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Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 2/6/2014

Impact as a class won’t be seen immediately for UM

BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR — By 11 a.m. Wednesday morning, the Michigan football program officially received national letters of intent from the 16 players in its 2014 class of incoming freshmen.

It’s one of UM’s smallest incoming classes as of late and Wolverines coach Brady Hoke discussed the recruiting class on national signing day. NCAA rules prohibit coaches from commenting on recruits until the program has received a signed letter of intent from a recruit.

“As you go through the process and through evaluations, you’ve got to be sure,” Hoke said. “You’ve got to be right. What we’ve done, when you look at our needs for the next year or for two years from now, the numbers we used and how we came up with it fits what we wanted to do.”

UM’s 2014 class includes the top cornerback in the country in Jabrill Peppers and seven players who enrolled in January.

Josh Helmholdt, a Midwest recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, said he doesn’t expect the class as a whole to have a widespread impact but sees individuals who can make an impact, such as Peppers and wide receivers Maurice Ways, Freddy Canteen, and Drake Harris.

“It’s not a large class, and it’s not going to address every need Michigan has,” Helmholdt said. “Part of it is because Michigan had larger classes in previous years, and a few guys who stuck around for a fifth year. They went in knowing there are fewer scholarships that can be offered.”

In discussing the incoming class, Hoke took aim at how the recruiting process has transformed.

“Here’s the one thing I don’t like,” Hoke said. “This has gotten way out of whack. It isn’t about the kids anymore. It’s more about different services and the Internet and all that stuff that puts a lot more pressure on kids. It’s harder for them as they continue to grow and go through the process.”

That answer came in relation to Peppers, who clearly is the gem of this year’s incoming freshmen and is ranked as the top cornerback in the country by recruiting services. Six months after he verbally committed to Michigan, Peppers released a statement in November that he was considering taking official visits to other schools, on the basis that Hoke’s job status was up in the air.

Peppers reaffirmed his commitment after an official visit to Ann Arbor in December.

“Did he waver some?” Hoke asked, rhetorically. “I don’t know if it was wavering as much as he just had to step away from it.”

ESPN.com ranks Michigan’s class at No. 12 in the country. 247Sports.com ranks it No. 19, Scout.com No. 26, and Rivals.com No. 31.

GIBBONS CASE: Hoke fielded several questions in regards to reports of the expulsion of former UM kicker Brendan Gibbons for violating the school’s student sexual misconduct policy. Hoke withheld comment but cited a statement he released Monday about the case. In the statement, Hoke cited federal privacy laws for not commenting directly on Gibbons' expulsion or the case.

Hoke was asked about the perception of the program in the wake of Gibbons’ expulsion, as well as hire of Doug Nussmeier as offensive coordinator and a 7-6 2013 season.

“I don’t really listen to outside people,” Hoke said. “I think the guys who are in Schembechler Hall, in the offices at meetings, the players, those are the ones you listen to. Everybody’s got an opinion. You’re going to write what you think. It doesn’t matter. My point is, that stuff doesn’t matter.

“If you’re going to worry about that, you’re going to do a poor job of coaching the football team.”

Hoke was also asked if he thought the university was trying to hide something and if the public deserved more than a statement on the matter.

“That’s your opinion,” Hoke said.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.



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