Patrick Kugler, Chris Fox, Taco Charlton and Shane Morris
You may be aware that Michigan's off to a start unprecedented in the recruiting rankings era not only for them but for the Big Ten. Hints of this include relentless "Hello" posts on the front page, your strange desire to actually watch recruits' highlight reels, and Michigan State fans linking a post I wrote a while back scoffing at an MSU class that would beat Michigan four straight years.
The only other area school to rack up so many commitments so quickly is Penn State, which has piled their classes nearly full from time to time over the last decade. Even they haven't been as aggressive as Michigan. Three years ago they had 11 guys by the end of May and 15 by July. Michigan is sitting at 15 barely a month after the 2012 class signed. Their other notably quick-filling class was 2004, when they had 16 of 25 guys by August. Back then that was super quick; nowadays that would hardly raise an eyebrow.
Since Michigan's guys are almost without exception highly touted, this has caused mostly rejoicing in the Michigan fanbase. Rivals have responded with various binky-clutchings and hopeful narratives. There's also a certain portion of the Michigan fanbase that is concerned that Michigan is locking themselves in too quickly. They probably have an entire room full of various insurance contracts covering everything from dog attacks to the zombie apocalypse, but they exist. Occasionally they email me.
Here's a brief primer on why you should be happy Michigan has crammed its class full of four stars by mid-March. In retrospect this post is probably unnecessary.
This Is A Bad Idea Because Penn State Or Texas
Early Texas commit Sergio Kindle can lift a car and plays in the NFL. Early Penn State commit Austin Hinton was a 6'2" offensive lineman. He does not play in the NFL.
The Penn State counterpoint is obvious: look at the profiles these guys have. Michigan has one recruit (Khalid Hill) who isn't on at least one of the early top 250/300s. They have enough four-star sorts to guarantee themselves a top 5 class already, on every service. Nine commits list an offer from Alabama, Ohio State, and/or Notre Dame, and that's without accounting for Shane Morris, who committed too early for heavy hitters to offer him, and the likelihood others would have picked up offers from the above if they weren't clawing their way into Michigan's class.
In contrast, a lot of Penn State's early guys were guys like Jed Hill*, Austin Hinton, and Dan Lawlor, low-to-mid three stars and saw their careers play out like they were that. PSU's '04 class saw just two four stars among the 15 who committed before their senior years, and most were barely that: Rivals gave 10 of them their lowest 3-star ranking or worse. It wasn't much different in '09. Three of the 16 early commits had four stars. They were outnumbered by guys who finished with two stars. This isn't a comparison.
Texas is. For years they've piled touted recruits like cordwood on their junior day and pursued some select out of state kids after locking up half or more of their class by this time every year. After falling on some hard times, they fired a bunch of coaches, brought in new blood, and took not one commit at their revamped junior day. A new day has dawned at Texas, which has only thirteen commits in mid-March.
Meanwhile on Mack Brown's Wikipedia page…
…five top five finishes in ten years once Brown's recruiting took hold in 2001 and no final ranking lower than #13 until the recent Davis/Gilbert implosion. If adopting Mack's deal with the devil means we'll get complacent and pay the piper in 11 years, tell me where to sign.
*[Googling for images of PSU recruits past who did not work out reveals that Hill is now a BEEFCAKE model. I pass this long in the spirit of knowledge and an effort to increase female readership.]
We Don't Have Enough Information On These Guys
I asked all the guys who applied for Ace's job a question: "why do Michigan's recruits tend to slide when rankings are revised?" It was admittedly a bit of a trick question since the mention of Michigan implies that is relevant information; it's not.
I think only one person gave me the right answer, which is that touted recruits are expected to drop because they're already rated in the top 1% of high school football players. The threat of moving down is much greater than the potential to move up. As the year goes on, kids will show up at camps or blow up in their senior seasons and get placed above Michigan's current commits, and they'll fall for no other reason. When Ondre Pipkins surges to five-star status he slides every other recruit in the nation down a slot. That's why Scout is reasonable to give only their top 250 four stars right now when their entire 300 will have four at the end of the year—they're saying that the guys at the end are likely to slide off as unknowns or late bloomers leap ahead of them. On average, Michigan's committed recruits should see their rankings slide in the 10 months before next February.
That said, Texas recruiting class rankings the past ten years: #2, #3, #3, #5, #14, #5, #5, #20 (just 15 kids), #10, #15, #1. Texas's rankings have been depressed by relatively small sizes since they don't oversign—for example, when they finished #15 in 2003 they were second to Michigan in average star ranking*. If the Longhorns have seen their class rankings backslide because they're jumping the gun, it hasn't been by much. The on-field results didn't suffer until they encountered the kind of complacency bred by wild success.
Meanwhile, what are Michigan's coaches going to find out about Michigan's recruits before their senior seasons? Nothing. Recruits will go to a bunch of camps over the summer that college coaches can't attend and rankings will go up and down. There's one event at which coaches actually get new information about the guys they're recruiting: summer camp. The thing is, Michigan got most of the kids in the area into their camp last year. It's now more a tool for the subsequent class. Michigan had Kyle Bosch on campus a half-dozen times before he committed. They've got nothing new to learn until September.
*[That class: Burgess, Woodley, Crable, Hall, Long, Kraus, Jerome Jackson, Ryan Mundy, Brandent Englemon, and guys who didn't play. It finished #17 in the overall Rivals rankings, which is nuts. No one takes opportunity cost into account.]
Michigan Expects These Guys To Be Committed In February
A favorite of opponent fans. Decommits are increasing at about the same pace early commitments are and inevitably a guy or two is going to find that he fits better somewhere else. Last year Michigan lost commits from Caleb Stacey, Anthony Standifer, and Pharaoh Brown. Standifer was probably an academic thing since Notre Dame turned him down when he tried to commit a few months later.
In their place, Michigan signed air after a string of late recruitments went against them… and still lassoed a class somewhere between 5 and 10 in the country. If they experience the same attrition rate next year, they'll probably replace the departures with decent three-star sorts or better… and a class solidly top five. Decommits are more common, but they are not common.
Michigan's Going To Miss Out On Emerging Seniors
The most fun is when the person making these arguments makes this one back to back with the previous one. It's true that there's going to be a four star or two who emerges and gets snapped up by MSU or Iowa or something and goes on to be a thorn in Michigan's side. When you've got guys who you think are nationally elite already in your class, that's worth a shrug. Also, when someone falls out of the class or there's more attrition than expected, Michigan will have the room to take a Willie Henry or a Frank Clark or a Dennis Norfleet.
This Doesn't Matter Because Michigan's Decaying Old Staff Had The Worst Possible Transition To Its Kind-Of-Incompetent New Staff, Operated With No Upperclass Quarterbacks For Three Years, And Hired Greg Robinson
That's the ticket, Michigan State fans.
Recruiting good players is good. I probably didn't need to write this post.