- Tom VanHaaren, ESPN Staff Writer
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Quick Hits is a look at the must-know facts for each region in regard to Michigan and its football recruiting efforts. It will give you an idea of the Wolverines’ history in that region, as well as what one can expect from that region over the next few seasons.
1. How many players on Michigan’s roster are currently from the West Coast?
Not very many. Even though Brady Hoke and most of his staff came from San Diego, they didn’t bring too many recruits with them to Ann Arbor. Kicker Matt Wile is a kid who they knew about as SDSU coaches who eventually signed with the Wolverines. Outside of him, offensive linemen Erik Magnuson and Joey Burzynski are the only two West Coasters who might be impact players this season.
2. Which main targets are in that region now?
In the 2014 class, you’ve got No. 2 defensive back Adoree’ Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra), who has expressed some interest in playing with No. 1 defensive back Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic). And athlete John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Polytechnic) might take a visit to Ann Arbor as well. Running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) is another possibility, though a longshot. In the 2015 class, the Wolverines have already offered a West Coast quarterback -- Josh Rosen (Bellflower, Calif./Saint John Bosco), and they’ve shown interest in another -- Kyle Kearns (Pleasanton, Calif./Foothill). Cornerback Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Polytechnic) has also heard from the Wolverines.
3. Which top former players came from the West Coast?
Though his name might not be as recognizable to the average fan, Michigan pulled a top recruit from California near the turn of the 20th century by getting Willie Heston from California’s San Jose Normal, where eventual coach Fielding H. Yost was a volunteer coach. When Yost came to Ann Arbor, so did Heston. During the fullback’s time with the Wolverines, Michigan won four national titles. He became Michigan’s third All-American and though his 72 touchdowns don’t stand as a part of Michigan’s modern era, his total would be 16 greater than the current leader, Anthony Thomas.
Names that might be a bit more common would be Jim Harbaugh or Tom Brady. Harbaugh finished high school in Palo Alto, Calif., but also attended Ann Arbor Pioneer. So while he’s not quite a true Californian, he did technically come from The Golden State. One name that can be considered a true-blooded Californian would be Brady, though. He was born in San Mateo, Calif.
4. What is Michigan’s current presence on the West Coast?
La Mirada high school head coach Mike Moschetti: “The bottom line is kids want to play in BCS bowl games, national championships and get a big-time degree. Michigan has all those and I can’t speak for everyone, but our kids don’t care about the weather. They want to play for big-time programs, and that’s what Michigan is. A school like Michigan, who produces NFL players, has unbelievable support and plays in big games -- that’s what kids want to be a part of. Even when I was in high school in the '90s, Michigan always had a good presence in California, and they still do.”
5. What is Michigan battling by recruiting the West Coat?
The biggest, and most obvious, deterrent would be distance. Prospects can’t just hop in their cars and be on campus in a few hours. If they’re interested in taking an unofficial visit, it’s money out of their own pockets and a full weekend of visit/travel. This makes it difficult for guys to visit more than once, which can often hamper the process. It has also sometimes been hard to convince West Coast kids that the cloudy Ann Arbor skies and Great Lakes are just nice as the California sunshine and Pacific Ocean. Plus, there is a lot of competition for those players and schools such as Oregon, Stanford, USC and UCLA can boast all the sunshine they want as well as a few other selling points, and prospects can visit more than once.
6. Why is it important for Michigan to have success there?
From 2010 to 2014, the West Coast has produced 103 ESPN 150 prospects. This year alone, the area has an impressive crop of skill position players, including the No. 2 cornerback (Jackson), the No. 1 TE-H Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada), the No. 2 QB Keller Chryst (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto) and the Nos. 3 and 7 athletes, Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East) and Smith, respectively. And these are guys who could pan out to the pro level. In the 2013 NFL draft, California alone produced 28 draft picks.
12dMitch Sherman and Josh Moyer