Michigan Football Recruiting: Wolverines Smart to Focus on Line

Thad Novak@@ThadNovakCorrespondent IJanuary 20, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 03:  The Michigan Wolverines pile on kicker Brendan Gibbons #34 after Gibbons kicked a successful 37-yard game-winning field goal in overtime against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 3, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

With national signing day rapidly approaching, Brady Hoke has already assembled one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. The biggest names headed to Ann Arbor so far are also among the biggest bodies: offensive tackle Kyle Kalis and defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins.

Anyone wondering whether stocking up on linemen is a smart thing for Michigan to do need look no further than this year’s Big Ten highlight reels. High-powered running games at Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan itself all prospered behind top-notch offensive lines.

Stopping the run is just as important as executing it in the Big Ten, and Pipkins joins a prime crop of defensive recruits that also features a wealth of linebackers led by Joe Bolden. However, the gains on the offensive side are even bigger news for the long term.

Last year’s recruiting class, subpar by Michigan standards in general, included little help for the offensive front. Bringing in Kalis, Erik Magnuson and Blake Bars will help Michigan’s offense stay among the conference leaders even after Denard Robinson rides off into the NFL sunset.

The Wolverines may not be finished adding high-level blockers, either. Undecided OG Joshua Garnett is thought to have the Wolverines high on his list.

Few Michigan players will be happier about the new arrivals than Fitzgerald Toussaint, who has up to two years of college ball still ahead of him. If this class of linemen pans out, he could wind up very high on the Wolverines’ career rushing charts before he’s done.

The only caveat to Brady Hoke’s strategy is that the class is short on high-end skill position players after WR Amara Darboh. However, this year’s Michigan team has lit up scoreboards with largely unheralded receivers, and if Devin Gardner lives up to his billing as Robinson’s successor, he’ll make up for many shortcomings in the receiving corps.