The Michigan football team’s 2013 recruiting class began to take shape nearly two years ago, when Warren, Mich. quarterback Shane Morris, then nearing the end of his sophomore year in high school, committed to the Wolverines.
The class saw a surge in momentum nine months later, when eight highly rated high-school juniors also made verbal pledges to Michigan in a two-day span from Feb. 18-19, 2012.
And on Wednesday, the 21 players that eventually became part of the 2013 class finally put pen to paper and signed their National Letters of Intent, officially becoming Wolverines in the process. Those players joined the six early enrollees who were already on campus and taking classes this spring.
Unlike during signing days past, there was no last-minute drama. Most of Michigan’s signees had been commitments for months, long past thinking about playing for other schools. Michigan coach Brady Hoke had received all 21 letters by early afternoon on Wednesday, making for an uneventful signing day — and thus a “good” day, in Hoke’s view.
“We’re very excited about the group of young men who made the decision to come and play at the greatest university in this country,” Hoke said.
Hoke has reason to be excited — he and his coaching staff have assembled one of the best recruiting classes in the country by any measure.
Close to 20 of the team’s signees were deemed four- or five-star recruits by at least one of the major recruiting websites. As a group, that amounts to a team ranking as high as No. 2 in the country, according to Scout.com. Both Rivals.com and ESPN rated Michigan’s class the sixth-best in the country, coming on the heels of a 2012 class that was also generally rated a top-10 group.
More than talent, the 2013 class of Wolverines is notable for how tightly knit it is.
Led by Morris, who Hoke lauded for his recruiting efforts, the members of the class rapidly developed close relationships with each other through visiting Michigan at the same time, appearing at the same skill camps and All-Star games and, most importantly, by engaging each other over social media.
Hoke’s probably more excited about the cohesiveness of his 2013 class than how well it’s received publicly, given his views on the recruiting rankings that have become ingrained with following college football.
“I’ll be dead honest with you, I don’t think as a staff we put a whole lot of stock into (rankings),” Hoke said. “I know people are working hard at all those services and all that kind of stuff. Personally, and I think as a staff, you got to find guys who fit that blueprint for what you want to be as a program at Michigan.”
The 2013 class is strongest along the offensive line — just the way Hoke wants it.
Since he accepted the Michigan job, the coach has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the trenches, especially on offense. Considering the lack of talent and depth left on the offensive line by the time Hoke arrived in Ann Arbor, it’s no surprise that the coaching staff has made a concerted effort to improve that position.
The team added four highly regarded offensive lineman in last year’s class and followed that effort up with six in this year’s group, including players such as Kyle Bosch from Wheaton, Ill. and Detroit product David Dawson, who decommitted and then recommitted several months ago.
“I think just like the four last year, the most common thread to them all, if you had to pick one or two traits, is that when you watch them on tape, they all play hard to the whistle,” said offensive line coach Darrell Funk. “They’ve all got a degree of nastiness to them — not cheap-shot guys — and they’re going to try to finish (blocks).”
Perhaps the biggest prize of all for the Wolverines is running back Derrick Green of Richmond, Va., rated the No. 1 running back in the country by both Rivals and Scout. Green fills a big and immediate need for Michigan, which couldn’t develop an effective running game last season.
The addition of Green and the bolstering of the offensive line will help the Wolverines move toward the more traditional style of offense that they’ve desired since Hoke took the job.
Michigan’s 2013 class is notable too for its geography. Hoke has repeatedly emphasized building the program through mostly Midwestern talent, and 22 of the 27 signees are from Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan or Pennsylvania.
For the first time in 25 years, the Wolverines didn’t sign a single recruit from the talent-rich states of Florida, Texas and California, but wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Jeff Hecklinski downplayed that fact.
“Let’s get the best kids here,” Hecklinski said. “I don’t care if they come from Canada or Nebraska. They could come from the moon. Let’s get the best kids here that can help Michigan win, wherever that may be.
“(But) we will always take care of home. We will always take care of Michigan and we will always take care of Ohio. That’s the history of Michigan (football).”
NOTES: Hoke said that there was still no update on whether senior quarterback Devin Gardner had been granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA for his freshman season.
Jackson reported that he was “shocked” at how well injured redshirt senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint ran when Jackson observed his rehab on a recent morning. Jackson also said he expects Toussaint, who suffered a broken leg against Iowa last season, back for the beginning of next season.
“He’s ahead of schedule, and I think right now people in the training room feel good about him,” Jackson said. “I’m not sure, but I would expect him to be back.”