Big Ten: Demar Dorsey

National signing day is less than 48 hours away, and Big Ten fan bases are preparing to officially welcome the 2014 class. My interest in recruiting has increased during the years, but I likely will never reach the mania of many fans.

[+] EnlargeWilliam Gholston
Zuma Press/Icon SMIWilliam Gholston played three seasons for Michigan State, recording 142 tackles and 10 sacks.
The reason: There have been so many examples of supposed top recruits who go bust, and under-the-radar guys who become stars, especially in a largely developmental league like the Big Ten. Recruiting evaluation is an inexact science.

As we prepare for the faxes to roll in, especially from the Big Ten prospects in the ESPN 300, it's always interesting to take a look back at how the top Big Ten recruits from four years ago performed. There wasn't an ESPN 300 back in 2010, just an ESPN 150, which included 15 Big Ten players. Some became stars, some never got started and others haven't closed the book on their college careers.

Let's take a closer look (positions listed according to ESPN recruiting profiles):

Top 50

  • No. 12: Demar Dorsey, S, Michigan -- Although Dorsey signed with Michigan, he was denied admission to the school. He had a checkered past but reportedly was given no specific reason for the denial. Dorsey appeared headed to Louisville but never made it and played for Grand Rapids Community College in 2011. He planned to transfer to Hawaii in 2012 but never played for the Warriors.
  • No. 42: William Gholston, DE, Michigan State -- Gholston played three seasons for the Spartans, recording 142 tackles, including 30 for loss and 10 sacks. He started 24 games and stood out in bowl wins against Georgia and TCU. After a big performance in the 2012 Outback Bowl, Gholston appeared on several preseason watch lists but underachieved at times during the 2012 campaign. He skipped his final season and was a fourth-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
Nos. 51-100

  • No. 56: Rod Smith, RB, Ohio State -- Smith redshirted the 2010 season and has been in a reserve role the past three seasons, playing briefly at linebacker in 2012. He has 83 career rushes for 448 yards and four touchdowns. Smith once again will compete for the starting job this fall.
  • No. 66: Khairi Fortt, LB, Penn State -- He played two years for Penn State, recording 50 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, before transferring to Cal in 2012 when the NCAA imposed sanctions on PSU. Fortt sat out the 2012 season because of injury and had 64 tackles (3.5 for loss) in nine games last season before suffering an arm injury. He declared for the NFL draft last month.
  • No. 70: Dakota Royer, DE, Penn State -- Royer didn't play at linebacker in his first two seasons, moved to tight end after spring ball in 2012 and moved back to linebacker early in camp. He then decided to walk away from football, remained on scholarship and graduated in May.
  • No. 80: James Louis, WR, Ohio State -- Louis redshirted the 2010 season and then opted to transfer from Ohio State to Florida International. He never played for FIU and is no longer listed on the roster.
  • No. 82: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa -- He appeared in every game during the past four years and started the past two-and-a-half seasons, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches as a senior in 2013. Fiedorowicz had 91 career receptions for 899 yards and 10 touchdowns, including six this past season.
  • No. 88: Evan Hailes, DT, Penn State -- Hailes redshirted in 2010 and played two games in 2011, recording two tackles. A series of blood clots, which first surfaced in the spring of 2011, ended his career in 2012. He remained with the team in a coaching role.
[+] EnlargeDevin Gardner
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallThe reviews have been mixed for Devin Gardner, who passed for 2,960 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2013.
Nos. 101-150

  • No. 112: Rob Bolden, QB, Penn State -- Bolden in 2010 became the first freshman quarterback in 100 years to start a season opener at Penn State. He made 16 starts in two years at Penn State but transferred to LSU after the NCAA imposed sanctions on the program in 2012. Bolden has yet to play for the Tigers and has one season left.
  • No. 118: Miles Dieffenbach, C, Penn State -- Dieffenbach redshirted in 2010 and didn't play in 2011 before starting 23 games the past two seasons at left guard. He'll likely enter the 2014 campaign in the same spot.
  • No. 128: Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan -- Gardner appeared in 12 games as a reserve quarterback in his first two seasons before alternating between wide receiver and quarterback in 2012, starting the final four games under center. He started 12 games at quarterback in 2013 and passed for 2,960 yards and 21 touchdowns, delivering several huge performances and also some duds. Gardner, who received a medical redshirt for the 2010 season, returns for his final year this fall.
  • No. 131: Darryl Baldwin, DE, Ohio State -- Baldwin worked as a reserve defensive lineman in 2011 before moving to offense in the spring of 2012. He played mostly special teams in 2012 and backed up left tackle Jack Mewhort the past two years. Baldwin could move into a starting role in his final season.
  • No. 137: Corey Brown, WR, Ohio State -- After recording just 22 receptions in his first two seasons, Brown emerged as the Buckeyes' top option in the passing game as a junior and senior. He combined to record 123 catches for 1,440 yards and 13 touchdowns and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2013 from the coaches.
  • No. 147: Andrew Rodriguez, G, Nebraska -- Rodriguez played mostly in a reserve role for his first three seasons and then started every game as a senior in 2013, alternating between right tackle and right guard for an injury-plagued Husker line. He earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors from both the coaches and the media.
  • No. 148: C.J. Olaniyan, DE, Penn State -- After redshirting in 2010, Olaniyan recorded 18 tackles and a sack during his first two seasons. He started every game last fall at defensive end and led Penn State in both sacks (5) and forced fumbles (3), recording 11 tackles for loss, an interception and a fumble recovery. He'll enter his final season projected as a starter.

More misses than hits in the group, although several players still could finish their college careers as stars.

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May, 17, 2012
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It's better to carry a tune than a grudge.

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January, 11, 2012
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Happy Independence Resistance Day to all our Moroccan readers:

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November, 17, 2011
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I sleep clown.

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February, 14, 2011
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Be mine.
College football coaching is a fitness test. The coach has to fit the program, or things won't work.

The last three years at the University of Michigan have underscored this fact.

Rich Rodriguez never truly fit with Michigan. His background didn't fit. His personality didn't fit. His style of play didn't fit. His style of players didn't fit. Even his accent didn't fit.

[+] EnlargeRich Rodriguez
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesRich Rodriguez leaves Michigan after three seasons with a disappointing 15-22 record.
The hope heading into this odd marriage was that Rodriguez's track record of winning would make the fit factor go away. Michigan fans could learn to love an outsider -- not talking about an Ohio State guy, a real outsider -- if he won Big Ten championships and BCS bowl games.

But Rodriguez didn't win. At least not fast enough. He lost a lot of games his first two seasons and lost games by wide margins this fall. Saturday's 52-14 disaster against Mississippi State in the Progressive Gator Bowl -- the worst bowl defeat in Michigan history -- brought more shame to a shaken program.

It was the final straw for Rodriguez and Michigan fired the coach on Wednesday, ending his turbulent three-year tenure at the school.

Athletic director Dave Brandon let the process drag on way too long and put Rodriguez and his players in a bad spot, even in the end. But it seemed pretty clear Michigan would reach this point after Brandon didn't announce Rodriguez was staying immediately after the regular season.

Rodriguez often talked about the drama that seemed to envelop the Michigan program since he became coach in December 2007. His ugly departure from West Virginia didn't help matters. Neither did the lawsuit WVU filed against him. Or the NCAA investigation into Michigan's program that ended with the program being hit with major violations for the first time in its history. Or the Demar Dorsey controversy. Or the Josh Groban "You raise me up" fiasco at the team banquet in December.

The list goes on ...

Anyone else feel like Rodriguez's tenure at Michigan lasted a lot longer than three seasons?

There's the counterargument, of course, that Michigan didn't give Rodriguez enough time to get things on track.

He installed a dramatically different system and recruited different types of players. He also didn't inherit a wealth of talent, especially on defense, after Michigan's so-so recruiting classes in 2006 and 2007. And Rodriguez endured an incredible series of player departures and injuries, particularly this season on defense. He often cited youth and depth as problems, and while he was right on many levels, the excuses got old and drove Michigan fans crazy.

Although the team improved its record in each of the past two seasons, Rodriguez set the bar historically low in 2008 and his squads didn't make critical strides as seasons progressed. Michigan swept its nonconference slate in each of the past two seasons, but Rodriguez went just 6-18 in Big Ten play and 15-22 overall.

It seemed likely that seven wins would keep Rodriguez in Ann Arbor for another season. But when the competition improved in Michigan's final three games -- Wisconsin, Ohio State and Mississippi State -- the Wolverines fell apart, losing all three contests by a combined score of 137-49. Michigan simply didn't get better, especially on defense, leaving the program at a crossroads.

I was really interested to see if a guy who didn't fit the Michigan mold still could win there. Rodriguez enjoyed tremendous success at West Virginia and coached some of the nation's most dynamic and exciting offenses. While his offense caught on this season behind star quarterback Denard Robinson, the defense never got on track under coordinators Scott Shafer and Greg Robinson.

You never got the sense Rodriguez's overall style clicked at Michigan.

One question I often asked myself is whether Rodriguez would ever get enough of his prototypical players into Michigan. He talked a few times about wanting to add junior college players, which was unlikely at U-M. Michigan's academic standards certainly provided a challenge for the coach. Think of Rodriguez's best players from the past and then ask yourself: Could they have been admitted to Michigan? That's not a knock against Rodriguez, but it underscores the fit factor.

Two things for Michigan fans to note going forward:

1. Be prepared for Rich Rodriguez to win again. Rodriguez didn't become a bad coach overnight, and if he's in the right spot -- like Clemson, South Carolina, perhaps even Pitt -- he'll do some major damage.

2. A coaching change isn't a panacea, and Michigan likely will take several steps back before moving forward. Rodriguez recruited to his system for the last few years, and Michigan's wait to make this move could prove disastrous for the 2011 recruiting class. The new coach likely will run a different system, and it's tough to see how the Wolverines won't backslide.

I felt all along that Michigan should only fire Rodriguez if it could land Jim Harbaugh as his replacement. Harbaugh reportedly is unlikely to return to his alma mater, which leaves Michigan in a bit of a bind. We'll get to the search later.

But whomever Michigan hires needs to fit the program and its culture.

Rodriguez never passed the fitness test.

Big Ten teams have faced some major personnel challenges this season.

No team in America has been hit harder at key spots than Purdue, while other Big Ten squads like Wisconsin and Penn State also have lost key players.

But I can't remember a single position being ravaged more by both injuries and player departures than Michigan's cornerback spot.

The latest bit of bad news arrived Wednesday, as Wolverines coach Rich Rodriguez confirmed that cornerback J.T. Floyd will miss the rest of the season after suffering a "freak" ankle injury in practice Tuesday. Floyd's ankle isn't broken, but he suffered ligament damage and needs surgery that will keep him sidelined for a while.

The redshirt sophomore has started all eight games for Michigan and ranks third on the team in tackles with 66. Floyd also has an interception, a forced fumble and four pass breakups.

Michigan's struggles in the secondary are no secret, and this certainly doesn't make things easier.

Rodriguez said true freshman Courtney Avery will start Saturday against Illinois opposite senior James Rogers, the Wolverines' only non-freshman cornerback still available.

"We're pretty young in the secondary," Rodriguez told reporters on a conference call. "We're getting younger."

Yikes.

Remember these names?
  • Troy Woolfolk: Multiyear starter in the secondary suffered season-ending ankle/foot injury in camp.
  • Justin Turner: Decorated recruit was granted his release from the team in August.
  • Vlad Emilien: Young defensive back left the team in September.
  • Demar Dorsey: The Big Ten's top-rated recruit signed with Michigan in February but was denied admission in June.
  • Boubacar Cissoko: Blue chip recruit started the first four games in 2009, missed two games because of a suspension, returned for a game and then was dismissed for violating team rules. Cissoko is now in jail serving time for his role in multiple robberies.
  • Donovan Warren: First-team All-Big Ten selection in 2009 declared for the NFL as a junior but wasn't drafted in April.
  • Adrian Witty: Signed with Michigan in 2009 but never made it to Ann Arbor because of academic issues.

Michigan's defense has more issues than just one position, but the Wolverines certainly would be better with some of these guys on the field right now.

Rodriguez also said Wednesday that receiver Martavious Odoms (foot) and safety Mike Williams (concussions) likely won't return this season. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (shoulder) will miss Saturday's game.

Not good for a team that desperately needs a win.
Michigan will have all the intangibles on its side Saturday afternoon against Connecticut.

The rededication ceremony will be held for Michigan Stadium, as the school celebrates an extensive renovation that makes the Big House into the Bigger House. Brock Mealer, the brother of Michigan offensive lineman Elliott Mealer, who was given almost no chance to walk again following a car accident that killed his father and Elliott's girlfriend, will led the Wolverines out of the tunnel.

[+] EnlargeMichigan
AP Photo/Tony DingThere was a time when opposing teams would be intimidated to play at Michigan.
And as always, Michigan players will wear winged helmets and touch the "Go Blue" banner at midfield as "The Victors" blares in the background.

The place will be rocking. But will it matter?

The Michigan mystique used to be a very real thing. Opposing coaches have admitted that the winged helmets and the Big House equaled 14 points on the scoreboard for the Maize and Blue.

Things are different at Stadium and Main. Appalachian State happened. Then 8-16 happened.

"Everybody’s like, 'Oh, they've got the winged helmet and they've got the Big House, but nobody's worried about the Big House,'" Michigan wide receiver Roy Roundtree told ESPN.com.

"But come September 4th, it's a different Michigan team."

For Rich Rodriguez's sake, it had better be. Arguably no coach in the country needs a strong opening performance from his team more than Rodriguez.

A turbulent offseason once again directed the spotlight away from the field, as Rodriguez and other Michigan officials dealt with an NCAA investigation into alleged rule violations. Michigan in May admitted to committing major violations for the first time in program history, and the school is awaiting final penalties from the NCAA's Committee on Infractions following an August hearing. The offseason also featured a saga surrounding heralded recruit Demar Dorsey, several player departures and questions about quarterback Tate Forcier's commitment to the program.

That's the beauty of Saturday's opener against Connecticut (ABC/ESPN2, 3:30 p.m. ET). It's all about what happens between the lines.

"There’s been a lot of side stuff, and a lot of it has been nothing to do with football," defensive tackle Mike Martin said. "We just want to play for the program and get out here and play hard for coach Rod and all the fans, and show all the work we’ve been putting in."

Connecticut won't be intimidated by the spectacle on Saturday. The Huskies won at Notre Dame last year and fell just short at Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, falling by a combined nine points.

Head coach Randy Edsall consistently sends players to the NFL and returns a team that three ESPN experts pick to win the Big East.

"They are an older group of guys that have kind of been there, done that," Rodriguez said. "So it's not a team that is probably going to make mistakes. If we want to win the game, we have to go win it."

Martin says Michigan is hungrier than it's been in a long time. Roundtree says players are "finally all in."

After the last two years, Michigan players know they're entitled to nothing. In fact, quite a few folks -- ahem, Brian Bennett -- pick the Wolverines to lose to UConn on Saturday.

"That's their pick," Roundtree said. "Everybody has their own opinions. It's Michigan against the world, and if that's how it's got to be, then hey, we know who's in our circle, and we know who we're playing for every weekend.

"We're tired of losing, and it's time for a change. It's time to come here and win."
If you asked me Tuesday morning to form a short list of players Michigan must have on the field this fall, Troy Woolfolk's name would be right at the top.

Woolfolk isn't Michigan's best player, nor is he the team's most talented. By most measures, he was an average Big Ten cornerback for the half season he spent there in 2009.

[+] EnlargeTroy Woolfolk
Eric Bronson/Icon SMITroy Woolfolk, who was in line to be Michigan's No. 1 cornerback, reportedly suffered a dislocated ankle and a broken bone in his leg in practice on Tuesday.
But Woolfolk brought leadership and experience to a secondary that severely lacks both. Plus, he eased some concern (not all) at a position that has gone through a major talent drain in the last 10 months.

That's why the news that Woolfolk reportedly suffered a dislocated ankle and a broken bone in his leg at Tuesday's practice is so painful for Michigan to endure. Head coach Rich Rodriguez hasn't said much about the situation, only that it was a lower body injury and that Woolfolk went to the hospital from practice.

But Woolfolk's high school coach, Jim Creech, told colleague Joe Schad that "it looks like [Woolfolk will] miss the season." Woolfolk was treated and released from University Hospital on Tuesday night, and his father told multiple media outlets that a decision on surgery will be made later.

Woolfolk posted on his Twitter page late Tuesday night: "Even though T-Woolf will be absent, Troy will be on sidelines coaching&cheering for Michigan till all air has vacated my lungs." T-Woolf, for those who don't know, is Woolfolk's alter ego.

Fortunately, Woolfolk has a redshirt season and could return in 2011, but his injury leaves Michigan young and thin at cornerback. Considering how well Michigan has recruited the cornerback spot in recent years, it's amazing to think that the program could get to this point.

Remember these guys?

  • Donovan Warren: First-team All-Big Ten selection in 2009 declared for the NFL as a junior but wasn't drafted in April.
  • Boubacar Cissoko: Blue chip recruit started the first four games in 2009, missed two games because of a suspension, returned for a game and then was dismissed for violating team rules. In a truly sad story, Cissoko is now in jail serving time for his role in multiple robberies.
  • Demar Dorsey: The Big Ten's top-rated recruit signed with Michigan in February but was denied admission in June, a decision that didn't sit well with the coaching staff. Dorsey is still waiting to see whether he gets admitted to Louisville.
  • Adrian Witty: Signed with Michigan in 2009 but never made it to Ann Arbor because of academic issues. He eventually landed at Cincinnati, where he has been impressive in training camp.
  • J.T. Turner: Decorated recruit was granted his release from the team last week and intends to transfer.

It's quite a list, and Michigan certainly could use the help this fall.

I wonder if Pacman Jones has any eligibility left. Or Charles Woodson.

Michigan feels good about J.T. Floyd at one corner spot, but the other spot is a mystery and the overall depth is very shaky. The Wolverines have been fighting a numbers game on defense since Rodriguez's arrival, and the situation at cornerback has exacerbated the problem.

One thing is clear: youth will be served in 2010, and freshmen like Cullen Christian and Courtney Avery had better grow up fast.
In all likelihood, J.T. Turner wasn't going to start for Michigan in its Sept. 4 opener.

From everything I've been told, J.T. Floyd will join veteran Troy Woolfolk as the Wolverines' starting cornerbacks against Connecticut. But Turner's decision to transfer combined with Michigan's decision not to admit prized recruit Demar Dorsey raises the anxiety level about a secondary that already sparks a ton of concern after the past two seasons.

Michigan has had little trouble luring heralded cornerbacks, namely Turner, Dorsey and Boubacar Cissoko. But for various reasons -- I'm not directly blaming anyone here -- none of them will be suiting up for the Maize and Blue this fall.

The Wolverines' depth at cornerback isn't what we thought it would be a few months ago.

Woolfolk and Floyd not only need to be good, but they need to stay healthy. And you can bet incoming freshmen Cullen Christian, Courtney Avery and Terry Talbott will have chances to see the field early.

Big Ten preseason power rankings

August, 10, 2010
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It's that time again. Let's take a look at the power rankings as camps are under way throughout the Big Ten.

1. Ohio State: There isn't a glaring weakness on this team. History shows the defense will be extremely stingy, and if quarterback Terrelle Pryor continues to develop, the offense should be more than capable of putting up points. A bona fide national title contender.

2. Iowa: The core from the Orange Bowl championship team returns, led by defensive end Adrian Clayborn and quarterback Ricky Stanzi. Iowa must reload at offensive line but has a strong tradition there. A Week 3 test at Arizona could be tricky, but Iowa will be a BCS bowl contender if it defends its home turf.

3. Wisconsin: No Big Ten team returns more individual stars than the Badgers. A balanced offense led by one of the nation's best lines could be unstoppable if John Clay, Scott Tolzien and others can stay healthy. The defense is young in spots but talented, and safety Jay Valai promises me they'll lay the wood. Can head coach Bret Bielema take this program from very good to great?

4. Penn State: I had the Lions tied with Michigan State coming out of the spring, but Penn State's historic success on defense and its superior line play provides an ever-so-slight edge right now. Given the inexperience at quarterback, Penn State will need to rely on its run game and its defense. Joe Paterno has won that way a few times before.

5. Michigan State: The Spartans boast more depth at the offensive skill positions than any Big Ten team. Linebacker Greg Jones returns to lead the defense. My only hesitation here is the line play on both sides of the ball. I'm tempted to buy into Michigan State, but I'm going to take a wait-and-see approach for now.

6. Northwestern: Quarterback Dan Persa has done everything right in the offseason. Now he needs to prove himself when it really counts. The secondary and the rushing game concern me, but running back Arby Fields is poised for a big year. This isn't a championship-level team but one that should make a school-record third straight bowl.

7. Purdue: Like Persa, Robert Marve has established himself as a leader before starting his first game at quarterback for the Boilers. If Purdue fills a few gaps on the offensive line, its offense could be very good. The defensive front seven should be better against the run, but Purdue must replace its entire starting secondary, which is never easy.

8. Michigan: Regardless of who wins the starting quarterback job, Rich Rodriguez's offense will put up points. But if the defense doesn't make a major jump in 2010, nothing else will matter. Demar Dorsey's departure from the secondary could hurt, and while I'm interested to see what Cam Gordon and others can do on the field, it's hard to buy into this unit right now.

T-9. Minnesota: There has been too much change in personnel and on Tim Brewster's staff the last two years for me to give the Gophers a stamp of approval at this stage. Quarterback Adam Weber certainly is talented enough to turn things around, especially with some help from the run game and the offensive line. I'm not counting out Minnesota by any means, but a very challenging schedule combined with a lot of new faces creates some concern.

T-9. Indiana: I'm buying into Ben Chappell and the Hoosiers offense. If the unit stays healthy, Indiana will put up points and improve in critical situations (third down, red zone). Not surprisingly, the major concerns come on defense, where Indiana hopes a switch to the 3-4 alignment pays off. A very favorable schedule gives IU a chance to make it back to a bowl game.

11. Illinois: The Grand Experiment begins Sept. 4 against Missouri in St. Louis. Great recruiting classes haven't translated into on-field success for the Illini. Perhaps an upgrade in coaching will make the difference. Linebacker Martez Wilson's return provides a boost, but Illinois needs to help young quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase as much as possible.

Big Ten lunch links

July, 19, 2010
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Moving right along ...
Way back on Feb. 3, Michigan signed the Big Ten's largest recruiting class -- and also one of its best.

ESPN Recruiting listed the Wolverines' 27-man class as the nation's 14th best overall and the Big Ten's second best class behind Penn State (No. 11 overall). Michigan moved up the rankings largely because of a Signing Day surprise, the pledge of cornerback Demar Dorsey, the nation's 12th best prospect and the highest-rated prospect in the Big Ten, according to ESPN Recruiting.

Despite a second consecutive losing season, Rich Rodriguez and his staff did what they needed to on the recruiting trail entering a pivotal 2010 campaign.

Michigan's recruiting class still could turn out to be very good, but it looks a little thinner now. Dorsey was denied admission to Michigan earlier this month and has since landed at Louisville, taking away a likely starter in the Wolverines' secondary.

Two more Michigan recruits, linebacker Antonio Kinard and athlete Conelius Jones, are possibly heading to prep school and might not enroll for the 2010 academic year. Neither Kinard nor Jones are as decorated as Dorsey coming out of high school, but both are three-star prospects who could have been factors for a team that needs a jolt from its freshmen this fall.

The 27-member class has been trimmed to 24, and Rodriguez's critics have a little more ammunition. They'll not only question his ability to win in Ann Arbor, but the types of players he and his staff are recruiting. Although Michigan players have performed well academically during Rodriguez's tenure, the coaching staff lost some battles with the admissions office in recent weeks.

Without Dorsey, Michigan's class likely falls out of the top 20 of most national rankings. I still think there are enough players to help the team this season, but whether the Wolverines get the major boost they need from the incoming recruits remains to be seen.

Big Ten lunch links

June, 22, 2010
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Rough Monday for Ohio State.

Big Ten lunch links

June, 21, 2010
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One week closer to the season.

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