitted, it happens to every school. 18 year olds change their mind. The reason top recruits seem to do it more is because they are more well known and there is more pressure and coverage on them. Remember, a lot of guys decommited last year to come to UM at the last minute. It's early and there are 4 months left in the recruiting season.