Smooth Sailing [Feb. 5, 2006]
I'll write it again: Don't Panic. This is probably the most fitting mantra that Wolverine football fans will have to rely upon this coming year. Especially considering the events that transpired on signing day.
Despite my tepid obsession with Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, I never did experience the pleasure of seeing the movie until just recently. Shortly after the end credits rolled and somewhere between the many animated readings from the Guide my muse awoken and enlightened me with my next column for the site, or shall I say the very column you are now reading. Thank you Marvin for the following:
“I told you this would all end in tears. ”
For those of you who are lost, I will get you up to speed as quick as I can. Marvin is a manically depressed robot - he hates his job, feels underappreciated, and generally seems more content to sulk about it rather than try to improve his condition. If this sounds familiar to you, it will, most Michigan football fans know Marvin better as Classic* [see editor's note on the mainpage].
The context of the quote in the movie, and in the book, is inconsequential to this column, although I implore you to at least rent the movie if you don't want to invest a week of your life to reading the inaptly named trilogy of the same name. However, the context of this quote is very pertinent to the Michigan football program at this very moment in time.
The moment it's most reflective upon is signing day: Feb. 1, 2006. If this is any indication of how our season will play out this year, then we have nothing more than disappointment to look forward to. Not to take away from some of the other recruits who verballed to the U, the main disappointment came in the form of Jai Eugene. He was supposed to be our best defensive recruit since Woodson (my apologies Markus Curry), but alas, it was not meant to be as he renegged to go to LSU and its coach Les Miles in order to be closer to home.
This was not to be outdone by my scariest moment of signing day. Doing the math and subtracting one for Eugene, Mr. Classic only receivied 18 letters at the appointed time, and the missing letter belonged to Bryan Wright. The Bryan Wright. The kicker from Salem, OH, Bryan Wright. A kicker from Ohio had not sent his letter of intent in yet. This was not good. Did Ohio State steal him back? Did he break his leg in three places that he could no longer kick and was now brought down to the level of Garret Rivas? Did he decide not to pursue an illustrious career in field goal kicking to pursue a career in soccer?
The answer to all of those questions came hours later, when the facts came in - and the fax came in as well. The fax was his signed letter of intent, phew and the facts are it was simply delayed in arrival, phew. I hate to admit it, but before this letter came in, I forgot my mantra and panicked. Silly me, I should be used to this *ahem* by now - this is Classic we're talking about.
My esteemed colleague and I have been under the firm belief that Classic is an outstanding recruiter, which is our one qualm with trying to fit him into a container more fitting for tuna fish. However, with this last recruiting season officially in the books my stance has changed.
Now I firmly believe it is the mystique of our program that does the recruiting, along with the assistants not named Malone or Herrmann and oddly one named Moeller. Coincidence? I think not. How else could one explain the following list of recruits:
In my brief research I can only directly attribute two of these recruits as jewels in Mr. Classic's crown: Bryan Wright and Carlos Brown. On the other hand, Bryan Wright should've been a no-brainer to any coach at any school, especially when your current kicker makes commentators think your kick was blocked and not the horrible shank it actually was (my apologies Garrett Rivas).
That leaves Carlos Brown with my red-headed stepchild psuedo-award. After watching his highlight reel courtesy of Rivals.com (you need a subscription to access the clips, but trust me, it's worth it) I can only drool at watching clips of B.J. Askew version 2.0. Much like Askew, Brown appears to be a sturdy, reliable, bruising back; however, he appears to have more speed then Askew, which is where my drooling comes in. I can't fault Classic on his unending stable of running backs, his only problem is where do you find time for all these guys to see the ball.
Add in the fact that we're getting the top wide receiver recruit from Florida, how we stole him from the big three down there is beyond me, but I get a little less foggy after reading that Malone is not coming back [see related article @ detnews.com]. One can only wonder what this new offense will do with the talents of Breaston, Manningham, Dutch, Arrington and Mathews. I can see us red-shirting Mathews because of who's ahead of him on the depth chart, be we are sort of lacking that big physical receiver we like to have and Mathews seems to fit that bill. Just something to think about.
All in all, the class looks solid. Especially since we found three top-notch offensive lineman who should help stabilize a position wrought with injuries. On the defensive side of the ball, despite the loss of Eugene, we got a big physical DB in Mouton, who looks like he could really give receivers fits with his size. Yet, it is Steve Brown who has me drooling more with his speed and instincts in coverage - my only qualm with him is that we should look to add some plays to get him the ball on offense and take advantage of his 4.39 speed.
Furthermore, we've appeared to restock the defensive front seven quite well with big bodies up front and brusing, athletic linebackers like home-grown stud Graham. The more I look at this list, the more success I see for us in 2007, when Graham will have the experience to start in the middle as a sophomore and be able to strike fear into those opposing offenses we will see that year.
Despite what looks to be one of our deepest recruiting classes at linebacker and overall a generally successful class of recruits, we failed to add significant depth at quarterback since Gutierrez left for Idaho State. No offense to David Cone, but we seem a little thin at QB and Henne's not getting any younger. Furthermore, we don't really have a standout offensive playmaker nor a proven shutdown corner, but who knows, with the right coaching (fingers crossed) they could develop into that in no time. Then again, didn't everybody say the same thing about Gabe Watson?
Furthermore, when you stack up our class with the rest of Nation, in most polls we place behind Penn State, Ohio State (look, another stat in which Tressel owns Classic), and Notre Dame. Additionally, we're barely in front of such powerhouse programs as SEC perennial favorites: Ole Miss and Clemson, not to mention Pac-10 perennial leaders like Arizona, California and UCLA. Oh wait, I'm not talking about basketball. What the heck, Arizona is just behind us? Didn't these guys go 3-8 last year? Yes, yes they did.
Congratulations, Classic, you managed to barely out-recruit a 3-8 football team. Aren't we supposed to be an elite program? Don't answer that.
So, where does this trip down recruiting lane leave us? Well, obviously we're still chasing Tressel for the best recruits, but at least we beat him to the state's best kicker. Stick that in your eye, Jimbo.
Despite all this promise, I can't quite shake the fact that we may have Gabe Watson Sydrome, or maybe it should be named Classic Underdevelopment Syndrome. A disease classified by the continual underdevelopment of top-notch prospects into legit college impact players and future NFLers. For that reason, and the fact that Bryan Wright's fax almost got lost, I will seek counsel from the cover of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: