We all know the impact Michigan's Under the Lights game vs. Notre Dame last season had on the 2013 recruiting class. Well, in case you don't know, I'm here to tell you it was huge. While it's true Michigan didn't have multiple recruits commit at the game, it did get a big one for the 2013 class in 4* safety Dymonte Thomas. He had said he wasn't planning on committing during the game, but then he "went there and fell in love with the campus and the stadium, the team and the fans. They make you feel like you're part of the family."
But it wasn't just a good opportunity because Michigan got its second commit of the 2013 class. Included on the list of visitors for that game were commit Shane Morris, future commits Wyatt Shallman and Taco Charlton, and also Laquon Treadwell, who hopefully ends up committing to the Wolverines. The point is, the Under the Lights game had a big effect on recruiting.
There are two schools of thought as to whether how the season pans out effects recruiting. One is that the more successful a team, the better their recruiting class. This could be thought of as the case with Michigan because after Brady Hoke's first season, which he ended 11-2, the 2013 recruiting class he's compiled is currently top-2 in the nation. However, there's another school of thought that regardless of on-the-field results, recruiting comes down to the coaches and the university. Although I tend to agree more with the latter, I really don't think an 11-2 season could have hurt when trying to compile one of the best recruiting classes in recent history. The reason I don't believe last season had as much to do with the 2013 recruiting class is because the coaching staff sold those recruits on the importance of bringing Michigan back. They wanted to be the kids who brought Michigan back to prominence. Before they even step foot on campus though, Michigan's preseason ranking is #8 and a they're expected to have a pretty decent season this year. Change of plans?
Here's the thing -- maybe the 2013 class wasn't compiled to bring Michigan back, but rather bring Michigan back to the top. Last season, Michigan finished 11-2 with a first-year head coach. To me, that means we're back. Michigan is ranked preseason #8 (the highest preseason ranking since 2007, in which Michigan was ranked #5). So yeah, I'd say "we're back" applies. But is anyone really satisfied? Of course not. Since when are Michigan fans satisfied? The 2012 season is expected to be a good one. Lots of analysts are projecting a better team but less wins because the schedule is so tough. And you know what? I'm okay with that. I'd of course prefer to go undefeated, but if we finished the season with 9+ wins, I think it would be satisfactory.
The 2012 season will be important for recruiting in one aspect: the vision for the future.
Can you imagine if last season Michigan had not sucked against Michigan State and finally ended the streak? And if they had completed the comeback vs. Iowa (which I still think they did (Ed - Z: me too; down with refs!))? So. Close. Personally, I think this year will be another 'so close' year. That's why the 2013 recruits know they are being brought here to win a championship. Michigan and its fans want more than 11 wins, and more than a B1G championship (although that would be pretty great this upcoming season). If Michigan starts the season by beating Alabama, and then somehow finding a way (yet again) to beat Notre Dame, finally taking care of pesky Michigan State, and ending on another wonderful note by beating Ohio State, then there's only one direction this team can go, and it's up. I'll be the first to admit that all those things are going to be incredibly difficult this season. Denard Robinson needs to show that he's a different player his second year under Borges, the defense needs to fill some gaps, and the team in general will need a lot of strength to beat the likes of Alabama and Michigan State. Not to mention, the Ohio State game will be much more difficult than last year's since they'll be treating it like their bowl game, they have a new "angry" coach, etc. The point is, even if everything goes wonderfully, I highly doubt Michigan wins the BCS championship in 2012. Which is where the 2013 class comes in.
Yesterday, 2013 QB commit Shane Morris received his 5th star on Rivals, which makes him a consensus 5-star QB on Rivals, Scout, and 247 Sports. 5-star running back Derrick Green, who presumably has Michigan atop his list, is the #1 running back in the country according to Rivals. Last, but not least, Rivals's #1 wide receiver in the nation, 4-star Laquon Treadwell, also has Michigan atop his list. Not only are Brady Hoke and Co. attempting to compile one of the best recruiting class Michigan fans have ever seen, but he's making a statement. You don't just try to get top recruiting classes for fun. Don't forget about the stellar offensive line he's gotten to commit, which contains five 4-star recruits. The 2012 class included multiple elite defensive lineman and the 2013 class features commitments from excellent defensive backs. This is the making of a championship-caliber team.
This is why I believe the 2012 season will be important for 2014 recruiting. Since the 2013 class is almost full, I don't think we'll have to worry about Michigan's 2012 season in regard to 2013 recruits. But 2014 recruits will be very impressionable in about 11 days. If Michigan makes a statement against Alabama and takes care of business, who knows what'll happen? If Michigan can compile a 2014 class even close to this 2013 class, I would like someone to try and explain to me how in the hell Michigan doesn't win a national championship in the next 5 years.
Right now, Michigan has one 2014 commit, elite 4-star linebacker and top-100 player (according to 247 Sports), Michael Ferns. An excellent player and leader, Ferns is as good a start to a recruiting class as any. It's time for Michigan to show, on the field, why it deserves the top players in the class of 2014 and just how bright the future really is. Because it looks really bright to me.