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Hey, This Blanket's All Wet!

Most New Yorkers are too focused on New York. Because we live in the cultural and financial capital of the world; because we pay exorbitant rents as though doing so were earning us a merit badge from the boy scouts; because our newspapers set standards for things like disappointingly absent  integrity and all too abundant sensationalism; because countertrends start here before the trends are even pronounced; because we don't think it's odd that girls choose to walk around with their pants tucked into shin-high fur balls--because of all of that and a lot more, we all assume that everyone outside of New York cares about it as much as we do. I mean, we're unique, right? Yeah, we're probably wrong, and you probably don't care, but that doesn't stop us, because no one ever admits to being wrong. And, in our defense, those of you elsewhere haven't done a good job keeping us in check. I mean, why were all of you watching Seinfeld for so long? You don't know that many Jewish people; you aren't fighting over how to parallel park; you ain't going to the Soup Nazi. Like George and Tony, I think you love him, er, us.

Well anyway, here's the point: I am going to assume that you all have ridden, have fantasized about riding, or are at least aware of the subway. It's what Jerry and Elaine and George and Kramer were all riding at some point during that one episode when Elaine freaks out on her way to the lesbian wedding; Jerry wakes up across from the naked guy; George gets tied up and robbed; and Kramer wins a horse-race bet. It's an interconnected system of trains that rumble around below the ground. Other cities have them too; ours are the best. (There's that New Yorkerism again. Sorry.)

On these exemplary trains, one can often observe advertisements, put up anew each spring, for the Bronx Zoo, the flagship zoo in our city. These ads always herald the arrival of baby animals--we're constantly being subjected to the trumpeting of the newborns. And each spring, you look at the ads; contemplate that you haven't been to the zoo in a while and really should get back there; decide that the upcoming season is gonna be a great one for the zoo (I mean, look how cute that baby possum is!)...and then decide against it and move on because you know that the idea of the zoo is always better than the zoo itself. It smells, it's boring, it's depressing, and all of the "cool" animals are always sleeping or sick and can't be seen. On paper, er, subway, the zoo is a great idea; in actuality, it leaves a lot to be desired.

Now guess what? I just did one of those metaphor things you're always hearing about. Michigan football is the zoo and signing day is an ad on the subway: Each year, you see the ads; you start to feel good about the upcoming season; you start thinking that this year could be the year...and then you remember that the zoo is the zoo. Its defense is unreliable; it plays scared in crunch time; it approaches important games conditioned to worry about mistakes instead of seeking chances to make plays; and it would lose at least three times even if it were playing Pioneer High School on twelve consecutive Saturdays (it's a contractual obligation). Maybe that isn't how the zoo always has been, but with only a few ever-more-anomalous exceptions, that's de rigueur with Zookeeper Carr.

As a result, Signing Day is always an exercise in false hope for me. You'd think that after years of suffering through coulda- and shoulda-beens, I would have lost some of my passion for Michigan football, but the opposite is true. Like the sick person that I am, every year feels more and more important, and each season, I care even more than I did the year before. This compels me to learn more than I would like to admit (you never know which internets the president is reading) about far too many high-school juniors and seniors, all motivated by a hope that I know will go missing, a faith that I know will not be rewarded.

But still, I persist in my madness. I mean, that's what they say it is when you do the same thing over and over again and expect a different outcome, right? If we're trying to be pithy then that's as good a description for following recruiting as any.

I suppose that I might simply be in a recurrent state of partially suspended reality rather than the victim of out and out madness. I mean, I can handle it when the Myron Rolles of the world go to places like FSU for phony reasons like academics. And similarly, I don't seek out the highest mountain peak from which I can shout when I learn of good happenings, like the signing of a Stephen Schilling. I am able to keep some perspective. Rather, I instead wonder things like, "Gee, how will he look in 350 pounds of pizza-and-weight-machine immobile girth?" I am cynical if nothing else.

And so with all of that as some kind of rambling introduction, I now present to you the 2006 Michigan recruiting class:

  • DE Greg Banks Jr.: 6'6", 245; Denver, CO (Montebello)
  • OL Justin Boren: 6'4", 305; Pickerington, Ohio (Pickerington North)
  • RB Carlos Brown: 6'0", 195; Franklin, GA (Heard County)
  • DB Stevie Brown: 6'0", 195; Columbus, IN (Columbus East)
  • QB David Cone: 6'6", 205; Statesboro, GA (Statesboro)
  • OL Perry Dorrestein: 6'7", 300; Plainfield, IL (Plainfield Central)
  • LB/FB Obinna Ezeh: 6'2", 213; Grand Rapids, MI (Catholic Central)
  • DT John Ferrara: 6'5", 265; Staten Island, NY (Monsignor Farrell)
  • LB Brandon Graham: 6'2", 240; Detroit, MI (Crockett Technical)
  • DT Jason Kates: 6'4", 325; Harrisburg, PA (Bishop McDevitt)
  • WR Greg Mathews: 6'3", 180; Orlando, FL (Edgewater)
  • RB Brandon Minor: 6'0", 215; Richmond, Va. (Varina)
  • LB Cobrani Mixon: 6'2", 206; Cincinnati, Ohio (Colerain)
  • DB Jonas Mouton: 6'2", 212; Los Angeles, CA (Venice)
  • LB Quintin Patilla: 6'2", 205; Flint, MI (Carman-Ainsworth)
  • DE Adam Patterson: 6'3", 260; Columbia, SC (Richland Northeast)
  • OL Stephen Schilling: 6'5", 285; Bellevue, WA (Bellevue)
  • DE/TE Quintin Woods: 6'6", 220; Flint, MI (Flint Southwestern Academy)
  • K Bryan Wright: 6'1", 200; Salem, OH (Salem)
For those scoring at home, that's 19 committed players from 13 states. For comparison's sake, look at Texas's class, the fifth-best in the country according to Rivals--out of 25 kids, only two are not from Texas. And this team just won a national championship. I criticize Lloyd Carr a lot--and most if not all of my criticism is deserved--but I won't front: the man can really recruit. I'd wager that only USC, Notre Dame, and Michigan can effectively recruit across the entire country. Yes, school like Texas and Georgia and LSU might not have to, but that's not the point. College football is a regional sport, and you need a true brand name if you expect to have a class filled with kids from the Northwest (Schilling), the Southeast (Mathews, Brown, Cone, Minor) and everywhere in between. And please do not overlook the geography deficits with which Michigan operates at all times: 1) It's fucking cold in Michigan; 2) Unlike other cold places like Ohio and Pennsylvania, Michigan only produces a handful of Big Ten-caliber players each year. All told, great class.

And the numbers bear this out, too. Though only ranked 13th by Rivals, Michigan's class--2 five-star prospects, 9 four-star prospects, 7 three-star prospects, and 1 two-star prospect (a kicker, and kickers are never rated highly)--has the fifth-highest average-star ranking. On Scout, UM's class is ranked tenth overall and fourth in average rating. And on recruiting newbie, the class checks in at 11 and the average-recruit rating places Michigan ninth.

More important than the numbers, though, Michigan wound up filling its needs. At least, I think it did. It would have been nice if Michigan could have held on to Jai Eugene, as CB is a position where the talent could use an upgrade. And similarly, UM could use another QB. But the glaring holes--OT, LB, and S--have now been filled fairly well. Schilling, so long (zing! You'll see...) as his arms are long enough, sounds like the closest to "destined for stardom" that a recruit can be; Dorrestein was cited as a top sleeper, and surely has the frame for left tackle; Mouton and Brown are top-100 players for safety (maybe strong and free, respectively?); Graham is a freakish LB prospect; Mixon is a top-250 player; Patilla is reputed to be another "freak" athlete; and Ezeh will work hard. (If he even stays at LB. Notable recruit listings from the athletic department included Ezeh at RB, Woods at TE, and Ferrara at defensive tackle. It was thought that those three might be, respectively, LB, DE, and DE. We'll see what the fall brings...)

I was down on this class for a while, mostly because I was skeptical that Michigan would be able to finish the way that it subsequently did, signing Schilling (who now is said to be a legitimate OT prospect and not just a stud OG), Mouton, Patterson, Minor, and Kates. Given the top-line talent--Graham, Schilling, Brown, Brown, Boren, Patterson, Mouton, Patterson--and the depth, though, this class now seems as though it were pretty much the best possible one for UM. Especially after a 7-5 year, and especially when one considers that in order to lure the absolute best kids--out-of-region five-star recruits--from across the country, a team must consistently win big games or have some hot-shit coach like a Weis or a Meyer.

So that's nice. Well done, Lloyd and staff. But, sadly, that's it. I've looked at the ads, I've admired the pictures, and now it's back to the routine. In the fall, special teams coordinator (and offensive coordinator to be?), failed coach, and Lloyd friend Mike DeBord will still be around; strength coach, anachronism, and Lloyd friend Mike Gittelson will still be around; defensive coordinator, incompetent, and Lloyd friend Jim Herrmann might still be around. And, of course, lottery winner, stubborn bastard, and loyal friend Lloyd Carr will still be around. Right? If the answer is "yes," then I honestly don't think I even need to visit the zoo to know what's going on. The newborns may be here again, but so are the zookeepers.