Michigan’s last 10 recruiting classes have been consistently good. Some have even been great.
All have produced booms and busts. Some 3-stars with 5-star production, and vice versa. But in every class, the name that draws the most attention is the top-ranked prospect.
Let’s take a look at the top-ranked prospect in each of the Wolverines’ previous 10 classes, ranking them from 10 to 1 based on their performance in Ann Arbor.
10. Brian Cole, Saginaw (Mich.) Heritage, Class of 2015 4-star WR
Typically, it’s hard to fairly evaluate what a recruit from just two seasons ago has done, but Brian Cole lasted only a season in Ann Arbor (and he isn’t the only one this list to do so).
— Land Of 10 (@landof10) December 14, 2016
Cole left the Wolverines after his redshirt season, playing one season for the “Last Chance U” school, East Mississippi Community College.
Now at Mississippi State, Cole will continue to play safety, where he converted to toward the end of his time in Ann Arbor.
9. Ryan Mallett, Texarkana (Texas), Class of 2007 5-star QB
Ryan Mallett was the nation’s No. 5 overall prospect, its second-best quarterback prospect … and another one of the high-profile players to bolt Michigan early.
As most know, much of Mallett’s prolific, record-breaking college career didn’t take place in Ann Arbor. After the Wolverines hired Rich Rodriguez, Mallett elected to transfer out to an offense that would suit him better at Arkansas.
While his career in college was historic (in Arkansas’ record books), and he’s gone on to have a decent NFL showing, none of it took place at Michigan, thus landing Mallett at No. 9.
8. Justice Hayes, Grand Blanc (Mich.), Class of 2011 4-star RB
The nation’s No. 149 overall prospect, Justice Hayes was the lowest-ranked prospect to top Michigan’s list in the last decade. Not surprisingly, the 2011 class was one of the Wolverines’ weakest due to it being the transitional class between Rodriguez and Brady Hoke.
Hayes lasted four seasons in Ann Arbor, but tallied only 302 yards in maize and blue.
He showed signs of light during his career, but never even reached 50 carries or 215 yards in a season at Michigan.
7. Darryl Stonum, Sugar Land (Texas) Dulles, Class of 2008 4-star WR
As the No. 48 overall prospect in the country out of high school, Darryl Stonum was an enormous recruiting victory for the Wolverines when they nabbed him out of the Lone Star State.
And he was great at times in Ann Arbor, including returning a kickoff for a touchdown against Notre Dame in 2009.
Stonum was jailed after violating probation in late 2011, and by January 2012 he was dismissed by Michigan.
Stonum transferred to Baylor in 2012 for a redshirt senior season, and was later convicted of domestic violence and assault in 2014.
6. Derrick Green, Richmond (Va.) Hermitage, Class of 2013 5-star RB
Derrick Green’s sky-high expectations in Ann Arbor could have landed him at or near the bottom of the list if not for some of those prospects who left Ann Arbor after one season.
As the nation’s No. 27 overall prospect, and the No. 4 running back in 2013, Green was tabbed as a contender to make an impact as a true freshman.
Like Stonum, Green showed loads of promise in his early career, with fans hoping for a few tweaks, some loss in weight, to getting the complete back that they were once promised.
But it never happened.
After running for little more than 700 yards and 5 combined touchdowns in his first two seasons as a Wolverine, Green tallied just 157 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns as a junior.
The lack of production, combined with the presence of De’Veon Smith, Karan Higdon and Ty Isaac in the backfield, led Green to leave Ann Arbor as a graduate transfer and head to TCU. In his final season in 2016, Green ran for just 141 yards and 2 touchdowns.
5. Rashan Gary, Paramus (N.J.) Catholic, Class of 2016 5-star DT
The nation’s first consensus top-ranked recruit in the 247Sports Composite, Rashan Gary is now entering what may be the most-anticipated sophomore campaign in years for Michigan football.
It’s probably hard to place any 2016 class member higher than 7 on this list, but Gary’s one season was more productive than any of the others below him in this top 10.
He racked up 27 tackles, 5 tackles for loss and a sack as a rotational defensive end.
4. Devin Gardner, Inkster (Mich.), Class of 2010 4-star QB
Devin Gardner could be the top guy if you completely erase his senior season in Ann Arbor, when the Wolverines went 5-7 in what was Hoke’s final year, as well.
He did a whole lot at Michigan, and in different ways. He played in 49 games and made 31 starts — 27 at quarterback and four at receiver. He made a big splash in the second half of his sophomore season, taking over for an injured Denard Robinson at quarterback.
His junior season saw the Wolverines finish 6-7, but he provided 32 touchdowns (21 passing, 11 rushing) to just 11 interceptions.
But it was his 5-7 senior season in 2014 that killed the fans’ belief in him, as he finished with more interceptions (15) than total touchdowns (14).
3. Kyle Kalis, Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward, 2012 4-star OL
While some Wolverines fans complained that Kyle Kalis underperformed at times, you can’t deny his pure ability to play on the line four years at Michigan. He appeared in 50 games, making 43 starts in Ann Arbor.
The No. 49 overall prospect out of high school, Kalis made the All-Big Ten third team as a junior in 2015, then made the second team as a senior.
2. Craig Roh, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral, Class of 2009 4-star WDE
As the nation’s No. 69 overall prospect, Craig Roh lived up to his hype in Ann Arbor, most notably setting the Michigan record for consecutive starts at 51. … 51!!!
He was both second-team All-Big Ten and academic All-Big Ten at Michigan, and also won the Dick Katcher Award in 2012, given annually to Michigan’s “outstanding defensive lineman or outside linebacker.”
Roh boasted 150 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 26.5 tackles for loss and an interception during his lengthy career at Michigan.
1. Jabrill Peppers, Paramus (N.J.) Catholic, Class of 2014 5-star ATH
Say what you will about Jabrill Peppers, but he was an incredible, electric player for the Wolverines.
After playing in just three games as a freshman, Peppers played just two full seasons. And yet, the honors he garnered include:
- Heisman Trophy finalist
- Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year
- All-Big Ten first team
- Lott IMPACT Trophy
- Team MVP
He didn’t do all of the offensive things fans wanted him to do, nor did he bring a Big Ten title to Ann Arbor, but individually, Peppers was incredible.
And 10 days ago, he topped it off with his selection by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the NFL draft.