The 2011 class is a tough one to grade. With Rich Rodriguez being ousted approximately a month before National Signing Day and Brady Hoke hired with only about three weeks to fill out the class, it's difficult to blame either one for the mediocre team rankings for the Wolverines (#21 to Rivals, #27 to Scout). Ultimately, rather than grading Rodriguez or Hoke, we can only really judge how the program did overall.
Note: All links will take you to Touch the Banner's commitment post for each player.
Signings: Russell Bellomy (Arlington, TX)
Biggest miss: Marquise Williams (Charlotte, NC)
How it went: With a trio of highly recruited quarterbacks already on the roster, Michigan didn't have much of a shot at an elite quarterback in the 2011 class. Rodriguez realized that early in the recruiting cycle, offering and accepting a commitment from a big project in Florida quarterback Kevin Sousa. Sousa had potential, but he was the type of kid who needed a few years to percolate. But even Rodriguez soured on Sousa and stopped recruiting him hard, which caused Sousa to decommit before the coach was even fired. Some Michigan fans thought that Brady Hoke should just ignore the quarterback position - which would have been a bad idea in itself - but with the departure of Tate Forcier, the QB position became even more of a necessity. Hoke snatched Bellomy from Big Ten foe Purdue. Bellomy isn't a superstar, but he seems to be a quality individual, he's a good runner, and he could be a Scott Dreisbach-type starter in a few years.
Signings: Justice Hayes (Grand Blanc, MI), Thomas Rawls (Flint, MI)
Biggest miss: Demetrius Hart (Orlando, FL)
How it went: Hart - the high school teammate of current Michigan player Ricardo Miller - was thought to be a Michigan lock early on, having repeatedly stated how much he loved Michigan and Coach Rodriguez. Many expected him to commit much earlier than he did, but it dragged out due to Rodriguez's uncertain job status. Eventually, Hart committed to the Wolverines, only to rescind his commitment when it became clear that Michigan was looking to make a change. Meanwhile, former Notre Dame commit Justice Hayes pledged to the Wolverines after becoming disgruntled with the Fighting Irish. Hayes committed to Coach Rodriguez, but oddly, I think Hayes will fit better with Brady Hoke's offense. Hayes doesn't have much power, but he can catch the ball out of the backfield and run some quick-hitters. He reminds me a bit of Clarence Williams. Rawls struggled with qualifying, but sorted out his academic issues in time to earn a Michigan offer and commit to the Wolverines. He's a Kevin Grady-like back, thick and powerful. If Michigan brings back the old counter trey and isos they used to run so well, I can see Rawls being a solid back. I don't think either of these backs is a superstar, but after losing one of the top backs in the country like Hart, these two are solid pickups.
Biggest miss: Devin Lucien (Encino, CA)
How it went: Michigan got an early commitment from Shawn Conway, who stuck with Michigan . . . until he realized that he wouldn't qualify for admittance. Several other receivers were high on Michigan throughout the process (Sammy Watkins early on, then Hakeem Flowers and Prince Holloway, to name a couple). Lucien and Flowers would have ended up at Michigan if they had continued to be recruited, but Lucien was told by Hoke that he was only wanted as a defensive back, and Flowers was told that he wouldn't be admitted. The new coaching staff didn't offer any more receivers, so I assume that they didn't feel like receiver was a big need. With three seniors graduating after 2011 (Darryl Stonum, Junior Hemingway, Martavious Odoms), it remains to be seen whether that was a good idea or not.
Signings: Chris Barnett (Hurst, TX)
Biggest miss: Ray Hamilton (Strongsville, OH)
How it went: Michigan got in on Hamilton early and looked like a strong contender, but shortly afterward, Hamilton became the jewel of the Hawkeyes' class. Meanwhile, Michigan struggled to generate much interest from tight end prospects, who all seemed to want to head to the south or go to Ohio State. Michigan fans have been saying for a few years that they expected tight ends to get more involved in the offense, but Rodriguez didn't use TEs much at West Virginia and the best season for a TE at Michigan was Kevin Koger, who had 16 catches for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2009. Rodriguez seemed to repel tight ends, but Hoke handed out a late offer to then Arkansas commit Chris Barnett. Barnett has a great deal of talent, but is coming off a senior year ACL injury and needs to work harder and get into better shape. The Wolverines would have benefitted from taking two tight ends in the class, but one talented one is a decent haul.
Signings: Chris Bryant (Chicago, IL), Jack Miller (Toledo, OH), Tony Posada (Plant City, FL)
Biggest miss: Jake Fisher (Traverse City, MI)
How it went: Rich Rodriguez surely knew that Michigan needed offensive linemen - badly - in the coming recruiting classes. But his efforts seemed a bit lackluster. Thirty-one total offensive line prospects received offers, with four of them committing at various times. Miller and Posada both committed fairly early in the process; Fisher did, too, but that commitment ended once the writing was on the wall for Rodriguez. And as much as I would have liked for Fisher to be a Wolverine, my interest in him as a Michigan player waned a bit with the hiring of Brady Hoke. As a high school tight end, he would have been perfect for Rodriguez's zone blocking scheme as a left tackle. But as a straight ahead blocker for Hoke? I'm not sure he would have fit so well. Bryant committed a few days before National Signing Day. And while Bryant seems like a future mauler, Miller was somewhat lightly recruited and there have been questions about how high Posada's ceiling might be. It surprised me that Hoke mostly chose to recruit prospects who were already heavily interested in Michigan, rather than trying to recruit uncommitted players or flip players committed to other schools. There are only three when Michigan could have used four or five. Additionally, they all project as interior linemen, which leaves the tackle position dangerously thin.
MagnusThunder is the author of Touch the Banner, a Michigan football blog. And right now he could really go for an El Gordo.