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The perception might still be nationally that Michigan is more of a basketball state than it is a football state. But the past two recruiting classes, highlighted last year by five-star standout Ronald Johnson and running back Jonas Gray in this year's class have helped start to change that way of thinking. Gray, along with others like cornerback Boubacar Cissoko, lead the way in the newly released – and very deep – Rivals.com Michigan top 30.
But Gray, the nation's No. 4 running back is at No. 1 on the list.
Coaches from all over the country are hot after Gray from Detroit Country Day after he rushed for 1,252 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2006. Gray has also run the 100-meters in 10.55 seconds and the 200 in 21.96 seconds. This spring he helped his team win the state track championship. Some have called Gray only a between the tackle runner, but with his sprinters' speed he's more than your typical up the middle runner. He's got the speed to get to the outside and burst up field.
He proved that at the West Lafayette NIKE Training Camp, where he was named MVP for the running backs. If there was an MVP for the entire camp, he would have easily won that award.
Gray continues to work hard to get ready for his senior season. He's also got a bevy of teammates – including linebacker Kenny Demens, who is ranked No. 8 on the list – that should make Country Day one of the top teams in Michigan next year.
"We look phenomenal," Gray said. "We've been working hard in the weight room every morning. We have a new quarterback coming in, and I think he's a very good quarterback. He should lead the offense, and I think he'll do a very good job of leading the offense."
Two Michigan commits come in at No. 2 and No. 3 on the list. Cissoko, a cornerback from Detroit Cass Tech, is at the second spot, followed by Grand Haven, Mich., offensive tackle Dann O'Neill.
Cissoko was a very early welcome present for Wolverine fans. As one of the nation's top lockdown corners, Cissoko pledged to the Michigan back on Feb. 5. He turned down offers from Michigan State, Penn State, Tennessee and Iowa. Despite his 5-foot-8, 171-pound frame, there's no question that he's got the tools to be one of the best defensive backs in the Big Ten.
O'Neill, who is 6-foot-8 and 291 pounds, is a franchise offensive tackle that pledged to the Wolverines back on March 18. He held offers also from Nebraska, Purdue, UCLA and several others.
"The sky is the limit with Dann," Grand Haven coach Mike Farley said. "He's your prototypical NFL left tackle, but that's way down the road. I think he could play the right or left tackle position for Michigan. He fits right in to what Michigan likes to have – those big, tall, lean-type tackles that will continue to grow as they have their years there.
"For a kid his size, I think what really helps him is he runs really well and he's physical for how young he is. We pull him a lot in our tackle trap game. He's able to pull, get down the line of scrimmage and he can either get up through the hole or he can kick out blocks. His footwork is tremendous for a kid his size."
Those players alone would make Michigan truly special as all three are national Rivals100 prospects, but what makes this Michigan class even better is the depth at the top with players like receiver Fred Smith at No. 4, defensive end Nick Perry at No. 5, defensive end Tyler Hoover at No. 6 and defensive tackle Mike Martin at No. 7. All four players are ranked at the four-star level and in the Rivals250.
There's also a solid group of players at the three and two star level. Michigan's already got more than 35 players that have received some sort of Division I scholarship offer and players like Cass Tech running back Cortez Smith, Hillsdale offensive tackle Sean Hooey, Brother Rice running back Caulton Ray and Grand Rapids Catholic Central defensive tackle Jason Harvey all could be future three-star prospects.