Michigan signs 20 players in Hoke's 1st class

BY foxsports • February 3, 2011

Brady Hoke was in 10 cities in five days recently, starting in San Diego and working his way back to Michigan.

He had to work fast, after all.

The new coach of college football's winningest program unveiled his first signing class at Michigan on Wednesday, three weeks after taking over for the fired Rich Rodriguez.

''Michigan is always a national brand, it's a worldwide brand,'' Hoke said after signing a 20-player class. ''But we'll approach recruiting in the state of Michigan first and work our tails off to compete and battle for the guys in this state who fit the mold of what we're looking for as a Michigan player, a Michigan man.

''Then we're going to branch out from there. The state of Ohio is an important part of it. Illinois, Indiana, Western, PA. I don't think there is any doubt that's where we're going to start and how we're going to recruit.''

Twelve of the 20 signees are defensive players, a step Hoke and the Michigan faithful hope will someday improve a Wolverines defense that was among the nation's worst in Rodriguez's third and final season.

''All of those guys we think have the right stuff when it comes to a physicalness and a toughness that we want,'' Hoke said.

Defensive end Brennen Beyer, defensive back Blake Countess and linebacker Antonio Poole are considered the top prospects on that side of the ball. Running back Justice Hayes along with quarterback Russell Bellomy and tight end Chris Barnett are touted as the top signees on offense.

The Wolverines had a pair of kickers miss 10 of 14 field goal attempts last season and they will likely be pushed by incoming freshman Matt Wile.

''We knew we had to make some inroads in that part of our game,'' Hoke said.

Hoke, who gave Rodriguez credit for laying a good foundation, said the current staff ''cultivated'' 10 to 12 players in the class and couldn't keep about two or three prospects who made commitments to play for previous coaches.

As a guest analyst for CBS Sports' national signing day coverage, Rodriguez asked Hoke a couple of questions and looked uncomfortable on TV listening to his successor answer him over the phone.

Hoke insisted it wasn't awkward for him.

''It's always a hard situation for everybody and I don't want it to be that,'' Hoke said.

Rodriguez was fired by athletic director Dave Brandon in early January with three years left on his six-season contract.

''With the lateness of it in January, it may have cost (Michigan) a guy or two,'' Rodriguez said from the New York studios of the CBS College Sports Network. ''We feel we would've been in the top 10 had we been retained, but Brady and his staff did a great job. They worked very hard the last three weeks.''

Rivals.com ranked Michigan's class No. 21 in the nation and scout.com rated the group No. 27.

The lackluster rankings, though, couldn't dampen the excitement Hoke had for his first recruiting class with the storied program.

''These guys are going to be guys that have an impact on this program,'' he said. ''Guys that are made of character, and guys who come from families that understand what Michigan means and representing Michigan.''

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