Perhaps no recruiting class in the nation is more difficult to evaluate right now than the one at Michigan.
A late coaching change, with Brady Hoke taking over for fired Rich Rodriguez, has left the Wolverines scrapping to piece together a respectable group with a few blue-chippers.
It probably won’t come anywhere close to Michigan’s top-15 finishes in the Scout.com rankings over the past eight years, including Nos. 6, 14 and 12 during Rodriguez’s three seasons.
The Feb. 2 signing day is less than two weeks away, and U-M ranks seventh in the Big Ten, 39th nationally, in Scout.com’s ever-changing rankings.
However, the Michigan brand name remains strong, which means it’s not out of the question for Hoke to rally and finish strong despite not getting the job until last week.
“The class has been blown up a little bit,” said Allen Trieu, a recruiting analyst for Scout.com. “They have a lot of work to do over the last couple weeks, no question about that.
“But I think they’re in a good position to refill the class back out. There’s been some significant losses as there’s going to be when there’s a coaching change. What you’re looking at right now, if you were to take a snapshot, is a very incomplete class. Their class is really hard to grade at the moment because of all the attrition, kids maybe not committing and de-committing.”
The biggest loss was Dee Hart, the No. 8 running back in the nation. Hart, from Orlando, made an oral commitment to Michigan but changed his mind once it became clear Rodriguez’s job was in serious jeopardy. He now is planning to sign with Alabama.
The Wolverines currently have about 12 commitments, but some of those are at least a little shaky. Offensive tackle Jake Fisher (Traverse City) and cornerback Blake Countess (Olney, Md.) are among those who have started looking at other options while still considering Michigan, too.
Linebacker Kellen Jones (Houston) appears to be a little more solid of a commitment after talking with Hoke, but Jones recently took a visit to Colorado.
Fisher, Countess and Jones are all four-star recruits, according to Scout.com.
“If they end up losing them, those would be big losses,” Trieu said.
Rodriguez also had received a commitment from a much-needed kicker, Matt Goudis, who was ranked No. 5 in the nation at his position. Goudis now plans to attend Miami (Fla.)
Hoke, however, had been recruiting another kicker, Matt Wile (San Diego), when he was coaching at San Diego State. Wile is not ranked by Scout.com, but he was selected for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Wile now reportedly is considering Michigan, Nebraska and Air Force.
Michigan’s kickers combined to make 4 of 14 field-goal attempts in 13 games during the 2010 season.
“They really want a kicker, but I don’t think they’ll force it if they can’t get the one they want,” Trieu said.
Two players who appear to be keeping their commitments, regardless of the coaching change, include Brennen Beyer, a four-star defensive end from Canton, Mich., and Justice Hayes, a four-star running back from Grand Blanc, Mich.
The first player to commit to Hoke, at least publicly, was cornerback Tamani Carter, a three-star cornerback from Pickerington, Ohio. Carter announced his decision Wednesday, eight days after Hoke was hired.
Other top players who reportedly are being recruited by Michigan include offensive lineman Chris Bryant (Chicago), cornerback Raymon Taylor (Highland Park, Mich.), tight end/linebacker Frank Clark (Cleveland), receiver Hakeem Flowers (Greenville, S.C.), cornerback Floyd Raven (Reserve, La.) and cornerback Stefan McClure (Vista, Calif.)
McClure has a four-star rating from Scout.com, the others are three-star prospects.
Michigan also could be in on another running back, three-star recruit Thomas Rawls from Flint, Mich.
“They’re waiting on his test scores,” Trieu said. “If he gets that, I think he’ll be a Wolverine. That would be a big pick up and really ease the loss of Dee Hart if he can get his academics together and end up as part of the class.”
Michigan now needs to try to add a quarterback to this class after the departure of Tate Forcier, who became academically ineligible and is no longer in school. The Wolverines are down to two scholarship quarterbacks