The Wolverines Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech is reason for optimism, especially considering that it came in the first year of what many U of M fans hope is a long and illustrious tenure for head coach Brady Hoke. But it would be premature to say that Michigan is now ready to compete for national championships on a yearly basis.
(guest post from Christopher Johnson, Big Ten or Bust.com)
Yet unlike the previous three years, in which wolverines’ fans despaired over the failed Rich Rod experiment, the Maize and Blue appear to be trending upward. An 11-2 season was a good start, but Hoke has continued to impress by assembling what appears to be one of the nation’s top recruiting classes.
Scoring points hasn’t been the problem in recent years in Ann Arbor. While Greg Mattison completely transformed the Wolverines’ defense this year, there still remains a lack of elite talent on that side of the ball.
Hoke has addressed the deficiency: seven of Michigan’s top nine prospects in this in this year’s class are defenders. Scout.com ranks nine of the Wolverines’ top defensive recruits as four stars.
That’s not to say that the offensive side of the ball was, by any means, taken for granted. With Denard Robinson set to depart after the 2012 season, Hoke made sure that his successor would be well-protected by landing two four-star and one five-star offensive tackle.
Overall, the class is undoubtedly one of the top two in the conference as well as one of the best in the nation. The Wolverines have had a bow on their 2012 class since the end of summer, barring a few late commits.
Hoke failed to close out strongly, missing on two four-stars—offensive tackle Joshua Garnett and cornerback Armani Reeves—as well as three-star tight end Sam Grant. But the Wolverines are still waiting on four-star offensive tackle Jordan Diamond, who’s set to announce Friday and would bolster a class that already features many top-level offensive lineman.
While the Urban Meyer effect at Ohio State slightly weakened Michigan’s claim to outright recruiting supremacy in the Big Ten, Hoke should be lauded for signing the program’s best class in years. If this kind of talent continues to flow into Ann Arbor, it’s only a matter of time before the Maize and Blue reestablish themselves as national championship contenders.
Top Recruit: Kyle Kalis, five-star OT
Kalis is Michigan’s lone five-star recruit, and landing the 6-foot-5, 302 lb lineman was especially gratifying for coach Hoke. Kalis decommitted from Ohio State early last summer in the wake of the swag-for-tattoo scandal. He then offended Buckeyes’ fans even more by committing to the Wolverines on June 10.
After an impressive career at St. Edward HS in Lakewood Ohio, Kalis drew interest from many of the nation’s top programs, including Alabama, LSU, Florida, Auburn. Notre Dame, Nebraska, Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa.
Comparisons to Cleveland Browns All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas are numerous. Kalis is a mauler who’s equally capable as a run and pass blocker. He has great size, but he also gets great leverage and has the athleticism to pull and make blocks downfield.
Recruits to Watch:
Terry Richardson, four-star CB
Richardson played his high school ball at Cass Technical in Detroit then decided to stay local, verbally committing on May 19 . The 5-foot-9, 160-lb corner had offers from top-level programs such as Miami, Oregon, Oklahoma, USC, Michigan State and Alabama.
While he may not possess prototypical size, Richardson remains one of the top corners in this year’s class. He makes up for his lack of size with his quickness and high football IQ. He’s also excels in run support and tackles well.
Joe Bolden, four-star LB
Bolden graduated early from Colerain high school in Cincinnati and is now enrolled at Ann Arbor. One of the top players at his position, Bolden drew interest from Arkansas, Stanford, West Virginia, Boston College and Penn State, just to name a few.
The 6-foot-2, 225-lb backer fits the Paul Posluszny-A.J. Hawk mold. Although not praised for his athleticism, Bolden has the ability to make plays sideline-to-sideline. He’s a bit undersized, but doesn’t shy away from contact and tackles well. He’s also effective dropping into pass coverage. With Greg Mattison’s known tendency to tinker with formations and coverages, Bolden’s versatility will be a blessing.
Devin Funchess, four-star TE
Although listed as a tight end, Funchess lined up at wide receiver as well as linebacker throughout his impressive career at his high school in Farmington Hills, Mich. He drew interest from Michigan State, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois as well as many other top programs before committing to the Maize and Blue on April 22.
At 6-foot-5, 215 lbs, Funchess has a wide receiver’s body. He has great hands and runs routes well. He’s also great with the ball in his hands, often flashing his ability to make defenders miss and pick up yardage after the catch. Before he develops into a top-flight tight end, though, Funchess will have to put on some weight and work on his blocking.
Ondre Pipkins, four-star DT
One of Michigan’s biggest losses after this season is defensive tackle Mike Martin. Martin was a disruptive run stopper who thrived in Mattison’s scheme. Enter Pipkins, the 6-foot-3, 320-lb defensive tackle from Kansas City, Mo. He was one of the most prized recruits at his position, drawing interest from Alabama, Florida, Michigan State, Oregon, Oklahoma and USC, to name a few. Pipkins signed with Michigan on August 8.
Pipkins’ combination of size and explosiveness will make him a run-stuffing force on the Wolverines’ defensive line. He will draw double and triple teams, which opens the door for the Wolverines’ linebackers to have success when blitzing.
Dennis Norfleet, four-star RB
A signing day stunner: 5-foot-7, 165-lb running back Dennis Norfleet had previously been committed to Cincinnati and had offers from Michigan State and Tennessee. But the Detroit, MI, running back, who’s already drawing comparisons to former Oregon State star Jazquizz Rodgers, has signed a letter of intent signed a letter of intent with the Maize and Blue Wednesday.
His size is an obvious negative, but Norfleet’s open field explosiveness and agility are second to none. He’s also a capable receiver. Norfleet will be a versatile weapon in Al Borges’ pro-style scheme.
Class ranking in Big Ten: 1
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