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Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Michigan's Hoke off to fast start again

By Chantel Jennings

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Brady Hoke has proven there’s something to the mantra about getting out to a fast start, especially when it comes to recruiting. He and his staff don’t like signing day surprises and really don’t like any kind of surprises even in the months leading up to signing day, either.

This opinion -- like much between the programs -- stands in strong opposition to Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who’s a notoriously strong closer and whose 2014 recruiting class currently ranks 12 spots behind Michigan at this point in the game.

Brady Hoke
Will Michigan coach Brady Hoke finish what he started on the recruiting trail?
But it’s Hoke’s mentality on quick starts and no signing day surprises that brought him two top-10 classes in his first three seasons at Michigan (as well as his 2013 class debuting at No. 1), and has his 2014 class atop the rankings currently as well.

However, this is the first year that Hoke might have issues putting together the rest of his class. But they’re the kind of issues that coaches -- if they must have issues -- hope for. They are problems of abundance.

With just about 16 spots in the 2014 class and already 11 commits with eight months to go until signing day, Hoke is approaching the point in which he might soon have to figure out whether he can afford to take five-star defensive end and No. 4 prospect Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) as well as the state’s top defensive lineman, Malik McDowell (Detroit/Loyola).

If Hoke takes four along the line (those two, in addition to two early four-star D-line commits) then numbers would have to change elsewhere. And that could come in the secondary, where Michigan has an abundance of talent, especially following the verbal from No. 1 CB Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic). Peppers is the only top-10 prospect in 2014 who has committed this early, but he said there was no reason to wait because he compared every other school to Michigan, and he was comfortable to commit early.

But other defensive backs such as five-star Adoree’ Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra), four-star Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) or four-star John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Polytechnic) might find themselves as the odd man out. They could commit too early, and if they’re not No. 1 on Michigan’s DB board, they could be put into a holding pattern, or if they wait too long and other players commit ahead of them, they could be left out in the cold.

There’s no recipe for how to accumulate a class early, and there are other schools that are known more for their closing powers than how they open, but one trick that has seemed to help Hoke is that in both the 2013 and 2014 classes, he has had a player assisting him in the recruitment process.

In the 2013 class, quarterback Shane Morris (Warren, Mich./De La Salle) committed in May of his sophomore year, almost two years before he’d sign a national letter of intent. He was vocal at camps and on Twitter with other recruits and helped Michigan pick up early commitments from Dymonte Thomas and Jourdan Lewis (Detroit/Cass Tech), two of the class’ top four players.

In the 2014 class, Michael Ferns (Saint Clairsville, Ohio/Saint Clairsville) committed during the early fall of his junior year, nearly a year and a half before he’d sign his letter of intent. And he took recruiting to a different level, creating T-shirts for each commitment and facilitating visits.

These early commitments from top players in both classes definitely helped Hoke create a foundation for each class, but it has also brought him to the problem he has today: What do you do when you might have too much of a good thing?

With only five more spots left in the class, Hoke might not have too much more time to figure that out. He leaves the rest of the country and all of his rivals wondering if he can finish as well as he started.