football

In search of a few good Michigan men

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RIVALSMICHIGANSITES:UofM|MSU|CMU
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Warren(Mich.)DeLaSallequarterbackShaneMorriswon'tenrollatMichiganuntilthenextcalendaryear,buthealreadyispartoftheteaminatleastonerespect.
CallhimtheWolverines'unofficialchiefarearecruiter.
Morris,theNo.16overall2013prospect,announcedlastspringthathewouldplayforMichiganandthusbecametheWolverines'firstcommitmentinhissigningclass.Eversince,hehasconstantlycommunicatedwithMichiganprospects,particularlythosewithinhishomestate.
Hehasn'ttakenasinglesnapfortheWolverines,yethehasplayedamajorroleinhelpingMichiganland14verbalcommitmentsfor2013nearlyayearbeforeNationalSigningDay.Fiveofthose14commitmentshavecomefromMichiganprospects,andonlytwohavebeenfromoutsidetheMidwest.
"I'vebeentalkingtokidsonTwitter,onFacebook,findingoutwhattheirinterestisandwhenthey'regoingtovisit,"saidMorris,wholivesabout45minutesfromMichigan'scampus."MaybeItrytogetupthereforavisitwhenthey'revisitingandtalktothem.Iconsidermyselfarecruiter."
Michiganneededallthehelpitcouldgetinthatregard.
AlookatthelastfivesigningclassesforeachofMichigan'stwoBigTenprogramsshowsthatonly21.2percentoftheplayerstosignwiththeWolverinesoverthelastfiveyearscamefromMichigan.Overthatsametimeframe,in-stateresidentshavemadeup42.3percentofMichiganState'ssignees.Coincidentalornot,MichiganStatehaswoneachofitslastfourmeetingswithitsin-staterival.
Inhisintroductorypressconferenceayearago,MichigancoachBradyHokeemphasizedtheimportanceofwinningmoreofthosein-staterecruitingbattles.
"ThelifebloodofyourrecruitinghastobeintheMidwestandhastobethestateofMichigan,"Hoketoldreporters.
Healreadyhasmadequiteanimpact.
Michigan'stwosigningclassesunderHokeincludedatotalof15in-staterecruits.MichiganStatesignedjustnineguysfromthestateofMichigan(notincludingpreferredwalk-ons)duringthatsamestretch.Michigansignedfourofthestate'stopsix2012prospects,thoughMichiganStatelandedthestate'sNo.1recruitinFarmingtonHills(Mich.)HarrisonwidereceiverAaronBurbridge.
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TheWolverinesalreadyhaveverbalcommitmentsfromfourofthestate'stopfive2013prospects:Morris,NoviDetroitCatholicCentralathleteWyattShallman,DetroitCassTechcornerbackJourdanLewisandCassTechoffensivetackleDavidDawson.TheloneexceptionisMidlandHighoffensivetackleSteveElmer,thestate'sNo.2prospectandaNotreDameverbalcommitment.
"Ijustthinkthedifferenceisthatthey'rejustrecognizingyou'vegottowinwithkidsinthestate,"CassTechcoachThomasWilchersaid."They'rejusttryingtomakesureMichigancomesfirst."
ThatrepresentsamajorchangefromtheapproachofformerMichigancoachRichRodriguez.
Rodriguez,whocametoMichiganinDecember2007afterasuccessfulseven-yearstintatWestVirginia,favoredamorenationalrecruitingplanthatemphasizedareassuchasFloridaaswellastheMidwest.Thatstrategyhaditsbenefits.DenardRobinsonsignedwithMichiganoutofDeerfieldBeach(Fla.)Highandhassincedevelopedintooneofthenation'smostelectrifyingquarterbacks.
[More:WhyCentralMichigandoesitbest]
ButtheWolverinesmayhavelettheirbaseslipawayintheprocess.TheysignedonlyfiveplayersoutofMichiganin2008.TheyaddedjustfourMichiganprospectseachofthenexttwoyears.MichiganStatecapitalizedbysigningatotalof35playersfromthestateduringthosethreeyears,includingformer1,000-yardrusherEdwinBakerandall-BigTendefensiveendWilliamGholston.
"MichiganStatewaswinningballgames,"Rivals.comMidwestrecruitinganalystJoshHelmholdtsaid."Michiganwasn't.MichiganStatekindoftookoverasthehotteaminthestate.Theywerewinningmorerecruitingbattlesin-statewhileRodriguezandhisstaffwereputtingaheavyfocusonotherareas."
Itwasn'tallbecauseofRodriguez.
MichiganStatecoachMarkDantoniomadeaclear-cutefforttorecruitthestateassoonashetookovertheprogramattheendofthe2006season.
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ClickHeretoviewthisLink."MichiganState,theymakeitapriorityeachyeartocomeinandaskaboutthenextrecruitingclass,usuallythenextfewrecruitingclasses,"saidFlintCarman-Ainsworth'sNateWilliams,thecoachof2013MichiganStateverbalcommitmentGeraldHolmesClickHeretoviewthisLink.."Michigan,theycommunicatewithmealso,butit'snotasmuch.ButMichiganStatecomeseveryyear....MichiganStatehasstoppedin,whetherIhavearecruitornot,theycomeandtalktome.IfIdon'thavearecruitforthisclass,they'lltalkaboutthenextyear'sclass."
Hokenowisdoinghisbesttowinbackthestate.
Michiganstartedturningthingsaroundwiththe2012classandisofftooneofthefasteststartsofanyteaminthe2013cycle.Alookatthat2013classunderscorestheemphasisonareaplayers.
"They'rereallyfocusingontheMidwestandaroundthere,"Dawsonsaid."Ithinkthat'sgood.YougettheguyswhogrewupwatchingMichiganandwholikeMichiganalot,andwe'regoingtogoupthereanddoourbesttotryandkeepwinning."
TheearlycommitmentfromMorriswascriticalinestablishingmomentumwithothertopprospectsfromwithinthestateandMidwest.MorrisbelievesgettingalltheseearlycommitmentsfromplayersincloseproximityshouldmakeiteasyforfutureMichiganteamstoestablishchemistry.
"Buildingrelationshipsisaloteasierwhenwe'resoclosetogether,"Morrissaid."That'sdefinitelywhatwe'retryingtodo.We'rebuildingrelationshipsbeforeweevengetoncampus.AtMichigan,we'retryingtobuildahugefamily."
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Michigangotsomanytop2013Midwestandin-stateplayerstocommitalreadythatitnaturallycouldleadtoquestionsaboutMichiganState'sprogress.Inthiscase,however,it'sallamatterofperception.
AlthoughtheSpartansaren'tnearlyasfaralongasMichigan,theydoalreadyhavefourcommitments.Lastyear,theydidn'tgettheirfirstverbalcommitmentuntilApril30.ThelistofMichiganState2013commitmentsisheadlinedbyBloomfield(Mich.)BrotherRicelinebackerandfour-starrecruitJonReschke.
"Whywouldtheybefrustrated?"Helmholdtasked."Theypickeduptworunningbacks,whichisahugeneedforthisclassbecausetheyloseEdwinBaker[whodeclaredfortheNFLDraftafterlastseason]anddon'thavealotofdepthattherunningbackposition.They'vegotafour-starlinebackerandoneoftheirtoptargetsinstate....They'vegotfourcommitments,andtheyallmeetneedsandareallhigh-qualityplayers.
"Ithinkit'sagoodstartforMichiganState.IfyoucompareittowhatMichigan'sdoing,atthispoint,we're11monthsawayfromNationalSigningDay.Youcan'treallycompareclassesatthispoint."
SteveMegargeeisanationalwriterforRivals.com.Hecanbereachedatsmegargee@rivals.com,andyoucanclickheretofollowhimonTwitter.
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