The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 263 a successful first season on the field — 11-2 with a Sugar Bowl win — allowed that trend to hold steady for three years. The end of the 2014 class, however, came with a whimper. While Michigan added its top-ranked prospect in the era of recruiting (No. 3 overall Jabrill Peppers, the nation's top cornerback, was the key- stone of the class), the Maize and Blue also missed on top defensive linemen Da'Shawn Hand and Malik McDowell, both five-stars ranked Nos. 1 and 26 overall in the country, respectively. Back-to-back seasons with 8-5 and 7-6 records started to unravel some of the positive momentum U-M had enjoyed in recruiting circles since the day Hoke walked into his introductory press conference insist- ing he would have hiked all the way from San Diego to take the job, if he'd needed to. The fortunes on the field are expected to improve this fall with some of Hoke's first highly ranked recruits from the 2011-13 classes finally maturing into upperclassmen (or close enough to it), and a good showing in Michigan Stadium — to say nothing of South Bend, East Lansing and Columbus — would return the national perception of Michigan football to the ranks of the elite. That's a positive in its own right, but also would help boost future recruiting. For Michigan, that means the trend of filling up early may not be quite as pro- nounced with the 2015 class as it had been in the previous three. Prior to last fall, the Wolverines picked up commitments from the current No. 4 overall player in tailback Damien Harris, the No. 42 overall prospect in wide receiver George Campbell and the No. 111 overall recruit in defensive back Shaun Crawford. All three have since de- committed for various reasons, but with a common theme showing through: a stronger Michigan team in 2013 would have given the Maize and Blue a better chance to retain their pledges. If the Michigan of summer 2014 isn't at- tractive enough as a program for the likes of Harris and Campbell to remain commit- ted, it's unlikely that the other top-notch recruits Michigan pursues will feel much differently. The Michigan of fall 2014 will have a chance to make a totally different statement. Because of that, some patience from the U-M coaching staff in filling the class should allow for a better group. Thanks to that change in time line, the top national prospects from outside Michigan's region may get their chance to take official visits to campus before the U-M class fills up. Whereas a summer time line used to be necessary in order to catch a seat on the Maize and Blue bus, Michigan should be looking to fill more spots in the fall and winter than they ever have in recent memory. That means prospects can take their official visit to Ann Arbor (and likely to four other campuses, depending on just how open each player is in the process) before coming to a decision, without waiting too long for their opportunity to become Wolverines. That change in philosophy should allow Michigan to continue recruiting at a high level as long as the team performs well on the field. ❏ Notable Official Visitors — Misses In recent seasons, most of Michigan's official visitors have ended up as members of that year's recruiting class. A few, however, have managed to get away from the Maize and Blue. With the Wolverines' recruiting time- table moving earlier and earlier, fewer prospects have visited campus and ended up at another school during the Brady Hoke era. 2012 Joshua Garnett • Nov. 25, 2011 A four-star recruit and the No. 2 offensive guard nationally, the 6-5, 295-pound Garnett included Michi- gan among his favorite schools before he committed to Stanford in the week leading up to National Signing Day 2012. The product of Puyallup, Wash., validated his ranking — and the Michigan coaches' pursuit of him — by contributing as a true freshman at Stanford. Alex Kozan • Dec. 9, 2011 A four-star prospect and the No. 12 offensive guard nationally, the 6-4, 295-pound product of Castle Rock (Colo.) Valor Christian School waited nearly a month after National Signing Day to finally pick Auburn over the Maize and Blue. He redshirted as a true freshman, then emerged into a starters' role during his first year on the field, making the All-SEC freshman squad. Sam Grant • Dec. 9, 2011 Michigan's pursuit of Grant looked like it would get a boost thanks to his teammate at Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward, five-star offensive lineman Kyle Kalis, already pledging to the Maize and Blue. Despite that connection, the three-star prospect and No. 35 tight end nationally chose sign with Oklahoma. Af- ter redshirting during his freshman season, the 6-6, 240-pounder did not contribute for the Sooners in 2013. Armani Reeves • Jan. 13, 2012 Reeves' recruitment was ultimately a classic Michigan-Ohio State battle, despite the fact that he hailed from the East Coast and West Roxbury (Mass.) Catholic Memorial High School. The 5-9, 185-pounder was ranked as the No. 17 cornerback nationally and ended up joining teammate Camren Wil- liams in Columbus. He has made limited contributions in his first two years as a Buckeye, but is expected to emerge into starting role as a junior. 2013 Leon McQuay III • Nov. 9, 2012 Michigan battled national powers for the five-star recruit and No. 2 safety nationally. USC emerged victorious over not only Michigan, but also Florida State, Oregon and Vanderbilt. The 6-2, 185-pounder was an Under Armour All-America selection, enrolled early at USC and received special teams time as a true freshman. Cameron Hunt • Jan 11, 2013 Michigan was a finalist for Hunt, but may have al- lowed the 6-4, 267-pounder to move along and even- tually end up at Oregon (after U-M picked up Dan Samuelson shortly after scheduling Hunt's official visit). The No. 18 offensive tackle nationally and a four- star prospect, Hunt played the entire season — includ- ing six starts — for the Ducks. 2014 Da'Shawn Hand • Sept. 6, 2013 Hand was Michigan's biggest miss in the 2014 class. The Wolverines were considered the front-runner for the nation's top prospect, a five-star defensive end, but he shocked by picking Alabama on Nov. 14, 2013. The 6-4, 265-pounder is expected to contribute for the Crimson Tide at their Jack linebacker position during his true freshman season. Five-star recruit Jabrill Peppers, the nation's No. 3 overall player in the class of 2014, made his official visit to Ann Arbor Dec. 13, 2013, nearly seven months after pledging to U-M. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM 260-263.Recruiting Feature.indd 263 6/19/14 1:18 PM

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