ORLANDO, Fla. – With the nation’s top recruit still considering Michigan, incoming coach Rich Rodriguez is no doubt excited to hit the recruiting trail and solidify his first class at the helm of the Wolverines.

But over the next week, he’ll actually spend some time selling himself to players already in Ann Arbor.

Preferring to stay out of the spotlight during Lloyd Carr’s final days as coach, Rodriguez has not had much of a chance to chat with the current Wolverines. To make up for it, he plans to talk to many of them one-on-one next week, he said before the Capital One Bowl.

“I think there’s a lot of anxiety any time there’s transition, and that’s understandable,” Rodriguez said. ” I’ve been through this before.”

But Rodriguez has made an exception for some players by already making a pitch to some individually.

With the deadline to declare for the NFL Draft less than two weeks away, Rodriguez said he has talked to wide receivers Adrian Arrington and Mario Manningham. Both have asked for an NFL evaluation of their draft prospects.

In addition, Rodriguez has met twice with freshman quarterback Ryan Mallett, who is considering a transfer.

Rodriguez assured the five-star quarterback recruit the coach’s spread-style offense can be adjusted to fit whoever leads it. Although it has recently featured a dual-threat in West Virginia’s Pat White, the offense also can be geared to a drop-back quarterback such as Mallett, Rodriguez said.

“He’s got to trust us, and if he doesn’t, that’s his decision,” Rodriguez said. “We certainly hope he’ll stay around. He’s a talented young man who has got a lot of ability, and we can fit our system to the best quarterback.

“But again, the best guys will play. He’s got to make the decision himself whether he thinks he’s the best.”

Carr told reporters yesterday morning that Mallett had already made his decision, but would not elaborate, according to The Wolverine. Mallett said after the bowl game that he would discuss his decision publicly once he got back to Ann Arbor.

Rodriguez will be happy to know, though, that there are some players whose arms he won’t have to twist. For instance, both defensive lineman Tim Jamison and cornerback Morgan Trent said they would be back for a final year.

Still, Rodriguez said he understands why others – such as junior Terrance Taylor, who said after the game he still might declare for the draft – might not be as certain.

“It’s the unknown, particularly if you bring a lot of new coaches in,” Rodriguez said. “They think, ‘Do we have to prove ourselves all over again?’ “

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