- Tom VanHaaren, ESPN Staff Writer
The Michigan defense has been a question mark the past few seasons to say the least. Dropping in rankings, and without a lot of help along the recruiting trail, it seemed as though the defense had bottomed out. That is until head coach Brady Hoke took over.
Not only did Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison turn around the defense in what seemed like an overnight transformation, Hoke and his staff also made it a point to hit the recruiting trail hard on the defensive side.
They took over at the tail end of the 2011 class and secured cornerback Blake Countess' commitment, also bringing in linebacker Antonio Poole, defensive backs Raymon Taylor and Tamani Carter and defensive ends Frank Clark and Keith Heitzman.
The staff took that momentum through to the 2012 class by bringing in an outstanding defensive class, chock full of linebackers, defensive backs and defensive linemen. All were needed for depth, and some will compete right away for playing time.
That success has continued into the 2013 class as Michigan has five of the six defensive commitments ranked in the top 11 at their respective positions. Those same five, Jourdan Lewis (Detroit/Cass Tech), Gareon Conley (Massilon, Ohio/Washington), Dymonte Thomas (Alliance, Ohio/Marlington), Mike McCray (Trotwood, Ohio/Trotwood-Madison) and Taco Charlton (Pickerington, Ohio/Pickerington Central), are all within the ESPN 150 list.
Michigan has more defensive players on the ESPN 150 this cycle than it had total in the 2012 class, which had four ESPN 150 commits.
The coaching staff has identified the type of player it wants, but more importantly it has gone out and secured those players. Michigan has landed 14 defensive commitments in the 2012 and 2013 class ranked as four-star prospects. The Wolverines only had 11 defensive commitments ranked as four-stars in the previous four classes, and six of those players are no longer with the team.
As the fans saw in the previous season, the emphasis on the defense has helped them improve leaps and bounds. The only question mark now is how much better can this defense get?