It’s been awhile since a Michigan football press conference was a high-spirited occasion. During the Wolverines’ program-record nine loss season last year, Michigan assistant coaches and players found it harder and harder to field the media’s questions as the season dragged on.
But inside the Junge Family Champions Center yesterday afternoon, the atmosphere was decidedly different.
With a relaxed and energetic tone, Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez announced the members of his second recruiting class since taking the reins in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines signed 22 incoming freshman — seven of whom are already enrolled at the University and currently working out with strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis — in a class that currently rates No. 7 in the nation on recruiting site Rivals.com, three spots below rival Ohio State.
“We needed to get some quality competition, particularly at the offensive skill spots, and we think we were able to do that,” Rodriguez said. “We signed a lot of guys from the state of Florida, which is a primary recruiting area for us now, in addition to our typical areas in the Midwest and some out West.”
Of the 22 freshmen signed yesterday, eight are from the Sunshine State. Some of the notable Florida names are speedy receiver Jeremy Gallon, who Rodriguez said would primarily be used in the slot position, and dual-threat quarterback Denard Robinson, who reportedly runs a sub-4.4 second 40-yard dash and was a welcomed Signing Day surprise for Wolverine fans.
“(Robinson is) one of the fastest guys we signed,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a guy like (early-enrolled freshman) Tate (Forcier), who took command every game he played in. That’s the thing that excites us about Tate and Denard. Those are guys who, when you watch their game film, they kind of took charge and controlled things.”
Much of the day’s attention centered on the quarterback position, where Michigan signed two quality dual-threat options, Forcier and Robinson. Rodriguez said that both quarterbacks are in the running to compete with redshirt sophomore Steven Threet and redshirt junior Nick Sheridan for the starting spot. Rodriguez needed to pick up signal-callers that fit his fast-paced offense — and he apparently did that in Forcier (rated by Rivals.com as the most accurate passer in the nation) and Robinson, who garnered additional recruitment attention from Rodriguez when former quarterback commit Shavodrick Beaver backed out.
“We got two of the best ones we could possibly ask for,” Michigan quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said. “You know, we had one bow out at the end there and we weren’t too happy about that, but we moved on and probably got a better one in Denard.”
Forcier, who’s already on campus, appears to have the upper hand on Robinson because he will participate in the 15 spring practices in March, and has an extra semester to adjust to college before summer workouts start in the spring.
But while everyone else was preoccupied with the competition between the two young quarterbacks, the easygoing Forcier wasn’t too worried about it.
“I just know (Robinson’s) last name — I don’t know anything about him,” Forcier said. “My mom was the one that actually said, ‘Oh, you’ve got competition coming.’ Oh, you know, I don’t care.”
Forcier threw for 3,424 yards and ran for another 783, with 35 touchdowns his senior year. Robinson compiled 1,809 passing yards, 462 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns.
Though he compiled an impressive class, Rodriguez did voice some concerns with recruiting as a whole. After last year’s 3-9 record, he said the Michigan coaches ran into “more negative recruiting than there’s ever been,” a discouraging reality for the coach.
“I don’t think you have to do that to get a guy,” Rodriguez said. “I tell our coaches, ‘you talk about the good things we have to offer. … If you have to negative recruit to get him, then we’re probably recruiting the wrong guy.”