Michigan coach Brady Hoke and his peers have hit the road this month to build relationships with potential players.
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ANN ARBOR — A blast of Instagram photos and tweets came from the Michigan football team’s 2014 recruiting class during the first two weeks of December, including a widely circulated photo of Wolverines coach Brady Hoke breaking bread at the dinner table of defensive tackle Bryan Mone during an in-home visit in Utah.
That snapshot wasn’t unique to Michigan, either, though social media has made access to and observation of the recruiting process easier. The early-December visits are part and parcel of the recruiting calendar in college football, and Michigan is in the midst of a month-long, NCAA-mandated dead period (no in-person recruiting by coaches) in the recruiting calendar that began Dec. 16, twelve days before Michigan faces Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.
Like other college programs across the country, Michigan’s coaching staff took the first two weeks of December to reinforce to its recruits that yes, Michigan is the place for their future in football.
“Every school hit the road hard the first week of December, because that’s when the contact period begins,” said Steve Wiltfong, a national recruiting insider with 247Sports, a recruiting Web site. “For Michigan, it was just about Michigan. Their class for 2014 is done, but after the Ohio State-Michigan game, it was about connecting and continuing to connect with the 2014 class and looking ahead to the future.”
Four recruiting Web sites — 247Sports, ESPN.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com — have Michigan’s incoming 2014 class ranked among the top 20 in the nation, and ESPN.com ranks UM the highest at No. 10. It’s a sharp drop from June, when ESPN ranked its 2014 class at No. 1.
Coaches cannot comment on recruits until after the school has received a signed National Letter of Intent from each recruit. National signing day is Feb. 5 and the Wolverines anticipate an incoming class of 16 players, which is expected to include seven players who will enroll in January, as well as Jabrill Peppers, a defensive back from Paramus, N.J., who is ranked by several recruiting services as one of the top five players in the nation.
Peppers verbally committed in May but ruffled feathers last month when he released a statement that he was considering taking official visits to other schools, stating that Hoke’s job status was up in the air.
“I don’t know where Jabrill Peppers got that Brady Hoke was on the hot seat,” Wiltfong said. “He’s done a nice job at Michigan and he’s continued to build the roster. Michigan is headed in the right direction, and I’m not sure how that was planted in his head.”
However, Peppers made an official visit to Michigan last weekend and ultimately reaffirmed his commitment to the Wolverines.
“This class is it just different,” Peppers told Scout.com this week. “I personally don’t think Michigan has had a class like this. We’re just so hungry. We’re all eager for the same thing. We’ll do whatever we need to do to achieve what we need to achieve.
"I think we are going to come in here and we’re going to do great things.”
Peppers is expected to join a class that includes Mone, wide receiver Drake Harris of Grand Rapids, Mich., inside linebacker Michael Ferns of St. Clairsville, Ohio, and outside linebacker Chase Winovich of Pittsburgh.
“I don’t think anyone was really on the fence,” Wiltfong said of Michigan’s incoming class. “And it’s fair to ask, how much was Jabrill really on the fence? He hadn’t scheduled any visit that was really official. That first week of December for Michigan was about reconnecting to committed guys and explaining to them what it was like, and to get a head start on future classes.”