On Wednesday, February 2, 2011, recruits from all over the country will be faxing their National Letters of Intent to their future college destinations. Recruits must sign their NLI between the dates of February 2nd and April 1st. They receive the letters from their respective schools, and usually sign and return them via fax.
For the media and fans, it will be a feeding frenzy. ESPN will have all-day recruiting coverage starting at 9 a.m. with recruiting analysts and live public announcements. On The Fort, which is the premium message board for Michigan's Rivals site, the record for the most users online occurred on Signing Day 2008 (Rich Rodriguez's first Signing Day at Michigan). There were 8,766 users at one point. In comparison, this morning at 10:20 a.m., there are 1,036 users online.
POTENTIAL ADDITIONS TO MICHIGAN'S CLASS
Chris Barnett, TE (Hurst, TX): Barnett has been committed to Arkansas since October and Oklahoma prior to that, but that commitment to the Razorbacks is soft at this point. He's agile and athletic at 6'6", 245 lbs. Barnett visited Ann Arbor this weekend and, according to player reports, thoroughly enjoyed the visit. Athletically, Barnett would be a great get for the Wolverines, since Brady Hoke emphasizes use of the tight end more than Rodriguez did. This one is tough because Barnett has kind of been all over the place with his recruitment. Barnett took a visit down to Miami last weekend. He has said that if either of Miami or Michigan blow him away then he'll go there, and if not he'll stick with Arkansas. He may wait until after signing day to make his announcement, so it could help Michigan's chances that they were the last visit.
Other finalists: Arkansas, Miami
Michigan's chance: 40%
Frank Clark, OLB (Cleveland, OH): Clark attends Glenville High School, which leans notoriously toward Ohio State. Head coach Ted Ginn, Sr.'s son was a star Buckeye receiver, and virtually every Glenville player who receivers an OSU offer ends up in Columbus. Clark, however, doesn't have an offer from the Buckeyes, so he's considering other schools. He has been smitten with Michigan since receiving an offer at the beginning of December and has been rumored to be a silent commit. Clark has been honest in his interest with Michigan. He's focused on academics, and likes that side of Michigan. Announcing on signing day, Clark could be the first Glenville prospect to choose the Wolverines since Pierre Woods.
Other finalists: Michigan State, North Carolina
Michigan's chances: 80%
Darian Cooper, DT (Hyattsville, MD): The uncertainty surrounding Rich Rodriguez's job security caused his interest to waver, and the firing made him dismiss Michigan . . . temporarily. Since then, Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison have tried hard to reel him back in. He's an important recruit because of a lack of numbers on the defensive line. Michigan's chances were increased greatly by this weekend's visit. It gave Cooper a chance to see what it would be like to be a Michigan athlete. If he doesn't choose Michigan it will be because of the coaching change and uncertainty. The Mattison hire has impacted Cooper's recruitment because Mattison has said all the right things. The coaches convinced him to take a visit, which was a big step on its own. He formed a friendship with Michigan commit Delonte Hollowell back at the Big House BBQ, which could play into things. I think Michigan actually has a pretty good chance right now.
Other finalists: Georgia Tech, Iowa
Michigan's chance: 50%
Jake Fisher, OT (Traverse City, MI): Fisher was committed to Michigan for several months. The 6'7", 260 lb. tackle seemed to fit perfectly in the zone blocking scheme favored by Rodriguez. But when the head coach was fired, Fisher started to look around and entertain advances by other schools. Hoke visited Fisher's home last week, but it's unclear how large of an impact that visit had on Fisher's choice. Fisher would offer depth at a position that's dangerously thin, with only Taylor Lewan, Mark Huyge, and Michael Schofield currently on the roster. This one is tough. Jake hasn't been too open yet about anything, and has now taken visits to Florida and Oregon outside of Michigan and MSU. I think Oregon is a real threat, and has potential to steal him away. If he goes out of state, I would imagine Oregon as the school he picks. If he stays in-state, you'd have to think he sticks with Michigan.
Other finalists: Florida, Michigan State, Oregon
Michigan's chance: 50%
Thomas Rawls, RB (Flint, MI): As of now it seems that Rawls has been officially offered by the Wolverines. It has been known since the beginning of his recruitment that grades might be an issue with him, and qualifying for college hinged upon a standardized test score. Rawls has received his test score and hinted that it holds good news, but he probably won't announce anything until a 9:30 a.m. press conference on Wednesday. Rawls played high school football for the son of running backs coach Fred Jackson and has been known to be a huge Michigan fan. If he receives an offer from the Wolverines, he should be Michigan-bound. It's down to Michigan and CMU for Rawls, and he loves Michigan. He's been open to the fact that he would like to play for the Wolverines.
Other finalists: Central Michigan
Michigan's chance: 95%
Leilon Willingham, OLB (Denver, CO): Willingham was formerly committed to Texas A&M. However, after decommitting from the Aggies, he has since visited a few schools, including Michigan. Reports after his Michigan visit indicated that Willingham enjoyed the Michigan visit (and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison) so much that he might have silently committed to the Wolverines. Willingham could play either middle linebacker or rush linebacker for the Wolverines. Willingham really liked his visit to Michigan, and was already talking to other recruits about plans in Ann Arbor next year. Signing day can be a funny thing, but Michigan's chances still look good.
Other finalists: Central Florida, Colorado, Texas A&M
Michigan's chance: 75%
WILL THERE BE ANY SURPRISE COMMITS?
There always seems to be at least one big surprise on National Signing Day or just beforehand. When Rich Rodriguez arrived in 2008, he pulled in surprise commits Ricky Barnum (from Florida), Roy Roundtree (Ohio), Michael Shaw (Ohio), and Taylor Hill (Ohio). The 2009 class's biggest surprises were a couple of decommitments - defensive tackles Pearlie Graves and Dequinta Jones went to Texas Tech and Arkansas, respectively. Last year the coaches lost out on what seemed to be a sure thing in Sean Parker (who committed to Washington) but reeled in Demar Dorsey (from Florida) at the last minute.
This might seem like an oxymoron or something, but I'm not expecting any surprises. The new coaching staff seems to have done a great job of firming up commitments and pulling in some new guys whose dream school is in Ann Arbor. Other than the six guys listed above, Michigan looks to be pretty set for the 2011 recruiting class. If anything surprising happens, I would hazard a guess that a lower level offensive or defensive lineman (one committed to a MAC school, perhaps) might get a late offer from the Wolverines and flip. And if that's the case, that means that Michigan has probably struck out on Cooper or Fisher.
MagnusThunder is the author of Touch the Banner, a Michigan football blog. Additional reporting was done by TomVH, a contributor at MGoBlog and part owner of the website U Recruit.