When Derrick Green announced his decision to commit to the Michigan football program, it didn’t just end a guessing game. It may have crystallized some expectations for the future of the Wolverines.
Green, a running back from Henrico, Va., is ranked as a five-star running back by several recruiting Web sites, and Scout.com ranks Michigan’s incoming 2013 class — made up of 27 commitments before the start of Wednesday’s football signing period — as No. 1 in the nation.
Michigan’s incoming class is expected to include quarterback Shane Morris of De La Salle Collegiate High School in Warren, Mich., five-star offensive lineman Patrick Kugler of North Allegheny High School in Wexford, Pa., and six players who have already enrolled this semester at Michigan. Per NCAA regulations, coaches are not permitted to comment on incoming recruits until after they have signed National Letters of Intent.
Allen Trieu, Scout.com’s Midwest recruiting manager and an analyst for the recruiting Web site, said Green’s addition further strengthens Michigan’s stock in the final days of the recruiting chase.
“Crazy things can happen,” Trieu said, “But that essentially seals it — the No. 1 spot.”
Michigan’s likely incoming class, however, is not a consensus No. 1. As of Thursday, Rivals.com ranks Michigan’s 2013 class sixth, while ESPN ranks its 2013 class fifth, and 247sports.com ranks it third.
Rankings of each class, explained Josh Helmholdt of Rivals.com, used to be what he called an “extremely complex formula to rank teams.” Now, he said, it’s based on a points system assigned to each recruit.
“It’s tough to project a class individually, and it’s much tougher to do that on a team level,” said Helmholdt, who covers recruiting in the Midwest. “But when you’re looking at the top classes, a team that’s signed the top class three to four years on a row, you expect it to compete.”
While the rankings are ultimately projections, Trieu points out certain instances of correlation, namely Ohio State and Alabama’s 2009 classes, ranked first and second that year by Scout.com. Though Jim Tressel recruited Ohio State’s 2009 class of incoming freshmen, the Buckeyes finished the 2012 season 12-0 under Urban Meyer, who also had Scout.com’s No. 1 recruiting class in 2007 at Florida. Alabama, meanwhile, defeated Notre Dame for the BCS championship in January.
But he also points out projectional miscues.
“If you go back to 2008, Alabama and Notre Dame had two of the top classes, and the third class was Miami,” Trieu said of Scout.com’s rankings. “And they’ve fallen short of expectations. In 2010, Florida, Oklahoma, and Texas were 1-2-3. Those schools, they’re doing well but they’ve fallen short of expectations.”
Success is clearly the expectation for those top teams. But failure can hinge on anything from changes in the coaching staff to upheaval in a program, transfers, injuries, or the lack of maturation in a class as a whole.
“Those players weren’t properly developed,” Helmholdt said of classes that haven’t held up recruiting rankings. “They weren’t put in the position to make plays. And, of course, there were guys who didn’t pan out the way they were projected.”
What does the No. 1 ranking for Michigan’s incoming class mean?
“It would mean that they should have quite the team by that point in time,” Trieu said. “If the projections turn out right, you have a top quarterback, a top running back, and four to five offensive linemen that should be really good.
“If everything on paper holds true, you’d expect them to be competing for a national title or for the Big Ten title.”