Tracking Rich Rodriguez's first recruiting class

BY DAN FELDMAN
Daily Sports Editor
Published September 16, 2008

The Michigan football team signed 25 true freshmen to scholarships this year. On Monday, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said this is the time of year he figures out which will be relied on and which will redshirt. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect from each this season, ranked in order of projected impact.

Running back Sam McGuffie
Hometown: Cypress, Texas
rivals.com ranking: four stars
scout.com ranking: four stars

McGuffie has shown the vision, speed and cutting-ability on rushes that made him a YouTube star. His 213 yards and 50 carries lead the team.

But he also proved he’s capable of much more than a few impressive runs. His nine catches for 101 yards are both second on the team.

And, most importantly, he hasn’t fumbled. That’s why he’s the starter.

Wide receiver Martavious Odoms
Hometown: Pahokee, Fla.
rivals.com ranking: three stars
scout.com ranking: four stars

Odoms has been excellent in the slot. His 14 catches equal the total for the Wolverines’ next three wide receivers.

He has used his speed to break off positive gains on screen passes when nothing else was working for the Michigan quarterbacks. When the offense gets rolling, he’ll be an excellent deep threat.

Wide receiver Darryl Stonum
Hometown: Stafford, Texas
rivals.com ranking: four stars
scout.com ranking: four stars

Stonum is a gifted athlete who enrolled early, so he it’s not a surprise he’s already starting. He has five catches for 48 yards, but he’s capable of much more. The quarterbacks have routinely missed him downfield.

Running back Michael Shaw
Hometown: Trotwood, Ohio
rivals.com ranking: four stars
scout.com ranking: four stars

Shaw has just two carries in each game as McGuffie has grabbed control of the running back position. But Shaw, an explosive back, is second on the team with 8.5 yards per run (redshirt junior punter Zoltan Mesko is first because of a 13-yard run on a fake punt). Shaw will probably continue to be a quality change-of-pace backup.

Defensive tackle Mike Martin
Hometown: Redford
rivals.com ranking: four stars
scout.com ranking: four stars

The coaching staff has repeatedly praised Martin for his physical readiness. Martin has proven himself, earning plenty of playing time as a backup. He has gotten a consistent push up the middle, including a sack against Miami (Ohio).

Cornerback Boubacar Cissoko
Hometown: Detroit
rivals.com ranking: four stars
scout.com ranking: five stars

Cissoko, the top-rated player in his class from the state of Michigan, has seen some time as the dime back. He has also showed potential as a kick returner but had a costly fumble at Notre Dame.

Middle linebacker J.B. Fitzgerald
Hometown: Princeton Junction, N.J.
rivals.com ranking: four stars
scout.com ranking: four stars

Coaches have called Fitzgerald the best of the freshmen linebackers, but he plays behind the most stable player in that position group, redshirt sophomore Obi Ezeh. Fitzgerald has played special teams every week, and will probably continue to see action there. If Michigan were involved in a blowout, he could play defense, too.

Wide receiver Terrence Robinson
Hometown: Klein, Texas
rivals.com ranking: four stars as a running back
scout.com ranking: four stars as a running back

A knee injury has kept Robinson out of the first three games, but Rodriguez said he might be back for Wisconsin. He probably would’ve been the second slot receiver behind Odoms. His performance in practice over the next few weeks will determine whether he redshirts.

Guard Ricky Barnum
Hometown: Lakeland, Fla.
rivals.com ranking: four stars
scout.com ranking: three stars

Rodriguez said he would prefer to redshirt the talented, but raw Barnum. But if the Wolverines’ injury woes on the interior of the line continue, that might not be a viable option.

Left tackle Patrick Omameh
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
rivals.com ranking: two stars as a defensive end
scout.com ranking: three stars

Like Barnum, Rodriguez would prefer to redshirt Omameh. Omameh entered Michigan as an extremely raw talent. But after redshirt junior Mark Ortmann dislocated his elbow, Rodriguez mentioned Omameh as a possible replacement. The tackle may be developing quicker than expected, but it’s more likely Michigan’s offensive line is just that thin.

Wide receiver Roy Roundtree
Hometown: Trotwood, Ohio
rivals.com ranking: four stars
scout.com ranking: three stars

Rodriguez has said he wanted to play Roundtree, but the Wolverines’ offense hasn’t run enough plays for Rodriguez to rotate through his planned substitutions. Roundtree is thin for a wide receiver and hasn’t played yet, which means he will probably redshirt.

Offensive tackle Rocko Khoury
Hometown: Traverse City
rivals.com ranking: three stars
scout.com ranking: three stars

Khoury was the first offensive lineman Rodriguez initially mentioned when asked which freshmen could get playing time. But Khoury’s name hasn’t popped up lately, and he hasn’t played yet. Like most offensive linemen, he will probably redshirt, despite the Wolverines' lack of depth at that position.

Tight end Kevin Koger
Hometown: Toledo, Ohio
rivals.com ranking: four stars
scout.com ranking: four stars

Koger has been listed on the official depth chart as a possible starter for every game this year, but he hasn’t played at all. Rodriguez praised him for his smarts and ability to pick up schemes quickly. Still, the coach said he thinks a redshirt year would benefit Koger.

Strongside linebacker Kenny Demens
Hometown: Oakland Park
rivals.com ranking: four stars
scout.com ranking: three stars

Demens has appeared in one game on special teams. He will likely redshirt.

Defensive back J.T. Floyd
Hometown: Greenville, S.C.
rivals.com ranking: three stars as an athlete
scout.com ranking: three stars

Floyd is a physical player who will probably redshirt this year to work on his speed.

Quarterback Justin Feagin
Hometown: Deerfield, Fla.
rivals.com ranking: three stars as an athlete
scout.com ranking: two stars as a safety

Most teams recruited Feagin as defensive back, but Rodriguez, desperate for a dual-threat in the backfield, recruited him as a quarterback. Feagin had trouble learning the schemes, so Rodriguez announced he would redshirt. In practice, Feagin is splitting time between quarterback and slot receiver, which he may switch to permanently.

Tackle Dann O’Neill
Hometown: Grand Haven
rivals.com ranking: four stars
scout.com ranking: four stars

O’Neill’s upside is huge, but Rodriguez hasn’t mentioned him playing this year. Like most offensive linemen, another year to grow physically will do him wonders.

Offensive guard Kurt Wermers
Hometown: Crown Point, Ind.
rivals.com ranking: three stars
scout.com ranking: four stars

Like O’Neill, Wermers isn’t ready to play this year.

Tight end Brandon Moore
Hometown: Trotwood, Ohio
rivals.com ranking: four stars
scout.com ranking: three stars

More a receiver than a blocker, Moore is behind more-experienced players at his position. He’s not ready to crack the depth chart and will probably redshirt.

Running back Michael Cox
Hometown: Dorchester, Mass.
rivals.com ranking: three stars
scout.com ranking: four stars

Running backs coach Fred Jackson said he heard Cox was considering transferring, but Cox has decided to stick it out. Caught behind a crowded backfield, he’s an almost-certain redshirt this year.

Long snapper George Morales
Hometown: North Las Vegas, Nev.
rivals.com ranking: four stars
scout.com ranking: four stars

Morales is the team’s third long snapper. Barring an injury to fifth-year senior Sean Griffin or redshirt freshman Tom Pomarico, he will redshirt.

Safety Brandon Smith
Hometown: New Brunswick, N.J.
rivals.com ranking: four stars
scout.com ranking: four stars

Smith had his appendix removed last week, and will be out for a couple of weeks. He probably would’ve redshirted anyway and definitely will now.

Offensive tackle Elliot Mealer
Hometown: Wauseon, Ohio
rivals.com ranking: four stars
scout.com ranking: four stars

Mealer is still recovering from an injury sustained during an off-season car accident. He will redshirt.

Weakside linebacker Taylor Hill
Hometown: Youngstown, Ohio
rivals.com ranking: four stars
scout.com ranking: three stars

The weakside linebacker told Rodriguez he wanted to transfer to a school closer to home after the Utah game and is no longer with the team.

Linebacker Marcus Witherspoon
Hometown: Absecon, N.J.
rivals.com ranking: four stars
scout.com ranking: four stars

Witherspoon came to Ann Arbor in the summer, but he returned to New Jersey when the NCAA Clearinghouse didn’t declare him eligible.

He told the Press of Atlantic City he got an ‘A’ in the class he needed to become eligible, an online sociology course at Brigham Young University. Still, Rodriguez said Witherspoon won’t play for Michigan, so the linebacker opted to transfer to Rutgers.