NCF Nation: Ricardo Miller

Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges likes what he has to work with this spring. And who wouldn't be excited about Denard Robinson and Fitz Toussaint returning in the backfield as the offensive core?

But like every team, the Wolverines have some issues. One of the key concerns is building a solid two-deep along the offensive line.

"It's a position where we feel good about the kids who are playing," Borges said. "We just need to enhance our depth."

Michigan must replace Rimington Trophy winner David Molk at center, and Ricky Barnum will get the first crack at the gig. Barnum was injured most of last season, and has played left guard in the past.

"He's athletic," Borges said. "Ricky can move. He's really has the profile more of a center. He's smart, he understands who to block and he's played some guard, which should have some carry-over to center. So I think Ricky is going to be fine."

Making up for Molk's leadership might be the toughest task this spring. Borges said Barnum, left tackle Taylor Lewan, and senior guard Patrick Omameh should help pick up the slack in that area.

The starting group up front should be solid, with senior Elliott Mealer taking over at left guard, and Michael Schofield moving to right tackle to replace Mark Huyge. Behind them is a lot of inexperience. Borges said redshirt freshmen Jack Miller and Chris Bryant should contribute. And an incoming freshman like Kyle Kalis has a chance to crack the depth chart.

"We'll see how quick they can pick it up," Borges said.

Another area of concern is tight end, which loses departed seniors Kevin Koger and Steve Watson. Borges said senior Brandon Moore, who has played sparingly, and Ricardo Miller, who's more of a receiving tight end, will get the bulk of the work this spring. But it's a position that remains unsettled.

"We're looking at other kids, and the jury is still out," Borges said. "It's a position where, if a freshman came in and showed something, he could probably make a contribution."

Incoming recruit Devin Funchess could be that guy, though he'll likely need to put on some weight. The Wolverines also signed A.J. Williams as a tight end prospect.

"Seeing who's going to come to the forefront and be our starting tight end this spring, that's huge," Borges said.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Illinois picks up a major commit at tight end, while Penn State bolsters its quarterback position and other teams add key pieces. Here's your latest recruiting rundown in the Big Ten.

ILLINOIS

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Corey Cooper, quarterback Chandler Whitmer, tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz
  • Quick take: Fiedorowicz is a big get for the Illini, who lose starting tight end Michael Hoomanawanui after the 2009 season. Illinois also will be breaking in a new starting quarterback and could lose superstar wideout Arrelious Benn to the NFL draft, so Fiedorowicz should be a big help during the transition.

INDIANA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 9
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: Things have slowed down a bit for the Hoosiers, who are still glowing from the commitment of defensive end Jibreel Black from Cincinnati. Indiana has found a good offense-defense balance so far in the 2010 class.

IOWA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 10
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end Matt Hoch, tackle Andrew Donnal
  • Quick take: Both lines have been the focus of Iowa's recruiting so far, and the Hawkeyes made a big splash with Donnal, who could protect his fellow Ohioan Ricky Stanzi at some point down the line. At least seven of Iowa's commits could contribute on the offensive or defensive lines.

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: The nucleus for Michigan's 2010 class is in place, and the team hasn't added a commit since Courtney Avery on June 20. There are a ton of great athletes in this group, and Michigan likely will turn its attention to line play to wrap up the class.

MICHIGAN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 9
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end William Gholston, linebacker Max Bullough, quarterback Joe Boisture
  • Quick take: After landing its first seven commits from within state borders, Michigan State went into enemy territory -- or Mark Dantonio's home state, depending on how you look at it -- to pick up offensive linemen Travis Jackson and Michael Dennis. The two Ohio natives balance out a class that is shaping up well for the Spartans.

MINNESOTA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 10
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: The Gophers already have a strong in-state recruiting haul, and they went to the southeast for running back Donnell Kirkwood, a workhorse-type back who generated a lot of interest. Minnesota also remains in the mix for arguably the nation's biggest prize, local product Seantrel Henderson.

NORTHWESTERN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 6
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: Pat Fitzgerald should never have a hard time recruiting linebackers, and Northwestern landed a good one -- with a good name -- in Chi Chi Ariguzo from Columbus, Ohio. Ariguzo can also play safety and should contribute on special teams early in his career. Northwestern has yet to land an in-state prospect.

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: A quiet week for the Buckeyes after filling their backfield needs with Smith and quarterback Taylor Graham. Ohio State hopes to go back into Florida for star linebacker Jeff Luc and possibly linebacker Deon Rogers.

PENN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 12
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Wide receiver Adrian Coxson, running back Silas Redd, center Miles Dieffenbach, defensive end Kyle Baublitz, defensive tackle Evan Hailes, quarterback Robert Bolden
  • Quick take: Does Penn State currently have the Big Ten's best recruiting class for 2010? It sure looks that way as Bolden gives the Nittany Lions six watch list commitments out of 12 overall. Both Bolden and Paul Jones should be able to operate effectively in the Spread HD offense.

PURDUE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 7
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Robert Marve (2007 watch list)
  • Quick take: The quality of Purdue's commits seems to be getting better as quarterback Sean Robinson and defensive tackle Josh Davis came aboard. Robinson joins Marve and Caleb TerBush in the quarterback mix, while Davis boasts excellent size (6-foot-5, 250) for a young interior lineman.

WISCONSIN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Frank Tamakloe
  • Quick take: The quarterback position might be a question mark this season, but it's shaping up well for the future as Joseph Brennan committed to the Badgers. Brennan has good mechanics and accuracy, and he should get better with increased strength. Cameron Ontko could be a contributor at fullback or H-back down the line.

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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