Big Ten: Christian Pace

Big Ten mailblog

February, 9, 2010
2/09/10
5:00
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What's on your mind today?

Drew from New York writes: Hey Adam - I agree with you that Texas would be a huge get for the Big 10, but what would be the value for Texas to switch over to the B10? I don't understand where this has come from and why its generating so much buzz. Did Texas drop some hint that its unhappy in the Big 12? Or is this just speculative blogger "Wouldn't it be cool if..." In that case why isn't anyone talking about taking Cal or Georgia Tech or UNC into the B10? All are great academic fits with decent football and basketball.How about the Packers? At least they are in the same geography.

Adam Rittenberg: First of all, anything related to Big Ten expansion generates a ton of buzz, even if there's no truth to it (see: recent Pitt rumors). The Texas talk is speculative at this point, but I do think the Big Ten would be foolish not to at least gauge the interest there. The main issue is whether Texas would be willing to leave the Big 12. Increased revenue would be the major pull, as Texas would make more (potentially much more) from TV revenue in the Big Ten than the Big 12. Money talks in college sports, and Texas has an enormous athletic program that needs steady funding. There aren't a ton of reasons for Texas to leave the Big 12, but the financial argument holds some water.


Dave from Chicago writes: Your article about Demar Dorsey was written well, but I felt the implications were unfair. You say that the recruitment of Demar Dorsey raises questions about UM, but then go on to say that every program does these things. I mean, look at Dorsey's offer sheet...USC, Florida, Florida State, West Virginia, Miami, North Carolina, and Wisconsin (a team that has virtually never ever ever been accused of poor character)My question to you is this: Why did you write this article? To expose the world of a troubled adolescent's difficult past that he's trying to get away from?...doubt it... To accuse Michigan of bad character?...don't think you're that ballsy. I think you wrote this article to plant the seeds of doubt in the Michigan tradition in sensationalist journalism at its worst, and for that...shame on you.

Adam Rittenberg: Dave, with all due respect, I think you totally misunderstood my blog post and now want to group it in with the rest of the negative publicity Michigan has received following the Dorsey signing. I never wrote that this signing raises questions about Michigan, although I did point out that signing players with checkered pasts is nothing new in college football. I also didn't "expose" Dorsey's past as it had already been exposed. My general point was Michigan, like any school, took on a risk by signing Dorsey, and must live with that risk if he slips up. But Michigan and Rich Rodriguez shouldn't be criticized for giving players second chances because it's part of the game. I think this so-called higher standard people think Michigan must abide by is arrogant and misinformed. Michigan is a place where players can turn themselves around and succeed both on and off the field. You might want to give my post a second read.


Colin from New York writes: Big shoes to fill? Brett Swenson?

Adam Rittenberg: Absolutely, Colin. He has been one of the best kickers in the country the last two seasons. Dan Conroy and Kevin Muma will compete for the top job, and they'll have a very tough act to follow. Conroy is the front-runner after handling nine kickoffs and converting his only field goal attempt in 2009.


Nick from St. Louis writes: Adam, quick comment on Michigan's recruiting class that no one seems to be mentioning. They only signed 1 offensive lineman, Christian Pace. If the roster I read is correct, they will only have 8 scholarship offensive linemen next year, and 4 for 2011. That means that in 2011 either a true freshman or walk-on will be starting and the second string will be made up entirely of freshmen and walk-ons. That is assuming all of the current linemen stay healthy and end up contributing. I think this is a glaring weakness that Rich Rodriguez failed to address and the media hasn't even mentioned. As a UM fan I see the offensive line as a huge weakness going forward. Your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Nick, while I was a little surprised Michigan signed only one offensive lineman for 2010, I don't think the situation is as dire as you map out. Michigan will rely on the current redshirt freshmen to be key contributors beyond 2010, but you could also see players switch over to offensive line and more linemen recruited in 2011. It's understandable to be a bit concerned, but Michigan should be solid up front in 2010. And if players like Taylor Lewan, Quinton Washington and Michael Schofield continue to progress, Michigan should be fine moving forward.


Nick from Tucson, Ariz., writes: Ohio State is on many watch boards for a shot at the title game. And it should be. Analysis? Recruiting class? O-line? D-line? Who's back? Where are the holes? What are we as outsiders looking for when we watch Ohio State to measure maturity of the team and the team's chances to maintain a steady performance in the Big10, of thumping Iowa and Penn State? Are there any serious contenders to Ohio State and the Big10 title (and the BCSNC), which are they and why? I know: Too much.

Adam Rittenberg: You're asking a lot there, Nick, and I'll do my best to address it quickly. Ohio State absolutely should enter 2010 as a national title contender, as the nucleus returns from the team that won a Rose Bowl championship. Who's back? Nine starters on offense and several standouts on defense, namely Cameron Heyward and Ross Homan. The main holes are at safety and possibly left tackle, where Mike Adams or someone else needs to step in. As far as measuring maturity, look no further than quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who could be a superstar if he continues to develop as a passer. The biggest challengers for Ohio State in the Big Ten are Iowa and Wisconsin, followed by Penn State. Ohio State's trips to Madison and Iowa City could decide the league title.

Wolverines announce 27-man class

February, 3, 2010
2/03/10
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Not surprisingly, it didn't take long for Michigan to announce its full recruiting class after heralded safety Demar Dorsey officially signed about an hour ago.

The Wolverines bring in 27 new players, at least 12 of whom will try to help a beleaguered defense that really needs a jolt in 2010. Michigan started very quickly in recruiting, and while UM might not have a ton of elite prospects, the class is very solid across the board. Obviously, Dorsey gives Michigan a big name at a very big position.

A few notes on Michigan's class:

  • The class consists of players from nine different states, including 11 from Ohio, four from Michigan and three players from both Florida and Pennsylvania.
  • Seven of the signees have already enrolled for the winter 2010 semester: quarterback Devin Gardner, running back Stephen Hopkins, wide receiver Jeremy Jackson, wide receiver Ricardo Miller, offensive lineman Christian Pace, wide receiver Jerald Robinson and running back Austin White.
  • UM signed a pair of brothers, cornerback Terrence Talbott and defensive tackle Terry Talbott, from Wayne High School in Huber Heights, Ohio. In addition to the Talbott brothers, the Wolverines had Warren G. Harding teammates Davion Rogers and D.J. Williamson join the fold.
  • The Wolverines signed two players on the ESPNU 150: Dorsey (12) and Gardner (128).
Jordan Hicks' decision to leave the state of Ohio and play his college ball at Texas didn't come as a major surprise.

Though Hicks attended high school in the Cincinnati suburbs, he only moved to Ohio in the sixth grade from South Carolina and had family connections to the Texas coaching staff. As he told reporters Friday after announcing his choice, "I don't feel like I turned my back on Ohio State. ... I wasn't born here. ... Ohio State is an Ohio school. I'm not from Ohio. I really don't have that connection there from growing up liking them."

Sounds reasonable enough. But any time an elite high school prospect leaves a Big Ten state to play elsewhere, it creates anxiety among fans. And this year, Ohio State has struggled a bit to seal off its borders.

Of ESPN Scouts Inc.'s top 15 ranked players from Ohio, only four are heading to Ohio State. Prospects like Hicks (Texas), running back Spencer Ware (LSU), quarterback Andrew Hendrix (Notre Dame), safety Latwan Anderson (West Virginia) and offensive lineman Christian Pace (Michigan) will play for other teams.

It's important to remember Ohio produces a ton of great high school players, and not all of them will end up in Columbus. Ohio State has landed highly-rated local products like Darryl Baldwin, an ESPNU 150 player, as well as Andrew Norwell and Tyrone Williams. The Buckeyes also are in the mix for offensive lineman Matt James from Cincinnati.

But on the whole, Ohio State likely will sign fewer in-state players than most years.

The Buckeyes currently have eight in-state commitments from a class of 18. Last year, Ohio State signed 14 Ohio products in a class of 25. In 2005, Ohio State signed 11 Ohio products out of 18. Ohio State signed a small class of 15 in 2003, but all but three players came from the state. In 2002, Ohio State's 24-man class featured a whopping 18 players from the state.

So is this year an anomaly or a cause for concern? To get a better perspective, I checked in with Scouts Inc.'s Midwest recruiting expert Bill Kurelic Insider, whose blog is a must read.

Here's what Kurelic had to say: "They have done OK in Ohio this year, but they certainly haven't dominated like in most years. But I don't see it as a trend. They lost out on Welch and Hendrix, but those two are from Catholic high schools and it was going to be a tough sell for OSU to keep them away from Notre Dame. They lost out on Ware, but he just never seemed overly interested.

"On the good side of things for OSU fans is that [Jim] Tressel may be set to dominate Ohio again next year like he has in most years. He has two of the top 5 Ohio juniors committed and he seems in good position to get the top six or seven guys in Ohio on his list. So I think this year is just one of those years."

Kurelic is referring to defensive ends Kenny Hayes and Steve Miller, both of whom are on the ESPNU 150 watch list Insider.

Bottom line: Ohio State's in-state recruiting should be fine in the long term, though the Buckeyes must beware of intruders after this year.

Michigan quarterback recruit Devin Gardner has officially enrolled at the school.

Gardner told me Tuesday afternoon that he enrolled and started classes earlier in the day. University officials confirmed the enrollment, and Gardner's name now appears in Michigan's online student directory.

The 6-foot-4, 198-pound quarterback was unable to enroll for the start of the term, and it appeared as though he wouldn't start practicing with the team until August. But Gardner completed his requirements at Inkster (Mich.) High School and enrolled a week and a half after the semester started (Jan. 6).

He joins six other early enrollees at Michigan: Austin White, Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, Christian Pace, Stephen Hopkins and Jerald Robinson.

Gardner now will be able to practice with the team this spring, which should really help him as he tries to push Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson on the depth chart. Forcier enrolled early last year and had a clear advantage over Robinson, who didn't arrive until preseason camp.
Six of Michigan's incoming recruits enrolled early at the school for the spring semester, but the bigger news is who won't be on campus.

Quarterback Devin Gardner, an ESPNU 150 prospect, didn't make the deadline to start classes at Michigan.

Gardner hoped to graduate from Inkster High School in time to start at Michigan on Wednesday. He also would have been able to participate in spring practice, much like Wolverines starting quarterback Tate Forcier did last year as a true freshman. Instead, Gardner will join the team this summer, where he still intends to compete for the starting job.

It would have been interesting to see Gardner out there in spring ball, which clearly helped Forcier gain the inside track to the top job last year. Gardner, thought by some to be Michigan's ultimate answer at quarterback, would have had 15 practices plus the whole summer before preseason camp. Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson generated buzz in the preseason last August with his athletic ability, but it was clear he didn't have as strong a grasp on the system as Forcier when the season started.

If Gardner wants to be a factor this fall, he'll need to catch on very quickly in August.

Who ended up enrolling early at Michigan? Wide receivers Jeremy Jackson, Jerald Robinson and Ricardo Miller, running backs Stephen Hopkins and Austin White, and offensive lineman Christian Pace.

Big Ten recruiting scorecard

July, 7, 2009
7/07/09
11:10
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Not surprisingly, there has been plenty of recruiting news throughout the Big Ten since the last scorecard. Here's a snapshot of what went down during the last two weeks. 

ILLINOIS

  • 2010 verbal commits: 7
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Corey Cooper, quarterback Chandler Whitmer
  • Quick take: After landing several dynamic skill players, Illinois bolstered its line with guards Andy Gallik and Dexter McDonald. The Illini now have four in-state commits. 

INDIANA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 9
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: Defensive end Jibreel Black highlights a very strong recruiting push for the Hoosiers. Black, whose older brother Larry will contend for a starting job on the Hoosiers' D-line this fall, had offers from 25 other schools, including Michigan State. Matt Perez and Antonio Banks give Indiana some depth at running back.  

IOWA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end Matt Hoch
  • Quick take: Hoch is the latest addition to a Hawkeyes defensive line that appears to be getting stronger and stronger for the future. He passed up a chance to join his older brother at Missouri and stayed home with the Hawkeyes. 

MICHIGAN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 15
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Devin Gardner, wide receiver Jeremy Jackson, wide receiver Ricardo Miller, guard Christian Pace, safety Marvin Robinson
  • Quick take: Things have finally slowed down for Michigan, which has stocked up on skill players for the 2010 class. It would be nice to see a few more linemen added, though it's clear speed will always be Rich Rodriguez's top priority in recruiting. 

MICHIGAN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 7
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end William Gholston, linebacker Max Bullough, quarterback Joe Boisture
  • Quick take: The quarterback position got another boost as Boisture switched his commitment from Boston College to the Spartans. All seven commits hail from the state of Michigan, and Boisture, Bullough and Gholston rank among the state's top 10 prospects. 

MINNESOTA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 10
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: The Gophers haven't made a huge splash yet, but they continue to add solid prospects, especially in the trenches. Tim Brewster's commitment to better line play and the power run game is paying off, as offensive linemen Mark Lenkiewicz and Zac Epping pledged maroon and gold. 

NORTHWESTERN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 5
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: What the Wildcats lack in quantity, they make up for with quality prospects, most recently offensive lineman Paul Jorgenson. Offensive line continues to be Northwestern's best position in recruiting, though the team still needs a few more wide receivers. 

OHIO STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Tackle Andrew Norwell, linebacker Jamel Turner, defensive end David Durham, running back Roderick Smith
  • Quick take: Smith is a very impressive addition for Ohio State, bringing an impressive blend of size and speed to the backfield. Ohio State beat out several of its Big Ten brethren for his services. After making a run at several 2010 quarterbacks, the Buckeyes finally landed one in Taylor Graham.

PENN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 11
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Wide receiver Adrian Coxson, running back Silas Redd, center Miles Dieffenbach, defensive end Kyle Baublitz, defensive tackle Evan Hailes
  • Quick take: Hailes gives Penn State as many Top 150 prospects as Michigan, and possibly just as strong a class as the Wolverines. The Lions have found a nice balance between linemen and skill players, picking up Jordan Norwood's little brother Levi at wide receiver. 

PURDUE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 6
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Robert Marve (2007 watch list)
  • Quick take: Things picked up quickly for the Boilermakers, who added five high school players in the last two weeks. Quarterback Sean Robinson highlights the group of new commits and gives Purdue another option if Marve doesn't pan out. The Boilers got some help for their quarterbacks with tight end De'Ron Flood and two wideouts. 

WISCONSIN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 6
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Frank Tamakloe
  • Quick take: Tamakloe is an excellent get for the Badgers, who are restocking their defense in the 2010 class. At 6-2 and 172 pounds, Tamakloe should grow into his frame and be a force in the secondary. He'll contend for immediate playing time along with Konrad Zagzebski.

Big Ten recruiting scorecard

June, 22, 2009
6/22/09
2:30
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

A fairly busy week for Big Ten recruiting, highlighted by Michigan State landing defensive end William Gholston. Here's your updated recruiting scorecard (note: because of my upcoming vacation, the next scorecard will appear July 7).

ILLINOIS

  • 2010 verbal commits: 5
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Corey Cooper, quarterback Chandler Whitmer
  • Quick take: Safety Daniel Easterly gives Illinois another dynamic defensive back, this time from the heart of Michigan State/Michigan territory in Detroit. Easterly also can play linebacker or wide receiver. Illinois appears to be close to landing several more Top 150 prospects.  

INDIANA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 5
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: A good week for Bill Lynch and the Hoosiers, who added four high school prospects to the commit list. Wideout Logan Young is a big target at 6-5, 190, and tight end Leneil Himes also adds to the passing arsenal. 

IOWA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 6
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: The Hawkeyes picked up an intriguing prospect in quarterback Austin Vier. He boasts very impressive size at 6-7, 220 pounds, but he didn't put up great numbers as a high school junior. Vier looks like a project who could pay off down the line for Iowa. 

MICHIGAN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 15
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Devin Gardner, wide receiver Jeremy Jackson, wide receiver Ricardo Miller, guard Christian Pace, safety Marvin Robinson
  • Quick take: Michigan continues to add recruits and has started to address the defense after stocking up on offensive skill players. Defensive back Courtney Avery originally committed to Stanford but switched after a recent offer from the Wolverines. The big question will be whether Michigan has both quantity and quality in its class.

MICHIGAN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 5
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end William Gholston, linebacker Max Bullough
  • Quick take: Gholston is a huge get for Michigan State and gives Mark Dantonio an elite defensive prospect from within the state. The cousin of former Ohio State star Vernon Gholston headlined an excellent week for the Spartans, who also added talented cornerback Mylan Hicks. All five commits are from Michigan, continuing a promising trend for the Spartans. 

MINNESOTA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 5
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: A quiet week for the Gophers, but more commitments likely are on the way after camps this week. Cornerback Allen Veazie could contribute early in his career. 

NORTHWESTERN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 3
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: The Wildcats finally got on the board and had a big week with three commits, all surprisingly from the South (2 Florida, 1 Louisiana). Running back Shontrelle Johnson looks a lot like Tyrell Sutton on film, and quarterback Trevor Siemian will provide depth behind Evan Watkins. Northwestern is still looking for another quarterback in the class. 

OHIO STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 5
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Tackle Andrew Norwell, linebacker Jamel Turner, defensive end David Durham
  • Quick take: It's awfully quiet in Columbus right now. No need to panic, but the Buckeyes didn't end up with William Gholston and are still waiting on quarterback Andrew Hendrix. Expect some action soon for the Buckeyes. 

PENN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Wide receiver Adrian Coxson, running back Silas Redd, center Miles Dieffenbach, defensive end Kyle Baublitz
  • Quick take: Things have slowed down a touch after a busy late-spring push for the Nittany Lions. Dieffenbach and Baublitz are key early commits to fortify the offensive and defensive fronts. 

PURDUE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 1
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Robert Marve (2007 watch list)
  • Quick take: Danny Hope takes a very patient approach toward recruiting and doesn't understand the early offer craze. Still, it will be interesting to see when the Boilermakers land their first high school prospect. Purdue is in the mix for running back Austin White and punter Drew Basil.  

WISCONSIN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 3
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: The Badgers should add a commit or two later this week as they continue a strong in-state recruiting push. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

An excellent summer suggestion by reader Derek from New Jersey:

Hey Adam. Is it possible to get a weekly recruiting report around the BigTen? Just who picked up commits at how many were top150.Thanks!

Excellent call, Derek. With Big Ten teams on break or just starting summer workouts, most of the news right now comes on the recruiting trail. I'll post updated scorecards every Monday or Tuesday from now until training camp.

ILLINOIS

  • 2010 verbal commits: 3
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Corey Cooper, quarterback Chandler Whitmer
  • Quick take: My mistake for leaving Whitmer off the watch list the last time. He'll provide a big help to the Illini offense in future years, and he's already helping to recruit some other top prospects to Champaign. Cooper, meanwhile, is still considering some other schools in addition to Illinois.

INDIANA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 1
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: The Hoosiers beat out a number of schools for juco cornerback Andre Kates, a one-time Florida commit who recorded 49 tackles and three interceptions last year.

IOWA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 5
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: It's been all defense so far for the Hawkeyes, who are solidifying their front seven with players like linebacker James Morris, who blew up recently at the Nike Camp in Illinois.

MICHIGAN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 13
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Devin Gardner, wide receiver Jeremy Jackson, wide receiver Ricardo Miller, guard Christian Pace, safety Marvin Robinson
  • Quick take: An extended offseason apparently paid off for Rich Rodriguez and his staff, who have put together the Big Ten's strongest recruiting class to this point. Defense should be a bigger focus with the next few commitments.

MICHIGAN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 2
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Linebacker Max Bullough
  • Quick take: Some Spartans fans are a bit concerned about the low number of commits, but Michigan State should be fine, especially if quarterback Robert Bolden or defensive end William Gholston hop on board.

MINNESOTA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 5
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: Another solid start for head coach Tim Brewster, who got commitments from two in-state prospects (Jimmy Gjere and Lamonte Edwards) and talented Chicago-area wideout Antoine Lewis. The Gophers also are still alive in the Seantrel Henderson sweepstakes.

NORTHWESTERN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 0
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: Panic time? Could be getting close to it. But Northwestern can be much more selective than usual with a very small recruiting class for 2010, not to mention Pat Fitzgerald's tendency to redshirt a lot of freshmen.

OHIO STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 5
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Tackle Andrew Norwell, linebacker Jamel Turner, defensive end David Durham
  • Quick take: This won't be a huge class for the Buckeyes, and three "watch list" prospects out of five isn't too shabby at all. It has been a while since Scott McVey committed, so expect things to pick up soon.

PENN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Wide receiver Adrian Coxson, running back Silas Redd, center Miles Dieffenbach, defensive end Kyle Baublitz
  • Quick take: Penn State is pushing Michigan for the Big Ten's top recruiting class thus far, and the recent additions of Dieffenbach, Baublitz and guard Tom Ricketts are very encouraging. JoePa might be off the recruiting trail, but defensive coordinator Tom Bradley and others have done a fabulous job.

PURDUE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 1
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Robert Marve (2007 watch list)
  • Quick take: No high school verbals for the Boilermakers yet, but Marve's decision to transfer could be huge. If Marve can turn a page on his troubles at Miami, he could be Purdue's quarterback of the future beginning in 2010.

WISCONSIN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 3
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: In-state prospect Konrad Zagzebski was an excellent pickup for Wisconsin, which likely will look to add a few defensive backs in the coming months.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Rich Rodriguez still describes his first December without bowl preparation since 2001 as "miserable."

But the premature end to Michigan's football season didn't completely go to waste.

"Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for yourselves, it did give us time to work and try to identify our needs," Rodriguez told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "We were able to do that pretty quickly."

Recruiting the Class of 2010: Big Ten
Team Total commits Commits on
ESPNU 150 List
Michigan 13 5
Penn State 7 3
Ohio State 5 3
Iowa 5 0
Minnesota 4 0
Illinois 3 2
Wisconsin 3 0
Michigan State 2 1
Purdue 1 1*
Indiana 1 0
Northwestern 0 0
* Miami transfer Robert Marve was a ESPNU 150 selection in 2007.

Rodriguez and his assistants hit the recruiting trail hard, and they're seeing the results pay off right now. Michigan already has 13 commitments for its 2010 recruiting class, six more than any other Big Ten school and eight more than top rival Ohio State.

Of those 13 commitments, five are ranked on the ESPNU 150 Watch List. No other Big Ten team has more than three ESPNU 150 prospects at this point.

After undoubtedly the worst season in team history, Michigan is putting together a pretty solid offseason, highlighted by the quick start to recruiting.

Sure, there have been setbacks, namely more player departures and quarterback Nick Sheridan's broken leg. But spring practice brought some encouraging signs, including the development of freshman quarterback Tate Forcier. Michigan quickly ended its flirtation with Greg Paulus and recruits continue to say yes to Rodriguez and his staff.

"Normally you wouldn't have 12, 13, 14 commitments at this point, but it seems that's more and more the trend," Rodriguez said. "For us, it's just happening. There may be another four or five commitments before the end of summer. I feel comfortable where we're at.

"Our message is getting out. We're filling up pretty quickly."

Michigan doesn't expect to sign a huge class in 2010, so the group could be finalized well before the end of the 2009 season.

Rodriguez partly attributes the fast start to the coaches having a better idea of their needs after going through a season in Ann Arbor. Recruits who watched Michigan trip all over itself last fall also sensed the chance to contribute right away.

"One thing about when you struggle a little bit, young men see opportunity," Rodriguez said. "We've got a lot of offensive skill guys that wanted to jump on board, and that's great. But we've got to make sure we recruit guys for defense. As a head coach and as a staff, we say, 'OK, we really like this guy, but can he help us at this position of need?'

"I wish we had 35 scholarships because we have certain needs and we want to try to build that depth at every position."

Michigan's first four commitments came from wide receivers and the first 10 came from skill players before two linemen joined the class several weeks ago. Quarterback Devin Gardner and wideouts Ricardo Miller and Jeremy Jackson all have been named to the ESPNU 150 Watch List.

"Guys look at the depth chart or they look at where we have less bodies at," said Rodriguez, who cannot discuss specific recruits until they have signed. "They've seen the history of the offense. Whether it's wide receivers or tight ends or running backs or quarterbacks, they all get an opportunity to show their skills."

The recruiting gains are part of what Rodriguez describes as a greater comfort level throughout the program.

While Michigan continues to recruit the South and Southeast hard, assistants are making more inroads in the Midwest to land commitments from players like Gardner (Inkster, Mich.), guard Christian Pace (Avon Lake, Ohio) and defensive end Jordan Paskorz (Allison Park, Pa.). Michigan already has eight commitments from recruits who grew up in Big Ten states. The entire 2009 recruiting classes included only seven.

Rodriguez also sees players settling in better during the offseason. They understand the scheme, and the results from the strength and conditioning program have been more encouraging, Rodriguez said.

Year 2 also has brought less chaos for Rodriguez, who
was still dealing with his ugly departure from West Virginia at this time last year.

"There was a whole lot of drama and things," he said. "We tried to stay focused on our job at hand and not pay too much attention to that, but it did make for a longer year in a lot of ways than I wanted it. But that's all in the past and everybody's moved on.

"We're all eager to prove ourselves."

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