With Southfield junior Lawrence Marshall committing to the Michigan Wolverines’ 2014 class of recruits, coach Brady Hoke has proven that he has a stranglehold on The Mitten.
During Michigan’s down period under Rich Rodriguez, the Michigan State Spartans raked in some of the best players in the Great Lakes State. Losing out to a rival—especially Mark Dantonio’s Spartans—didn’t sit well with the legions of Maize and Blue supporters. Letting top talent get out of the state was also a stinger in the Wolverines’ side.
Class of 2011 Wasn’t All About the Wolverines
Detroit Renaissance’s Lawrence Thomas was the state’s top recruit of the 2011 class. Michigan offered, but the No. 5 linebacker in the country chose East Lansing over Ann Arbor, leaving some stunned in the wake of the decision.
Ordinarily, players like Thomas would have been locks for Michigan. But due to a decline in performance, Michigan lost out on the 6’4”, 232-pound (at time of graduation), 4-star pass-rusher.
Ogemaw Heights superstar defensive lineman Anthony Zettel evaded Michigan in 2011, too. However, he didn’t go to East Lansing. No, the former 4-star prospect went to Happy Valley to join the Penn State Nittany Lions. At 6’4” and about 250 pounds (at time of graduation), Zettel could have morphed into a stellar force up front for the Wolverines. He was the No. 6 rated defensive end of his class.
The Wolverines also missed out on two of the state’s top linebackers of the 2011 class: New Baltimore Anchor Bay’s Taiwan Jones and Detroit Southeastern’s Ed Davis.
Although not part of the 2011 class, 2010 star Will Gholston also picked Michigan State over Michigan. The former 5-star sensation out of Detroit Southeastern was the No. 1 prep in Michigan—and, to top it off, he was No. 3 at his position and No. 21 overall.
Gholston had a respectable career in East Lansing. At 6’7”, Gholston terrorized the Wolverines during the Spartans’ four-year winning streak. However, Michigan’s defense could have helped turned the tide against Michigan State with Gholston on its side.
Michigan Got the Job Done in 2012, but Still Missed out on Talent
Change was on its way, and the state’s best probably realized that in 2012. Although Michigan wasn’t back to being Michigan, some of the Great Lakes State’s elite saw the writing on the wall and chose the Wolverines over the Spartans.
Guys like James Ross, Dennis Norfleet, Devin Funchess and Royce Jenkins-Stone were all highly ranked 2012 prospects—and each of them chose Michigan.
Aaron Burbridge has developed into a reliable wideout for the Spartans. As a 3-star prospect coming out of Farmington Hills Harrison—the same school as Funchess—Burbridge flew under some schools’ radars.
Of course, the aforementioned are just a few of the best-known names that played high school ball in Michigan during the past couple of years. Michigan still had the history behind its program, so the fact that it was struggling to regain dominance didn’t deter too many youngsters.
But imagine if players like Gholston chose Michigan? That would have been a major plus for the Wolverines defense.
It doesn’t look like such tug-of-war scrums will affect how and who Michigan lands in future classes. No, it’s clear that the elite prepsters in Michigan want to go to Michigan—even if they commit elsewhere.
Turning the Tables
Drake Harris was supposed to play basketball and football at Michigan State. The 6’4”, 180-pound, 4-star rated high schooler (according to 247Sports) is a two-sport stud at Grand Rapids Christian and would have given both Spartans hoops coach Tom Izzo and Dantonio a phenomenal skill set to manipulate.
But, as it went, Harris changed his mind, flipping from Michigan State to Michigan to solely focus on football. That was a catastrophic hit to the Spartans—but it had just as big, if not bigger, of an impact for Michigan, which now has the nation’s No. 4 wide receiver committed to its 2014 class.
Marshall’s choice over the weekend further proved that Michigan was the prime landing spot for the state’s cream of the crop. He previously committed to Ohio State—which hurt Michigan’s feelings—before being considered a heavy Michigan State-lean.
Something clicked in Marshall’s young mind, and he apparently assessed the situation and thought that playing for Hoke’s Wolverines was in his best interest.
That’s probably true.
Michigan is locked and loaded, bringing in high-end prospect after high-end prospect at every turn. Chances are, you’ll find out about another major commitment to the Wolverines’ No. 5-ranked class (nationally) the next time you log on to a recruiting site.
The Wolverines are working that quickly.
Out of 10 commits, eight are ranked in the ESPN 150. The Wolverines are hot on the trail of out-of-state sensations like Jabrill Peppers, Andrew Brown and Da’Shawn Hand. With national momentum behind it, Michigan won’t only continue to handpick guys from all corners of the country, it’ll essentially have first choice of Michigan’s premier players.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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