During the week, Land of 10 reporters following the Wolverines answer questions on the minds of Michigan fans. Submit a question or suggest a topic by sending a tweet here to Rachel Lenzi or here to Kevin Goheen. Check back Monday through Friday as we answer the Michigan Question of the Day. Go here to see our previous answers.
How have Michigan’s recent recruiting classes developed? Where did they rank in their recruiting year? — Anonymous
No name was left by this inquisitor but the question brings up an often-times overlooked aspect of building a successful college football program: player development.
A team can sign all the 5-star prospects it wants but talent will only take a player so far in college. It’s up to the coaches to harness and develop that ability. Strength and conditioning is part of the process. Practice habits that foster proper techniques and figuring out how to play without over-thinking a situation all go into player development, as well.
Through the first three seasons on the job, Jim Harbaugh and his staff have done a good job of developing players.
I know, I know — everyone is about to start yelling about quarterback and offensive line but players are better when they leave this program than when they enter it. I’ll point to the 2017 NFL Draft and the program-record 11 Wolverines selected as proof. Those players were all recruited to Michigan by Brady Hoke but one of the issues Hoke and Rich Rodriguez, his predecessor, had was player development.
They recruited well. Rodriguez’s three classes were ranked No. 11 (2008), No. 10 (2009) and No. 17 (2010) by the 247Sports composite, while Hoke had classes ranked No. 6 (2012), No. 4 (2013) and No. 20 (2014). Do you know the last time Michigan had more than three players picked in the NFL Draft before 2017? Lloyd Carr’s final team ended up with six players selected in the 2008 draft, including tackle Jake Long at No. 1 overall. Seven Wolverines were taken in the 2007 draft, with cornerback Leon Hall being selected at No. 18 overall.
Michigan only figures to have three players selected in the draft this year — defensive tackle Mo Hurst, offensive lineman Mason Cole and linebacker Mike McCray — but last season’s senior class wasn’t very big. That happens, and it could have been the case for players under Rodriguez and Hoke in certain years, too. But more Wolverines will be heading to the NFL in coming years thanks to the tutelage of Harbaugh and his staff. Junior defensive end Rashan Gary was ranked the No. 1 overall player in the country in the 2016 class. He’s lived up to that billing and very well could be heading into his final season in Ann Arbor. Fifth-year senior defensive end Chase Winovich has gone from a player searching for a position to someone who’s working his way into a high draft spot next year.
Viper Khaleke Hudson was a 3-star prospect when he signed with the Wolverines in 2016. He earned All-Big Ten honors last season as a sophomore. Redshirt junior Zach Gentry came to Michigan as a 4-star quarterback recruit but has successfully transitioned to tight end and should only get better.
I can keep citing examples of players who are better because of the coaching they’ve received at Michigan. There is still more to be done. Yes, quarterback play and the offensive line must improve for the Wolverines to seriously contend in the Big Ten East but the talent that has been recruited is being developed not just to match its star ratings but beyond.