If Michigan is down in the doldrums after a disappointing 7-5 football season - its worst record since Bo Schembechler went 6-6 in 1984 - then the spirits of the Wolverines' faithful should pick up next week when the new crop of Michigan players is announced.
Michigan has oral commitments from at least 17 high schoolers - and three of them are regarded among the top 10 in the nation at their position by recruiting watchdog Scout.com's experts.
"What Michigan has done is put together its best recruiting class in years," said Duane Long, who monitors recruiting in the Midwest for Scout.com, an affiliate of Fox Sports.
"Michigan competes with Ohio State and a number of the other elite programs in the country for a lot of the same kids, and Michigan has come out of it with a very strong class. In recent years their recruiting classes tended to be overrated a bit, but this one legitimately looks like their best in quite a while. They really solidified their core, and added much-needed speed."
Long cited cornerback Jai Eugene from Louisiana, generally regarded as the top high school player at his position in the country, and Marques Slocum, a behemoth of a defensive tackle (6-5, 320) from a prep school in New York who was ranked fourth nationally at his position, as examples of how the Wolverines could get well in a hurry, and take some of the heat off coach Lloyd Carr.
"They struggled, and a lot of attention was focused on their defense, so improving the talent on that side of the ball was critical for them," Long said.
"The defense was severely lacking in speed, and they went out and got some. And there was a lot of talk about Lloyd Carr not getting the job done this season, but
I remember when Lloyd Carr had great talent, he won with them."
Long said "immediate impact" might also describe the role of Justin Boren, a huge offensive lineman (6-3, 315) from Pickerington North near Columbus. Snagging him out of the Buckeyes' backyard was not a major coup, because Boren's dad played at Michigan and his mother also comes from the Wolverine state.
"He lives in Ohio State country and Ohio State offered him a scholarship, but because of the strong Michigan ties in his family this is not a big deal," Long said. "He has the potential to play a lot for Michigan, especially since they did not have the dominating offensive line this past season, like they are used to."
The Wolverines have commitments from a trio of running backs, but Long expects two of them to be moved to other positions in Ann Arbor. Michigan has also locked up another massive lineman to bolster the running game - Perry Dorrestein (6-7, 305) from Plainfield, Ill. Carr made it clear at the conclusion of 2005 that he intends to have a stronger running game in the coming season, and that effort could include Boren and Dorrestein.
"I think we all understand that a running game allows you to control the game," Carr said. "When we were able to run the football, that allows you to protect your defense and it allows you to do a lot of things that help you to win. We were very, very average running the football. And I think that always comes back to haunt you. I can guarantee you this spring that becomes an area that we must improve in, and we will."
NCAA regulations forbid Carr from talking about any recruits or potential commitments until Wednesday, the official signing day.
Long expects another recruit, linebacker Brandon Graham from Crockett Vocational in Detroit, to morph into a dominant defensive end once he is in the Wolverines' camp. Graham (6-2, 251) already has size comparable to Michigan's defensive ends.
Kicker Bryan Wright, another Ohioan heading north to Ann Arbor, also has the potential to help Michigan right away, according to Long. Wright had a 60-yard field goal this past season.
"Wright has an exceptionally strong leg, and he could really be something for them," Long said. "While Ohio State has been sending kickers to the NFL, Michigan's haven't burned things up out there, but Wright can change that. He could really be something."
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