National Signing Day came and went with Michigan making a huge late-minute splash, adding four-star safety Demar Dorsey from Lauderdale Lakes, Fla. The 6’1″, 175lb. star originally committed to Florida before backing out and eventually choosing the Wolverines, giving Michigan a very solid safety class.
Who are the rest of the high school seniors that round out the class? Here’s a breakdown by position, starting with the offense (defense to follow soon):
Hometown: Detroit, Mich. (Inkster)
Rivals Ranking: #1 dual-threat QB (4-star)
Scout Ranking: #5 overall QB (5-star)
ESPN Ranking: #5 overall QB (4-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Purdue, Oregon, Nebraska, Michigan State, West Virginia, Iowa, Cincinnati.
How He Fits In: Gardner is the ideal quarterback for Rich Rodriguez’s system. He’s a big, strong, fast, and athletic dual-threat quarterback that has a chance to be an absolute star in Ann Arbor by the time his career is over. The biggest improvement needed is his passing game. He has a strong arm, but needs to develop the stamina to last a full season. A red-shirt is almost guaranteed for Gardner, and with a year of practice and strength and conditioning under his belt, should factor into the starting quarterback race in 2011. Gardner enrolled at Michigan in January and will participate in spring ball, giving Michigan three solid quarterbacks on the roster to push each other.
Hometown: Spartanburg, SC (Spartanburg)
Rivals Rank: NR (3-star)
Scout Rank: #60 QB (3-star)
ESPN Rank: #92 Athlete (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Wake Forest, Duke, Stanford, Syracuse
How He Fits In: Jones gives Rodriguez a second dual-threat quarterback in the class, though he could move to defensive back because of the three quarterbacks ahead of him (Tate Forcier, Denard Robsinon, and Gardner). He’s an athletic guy with a great body frame for both quarterback and defensive back. Ideally, he’ll start out as Michigan’s fourth quarterback until Gardner is up-to-speed, and then look for a change of position to utilize his athleticism.
|Running Backs (2)|
Hometown: Flower Mound, Texas (Marcus)
Rivals Ranking: NR (3-star)
Scout Ranking: #52 RB (3-star)
ESPN Ranking: #50 RB (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Texas A&M, Kansas, Stanford, Kansas State, SMU
How He Fits In: Hopkins is a big back that isn’t the typical scat back preferred by Rodriguez, but fits the mold of departing tailback Brandon Minor. Hopkins will join the stable of backs competing for the starting job and in time could give Rodriguez a solid power back to complement the smaller guys. He probably will never be the go-to guy, but gives Rodriguez a short-yardage bruiser. He also enrolled at Michigan in January and will have a semester of workouts under his belt when fall camp begins.
Hometown: Livonia, Mich. (Stevenson)
Rivals Ranking: #10 All-purpose back (3-star)
Scout Ranking: #15 RB (4-star)
ESPN Ranking: #77 RB (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Michigan State, Illinois, LSU, Wisconsin, Iowa, Purdue
How He Fits In: White also enrolled at Michigan in January and fits into a position group in which Michigan has plenty of, thus a redshirt is virtually guaranteed. He’s the type of back that Rodriguez likes — versatile and quick — and can catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s kind of a Reggie Bush type of player (not saying he’ll have the type of career Bush did at USC) who can line up in the backfield, in the slot, catch passes out of the backfield, etc.
|Wide Receivers (4)|
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Mich. (Huron)
Rivals Ranking: NR (3-star)
Scout Ranking: #79 WR (3-star)
ESPN Ranking: #39 WR (4-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Florida, LSU, Minnesota, Louisville, Iowa, Nebraska, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas
How He Fits In: Jackson is the son of long-time Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson. He has great size for an outside receiver and his solid hands and route running more than make up for his lack of elite speed. Jackson should be a reliable possession receiver for Michigan in the years to come. Like Gardner, Hopkins, and White, Jackson enrolled at Michigan in January to get a semester of weights and practice under his belt.
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Mich. (Pioneer)
Rivals Ranking: #66 WR (3-star)
Scout Ranking: #27 WR (4-star)
ESPN Ranking: #27 WR (4-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Florida, South Florida, Tennessee, Stanford, Central Florida, Miami, LSU
How He Fits In: Miller is a big wide receiver with great versatility. Originally from Florida, Miller moved to Ann Arbor prior to last season in order to finish his high school career near the U of M. His combination of size and speed could make Miller a No. 1 receiver at Michigan in a couple of years. Also enrolling at Michigan in January, Miller has a chance to see the field next season as Michigan’s fourth or fifth receiver while he continues to develop his route running and hands.
Hometown: Canton, Ohio (Canton South)
Rivals Ranking: #48 WR (3-star)
Scout Ranking: #41 WR (3-star)
ESPN Ranking: #99 WR (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Cincinnati, Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue, Pittsburgh
How He Fits In: Robinson is a great athlete with a very lanky frame, great hands, and superb route running. The Ohio native was offered a scholarship from Ohio State late, but he was alredy committed to Michigan. Also enrolling at Michigan in January, Robsinon has a shot at seeing the field next season. He would do well to add some muscle, but his quickness and ability to go up and get the ball in space should earn him some playing time.
Hometown: Warren, Ohio (Harding)
Rivals Ranking: NR (3-star)
Scout Ranking: NR (2-star)
ESPN Ranking: #54 WR (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Illinois, West Virginia, Kansas, Indiana
How He Fits In: Williamson is the flier of the class. He hails from the school that produced former Wolverines Mario Manningham, Prescott Burgess, and Desmond Howard. His blazing speed (he won the Ohio state track championship with a 10.82 in the 100-meters during his junior year) complement the rest of Michigans receiver class. He’s a converted running back and is still working to develop his pure receiving skills, but his speed and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect. He’s the only receiver in the class not enrolling early, so he’ll have some catching up to do and will most certainly redshirt.
|Slot Receivers (1)|
Hometown: Greenwell Springs, La. (Parkview Baptist)
Rivals Ranking: #73 Athlete (3-stars)
Scout Ranking: #101 WR (3-stars)
ESPN Ranking: #138 Athlete (3-stars)
Chose Michigan Over: Stanford, Virginia, Northwestern, Tulane
How He Fits In: Dileo is small and reminiscent of former Michigan running back Sam McGuffie, who played one season and then transferred to Rice. His quickness and ability to return kicks will allow him to challenge for playing time in Michigan’s return game, especially if he proves he can catch the ball. He won’t factor into the offense for a year or two, playing behind Martaveous Odoms, Kelvin Grady, and Terrence Robinson while he learns the offense, but the hope is that he turns into a Wes Welker-type player.
|Offensive Linemen (1)|
Hometown: Avon Lake, Ohio (Avon Lake)
Rivals Ranking: #7 C (3-star)
ESPN Ranking: #13 Offensive Guard (3-star)
Chose Michigan Over: Pittsburgh, Michigan State, Louisville, Florida State, NC State
How He Fits In: Pace will undoubtedly redshirt next season, as most offensive linemen do to bulk up and get acclimated to college football. A very strong lineman for his small stature, Pace excels at run blocking, which is nice for Rodriguez’s system. He should have a few years to bulk up and learn the system before seeing the field when current starting center David Molk graduates.
Although Rodriguez signed just 10 players on the offensive side of the ball in this class, those who signed filled needs and complement one another well. The biggest commit was definitely Gardner, who will be Michigan’s quarterback of the future—the only question is when.
Rodriguez does not want to start a true freshman quarterback again, so Gardner will most likely redshirt, allowing Forcier to man the position for a second straight year. In 2011, Gardner will compete for the starting job and could supplant Forcier, since he’s bigger and more athletic.
The addition of Hopkins adds a big back to go along with Michigan’s wealth of small guys and replace Minor and Kevin Grady.
The four outside receivers were probably a bit much for one class, but will provide depth at the position to help stretch the field for the slot ninjas. Dileo is one of the slot ninjas and will give Michigan a true return man, which it has lacked in the past couple of years.
The only position that suffered in this class was the offensive line. Rodriguez signed just three offensive linemen in 2009 and runs the danger of a ridiculously thin position group in a couple of years. The current junior and senior classes are fairly solid, but Rodriguez really needed more than one commit in 2010.
There’s still the tiniest sliver of hope out there for Seantrel Henderson, the nation’s top recruit, who verbally committed to USC, but won’t sign until he finds out about the impending NCAA penalties the program faces. But Henderson reportedly isn’t even considering Michigan (his top five outside of USC were Miami, Florida, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Minnesota). Unless Rodriguez can replicate the magic he used on Dorsey, Henderson isn’t coming anywhere near Ann Arbor.
Overall, it’s a small offensive class, but solid nonetheless. If Rodriguez had gotten more offensive linemen to provide depth at the position, it would have been a good one. Because of that, I’m giving the class a C+.