CHICAGO — Michigan’s recruiting for the 2012 season — the new coaching staff’s first full class of recruits — hasn’t just been a pleasant surprise. It’s blindsided everyone.
Everyone, that is, except Brady Hoke. The first-year Michigan coach hasn’t had to sell anything to recruits that he doesn’t believe in.
For him, it’s simple. It’s a fact. It’s Michigan.
“This might sound arrogant, and if it is, it is,” Hoke said at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. “We’re Michigan. We have a global education. We’re the winningest program in the history of college football.
“The lifeblood for all of us, no doubt, is the guys you bring in your program. We’ve really tried to focus on the guys that fit the mold of Michigan with the integrity and character that we want to have.”
Hoke and Co. picked up a commitment from Salt Lake City Highland running back Sione Houma this week, boosting the number of 2012 commits to a full 20. But what’s been most impressive has been the rapid influx of top talent from the state of Ohio.
When Hoke rounded out former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez’s 2011 class, he picked up nine commitments in the final three weeks before National Signing Day. Two were from Michigan and four came north from Ohio.
And of the 20 commitments for the 2012 recruiting class, a whopping nine are from Ohio.
Whether or not that’s got more to do with Ohio State’s pending investigation and subsequent ruling for several major violations than the Michigan staff’s recruiting — it’s all the same to Wolverine nation.
You don’t want to beat on a program when it’s down — but you wouldn’t mind nabbing its top recruits.
Kyle Kalis, an offensive lineman who turned heads by de-committing from Ohio State in late June and committing to Michigan on July 10, made headlines by claiming that “the Michigan-Ohio border is open” and ripe for Hoke’s company to poach some elite talent.
Newly-appointed Ohio State coach Luke Fickell is trying to brave the storm in Columbus and cling to his remaining recruits. And he’s none too worried.
“Summer is always a unique time in recruiting anyway,” Fickell said. “I don’t know that we’ve seen a big backlash of any sorts.
“Again, we always, since I’ve been at Ohio State, focused on the history and traditions of what Ohio State has brought. It’s bigger than any one person, any one coach, any one coach or era. I truly believe that Ohio State will always attract top-notch student-athletes around the country no matter what.”
At Big Ten Media Days, Hoke, a Dayton, Ohio native, acknowledged the success on the recruiting trail and pointed to a long line of Michigan greats coming from Ohio.
“We’ve always had great connections in Ohio,” Hoke said. “You look at the guys that have come out of that state: (Elvis) Grbac, Desmond (Howard), and Charles (Woodson) — the list can go on and on. There’s always been a connection between those kids in Ohio and the University of Michigan.”
The roots certainly reach back to 1969, when Glenn E. “Bo” Schembechler — a former Ohio State assistant coach under Woody Hayes — came to Michigan from Miami (Ohio) and revitalized a struggling football program.
Along with that, he raised the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry to a new level.
“Well I think probably Coach Schembechler and his roots and what he did,” Hoke said. “You know, it’s just population base — Ohio high school football is good. There’s a lot of numbers, so in some ways it has worked well.”
While Michigan’s recruiting class sits at 20 right now, Hoke plans to add at least five more commitments to that group. National Signing Day isn’t until early February and the staff will likely try to bolster both the offensive and defensive line and add an additional wide receiver.
“I think you’ve always got to hold on (to your recruiting class) … we’re a long way from having a class,” Hoke said. “We’ve got to do a great job of embracing those guys and do a good job of, you know we’ve got five or six left that we’ve got to be a little picky on.”
And it’s not hard to imagine what Hoke is pressing on these recruits. Never a man of many words, he’ll probably just remind them that it’s Michigan they’re talking about. That usually does the trick.
“Those guys out on the road, they work it and they do a tremendous job,” Hoke said. “But first and foremost, it’s Michigan.”