How did Michigan get to this point?

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2

Brady Hoke sat sweat-slicked and exalted at a dais inside New Orleans' Superdome on the night of Jan. 3, 2012. The coach had just led Michigan to an 11-2 season, capped by a BCS bowl win over Virginia Tech. A reporter asked if the traditional college powerhouse was back.

"Michigan never left," Hoke said.

Exactly 1,000 days later, Hoke stood Monday at another podium to defend his 2-3 football team and the way he handled the head injury of sophomore quarterback Shane Morris. The Wolverines were two days removed from a 30-14 loss to Minnesota, their third double-digit margin of defeat this year.

Hoke's future – and the future of the man who hired him, athletic director Dave Brandon -- has never looked so dim at Michigan. Both are responsible for several missteps that have the program scraping rock bottom after such a promising start three-plus years ago.

How did the proud Wolverines get to this point? There have been plenty of highlights (and lowlights) that mark the trail:

[+] EnlargeBrady Hoke
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertBrady Hoke's 2012 Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech seemed to be the start of big things for Michigan.
Jan. 3, 2012: Michigan defeats Virginia Tech 23-20 in Sugar Bowl -- The Wolverines completed an 11-2 season in Hoke's first year by kicking a field goal in overtime to beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. Michigan may have backed its way into the BCS and didn't exactly win cleanly, but those were details. Bowl wins and Big Ten championships seemed like a realistic part of the program's near future. No one assumed that Michigan had reached its high point (thus far) under Hoke only 357 days after he was hired.

Sept. 1, 2012: Alabama defeats Michigan 42-14 in season opener -- The Wolverines started the season ranked eighth in the AP poll, but Nick Saban's Crimson Tide offered a harsh reminder that Michigan wasn't ready to compete against the country's top teams on a big stage yet. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson picked up only 27 yards with his feet, but more shocking was that Alabama (and Robinson's own coaches) limited the electric runner to 10 carries. In Hoke's first year, Robinson played to his scrambling strength. In 2012, the coaching staff tried to shoehorn "Shoelace" and his teammates into a pro-style offense that didn't play to their strengths. The team lost four more times that season, finishing with an 8-5 record.

Feb. 6, 2013: Michigan signs touted 27-man recruiting class -- Hope that Hoke still had the program pointed in the right direction grew around his ability to recruit big-time talent. The Wolverines ranked sixth in ESPN RecruitingNation's class rankings and as high as second on other sites' rankings on national signing day in 2013. The 27-man class, headlined by five-star running back Derrick Green, featured 15 of ESPN's top 300 prospects. The young talent has yet to live up to its billing at the college level. Hoke made a large leap to the Michigan job from San Diego State, where he never experienced the process of fine-tuning and motivating blue-chip recruits.

April 23, 2013: Athletic department increases student ticket prices to $280 per year -- Athletic director Dave Brandon rubbed fans the wrong way by increasing the cost of attending football games to $40 per student. The school also did away with a seating policy that made it easier for students to sit with groups of their friends. The department later revised that policy, but students were left with the impression that Brandon sees the student body as customers rather than as a part of the university. The most common complaint among protestors calling for Brandon's resignation now is that he values the bottom line more than the football program's long tradition.

Sept. 14, 2013: Skywriters hired by Michigan leave "Go Blue" message in East Lansing -- In a lead-up to its 28-24 win over Akron, Michigan's athletic department paid thousands of dollars for a skywriting company to leave messages among the clouds throughout southeast Michigan. One requested target was Lansing, where in-state rival Michigan State plays. The cheeky ruse backfired, as have several other stunts coordinated under Brandon's watch. Some of his attempts to spread the university's brand have been viewed by fans as marketing gimmicks from the former Domino's CEO.

[+] EnlargeBrady Hoke
Lon Horwedel/Icon SportswireSince last November, Brady Hoke's Wolverines have a 3-8 mark.
Nov. 2, 2013: Michigan State defeats Michigan 29-6 -- Sparty got its revenge two months later. Michigan's running game hit a historic low with minus-48 rushing yards in a thorough drubbing. The Wolverines failed to reach the end zone against Michigan State's defense for the second straight year. The loss, which highlighted Michigan's biggest offensive problem at the line of scrimmage, wasn't just a sign that the two programs were headed in opposite directions, but it began a stretch of five losses in six games to end the year. Since last November, the Wolverines are 3-8.

Nov. 30, 2013: Ohio State defeats Michigan 42-41 -- A failed two-point conversion with 32 seconds remaining handed the Wolverines another loss to rival Ohio State. A successful extra point attempt would have sent the game against the undefeated Buckeyes into overtime at the Big House. Hoke talked about the importance of beating "Ohio" the first time he was introduced as the program's head coach in 2011 but is 1-2 against the rival so far. Later that night, star offensive tackle Taylor Lewan allegedly punched an Ohio State fan outside a bar, leading to assault charges.

Dec. 20, 2013: Brendan Gibbons separates from the university -- Michigan officially cut ties with starting kicker Brendan Gibbons, according to documents uncovered by the student newspaper. Gibbons violated the school's sexual misconduct policy when he was accused of sexual assault as a freshman in 2009. Three days later, Hoke said Gibbons wasn't with the team at its bowl game because of a "family matter." The coach's evasive way of handling the matter was brought up again recently as questions about his integrity were raised in the aftermath of Shane Morris' concussion last week.

Jan. 10, 2014: Brandon introduces new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier -- Michigan needed to make changes after a disappointing 7-6 season, and they started on offense. The Wolverines' linemen took most of the heat for an offense that allowed 113 tackles for loss, more than any other FBS team in 2013. Hoke fired Al Borges and replaced him with former Alabama coordinator Doug Nussmeier two days later. But it was Brandon who introduced Nussmeier at a press conference in Ann Arbor. The athletic director, who reportedly watched film with the coaches on Sunday mornings, scoffed at the idea that he was overly influencing football decisions for the program. Nussmeier's work with the offense has yet to yield the desired results.

Sept. 30, 2014: Michigan apologizes for mishandling Morris' head injury -- Brandon and university president Mark Schlissel both released written statements acknowledging communication breakdowns that allowed an injured player to return to the field three days earlier. Brandon's statement contradicted several things Hoke said a day earlier in a press conference. Hoke declined to clear up any of those discrepancies Wednesday. The incident has magnified the heat coming from back-to-back embarrassing losses to Utah (26-10) and Minnesota (30-14).

Where do Brandon, Hoke and the team go from here? The Wolverines get a welcome reprieve from the turmoil on campus this weekend with a trip to Rutgers. They host Penn State the following week for the third night game in Michigan Stadium's history. Then comes a bye week, during which there is an Oct. 16 meeting of the university's Board of Regents, a group that can make changes in the athletic department. Without a turnaround in the near future, the next item on the timeline for Hoke and Brandon could be their last.

Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg contributed to this report.

UA jersey tour: Chris Clark

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2
ESPN 300 tight end Chris Clark was presented with his Under Armour All American jersey on Thursday in front of his classmates and teammates. The Michigan commit was excited for the honor and the opportunity to compete with the best players in the country.

It was also a bit of a break for the talented prospect, who has been paying close attention to the Wolverines' tumultuous season. Clark has been hearing from other schools, but along with many of the other Michigan commits, finds himself in a wait-and-see mode.

"All the Michigan kids have [been] talking in our group chat. All of us are just kind of waiting to see what happens with the staff," he said. "Obviously if there are changes made we are all given the opportunity to relook at everything. I'm going to wait and see what happens at the end of the season."

Clark was recently offered by USC and Texas, two schools that have been in contact heavily in recent weeks. He doesn't have any visits planned as of yet, but says if the Michigan staff were relieved of their duties, then he would look around.

The commitments, including Clark, are in an unenviable position as they have to worry about their future school, and they are also taking heat from fans on social media about staying loyal to their commitment.

"You're never disresepectful to the fans, but at the end of the day you can't listen to people on Twitter. They're just passionate about their teams, but we're still in high school," he said. "They have to understand that we would have to get to know a new staff if that happens and it would make sense for us to make sure we're still comfortable."

While Clark has all of that ahead of him, for now he is enjoying being an Under Armour All American and focusing on his team's season.

Five questions with Chris Clark

What one player are you looking forward to competing against?:

I'm really excited to go against the linebacker from Texas. Malik Jefferson. I'm excited to go against him because we went against each other a few years ago. I'm just excited to show people I can compete against the best players in the country.

If you could start a team with any other player in your class who would it be?: Probably Josh Rosen, the quarterback. I think he's by far the most gifted quarterback in the class. Where he's at, I think he's the best. He's a baller, so I would pick him. I was watching the Elite 11 and Trent Dilfer was saying he was almost uncomfortable because Josh is so smart.

What was your earliest football memory?:

In second grade, there was 10 seconds left in the game and we were down by three points. It was the first year we could wear pads. I ran a seam route, caught it and buried one of the coaches that was standing on the field. I ran him over and scored a touchdown with no time left to win the game. It was one of those memories you'll never forget.

Which football player did you idolize or want to be like when you were a kid?:

I really liked Jeremy Shockey as a tight end. I liked the way he played. He had swagger and he was tough, he's just a beast. I loved him when he was with the Giants.

If you could take on any pro player in their sport who would it be?:

I would like, in the red zone, maybe split out wide and go against Richard Sherman. That would be cool.

Why do you wear your number?:

I wear No. 8. I've always wanted to wear a single-digit number, but there's no specific reason why I wear that number.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?:

I have a tattoo on my right arm. I come from a family where tattoos are outlawed. It has no meaning, I just got it when I turned 18. I feel like all tight ends have tattoos. For my size, I'm afraid of the dark, too.

Big Ten Week 6 predictions

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2
Austin Ward scored an 8-1 week and moves into a tie with Mitch Sherman for the top record overall. Not as many games this week, but Michigan once again divides our experts. On to the picks ...

Why Michigan State will win: Improvement was expected all along on offense, but seeing the Spartans on top of the league in scoring at this point still qualifies as a surprise. Connor Cook’s development at quarterback makes Michigan State even more dangerous than it was a year ago, when it won the Big Ten relying heavily on its defense, and the roster looks capable of winning either a slugfest or a shootout. Heisman Trophy candidate Ameer Abdullah might be able to make this one the latter, but the Spartans are the most talented team in the league, their playoff hopes are on the line and they’re at home. That’s too much to overcome for the Huskers. Michigan State 34, Nebraska 24. -- Austin Ward

Why Nebraska could win: The Huskers, under Bo Pelini, usually find a way to match up well with Michigan State because the Spartans, especially on defense, coach with a mindset similar to the Nebraska style. MSU lost to Nebraska in 2011 and 2012 and beat the Huskers 41-28 last year, with help from five Nebraska turnovers. Such understanding helps the Huskers find weaknesses. There’s no doubt Nebraska will attempt to establish the running game. Likely, though, it’ll need help from quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. to extend the field -- his strength in the passing game. If it works, Nebraska can eat clock and play keep-away from Cook. -- Mitch Sherman

Why Rutgers will win: Well, first things first: Have you seen Michigan play lately? The program is in total disarray behind the scenes, and the Wolverines haven't shown that they can beat -- or even compete credibly with -- any team with a pulse. Plus, Rutgers has had a terrific pass rush this season, which should frighten the bejeezus out of Devin Gardner given the state of the maize and blue offensive line. Michigan's defense will keep it in the game, and Gary Nova has to make sure he doesn't play Rutgers out of the game. But no sane person can possibly pick the Wolverines with any confidence right now. Rutgers 21, Michigan 14 -- Brian Bennett

Why Michigan will win: Of course the resident contrarian is going with the Maize and Blue. Rutgers sees all the turmoil at Michigan and clearly will overlook the Wolverines (now there's a sentence that has never been typed). In all seriousness though, Michigan can't be done this early, can it? A loss in Piscataway, New Jersey, effectively ends the season for the Wolverines, who have yet to lose in the East Division and still can hope for a stunning turnaround. I expect a big night from Frank Clark, Blake Countess, possibly New Jersey native Jabrill Peppers and the Wolverines' defense, which records two pick-sixes against Nova. Gardner avoids the turnover bug and leads two field goal drives as Michigan prevails in Piscataway. Michigan 20, Rutgers 17 -- Adam Rittenberg

Why Purdue will win: I just can't shake the idea that Darrell Hazell can push his Boilermakers to at least one conference win this season. The Illini (or Northwestern on Nov. 22) might be their best chance. Illinois ranks 109th nationally with 11 turnovers at the end of September. A couple more on Saturday could give Purdue the opportunities it needs to stay close and pull out a big win. If that doesn't sell you, Jim Cornelison of Chicago Blackhawks anthem fame will be singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before kickoff. Something interesting is bound to follow. Purdue 26, Illinois 24. -- Dan Murphy

Why Illinois will win: Neither team is particularly good, but Illinois shouldn't struggle putting up points in this game. Quarterback Wes Lunt, tailback Josh Ferguson and wideout Geronimo Allison combine to form one of the more underrated trios in the Big Ten, and Purdue's defense gave up 72 points to the directional Michigans. As for Purdue's offense? Well, Hazell still isn't quite sure who's going to start at quarterback Saturday. It won't matter; Illinois pulls away in the second half. Illinois 35, Purdue 21. -- Josh Moyer

The other unanimous selections

Ohio State 42, Maryland 30: Maryland's first-ever Big Ten home game is a doozy as the Buckeyes come to town. The Terrapins are strongest where Ohio State is weakest, with their electric receivers capable of causing all sorts of trouble for Chris Ash's still wobbly pass defense. Expect lots of fireworks, but in the end a rapidly improving Buckeyes offense has too much speed for Maryland to handle.

Wisconsin 28, Northwestern 17: Wisconsin hasn't won in Evanston, Illinois, since 1999, and the Wildcats are riding a sudden urge of confidence after knocking off Penn State on the road last week. Tanner McEvoy will have to be sharp, but the combination of the Badgers' defense and Melvin Gordon will rule the day.

Indiana 31, North Texas 24: Indiana can beat almost anybody if its offense is clicking (see: Missouri) and lose to just about anyone because of its defense (see: Bowling Green). Still, the Hoosiers should bounce back against the Mean Green.

Our records:
Mitch Sherman: 47-12 (.797)
Austin Ward: 47-12 (.797)
Brian Bennett: 46-13 (.779)
Adam Rittenberg: 46-13 (.779)
Dan Murphy: 16-6 (.727)
Josh Moyer: 42-17 (.712)

Big Ten morning links

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2
Wake up twice more and Big Ten football is back in action. Why isn't it the weekend already?

1. Michigan Meltdown: Now the Wolverines are right back where they started, restoring Devin Gardner as the starter at quarterback and hoping for different results. Based on his disappearance from the depth chart, it's a safe bet that the injuries Shane Morris sustained Saturday forced the swap, but Brady Hoke went right back to highlighting the continued lack of communication both inside and outside Schembechler Hall right now in the press conference announcing the change. Hoke clearly hasn't learned anything from the last few days, falling right back to his policy of not discussion the health of his players at a time when transparency would almost certainly work in his benefit. Pointing out the problems Michigan has had getting players at 100 percent might actually be a useful excuse for some of the on-field issues the program has had during its 2-3 start. Maybe it's too late for that now anyway, but pulling back the curtain and trying to be a bit more open and honest could at least be a start in trying to fight back in the public-relations battle he is badly losing at the moment.

2. Undercard Bout of the Week: All the attention is focused on the prize fight under the lights between Nebraska and Michigan State, and deservedly so given the standing of those marquee teams and how important the matchup will be for the College Football Playoff selection committee. But there's a battle in the afternoon that could be just as entertaining, and what it might lack in implications for the national title, it makes up for it with intrigue in the East Division. Maryland has the athletes at wide receiver to test the Buckeyes and their suspect secondary. Ohio State is rolling offensively with J.T. Barrett at quarterback, and the Terps were gashed in their biggest test of the season against West Virginia. There could be plenty of fireworks, and the winner will establish itself as a contender in the East -- and potentially the favorite depending on what happens with the Spartans.

3. Trophy talk: The votes have been unanimous for a couple weeks now, but Ameer Abdullah's standing as the unquestioned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year at this early stage could be threatened as early as this week given the head-to-head matchup with one of his closest competitors. Obviously the Nebraska tailback isn't directly squaring off with Connor Cook on the field, but if the Michigan State quarterback puts up another impressive statistical outing, knocks off the Huskers and keeps his team in line for a potential playoff berth, Abdullah might find himself lower than the No. 1 spot next week despite his gaudy numbers. On the flip side, a road win that keeps the Huskers unbeaten with Abdullah gouging one of the most feared defenses in the nation would only solidify his push for the Heisman Trophy. Of course, there is plenty on the line for both teams, but individual honors are up for grabs on Saturday evening as well.

East Division
  • Defensive tackle Damon Knox could be returning just in time for Michigan State.
  • Brady Hoke has a "great relationship" with embattled athletic director Dave Brandon.
  • Some key players are taking it easy during Penn State's bye week.
  • Rutgers wide receiver Leonte Carroo is earning just as much praise for his blocking as he does for his catches.
  • Maryland is breaking out some special helmets for its first Big Ten home game.
  • Ohio State is looking forward to welcoming the Terps to the conference.
  • Griffin Oakes has been a threat from long range since high school, and he's already forced Indiana to update its record book.
West Division

College Football Minute

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1


Devin Gardner will start for Michigan, an Ohio State fan gets tackled for a big loss, and Oklahoma's perfect record inside the 10-yard line. It's all ahead in the "College Football Minute."

Big Ten Wednesday mailbag

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
We haven't corresponded in far too long. Let's catch up, shall we?

Brian Bennett: I'm going to East Lansing this weekend and simply cannot wait. This game should be terrific, especially since Nebraska has had more offensive success against Michigan State's defense than anyone else in the Big Ten. The Huskers have a real shot on Saturday night, and I'm expecting a thriller.

In some ways, it could be the biggest game of the year in the conference, because the loser is basically out of the running for the College Football Playoff. But I always think division games are bigger. Whichever team loses this weekend could still get to Indianapolis (perhaps to force a rematch). The Ohio State game may still loom larger for Michigan State because of the division stakes, just as Wisconsin (and possibly Iowa and Minnesota) will for Nebraska. But there might not be a better Big Ten matchup all year then the one on deck at Spartan Stadium.

Brian Bennett: Well, you don't have to look too far back to find successful two-QB systems in the Big Ten. Northwestern pulled it off during a 10-win season in 2012, while Indiana successfully juggled Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson last year.

So it can work, though in those examples, the two quarterbacks offered different skill sets. C.J. Beathard and Jake Rudock aren't all that dissimilar, though Beathard seems to throw a better deep ball and Rudock is a better scrambler. This will likely be more of a ride-the-hot-hand situation than a strict platoon. That has higher potential to be divisive, but at this point, neither quarterback has really separated himself with consistent play.

Brian Bennett: I'm not sure who said Michigan was a year away, and in fact, I was always skeptical of the Wolverines this year. Still, it's Brady Hoke's fourth year and his roster should be full of his recruits by now. He can make excuses for being young all he wants, and yes, the offensive line is still fairly inexperienced. But look at Ohio State and how many first-year and second-year players are making key contributions.

The biggest knock on Hoke, in my mind, is the lack of player development in Ann Arbor. (Our Tom VanHaaren did a nice job of detailing that here.) The only two players Hoke has recruited who have made an All-Big Ten team are Blake Countess and Devin Funchess, who were both second-team selections in 2013, and outside of Funchess, none would make an All-Big Ten team if the season ended today. That's way too low of a number for Michigan.

Disrespected Husker Fan from Lincoln writes: Can you explain the reasoning for everybody keeping Nebraska so low in the polls despite their undefeated record? McNeese State would beat Kansas by two touchdowns.

Brian Bennett: I'm not sure comparing yourself to Kansas is the best way to earn respect. While it would be foolish to get hung up on meaningless polls, I do think Nebraska is ranked curiously low right now at 5-0. That's because, in my opinion, of two factors: 1. People still remember that close call with McNeese State (a team, by the way, that is ranked No. 5 in the FCS); and 2. Voters still have a healthy distrust for the Cornhuskers because of their stumbles in big games the past few years.

There's no reason to fret about it, however. If Nebraska manages to win this weekend, it will make a huge leap in the polls. More importantly, the committee will have to consider a 6-0 Huskers team very seriously. An unbeaten Big Ten champion would almost certainly get into the playoff.

Brian Bennett: If Indiana's recent pattern continues, the Hoosiers probably will lose to North Texas and then beat Iowa. The win at Missouri stands as the most inexplicable result in the Big Ten thus far. Obviously, beating the Mean Green this week is crucial for Kevin Wilson's team, which then must find three more victories in Big Ten play. Indiana will be favored to beat Purdue at home in the finale, so there's one. The other three best options appear to be at reeling Michigan on Nov. 1, at home against Penn State (whom the Hoosiers beat last year in Bloomington) on Nov. 8 and at Rutgers on Nov. 15.

But until Wilson's team can find some consistency from week to week on both sides of the ball, I'll believe it when I see it.


Michigan to start Devin Gardner

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1

Michigan coach Brady Hoke, who moved Devin Gardner back into the starting quarterback role Wednesday, said he takes responsibility for communication issues that allowed Shane Morris to return to the field on Saturday after he showed symptoms of a concussion.

Hoke, however, reiterated that it's not his decision to determine when players are healthy enough to play. He declined to clear up any discrepancies between his account of the weekend's events and a statement released by athletic director Dave Brandon at 1 a.m. Tuesday.

"When you're a leader you have to take responsibility," Hoke said. "I take responsibility for our student-athletes, and I take it for their health and welfare."

Gardner, a redshirt senior, will start at quarterback against Rutgers on Saturday night. He had started 16 consecutive regular-season games before last week.

Morris, who suffered a high ankle sprain in addition to the head injury Saturday, wasn't listed by Hoke as an option for the Rutgers game.

Hoke and his players are the only members of the Michigan athletic department to date who have fielded questions about what Brandon called a "serious lack of communication" in a written statement. Hoke said he still has a strong relationship with his boss and that he isn't bothered by the statement.

"This is a big family, this university is. That's the way we look at it," Hoke said. "The statement itself is what we stand by."

(Read full post)

Michigan coach Brady Hoke is in his fourth season, but the Wolverines find themselves starting just one senior on offense and feature a variety of players yet to solidify their starting roles.

Hoke has said this is a young team and attributes that fact to some of the woes on the field.

While youth can be a factor in some cases, one Big Ten assistant says it shouldn’t be an excuse for why a team isn’t performing, or why players aren’t developing.

“I’m not sure anyone can use the excuse of a young team,” the coach said. “It’s the coaches’ job to get players ready to play. If they don’t have experience, then you have to minimize what you ask [the players] to do.”

To understand Michigan’s situation, we take a look at the past recruiting classes, how the players have developed and how the results compare to their biggest rival.

Class of 2011

Hoke was hired in January 2011, so he and his staff only had a month to add any pieces to the 2011 class before national signing day. Hoke and his assistants added several prospects to this class, and these players are currently either seniors or redshirt juniors.

[+] EnlargeBlake Countess
AP Photo/Tony DingBlake Countess is one of just five players from Michigan's 2011 recruiting class who have blossomed into solid contributors.
Total commits: 19
ESPN 300 commits: 0

Solid contributors (5): Brennen Beyer, Blake Countess, Frank Clark, Desmond Morgan, Raymon Taylor

Players who left early (7): Thomas Rawls, Chris Barnett, Tony Posada, Chris Rock, Antonio Poole, Greg Brown, Tamani Carter

Outcome: With seven players leaving before graduating, that was a huge blow to depth and the current roster. Only having five of 19 commitments develop to their potential didn’t help, either.

Class of 2012

This was Hoke’s first full class, and those players are now either juniors or redshirt sophomores. These prospects have had three years in Hoke’s system and ideally should be the big contributors for the program.

Total commits: 25
ESPN 300 commits: 4

Solid contributors (5): Devin Funchess, Jehu Chesson, Willie Henry, Joe Bolden, Jarrod Wilson.

Jury is still out (4): Amara Darboh, Dennis Norfleet, Chris Wormley, James Ross.

Comparison: Ohio State’s 2012 class had 25 commits as well, and eight of those prospects turned into solid, consistent contributors. Urban Meyer was hired in November 2011, so this was partially his first class.

Outcome: You could make the argument that there is still time left for these players to develop. Time is running out, though, and having only five of 25 playing up to their expected potential from this class is not good for the roster.

Class of 2013

This was Hoke’s second recruiting class at Michigan and it was loaded with talent. This class is now redshirt freshmen and sophomores, so it’s hard to fully judge these prospects as they still have plenty of football ahead of them.

Total commits: 27
ESPN 300 commits: 15

Solid contributors (5): Derrick Green, Jake Butt, Jourdan Lewis, Delano Hill, Taco Charlton.

Jury’s out (5): David Dawson, Patrick Kugler, Chris Fox, Mike McCray, Ben Gedeon.

Comparison: Ohio State’s 2013 class was Meyer’s first full class and 11 of the 24 commitments are already solid, consistent contributors. This is impressive, as these players are still relatively young. Having that many young contributors has helped accelerate Meyer’s plan for the Buckeyes and turned them into Big Ten title and College Football Playoff contenders.

Outcome: Michigan’s recruiting classes have improved as time has gone on, but it might be too late. The 2011 and 2012 classes were where the Wolverines needed the most help with Hoke’s transition, and whether it was lack of development or some other reason, those players haven’t provided much production. Prospects from the 2013 and 2014 classes have started to take over as the majority of the impact players for the Wolverines.

Class of 2014

This was Hoke’s best class yet, with a five-star commit and 10 prospects ranked as four-stars. Injuries have hampered a few prospects from making a real impact, but it is clear that the younger players are already pushing for time on the field.

Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 9

Solid contributors: Mason Cole, Bryan Mone.

Comparison: Ohio State had 23 commitments in its 2014 class with 11 ESPN 300 prospects. The Buckeyes are seeing results from Curtis Samuel, Raekwon McMillan, Sean Nuernberger and Erick Smith. The Buckeyes have five true freshmen in the two-deep, so they are again getting production from the younger players.

Outcome: Jabrill Peppers, Drake Harris and a few other prospects have dealt with injuries, preventing them from consistently contributing. By all accounts, Peppers should be on the field when healthy and this class already has one starter in Cole along the offensive line. It’s too early to tell how these prospects will pan out, but it is looking as though there will be some good players from this class.

Big Ten morning links

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
It's already October, and some teams will reach the halfway point of their schedules by the end of the weekend. Time flies when you're having fun or protesting to oust your athletic director.

  • Michigan remains on the front page, rather than the sports page, for the way it handled quarterback Shane Morris' concussion and the hit's aftermath. Students and alumni marched to the university president's house to ask that athletic director Dave Brandon be removed from his post. The biggest authority figures on campus doled out written statements Tuesday, leaving head coach Brady Hoke and his players to answer all the questions that follow. A member of Congress got involved, but the Big Ten said it won't penalize Michigan for failing to follow the conference's head injury protocol. This is growing into a problem that doesn't appear will wash away with the next news cycle.
  • [+] EnlargeAmeer Abdullah
    Eric Francis/Getty ImagesNebraska's Ameer Abdullah is getting plenty of Heisman Trophy consideration already.
    Ameer Abdullah sprinted forward in the Heisman Trophy chase this week after churning out another 200-yard performance Saturday against Illinois. The Alabama native is now behind only Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and Georgia running back Todd Gurley, according to the oddsmakers in Vegas. Abdullah jumped from a 25-1 candidate to a 9-1 candidate in a week. He could launch himself into the frontrunner spot with another standout performance and a victory over Michigan State in East Lansing this Saturday.
  • It's been a good start to the week for second-string quarterbacks around the Big Ten. Iowa announced its former backup, C.J. Beathard, will split time with Jake Rudock in a platoon system moving forward. Maryland's Caleb Rowe received a big vote of confidence from his head coach while challenging C.J. Brown for playing time. And lastly, Wisconsin veteran Joel Stave, who began the season with 19 career starts, has battled through the mental block that kept him on the sideline during September.

Read about all those quarterback happenings and more, in this morning's edition of the links:

East Division
West Division

  • A Cornhuskers offensive line that has steadily improved this season faces its toughest test to date against the Spartans.
  • The Illini offense has been more explosive this season, but it’s also imploding just as frequently.
  • Iowa plans to move to a two-quarterback system with C.J. Beathard and Jake Rudock for the rest of the season.
  • Minnesota fans can get a closer look at the Little Brown Jug now that it’s back in the Gophers possession for the first time since 2005.
  • Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave has put his September case of the yips behind him this week.
  • Rob Ennis, a running back prospect committed to Purdue, faces aggravated assault charges after punching a female classmate in the nose during a school beauty pageant.
  • Northwestern’s win over Penn State on Saturday gave its players a rare chance to celebrate this season.

Early Offer: Why MSU going big in 2015 

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
What happens when you have a large senior class about to graduate? You target a large recruiting class like Mississippi State is in 2015. Michigan’s recruiting remains in chaos, as another Wolverine commit is having second thoughts.


The Ohio State marching band performed a tribute to the "Wizard of Oz" on the classic film's 75th anniversary. The Buckeyes turned the Wicked Witch of the West into their rival, Michigan.

University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel has asked for a "thorough review" of the school's in-game player safety procedures following the controversy surrounding quarterback Shane Morris' head injury.

In his first public comments on the situation, Schlissel issued a statement Tuesday afternoon expressing "extreme disappointment" in how the Wolverines coaches and medical staff handled the injury to Morris in Saturday's loss to Minnesota. Morris was left in the game despite appearing woozy from a shot to the head and was later put back in the game for one play. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon acknowledged in his own statement early Tuesday morning that Morris had suffered a mild concussion..

Schlissel said he has been in "regular discussion" Brandon and the school's board of regents about the incident and wants the athletic department to provide him and other campus leaders with detailed injury and safety procedures. Those protocols will also be reviewed by experts from Michigan's medical system, he said.

"Despite having one of the finest levels of team medical expertise in the country, our system failed on Saturday," Schlissel said in the statement. "We did not get this right and for this I apologize to Shane, his family, his teammates, and the entire Michigan family. It is a critical lesson to us about how vigilant and disciplined we must always be to ensure student-athlete safety. As president, I will take all necessary steps to make sure that occurs and to enforce the necessary accountability for our success in this regard."

Schlissel has been Michigan's president since July. He was previously the provost at Brown.

Brandon outlined two changes Michigan will make immediately.

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Conference call: Best of the Big Ten

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
Brady Hoke's call was a focus this week, as he spoke for the first time since the 12:52 a.m. Tuesday news release regarding student-athlete welfare. We offered a brief overview there but, as always, we included highlights throughout the conference.

By the way, if you’re not following us, what are you waiting for? Follow along at @ESPNRittenberg, @BennettESPN, @ESPNJoshMoyer, @DanMurphyESPN, @MitchSherman and @AWardESPN.

Rally, petition target Michigan AD

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Students and fans flooded the front lawn of University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel's on-campus house Tuesday night, demanding the school get rid of athletic director Dave Brandon.

A few hundred protesters gathered at the school's nearby Diag -- a popular outdoor meeting place on campus -- at 6 p.m. and marched the short distance to the president's house a half-hour later. Craig Kaplan, an undergraduate senior, stood on the home's front steps and led chants with a bullhorn as the rally wound down shortly before 7 p.m.

"Michigan has a special place in my heart," said Kaplan, who played a role in organizing the protest. "The fact that it's been mismanaged like this hurts me deeply as a student, as a fan, just as a person that cares about this university. It makes me upset how students have been handled and how the culture at Michigan has changed."

The protest came in the wake of Brandon and Schlissel acknowledging that the athletic department made mistakes while dealing with quarterback Shane Morris' head injury during Saturday's 30-14 loss to Minnesota in Ann Arbor.

Brandon said a "serious lack of communication" on the Michigan sideline Saturday allowed Morris to return to the field after showing symptoms of a concussion. The incident and the way Brandon and his employees handled its aftermath have led to a large group of Michigan supporters to call for his ouster. More than 9,000 students, staff members and alumni have backed Brandon's removal in an online petition started by a graduate student Monday night.

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College Football Minute
Devin Gardner will start for Michigan, an Ohio State fan gets tackled for a big loss, and Oklahoma's perfect record inside the 10-yard line. It's all ahead in the "College Football Minute."