With the majority of the Michigan football team’s 27-player recruiting class already in place by yesterday’s National Signing Day, Rich Rodriguez’s third signing day as the Wolverines’ coach proved to be less suspenseful than his last two.

Rodriguez even admitted that the coaching staff was only unsure about the commitment of a few players when the day began.

Michigan’s final signee, Florida defensive back recruit Demar Dorsey, could be the jewel of Rodriguez’s recruiting class. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla. native is ranked as the No. 2 safety and No. 12 overall player in the country by ESPN.

As a four-star defensive back on Rivals.com and Scout.com, Dorsey’s talent isn’t being called into question. But past legal troubles put Rodriguez on the defensive at his press conference announcing the signees yesterday.

A Demar Dorsey listed on the website of the Broward County 17th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, whose birthday matches up with the Michigan recruit, is cited on two felony charges: burglary of an unoccupied dwelling in 2007 and robbery with a deadly weapon in 2008. Dorsey was never convicted of either crime, and both summaries list the cases as closed.

Though Dorsey was never convicted, the announcement that he was signed highlighted previous concerns about Rodriguez’s vetting during the recruiting process. Last August, backup quarterback Justin Feagin, who had a checkered legal past before joining the team, was dismissed from the team on cocaine charges.

“There’s nobody on this football team that we’re signing that has a felony conviction and there’s nobody on this football team that we’re signing that has a misdemeanor conviction,” Rodriguez said. “You have to look at the whole story before you pass judgment on a young man. Not everybody is perfect. Sometimes young people get in the wrong situation at the wrong time, but they’re found innocent or they’re acquitted.

“We feel comfortable that every guy we sign is going to be a great fit for not only the football program but for this university and our community,” he continued.

Following Rodriguez’s press conference, offensive coordinator Calvin Magee agreed with the head coach, accentuating the importance of character in the Wolverines’ recruiting efforts.

“Every kid we recruit, we spend an awful lot of time, probably more than anything on character,” he said. “… just like the other kids we recruited, we saw a kid that has good character and we had no problems with it.”

Dorsey was originally committed to play at the University of Florida, and he held that commitment for 15 months before he was dropped from the Gators’ class in January.

GARDNER’S DEBUT

As the top-rated dual threat quarterback in the country, Michigan recruit Devin Gardner’s reputation precedes him.

But now that he is on campus — after graduating early from Inkster High School in order to enroll this semester — Gardner will begin workouts today to become competitive at the quarterback position.

“I think it will help me mentally and physically, you know, because of the weight room work out and conditioning,” Gardner said. “I’ll probably be in the best shape of my life, and learning the plays and stuff like that.”

The quarterback situation is a bit different from last year though when former Wolverine Steven Threet’s transfer left Nick Sheridan as the only non-freshman having started under center.

And with Tate Forcier having started every game for Michigan last season and fellow freshman Denard Robinson taking snaps, the competition has stiffened for the role of signal caller.

“I don’t want to discount (Gardner) because he’s a very competitive guy,” Rodriguez said. “But you’re going to assume that Tate and Denard are going take a step forward … Another spring practice for them, another August camp for them. I think Tate and Denard are going to keep doing this in the offense.

“I think it’s a good situation in a way for (Gardner). I’m glad he’s here this spring because at least he’ll know and we’ll know how far away he is.”

Magee said he knows Gardner has the potential to be successful in Ann Arbor, after leading Inkster to the state championship this past season.

“They’re raw skills,” Magee said. “I can’t wait for coach Smith to get a hold of him to tighten up his fundamentals … When you watch him play, he loves to compete, and watching him, he looks like the kind of kid that gets other players around him to get going.”

LB COACH SEARCH

With the position of linebacker coach still vacant after Jay Hopson left to become the defensive coordinator at Memphis in December, and the excitement of signing day now over, Rodriguez said he will pick up the search for Hopson’s replacement in the next week.

Because defensive coordinator Greg Robinson now likely coaching the linebackers, Rodriguez said the newly added staff member will likely be “more of a safeties coach than a linebackers coach.”

Though Rodriguez said he would like to hire the new coach in the next week, he said he doesn’t want to put a timeframe on the hire.

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