Hoke happy with stacked 2013 recruiting class

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Twenty-seven up, 27 down.

No, Brady Hoke didn’t pitch a perfect game on Wednesday, but as a football coach, he had a flawless day.

By noon ET, Hoke had received letters of intent from all 27 members of his star-studded recruiting class, led by four players given five stars by Scout.com.

“This was a very exciting day because we’re very happy with this group of young men who have decided to play at the greatest university in the country,” Hoke said. “It was also a very uneventful day, which is nice.”

The biggest name in the class is running back Derrick Green, who’s ranked as the No. 1 running back and sixth-best prospect in the country by Scout.com.

Michigan also picked up five-star recruits in top-ranked offensive guard Patrick Kugler, the No. 3 quarterback in local product Shane Morris and the fourth-ranked safety in Ohio’s Dymonte Thomas.

More important, all four of them could play immediate roles. Green and Kugler are expected to help a running game that struggled badly in 2012, while Thomas will compete to replace graduating captain Jordan Kovacs in the secondary.

Morris will probably not start as a freshman, but is expected to provide a useful backup to Devin Gardner. Gardner took over the starting job after Denard Robinson’s midseason elbow injury, and will have one or two years of eligibility remaining, depending on the results of an appeal for a medical redshirt for Gardner’s senior season.

Morris, though, played an extra role. He committed to Michigan a year ago, and even after missing much of his senior season with mononucleosis, he stayed active trying to convince fellow seniors to come to Ann Arbor.

“He was our first commitment and he did a great job of helping recruit this class,” Hoke said. “He was also the first letter we got this morning, just like he said he would be. That shows you the competitive nature of that young man.”

Michigan also added 15 four-star recruits, which will provide much-needed depth on the offensive line and secondary, as well as future prospects all over the field.

“There are a lot of very talented young men who have decided that they want to play together and get a degree from Michigan,” Hoke said. “Why wouldn’t you?”

After redshirting four freshmen offensive lineman in 2012, Hoke and his offensive coaches will have 10 new players competing for jobs on a line that already includes Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year Taylor Lewan.

That will be important as Michigan redesigns its offense in the wake of Robinson’s graduation. While they still have a pair of mobile quarterbacks in Gardner and Morris, the spread offense that Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges inherited from Rich Rodriguez won’t be a feature of the 2013 Wolverines.

“At the beginning of last season, we were playing 80 percent spread with Denard, and you won’t see that this year,” Borges said. “We’ve spent two years bringing in offensive linemen that are ‘sic’em’ type players, and now we’ve got Derrick and De’Veon (Smith) who give us a pair of big running backs who can give us yardage between the tackles.

“With Devin and Shane, we aren’t going to take quarterback runs out of our system — that would be a waste of their ability — but we’ll be doing it in different ways that we did with Denard.”

The day’s only bad news? Michigan went into the final day as Scout.com’s top-rated recruiting class, but some late decisions ranked them a close second to, of all schools, Ohio State.

“I’ll be dead honest with you,” Hoke said. “As a staff, we don’t put a lot of emphasis on those ratings. We’re trying to find guys who fit a particular blueprint that fits at Michigan and are still a football player.”

Hoke also wasn’t concerned that his recruiting class that was mostly made up of Midwestern players — Michigan didn’t get a single player from Florida, California or Texas.

“Michigan is going to get national recruits because we are a national brand, but the 350 or 400 miles around this school are always going to be a focus for us,” Hoke said. “That’s how Michigan has traditionally recruited, and we certainly feel that we can compete that way.

“We’ve had programs at this school that can compete with any team in the country, and there’s no reason to think that has changed.”

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison agreed, saying that all top programs focus on their own areas.

“It’s always going to be tougher to go into another part of the country and get kids — it is hard for us to go into the South, just like it would be hard for Nick Saban and Will Muschamp to come into Michigan and Ohio and have a high rate of success,” Mattison said. “The difference is that, with our history, we can go anywhere and get a special kid.

“If we can get him onto the campus, have him meet with the academic people and meet with the coaches, we’ve got a great shot at him. That’s how we got Tom Brady. We’ll get more kids like that.”

CLICK HERE to see Michigan’s entire 2013 recruiting class.