In the almost six months since I finished Part 3 of the "Battle of Michigan" series, highlighting the ongoing battle between Michigan and Michigan State for the state's top high school prospects, much has changed. Both schools were burned by the loss of high level prospects previously thought to be near locks, and of course Michigan went through the change from Rich Rodriguez to Brady Hoke, a transition that is still causing ripples.
In Part 1, published on July 28th of last year, the 2011 instate battle looked as such:
And now we arrive at the present. Both coaches are coming off underwhelming, disappointing 2009 seasons on the field, and one of the two has some warmth under his seat. But at the same time, both are also becoming more entrenched in the state and building relationships with the coaches within the mitten.
Since then, Michigan landed Justice Hayes, MSU landed Ed Davis, and both schools lost Anthony Zettel, DeAnthony Arnett, Valdez Showers, and Jake Fisher.
Here is the revised list of prospects that both UM and MSU offered in the 2011 recruiting cycle:
- DE/LB Lawrence Thomas, Detroit Renaissance (Michigan State)
- WR DeAnthony Arnett, Saginaw (Tennessee)
- OG/DE Anthony Zettel, West Branch Ogemaw Heights (Penn State)
- DE Brennen Beyer, Plymouth Canton (Michigan)
- CB Valdez Showers, Madison Heights Madison (Florida)
- RB Justice Hayes, Grand Blanc (Michigan)
- OT Jake Fisher, Traverse City West (Oregon)
- LB Ed Davis, Detroit Southeastern (Michigan State)
Meanwhile, these are the final numbers for Michigan on 2011 instate; kids that UM offered but MSU did not. Shawn Conway is omitted because he is a non-qualifier.
- CB Delonte Hollowell, Detroit Cass Tech (Michigan)
- LB Desmond Morgan, Holland West Ottawa (Michigan)
- CB Raymon Taylor, Highland Park (Michigan)
- RB Thomas Rawls, Flint Northern (Michigan)
Conversely, here are MSU's signees instate who were not offered by Michigan:
- RB Onaje Miller, Lansing Sexton (Michigan State)
- TE Jake Duzey, Troy Athens (Iowa)
- LB Taiwan Jones, New Baltimore Anchor Bay (Michigan State)
- DE Damon Knox, Muskegon (Michigan State)
The final tally during Rich Rodriguez's ill-fated tenure in Ann Arbor, straight up, head to head with Mark Dantonio: Michigan 11, Michigan State 10. The 11 for Michigan:
- Boubacar Cissoko
- Mike Martin
- Kenny Demens
- Rocko Khoury
- William Campbell
- Cameron Gordon
- Thomas Gordon
- Devin Gardner
- Austin White
- Brennen Beyer
- Justice Hayes
- Fred Smith
- Tyler Hoover
- Edwin Baker
- Chris Norman
- Larry Caper
- Dion Sims
- William Gholston
- Mylan Hicks
- Lawrence Thomas
- Ed Davis
So...that book is now closed. The "outsider" Rodriguez is gone, and the perception that he neglected the state of Michigan during his time here will live on in the minds of the people who want it to live on. Unfortunately, as is often the case, perception is often reality, facts be damned.
So now...here we sit, in early February 2011. Both UM and MSU have closed the door on the 2011 class and are in the process of diving head first into the 2012 class, especially in Michigan, where the overall talent level is probably the highest it's been since the loaded 2007 class. The last couple days in particular have seen a frenzy of offers going out instate from both sides, as Dantonio continues his mandate of making the state of Michigan #1 and Brady Hoke works to rebuild what Rich Rodriguez allegedly tore down.
Neither team has any commitments yet, but the list of prospects both schools have offered and are pursuing is impressive:
- LB James Ross, Orchard Lake St. Mary's
- WR Aaron Burbridge, Farmington Hills Harrison
- LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, Detroit Cass Tech
- CB Terry Richardson, Detroit Cass Tech
- DE Mario Ojemudia, Farmington Hills Harrison
- DT Dan O'Brien, Flint Powers
- TE Devin Funchess, Farmington Hills Harrison
- WR/TE Ron Thompson, Eastpointe East Detroit
- WR Dennis Norfleet, Detroit Martin Luther King
- OL Kelby Latta, Battle Creek Harper Creek
- DL Matt Godin, Novi Detroit Catholic Central
- DT Jabari Dean, Detroit Renaissance
- S Riley Bullough, Traverse City St. Francis
It will be a very competitive year instate once again, and the battle lines are already being drawn. The general consensus among the "experts" and fans is that the top three are (in any order, really) Ross, O'Brien, and Burbridge. Cass Tech remains very friendly to Michigan, giving UM an inside edge on Jenkins-Stone and Richardson - and by extension James Ross at OLSM, who is close with the CT duo. Farmington Hills Harrison is still Spartan territory, and MSU has to be considered the favorite for Burbridge and Ojemudia (and Funchess if/when they offer). Bullough is quite obviously an MSU lock with his brother there and all the other connections, while Thompson grew up a big Michigan fan. O'Brien also grew up in a UM family and looks up to Mike Martin, but Michigan has some bridges to repair in the wake of the coaching change.
It's too early to make any sort of reasonable predictions about where these kids end up, how the numbers shake out, who wins the battle in 2012, but one thing is certain: the war of perception is over. Brady Hoke has already gotten back into the good graces of many high school coaches in the state of Michigan who were turned off or felt disrespected by Rich Rodriguez. You can argue the fairness of that until you're blue (or green) in the face, but the fact is, the outsider perception is that a "Michigan Man" is back in charge of Michigan, and the prestige and respect that that moniker entails is going to pay dividends, sooner or later.