With Only days remain until Michigan's 2014 recruiting class is officially locked up, and the coaching staff has firmly placed their attention on building a strong '15 class. After decommitments from five-star prospects Damien Harris and George Campbell, loading the 2015 class with talent is looking more like a necessity than a luxury in Ann Arbor.
It is no secret that the Wolverines running game was non-existent at times last year, and the cause of this ineptitude can typically be traced back to the offensive line. In order to make this offensive futility a fleeting image, the Wolverines have set out to bolster their offensive line depth and have done so with gusto in the past week.
With around 10 additional scholarships up for grabs in 2015, the Wolverines have a limited amount of space to fill quite a few needs. As such, Michigan had only extended five offers to offensive lineman before this past week. That number grew to nine offers as the Wolverines extended potential full-rides scholarships to Drew Richmond (University School/TN), Keenan Walker (Chaparral/AZ), Ryan Bates (Archbishop Wood/PA) and Grant Newsome (Lawrenceville School/NJ).
For one four-star recruit, his offer came as exciting news since the Wolverines have gradually increased their communication over the past few weeks.
"My coach texted me and told me I had to call the offensive line coach, coach Funk," said Bates. "The first I talked to a Michigan coach was the other day at school. Coach Ferrigno came by. I really liked him. He's a really high-energy guy and I like the way he goes about things."
As is the case with many recruits, the relationship that Bates has with his position coach is a crucial factor in his collegiate decision. Before deciding on which school is right for him, Bates looks to develop a strong bond with the coach who ideally would be instrumental in developing his skills. For the time being, offensive line coach Darrell Funk grades out will based on that criteria.
"I didn't get a chance to talk to him for a long period of time, but the moment I had on the phone with him, he seemed like a really nice guy," said Bates. "I just liked him and I like Michigan a lot."
Since the Wolverines have only become a major player in his recruitment recently, Bates has some work to do before properly assessing what Michigan has to offer. Judging from what he already knows, Michigan has already earned his praise and has a real chance to move up his list.
"I really like Michigan," said Bates. "I know they're a good school and have a good football team, so I like them a lot. I'm hoping to go up there, but I don't know exactly when. I still have to talk with my parents and figure out where I'm going to visit and when I'm going to visit."
When this visit takes place, Bates will look to see if Michigan can suit his needs as a collegiate athlete. Since his time will be spent on the offensive line, Ryan will closely inspect the school's weight training program and the Michigan football amenities that would be afforded.
"I want to look at the football facilities and I'm hoping to get to meet more of the coaches up there," said Bates. "I want to meet the head coach and the strength and conditioning coach. I'm hoping to get a feel for the fan base and the atmosphere up there."
Although Bates holds offers from 13 other schools, he insists that Michigan is "not at all" out of the race for his talents. Ryan is looking to make his decision around the beginning of Summer, so getting the 6'5", 280 lb. lineman on campus quickly will be crucial for the Wolverines.
As another prospect to earn a Michigan offer in the last week, Drew Richmond also has been in recent contact with coach Funk. However, that is not the only member of the Michigan staff who has reached out and recruited the four-star offensive tackle. From the sounds of it, Funk and Singletary have been doing a fine job pitching what Michigan has to offer.
"Coach Funk told me to call him, so I talked to him and he told me that I had an offer," said Richmond. "I've been talking to coach Singletary. I like Michigan. To me, they have a great fan base and Jabrill is going so I'm assuming that people are feeling like they can turn things around at Michigan. We've got to see."
As a highly touted recruit out of Tennessee, Richmond is right in the footprint of SEC recruiting, which more than explains why many elite programs are showing interest. If that doesn't cut it, maybe his massive frame does. At 6'5" and 315 lbs., Richmond has the size and strength to toss around opposing defensive lineman. This has become commonplace for Drew in high school and he looks to continue this style of play in college- wherever that may be.
While he insists that his recruitment is wide open, Richmond has already had the opportunity to learn about what other programs have to offer. With his recently-acquired Michigan offer, the Wolverines are next up to present why Drew should become the next member of their team.
"From a tradition standpoint, they stack up well," said Richmond. "From a winning standpoint, it's not so good. But that's not what it's always about. Things can be turned around, so maybe they will do better at Michigan. They have the largest living fan base and it takes 50 years to get season tickets, so that speaks for itself right there. I keep up with that stuff."
Growing up an Ohio State fan, Drew may have to set aside his childhood allegiances when it comes to figuring out which school would be the best fit. This is something that he appears ready to do- for now- and discusses the possibility of scheduling a visit in the near future.
"I want to go visit. I'm not sure what Junior Days I want to go to right now, though."
The Wolverines likely face an uphill battle to earn a pledge from Richmond, but it is not an impossibility. If Richmond is not answer, though, Michigan has a few other options to pursue, especially with the wealth of offers that have gone to offensive lineman in recent times.