The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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262 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW lodging expenses coming from the school's reserves. On an unofficial visit, time is often at a premium, since longer visits would typically mean the family has to incur costs to stay in town. While some prospects (particularly those making repeat trips) are able to see all the athletic, academic and housing facilities on the school's campus on an unofficial visit, the extended time frame of an official visit makes the entire process smoother and more painless for the prospect and the coaches trying to show off everything their program has to offer. Michigan, Recruiting Timeline, And The Official Visit While the official visit has traditionally been an extremely important part of the re- cruiting process, it has changed in recent years. Players are moving up their commit- ment time lines to make pledges to college programs before the official visit is even al- lowed by the NCAA — a prospect cannot take an official visit until the beginning of classes during their senior year. That means, more and more, that unofficial visits rather than official visits are a program's biggest chance to convince a high school prospect to continue his academic and athletic career at their school. In the 2012 U-M recruiting class, 20 of 25 eventual signees committed to Michigan prior to the beginning of their senior year of high school. The 2013 recruiting cycle was similar, with 21 of 27 eventual signees pledg- ing before their senior years began (and one of the other six eventual Wolverines, Detroit offensive lineman David Dawson, was com- mitted to U-M when his senior year began, then decommitted during the football season and recommitted at its conclusion). This February, every single player who signed with Michigan had picked the Wol- verines prior to the beginning of his senior year. Only one of the 16 signees, defensive tackle Brady Pallante, joined the class after early August, and even he had committed to Michigan's 2015 class as a delayed enrollee before moving up his time line in late No- vember to be a full member of the 2014 class. The U-M program, given the numerous early commitments in today's college foot- ball recruiting atmosphere, is one of many that would benefit from a change to NCAA policy. If prospects were able to take official visits prior to the start of their senior year (for example, if they could take those visits after concluding their junior year, and have the entire intervening summer to see campuses at the schools' expense), the Wolverines would have a better chance to convince out-of-re- gion prospects to head to Ann Arbor. Much of the high school talent today — 47 of this year's Rivals100 — comes from the Southeast, while far less is found in Big Ten territory (only 10 players, including four from newcomers Maryland and New Jersey). If a trip from Florida or Louisiana to Ann Arbor is cost prohibitive for a prospect, that unofficial visit is probably off the table. As a result, any visit to Michigan's campus (or other schools outside the region) would have to wait until the fall. With the acceleration of the recruiting time line across the country, many players have already made their com- mitments by the September of their senior year, and a trip to Michigan is unlikely to happen at all. That's not always the case, since some families (or high school coaches) can help make a trip happen in the summer, even if it's on their own dime. However, it is definitely one option on the table for U-M to get a kid on campus without burdening the prospect or his family financially. Making It Official The 2012-14 recruiting classes for Michi- gan aligned with the national trend of filling up early, and the Wolverines' juice on the re- cruiting trail allowed them to bring in top tal- ent without seeing a glimpse of the product on the field that fall. The "new coach bump" in Brady Hoke's first full class (2012), and Linebacker Michael Ferns (second from left) and wide receiver Drake Harris (second from right) — who were on hand for Michigan's 2013 spring game on an unofficial trip — both committed to the Wolverines' 2014 class well in advance of making their official visits. PHOTO BY TIM SULLIVAN 260-263.Recruiting Feature.indd 262 6/19/14 1:18 PM

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