National Signing Day quiet in Ann Arbor
FEB 05, 2014 3:13p ET
As expected, National Signing Day was quiet in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines wrapped up a small class last summer, and every fax came in as expected Wednesday morning.
Now comes the long process of finding out how many hits they've got in a 16-player class.
"I believe this is our smallest class to date, so you have to be right about the guys you recruited," Brady Hoke said at Wednesday's press conference. "What our coaches have done is looked at needs, either for next year or two years from now, and found players that fit what we need, both on the field and as student-athletes at the University of Michigan."
The small group means that any mistakes will be magnified, which led Hoke and his staff to widen their search beyond their usual base of Michigan and Ohio.
"We've got nine states represented among these 16 kids, and that's the result of a lot of hard work by numerous people on our staff over the last two years," Hoke said. "This is a great day for us, for these 16 families, and especially for the young men that have joined the Michigan family."
The unquestioned star of the class is New Jersey cornerback Jabrill Peppers. Peppers was ranked as the nation's No. 3 prospect by Scout.com, and is expected to have an impact this fall even though he won't start school until the summer.
There have already been comparisons made between Peppers and Charles Woodson, who saw time as a kick returner and even got some snaps on offense on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy. Peppers did those things in high school, but Hoke doesn't want to throw a true freshman into the deep end of the pool quite yet.
"Let's get him in here and let him be a cornerback and get him acclimated to college football before we do anything else," he said. "Could he return kicks at some point? Yeah, I don't think there is any question about that. Could there be a plan to use him on offense down the road? There could be. But let's let him be a freshman, get onto campus, take some classes in the summer and start working with our program."
Peppers also illustrated the frustration that Hoke has with recruiting in the age of social media. After Michigan's poor finish to the season, Peppers responded to rumors that Hoke could be fired by tweeting that he was considering taking official visits to other schools.
Although he quickly reaffirmed his commitment to Michigan and never took any other visits, it created a firestorm of speculation that didn't end until his letter of intent hit the fax machine at Schembechler Hall around 8:45 this morning.
"The one thing I don't like is that this process isn't about the kids anymore," Hoke said. "It's about scouting-service rankings and the Internet, and it puts so much pressure on the kids. The kids might ask for it a little bit -- they like to tweet and all of that -- but there are a lot of adults who can be faceless and nameless on social media, and that makes it tough for kids that are 17 or 18 years old."
Hoke famously doesn't "do" social media, but he said even he was nervous that something might go wrong as he waited to officially wrap up one of the top players in the country.
"Was I nervous? I'm always nervous in a situation like that," he said. "I talked to Jabrill a couple times yesterday, just to check on him."
As expected, Michigan hasn't done well as scouting services release their final rankings. Even with Peppers and two other top-100 players -- wide receiver Drake Harris and defensive tackle Bryan Mone -- the Wolverines are just 27th in Scout.com's rankings.
"There are two things about that," Hoke said. "The first is that I think that's about the size of the class, and the second is that I think I don't care. I think of all the kids, at this school and at others, who have been stars after being two-star or three-star recruits. If we recruited them, we think they are the right players."
Hoke was asked multiple questions about former kicker Brandon Gibbons, who was expelled from the school after a sexual-misconduct investigation, but referred back to the brief statement he made on Monday. When asked if he would expect to know about such an investigation into one of his players, he interrupted the reporter to say that he didn't know.