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Published: Thursday, 2/7/2013

Meyer, Hoke share knack for recruiting

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

ANN ARBOR — Nothing can or should be taken as gospel on college football’s national signing day, although there are plenty of lowercase “b” bibles available for reference.

Two agencies most dedicated to the recruiting wars are Rivals.com and Scout.com. One had Florida ranked No. 3 and UCLA ninth. The other had UCLA at No. 4 and Florida eighth. Take your pick and hum the fight song.

One thing in which they seemed to be in agreement on Wednesday was that Ohio State’s Class of 2013 is exceptional, as is expected of Urban Meyer. And they agreed, too, that Brady Hoke is a worthy adversary.

Michigan’s 27-player recruiting class was ranked sixth by Rivals while OSU and UM landed 1-2 on Scout’s list.

“I know people work hard at it,” Hoke said of the rankings, “but to be dead honest, I don’t think we put a whole lot of stock in all that.”

But of course he does.

When Ohio State hired Meyer after the 2011 season he brought a monster reputation and an aggressive, Southeastern Conference-like recruiting style to the Big Ten, ruffling some feathers in the process.

It was suggested by many that the Buckeyes, under his lead, might run away and hide from the rest of the conference and, sure enough, that 12-0 debut season must have been galling to most foes and opposing fans, none more so than those who don maize and blue.

UM aficionados may not care to hear this, but the Wolverines have not consistently been serious national players in either the recruiting polls or the in-season polls for the past dozen years or so. Over a decade from 2002-11, Michigan had just four top-10 recruiting classes, according to Rivals. By the final year of that stretch UM had even dropped out of the top 20.

So never, perhaps, has it been more important for Michigan’s recruiting class to be stout. Hoke certainly delivered and defined UM’s future offensive approach in the process with some big backs, big linemen, physical tight ends, and wide receivers with speed and size.

Nobody was smiling more than Fred Jackson, a veteran of 20-plus years assisting four different UM head coaches. The running backs coach landed the No. 1 prospect in the country, 220-pound Derrick Green from Richmond, Va., and two other four-star recruits.

A guy who has seen a lot of highs and occasional lows at UM, Jackson knew just how important this class, the second top-10 group in as many years for Hoke, may prove to be.

“I think it’s critical,” Jackson said. “You can’t take 24 guys and say you’ve built a team. You have to add another, so that you have 48 guys to build a team. Then you add another group, and so forth. You build a core. Realistically, how many great players can you get? When you go back-to-back, maybe even beyond that, then you have a better chance to be really good.”

UM got the top quarterback from its home state, some awfully good defensive players from the Buckeye state (nine Ohioans in all, a flashback to the Bo days), plucked 22 of its 27 recruits from what would be considered the Big Ten’s footprint, and cherry-picked some top talents from other regions.

Hoke didn’t bat an eye when asked if he could parlay that approach to competing against the powerhouse teams of the SEC and elsewhere, not to mention the Big Ten team some 3½ hours to the south.

“No question,” he said. “This is all competition. We live our lives in competition. We always want to be leaders and the best. This is the type of class we want on a year-to-year basis.”

If you want to play with them, you have to recruit with them. Hoke certainly seems up to that challenge.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398



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