What are your general impressions of how Hoke and his staff did during the 2013 recruiting cycle?
Zach Travis: I think Hoke and Co. have done a very good job. This is a full class of highly rated players, and past that all the players seem like good kids that like Michigan and have a real bond with the place and each other. There was a solid emphasis on building more depth along the offensive line and defensive front seven, a big infusion of athleticism and size into the secondary, and a few important skill position players. You could switch out one or two recruits with others (ahem, Laquon Treadwell) or add a player or two at certain positions (quarterback), and I might be incrementally happier, but overall I don't know if you could start from scratch and build a better class than this -- at least for what Michigan needs.
DGDestroys: All in all, it was another good class. There are positions where the class seems to be lacking, but no staff or recruiting class is ever perfect. Well, outside of Tuscaloosa.
Sarah Hughes: My general impression is that Hoke and his staff killed it in the 2013 recruiting cycle. I know Signing Day isn't until Wednesday [afternoon], but Michigan has a top-6 recruiting class on all the major sites (including a #1 ranking on Scout). It's been a while since Michigan has had two classes ranked in the top-10 in consecutive years. Hoke's 2012 class was also in the top-10, but according to Rivals, Michigan has only had two consecutive top-10 classes since 2002 (in '04 and '05 and again in '08 and '09). My point is, if Hoke makes this a regular thing, he's already under-appreciated.
Now speaking of the class itself, what's not to love? There's a 5-star quarterback, a 5-star running back, and an unbelievable offensive line haul. Fans were (and are) worried about the skill positions (mainly WR), but Derrick Green should take their minds off of that for a while. Yes, the staffed missed on a couple guys like 5-star WR Laquon Treadwell and 5-star safety Leon McQuay III, but they also landed guys like 4-star (5-star on Scout) safety Dymonte Thomas out of Ohio and the aforementioned Derrick Green. I, for one, am incredibly excited to see how far this class goes.
Big House Jack: Hoke is the man. I don't think any of us could have imagined when Hoke was first hired just how well he'd be doing on the recruiting trail. He's re-established footholds in the Midwest and (this one is especially important to me) landed the best prospects in the state of Michigan, basically kicking Michigan State's butt out the door in a particularly satisfying way. Hoke's also an Ohio native, so it's cool to see him rekindle that type of Schembechler-like obsession over the state of Ohio. What's perhaps most impressive is that Hoke has gone toe-to-toe with the best programs in the SEC over recruits and won. With more recruiting hauls like the one this year, it's hard not to see Michigan competing for championships, Big Ten and beyond.
Anthony Mammel: Overall, this class is absolutely outstanding. The staff did another great job of identifying talent early, offering kids in a timely manner and making sure to secure commitments from kids that aren't going to cause drama. There was some drama with Dawson and Conley, but that's an incredibly low amount of drama for an entire recruiting cycle. What impresses me the most is the volume of highly-touted recruits in this class: Michigan has at least twenty kids rated as four-star prospects or better by one site or another, which is the most impressive haul I've seen in my time following Michigan recruiting. The only major complaint I have is the lack of an elite receiver, but you don't ever get everything you want in recruiting.
What has been the biggest surprise (positive or negative) with this class?
Zach Travis: That it has hung together so well. I'm not one to get caught up in the sky-is-falling mentality of decommitments, but it is nice how many of these players have stayed devoted to Michigan from start to finish. Even David Dawson coming back is a really positive sign. If Michigan can hold on to Henry Poggi [ed - They did! Woo!], that will mean something like one true decommit out of all of these players, most of whom have been committed for six months or more. That speaks to how good a job the coaches have done selling these players on the full package of being a Michigan football player.
DGDestroys: The hot start. Anyone who was glued to their computer during that February weekend of 8 commits won't soon forget it. Everyone knows that recruiting often boils down to nothing more than momentum (just look at Ole Miss), but getting that kind of a fever pitch around the program in a matter of days was something we likely won't see again for a long, long time.
Sarah Hughes: The biggest surprise with this class was honestly the commitment of 5-star running back Derrick Green. Obviously things had been trending towards him picking Michigan, but at the very beginning of his recruitment, I had him heading to Ohio State. Not only that, but this commitment shows that 1) Hoke and his staff can recruit the best of the best (Green is the #1 running back in the country on both Rivals and Scout) and 2) Michigan can and will be after the best players in the country for years to come. The exciting thing about the way Hoke is recruiting is the fact that it's already a known fact the this staff can coach these players. Look at guys like TE Devin Funchess and LB Jake Ryan. Both had incredible seasons and they were ranked 3-stars on Rivals out of high school. If this staff can turn those guys into the players we know today, imagine what they'll be able to do with consistent top-10 classes. It's scary.
Anthony Mammel: The biggest surprise to me was the string of commitments early in the class. Morris was a great first addition, but when the staff went on a Midwestern tear it sent shock waves throughout the conference, letting everyone know that this staff wasn't just recruiting well because Ohio State was down in 2012. Michigan pulled in more players holding offers from elite programs like Alabama, Ohio State and USC than I can ever recall during the Lloyd Carr era, which just goes to show you how solid this staff is at getting players to commit and stay committed.
Which incoming recruit are you most excited about?
Zach Travis: It is hard to choose just one. I think Derrick Green gets the nod, since he could provide an instant jumpstart to Michigan's running game. Outside of that, I am really high on the offensive line depth Michigan is building with this class, and I like the talent and potential Shane Morris brings to the program.
DGDestroys: It's hard to pick between the O-Linemen, so I'll just say Taco Charlton. I know people like Green (and I obviously do too), but he's not going be a source of the flashy, mind-boggling runs we got from Denard. On the other hand, I think Taco Charlton has the potential to be an elite pass rusher in the mold of Oregon's Dion Jordan or South Carolina's Devin Taylor. While neither of these guys are particularly explosive (something I think Taco lacks), their long, lanky frames allow for them to beat OL and make some truly electrifying plays in the backfield.
Sarah Hughes: The incoming recruit I'm most excited about is Taco Charlton. Michigan has been missing a good pass rush and Charlton is 6'6" and 250 pounds. You know who else is 6'6" and 250 pounds? Some dude named Jadeveon Clowney. Charlton is an early enrollee, which is really exciting because more time with Mattison means he'll get on the field quicker and make an impact faster. Charlton provides the Michigan defense with a position of need and even though he's a 4-star on all the major recruiting sites, I still believe he's criminally underrated. He dominated every cramp he attended and he really has his head on straight. He's motivated and wants to be the best player he can be. All of this is a great combination for the future of the Michigan defense.
Big House Jack: Like Zach said, it's tough to choose just one. On sheer star power I'd have to say Derrick Green. It's just too hard to overlook his ability and the fact that he'll probably be used right away. However, I'm going to go with a tie between David Dawson and Dymonte Thomas. Even though Dawson will probably redshirt, he has basically looked like a beast for his entire high school career and I can only imagine how he's going to be once he enters the starting lineup alongside guys like Patrick Kugler, Kyle Bosch, and Logan Tuley-Tillman. Dymonte Thomas, like Dawson, is elite at his position, so I don't doubt that he's going to be one hell of a safety. But what I like more about Dymonte Thomas is how he's responded to Ohio State. When Urban Meyer practically guaranteed that he'd flip Thomas, Dymonte basically looked at Urban Meyer and said, "Thanks, but no thanks." Anyone who flatly turns down Meyer and sees through his bogus recruiting pitch immediately becomes awesome in my book.
Anthony Mammel: Maybe I've said this one too many times, but I truly believe that Taco Charlton has a ceiling that's as high as anyone in this class. Michigan hasn't had a premier pass rusher since Brandon Graham graduated, and even Graham wasn't as explosive as Charlton is. He has a long way to go in terms of strength training and technique, but if he can put it all together he has the potential to be a terror on the edge that Michigan fans haven't witnessed in a long, long time.
Who would you say is the most underrated recruit coming in (a.k.a. The Sleeper)?
Zach Travis: My highest hopes are for Maurice Hurst Jr. The kid seems like he has the right build for the interior, and he has some pretty solid athleticism as well. I could see him developing into a Mike Martin type of disruptive force in the middle if things go right. Other than that, I think not enough is being said of the athleticism that Michigan has brought into its secondary. Dymonte Thomas, Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling, Reon Dawson, and Delano Hill are all more along the lines of the type of player I like to see roaming the secondary.
DGDestroys: Ben Gedeon. I know he's a four star, but the hype I've seen around Gedeon almost completely fell by the wayside after he committed. Gedeon couples exceptional athleticism with a natural fit for the linebacker position; he looks to be just about as close to a sure thing as they come in recruiting.
Sarah Hughes: The sleeper of this class, in my opinion, has to be Channing Stribling. I know Stribling will probably play defense at Michigan, but he played a lot of wide receiver in high school, and he's a guy who's 6'2". I think the coaches love this height for a position like corner or safety. Stribling is very raw, but he has the body and the skill to be coached up into something great, and I think that excites the coaching staff. A lot of people had the same reservations about Gareon Conley as they do Stribling, but after the coaches saw something they liked in Conley, he began getting a lot of offers. I think Stribling is a diamond in the rough because he has a lot of the same hidden talents, but he was found out by the Michigan coaching staff a little late in the process to be pursued quite as heavily as Conley was. Stribling was visiting camps as a wide receiver and it wasn't until he decided to camp as a defensive back that he started hearing from multiple schools. Think about how talented he can be if he focuses solely on one position. I think he will surprise a lot of people and in a good way.
Big House Jack: My first inclination is to say Deveon Smith. He got seemingly no love from Rivals.com, is a lowly three star, and they ignored him so much that they didn't even bother to give him a picture for his profile for months. However, I say that this is my first inclination because you wouldn't think he was a sleeper if you asked Scout. They took one look at him and were like OMG. I don't know if that's because Ohio State really wanted him back when he was uncommitted. Buckeye prospects always seem to get a boost from recruiting sites, but Scout seems to think with a great deal of certainty that he's the best running back in the state of Ohio—which, as we all know, is quite an endorsement. Since people put more stock in Rivals than in Scout, they don't see him as much of a huge get anyway, and once Derrick Green came into the picture, he's pretty much forgotten.
However, I'm going to give my vote to Jaron Dukes, another Ohio guy. He's a 6'4", 200 lbs. wide receiver out of Columbus. Dukes isn't given an elite rating on any of the recruiting sites, leading many to think that he’s a Plan B type guy, but you have to think that one of these tall WRs (whether is Dukes or Chesson) is going to completely blow up. Unless you count the half season Devin Gardner put in, we haven't had receivers over 6'2" since Manningham and Arrington. Dukes is 6'4", Chesson is 6'3", and Csonte York, DaMario Jones, and Amara Darboh are each 6'2". One of those guys is going to hit it. My vote's on the 6'4" guy.
Anthony Mammel: Da'Mario Jones, and it's not even close for me. When I first watched his tape I already knew that he wasn't rated highly by the scouting services and I wrote him off. Weeks later I watched his tape again for a solid 15 minutes and couldn't stop watching. I think he's capable of running in the 4.45 range in the forty-yard dash, he slashes better than anyone in Michigan's last two classes, and on top of it all you can see his football knowledge when you watch his film. His 6'2" listing might be a bit over, but even if he's only 6' or 6'1" he'll be capable of playing outside and inside, and I think he'll find himself in the receiving rotation by the end of his freshman year. In my opinion he brings more to the table than players like Dukes, York and Darboh.
Potential busts (i.e. players who may be overrated)?
Zach Travis: You really have to go with Green and Morris here. Nothing against either player, but they are Michigan's highest regarded skill position prospects, and their development will be much more closely monitored than the rest of the class. I think both have a good chance of being productive college players, but the hype surrounding the recruitment of both will open them up to a certain amount of (probably undue) criticism if things don't work out.
Big House Jack: God I hope I'm wrong, but... Shane Morris? He is quite possibly the most hyped-up incoming Michigan quarterback since Drew Henson, and I've definitely been guilty of getting caught up in the excitement. I have friends who went to De La Salle, so needless to say Morris is big news there, but he hasn't really had a phenomenal season since he was a sophomore. He didn't exactly light it up in the Under Armour game, nor did he earn a spot on the final list of the Elite 11.
Provisos apply, of course. The coaches at the Elite 11 (Trent Dilfer, etc.) based their selection on who weathered the most adversity during the camp, not on who had the most raw talent or highest potential. Like every other quarterback in the competition, Morris had very limited snaps at both the Elite 11 camp and the Under Armour game, so it's tough to get a full reading on him from those two things alone.
The biggest concern I have about Morris is not that he'll be exposed as some inaccurate, spaghetti-armed waterboy in disguise; it's that we may be expecting too much of him. Only the staff at Rivals.com really knows what determines which quarterbacks get a coveted fifth star compared to the more generic three and four stars, but we do know that Morris has one thing going for him: his arm. He's got a hell of cannon. He just might not be the young phenom in the sense of someone like Matthew Stafford was.
Anthony Mammel: Unfortunately this one isn't close for me either. When I watch quarterbacks I want to see someone who understands the game at an innate level, as everything else like footwork, mechanics and schemes can be taught by a coach. When I watch Shane I see a quarterback who knows he has a cannon and is far too used to abusing it. He doesn't see the field well and often makes throws that just shouldn't be made, even for a high school quarterback.
Do I know that Morris is going to bust? Definitely not. He has all of the physical tools and intangibles to be a great quarterback and a great team leader, but at the end of the day he fell out of five-star contention on sites like Rivals for a reason. I know that Al Borges is capable of transforming him into an NFL prospect one day, but Michigan fans shouldn't expect for him to be on the heels of Devin Gardner from day one.
Zach Travis: Keep 'em coming, I guess. The way the staff has put together these last two classes, I can't help but be a little excited about the coming years. The level of talent development we've seen on the field over the last two, fused with this kind of recruiting should help lead to a good deal of on field success. I'm just going to try and enjoy the ride.
DGDestroys: Another excellent class has provided the framework for future championships in Ann Arbor. However, I'd like to remind/caution fans that stars are based more often on potential than actual ability. If you throw these kids out there now, they'll get their asses handed to them.
Temper expectations right out of the gate and remember that the college game takes a while to adjust to. In a perfect world, remember that upperclassmen are ideal at most positions, as the learning curve is steep. Barring injuries, the running back position is the only one where freshmen should see an immediate impact.
Still, if the staff can retain and develop most of the talent in this class, the future is certainly brighter than the present. Go Blue!
Sarah Hughes: My final thoughts are that the future is very bright with this coaching staff at the helm. Good recruiting + good coaching = endless possibilities.
Anthony Mammel: What else is there to say? This team is becoming more and more talented with each passing class, and there's no reason to believe that we won't be singing the praises of this staff's efforts on the recruiting trail again a year from now. Michigan knows what its goal is: mold an elite running game and a defense that's capable of shutting down offenses. We're one step closer to that goal.