Yes, stars matter when it comes to college football recruiting.
In the last 10 years, no team has signed more 5-stars than Alabama — a program that happens to have won five national titles during that period. When you look at teams that consistently reel in Top 10 classes and compare them to the teams that have been at or near the top of the AP Rankings the last several years, the correlation is obvious — Georgia, Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, USC, Florida State, Auburn.
Sure, there are programs that have won with lesser talent. Take 2017 Wisconsin, whose previous three classes ranked 39th, 35th and 41st, respectively, according to 247Sports. Or 2016 Washington, whose previous three classes ranked 29th, 26th and 38th, respectively.
But do stars matter? Absolutely. It’s a numbers game. In the long run, the more 4- and 5-stars, the more success that program will likely have.
Is Michigan’s 2018 class disappointing? You could call it that. Compared to the 2017 and 2016 classes, which were ranked No. 5 and No. 8 nationally and hauled in 35 total guys that were 4- or 5-stars, this year’s class ranks No. 21 in the country and garners just seven players with those rankings.
But is it time to panic? Not even close. Where a guy is ranked coming out of high school doesn’t always predict the trajectory of his career. Just take a look at some of the past underrated Michigan recruits who turned out just fine.
KHALEKE HUDSON, LB, class of 2016
Recruit status: 3-star, No. 386 nationally
What he’s done at Michigan: In two seasons, he’s tallied 85 tackles, 17 tackles-for-loss, 7.5 sacks, two picks and two forced fumbles. He also filled some pretty big shoes at the Viper position left behind by Jabrill Peppers, and has done so without missing a beat.
SEAN MCKEON, TE, class of 2016
Recruit status: 3-star, No. 854 nationally
What he’s done at Michigan: Played in 12 games during his sophomore campaign in 2017, leading the team with 31 receptions and hauling in 301 yards and three scores.
KARAN HIGDON, RB, class of 2015
Recruit status: 3-star, No. 484 nationally
What he’s done at Michigan: Led Michigan with 994 rushing yards and 11 scores on the ground in 2017. In three seasons, Higdon has rushed for 1,438 yards and 17 touchdowns.
WILTON SPEIGHT, QB, class of 2014
Recruit status: 3-star, No. 427 nationally
What he did at Michigan: In his only true season as the starter in 2016, Speight led Michigan to within an inch (literally) of a Big Ten Championship Game berth. He threw for 2,538 yards with 18 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He started 2017 with 581 yards in just over three games before an injury ended his season.
CHANNING STRIBLING, CB, class of 2013
Recruit status: 3-star, No. 580 nationally
What he did at Michigan: Worked his way into the starting lineup by his junior season, and started every game his senior year. He finished his collegiate career with 68 tackles, six interceptions and 22 pass-breakups. He was named All-Big Ten second team as a senior.
Where he is now: After going undrafted, Stribling spent time on the practice squad for the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers in 2017 before the 49ers ultimately signed him on January 2nd, 2018 to a reserve/future contract.
KHALID HILL, FB, class of 2013
Recruit status: 3-star, No. 670 nationally
What he did at Michigan: After garnering very little playing time in his first couple seasons in Ann Arbor, Hill switched from tight end to fullback and was immediately inserted into the lineup. In 2016, he tied for the team lead in rushing touchdowns (10) and played in every game. Nicknamed the “Hammering Panda,” he became a reliable goal-line and short-yardage specialist for the Wolverines.
JEHU CHESSON, WR, class of 2012
Recruit status: 3-star, No. 692 nationally
What he did at Michigan: Seeing game action from the start, Chesson found a spot split wide and amassed 1,639 yards on 114 receptions and 12 scores in his Michigan career. He added another 219 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, and in 2015 was named Team MVP.
Where he is now: Drafted 139th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft by Kansas City, he is still a member of the Chiefs.
WILLIE HENRY, DL, class of 2012
Recruit status: 3-star, No. 966 nationally
What he did at Michigan: Henry played three seasons in Ann Arbor, notching 85 tackles, 18 tackles-for-loss and 9.5 sacks.
Where he is now: Baltimore selected Henry with the 132nd overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. After an injury sidelined him for most of his rookie season, he bounced back in 2017 and had 33 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
FRANK CLARK, DE, class of 2011
Recruit status: 3-star, No. 692 nationally
What he did at Michigan: Clark tallied 114 tackles, 35 tackles-for-loss and 11 sacks in his four seasons in Ann Arbor. In 2015, as a junior, he was named All-Big Ten second team.
Where he is now: After being taken with the 63rd overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Seahawks, Clark has gone on to total 95 tackles and 22 sacks in three seasons.
JAKE RYAN, LB, class of 2010
Recruit status: 3-star, No. 748 nationally
What he did at Michigan: Ryan was one of the most prominent leaders of the Michigan defense during his time in Ann Arbor, totaling 267 tackles, 45.5 tackles-for-loss and 9.5 sacks. He earned All-Big Ten honors in both 2012 and 2014.
Where he is now: Ryan is a starting linebacker for the Packers. In three seasons, he’s recorded 213 tackles. He was selected 129th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft by Green Bay.
PATRICK OMAMEH, RG, class of 2008
Recruit status: 2-star, Unranked nationally
What he did at Michigan: Finished his Michigan career by making 41-consecutive starts at right guard, on his way to earning All-Big Ten first team honors as a fifth-year senior.
Where he is now: After sitting out his rookie season with the Buccaneers, Omameh has been a consistent NFL starter — starting 45 games in the last four seasons, most recently with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who led the league in rushing in 2017.
ROY ROUNDTREE, WR, class of 2008
Recruit status: 3-star, No. 384 nationally
What he did at Michigan: Roundtree hauled in 154 passes for 2,304 yards and 15 scores during his collegiate career.
Where he is now: After a few years away from the program, Roundtree is returning to Ann Arbor as a graduate assistant to coach the wide receivers.
DAVID MOLK, C, class of 2007
Recruit status: 3-star, No. 350 nationally
What he did at Michigan: What didn’t he do? In 2011, Molk won the Rimington Trophy (best center), the Big Ten Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year award, was All-Big Ten first team and was a consensus All-American first team selection.
Where he is now: After a short NFL career, he apparently took up a writing hobby?
Now, clearly all these guys are the exceptions, not the rules, but what they have in common is being underrated coming out of high school and developing into strong players down the road. It may take a couple years, but I think we’ll see some similar stories emerge from this 2018 recruiting class.