Hoke addresses team needs, scheme change with first recruiting class

Marissa McClain/Daily
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Daily Sports Editor
Published February 2, 2011

Tony Posada didn’t want to be that guy.

The 6-foot-4, 330-pound offensive lineman from Tampa, Fla. chose Michigan before coach Brady Hoke took over and didn’t want to be left out in the midst of the upheaval of Michigan football. Schemes were changing. Coaches were changing.

“I was scared about that,” Posada said on WTKA radio on Wednesday. “(I was) worrying if I was one of their guys.”

As it turns out, Hoke went to visit Posada, to convince him to stay committed to Michigan.

Posada, as well as, Chris Bryant — who's also 6-foot-4, 330 pounds — are exactly the kinds of players Hoke is looking for as he switches to the pro-style offense.

“You got to have those guys up front who are going to come off the football and those guys that are going to knock guys off the ball," Hoke said. “(Bryant and Posada) fit the mold of what Michigan offensive linemen are going to look like.”

Hoke joked that he looked small compared to Posada and referred to Bryant as a “refrigerator with legs and arms.”

The two linemen were two of 20 recruits who committed to come to Michigan on Wednesday, National Signing Day. Hoke’s first recruiting class, which was ranked No. 21 nationally by Rivals.com, came together just three weeks after he was hired.

In fact, the class wasn’t even finalized when the press conference started. More than 20 minutes into the press conference, Associate Athletic Director Dave Ablauf informed Hoke on a slip of paper that four-star tight end Chris Barnett was also committing to Michigan.

For the Wolverines, it was one position of urgency to address for the recruiting class of 2011 — with just two tight ends remaining on scholarship.

And it was clear across the board that Hoke and his staff wanted to address key areas of concern with the players that they signed.

“It took some time to see where we were and what kind of football team we want to be,” Hoke said.

That meant signing players like Bryant and Posada who dominate opponents at the point of attack.

And don’t forget helping one of the worst defenses in the country.

Hoke signed five defensive backs, including four-star recruit Raymon Taylor, who, as Hoke as said, can “line somebody up and go through the middle of them, like you’re supposed to play the game.”

Michigan also signed four linebackers, including multiple players who can go sideline-to-sideline, like Antonio Poole and Frank Clark.

And three defensive ends committed to the Wolverines, including four-star recruit Brennan Beyer who was praised for his toughness at the point of attack.

What do they all of the defenders have in common? In a word — physicality. These newcomers may not be five-star recruits, but Hoke highlighted the defensive backs and linebackers as groups that could have players with opportunities to make an impact as freshmen this fall.

“There is no entitlement in this program,” Hoke said. “When you recruit guys, I’ve never told a guy he’s going to be redshirted and I’ve never told a guy that, ‘You’re going to play as a freshman.’ There’s always going to be opportunities … I think there are guys (in this recruiting class) with opportunities."

Twelve defensive players in all were signed to play the 4-3 defense, which Hoke announced would be the Wolverines’ base defense in 2011.

“That’s something that we both have been familiar with,” Hoke said of his and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's experience with the 4-3. “We’re a little seasoned. We’ve coached a lot … I think it’s a great fit for what we want to do.”

The kicking game was also a high priority after the Wolverines converted just 4-of-14 field goal attempts in the 2010 season.

Hoke convinced a San Diego native, Matt Wile, who Hoke was previously recruiting to go to San Diego State, to commit to Michigan. Michigan tight ends and special teams coach Dan Ferrigno said the right-footed kicker could connect from 50-plus yards and recorded a 90-percent touchback rate on kickoffs in high school, albeit 10-yards closer than where he’ll kick from at Michigan.

For good measure, the Wolverines grabbed commitments from running backs Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes. During an interview on WTKA on Wednesday, Hayes envisioned a future with Rawls pounding defenses up the middle while he works more on the perimeter.

“The one thing about taking running backs, most of the time they’re the best athlete on their high school team, that’s why they’re back there,” Hoke said, adding that it’s easy to move running backs to other positions.

Of the 20 members of the class, 13 come from Michigan or Ohio. Hoke said that he and his staff are going to focus on locking up players in the state of Michigan first, before branching out to Ohio and Illinois, Indiana and Western Pennsylvania.

The staff had to scramble to lock up the class that was comprised roughly one-half of players initially recruited by Rich Rodriguez and one-half generated by Hoke and his staff. But after the whirlwind stopped, the Wolverines were left with a haul that is more than respectable, considering the circumstances.

“Our goal was to get guys who were going to represent Michigan and Michigan football,” Hoke said. “Guys who obviously fit the mold from an academic standpoint, fit the mold from a character standpoint and fit the mold for what we wanted to see.

“I don’t know if we thought it was going to be more difficult. I think when you are Michigan, when you are at Michigan, you have an awful lot to talk about. … For us, you’re just going to work and try to see what’s best for Michigan.”

NOTES: Hoke said the paperwork for Devin Gardner’s medical redshirt has been filed … Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges looked at 15 quarterbacks before deciding on quarterback-commit Russell Bellomy … By Monday, Hoke says he plans to finalize his coaching staff, which is still missing defensive line and defensive back coaches … Defensive back Greg Brown is the only commit enrolled early for the Winter 2011 semester.