February 13, 2008

National analysts weigh in on U-M's Class of 2008

Even the most optimistic Michigan fans probably expected more than the two losses the Wolverines suffered in recruiting during the transition from Lloyd Carr to Rich Rodriguez. U-M's ability to hang out to 11 four-star prospects and add six more was remarkable according to Rivals.com analysts Jeremy Crabtree and Mike Farrell …

"Considering it was a transition year, considering the holes to be filled, considering this staff had one month to recruit - it was an impressive job," Crabtree said. "Anytime you go from one extreme to another philosophically, you expect to lose quite a bit of kids from the previous staff.

"I think the kids had some questions for Rich Rodriguez and his coaches, but they answered all of those questions, and they obviously were able to keep the solid core in place while also attracting some of the guys they need. They did a great job."

While Rodriguez will make dramatic changes offensively, moving from a traditional pro-style system enjoyed under Carr to a spread formation, defensively the Wolverines will retain many aspects of the 4-3 in addition to the expected shift to a bit more 3-3-5. The subtle changes defensively probably helped keep many of U-M's standout defensive recruits in place.

"I think if the new coaches came in with a brand new offense and defense, Michigan would have lost more kids," Farrell said. "But when you look at the cornerbacks, they're going to play corner regardless of the scheme and the same with the safeties. I think the linebackers are excited by the idea of a more aggressive approach defensively at their position and that's why they stayed."

Michigan's linebacker haul, which includes four four-star recruits - Marcus Witherspoon, J.B. Fitzgerald, Kenny Demens and Taylor Hill - is probably the Maize and Blue's strongest position group in the Class of 2008 according to Farrell, though Crabtree disagrees, choosing the running back position.

"I like who they grabbed, especially with that offense," Crabtree said. "They stole Terrence Robinson late, and Michael Shaw, and then you add those two to Sam McGuffie and Mike Cox and the whole group just jumps out to me. I think they needed dynamic, all-purpose guys and that's what they got. Everyone talks about the quarterback in Rodriguez's system, but I really think defenses were much more concerned about [tailbacks] Steve Slaton and Noel Devine and that's what opened up so much opportunity for [quarterback] Pat White."

"I think they hit a home run with four four-star linebackers," Farrell countered. "You're talking about four of the best in the country and the two best from New Jersey. All four of those guys could be impact players next fall, and you usually can't say that about every kid from one position."

Crabtree and Farrell disagreed on a few other topics as well.

The Stud

Crabtree on Michigan's Biggest Get: "[Wide receiver] Darryl Stonum jumps out to me, and I've always been a big fan of [cornerback] Boubacar Cissoko. He proved he was pretty special at the Army All-American game. I think [offensive lineman] Dann O'Neill could be the type of kid that locks up the left tackle position for years. Michigan has had a great tradition there and Dann can be an anchor. He has an amazing frame, he's big, strong, and a lot more athletic than give credit for. I can't wait to see him develop."

Farrell on Michigan's Biggest Get: "I think the old regime would have said Dann O'Neill because he could have been a three- or four-year starter at left or right tackle. But I don't know if he fits within Rodriguez's scheme on the line. I think the new regime will love Stonum. He's an underrated guy, and I think he's going to be an outstanding receiver for them. He does all the little things. He's a physical kid, extremely fast, blocks down field, has size and is a hard worker. Fans might want to hear McGuffie, and he might be the most popular, but I think Stonum will impact the quickest."

Surprise, Surprise

Crabtree on a surprise recruit: "[Wide receiver] Terrence Robinson came out of left field. [Wide receiver] Roy Roundtree was also a surprise on Signing Day. He's a very welcome addition. I think all the kids they got on Signing Day were big, and a bit of a surprise."

Farrell on a surprise recruit: "Pulling [tailback] Michael Shaw away was a surprise because he was pretty determined, at one time, to go to Penn State. It didn't hurt that Roundtree defected as well and [Brandon] Moore was always going to Michigan. [Cornerback] J.T. Floyd was a bit of a surprise too because you expect a kid like that to stay in SEC country. He had visited N.C. State and Georgia Tech and Tennessee, and all three schools are a lot closer to him. To bolt and go to Michigan speaks to the job Rodriguez's staff did to get him."

The Sleeper

Crabtree on a potential sleeper: "[Offensive lineman] Rocky Khoury is a great steal. [Quarterback] Justin Feagin jumps out and I really like J.T. Floyd. We had him as a three star but he's a really good athlete and could do a lot of different things for Michigan. The knock on him is his speed, but the kid just makes plays and should find a big role in that secondary at some point."

Farrell on a potential sleeper: "The guy that should really be great in that offense is Robinson. He came on late and had a terrific senior year. He was really attracting a lot of attention late, but if you ask most people they probably don't know who he is. I think he was hurt early because we didn't know what position to put him at. Was he a receiver, an athlete, a running back? He's really a playmaker and I think Michigan will see a lot of that in the future."

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