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Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Region Series Quick Hits: East

By Chantel Jennings & Tom VanHaaren

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 kids on Michigan’s roster are from the region?

In Brady Hoke’s first few years at Michigan, the East Coast wasn’t a place Michigan had much success. Cornerback Blake Countess is the only real name worth mentioning (also worth mentioning is the fact that he initially committed to Rich Rodriguez). Pulling a kid from a powerhouse school such as Old Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) was a big deal. However, the other East Coast names on Michigan’s roster aren’t the same caliber. However, it seems like they’re making more noise there recently, especially with the commitment of five-star DB Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic). Recent hire Roy Manning has been tasked with much of the East Coast and he seems to be making strides.

2. Which targets are in that region now?

The biggest name would be five-star DE Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) who has Michigan in his top group. If the Wolverines could secure a commitment from Hand, that would be two top-five players in Michigan’s 2014 class (and both players would be from the East Coast). Outside of Hand, running back Jonathan Hilliman (Jersey City, N.J./Saint Peter’s Prep) and wide receiver Saeed Blacknall (Manalapan, N.J./Manalapan) are names to know. In 2015, tight end Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (Manlius, N.Y./Fayetteville-Manlius), son of former player Tyrone Wheatley, picked up an early offer from Michigan.

3. Which top former players came from the region?

Mike Hart
Mike Hart, Michigan's all-time leading rusher, hails from just outside Syracuse, N.Y.
Two of the top rushers in school history are from the East Coast. Running back Jamie Morris (from Massachusetts) set records for the most yards in a season and a career. That career rushing record was broken by New York native Mike Hart, who also set the freshman rushing record.

4. What is Michigan’s current presence in the region?

Cities such as New York and Boston have huge Michigan alumni bases, but as far as the recruiting scene, it hasn’t been quite as strong. It definitely seems to be an area Michigan is focused on going forward, especially by sending Manning into the field there. But in some schools, such as St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, N.J., the Wolverines have had a continued presence over the last few decades. St. Peter’s Prep coach Rich Hansen even remembers former coaches Lloyd Carr and Gary Moeller stopping by the building.

“Michigan has really been strong in our building and our program for a long time,” Hansen said. “But I definitely feel like Michigan has stepped up their game. … I feel all the Big Ten schools have stepped up a little bit.”

But Hansen said specifically Michigan -- especially with Peppers’ and Juwann Bushell-Beatty’s commitments -- has made a point in New Jersey. Hansen, who has been a part of St. Peter’s Prep athletics for several decades, said it’ll be intriguing to see what happens as New Jersey really becomes a part of the Big Ten.

“Michigan is Michigan,” Hansen said. “But it’s going to get interesting as we get into the Big Ten relationship with Rutgers and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see how recruiting evolves here for the Big Ten schools.”

5. What is Michigan battling in the region?

The East Coast is an interesting recruiting ground because there are so many different factors at play. Prospects from New Jersey oftentimes have allegiances to the local school, Rutgers, and end up staying home. The top-tier kids from this region get recruited very hard by programs across the Southeast as well. The mindset for those kids is that they want something new and they want to play in the best conference, so they will often times choose SEC powers. There are some high school coaches who now believe that Rutgers joining the conference will actually hurt the Big Ten schools in the region because their kids want to experience something different.

6. Why is it important for Michigan to have success there?

With the addition of Rutgers and Maryland, the East Coast is now a part of the Big Ten. If the Wolverines want to dominate Big Ten territory then they need to dominate the East Coast recruiting scene. Picking up top recruits such as Peppers shows that Michigan’s reach is growing.