Brady Hoke has assembled quite the recruiting class for 2012
In only one season, Brady Hoke has turned a Michigan team that was 15-22 in the last three seasons under Rich Rodriguez, with one of the worst defenses in the nation, into an 11-2 Sugar Bowl Champion. Fans of the Maize and Blue haven't experienced this sort of success since 2006, when Michigan finished 11-2 as well, but even then the Wolverines failed to beat their arch rival Ohio State Buckeyes.
Every major college football fan has seen what Hoke has done in just one season at Michigan. He managed to turn a 7-6 team that didn't look like it even knew where to line up on defense, to an 11-2 team that finished ranked sixth nationally in scoring defense, only giving up 17.4 points per game.
In large part the success was due to Hoke's ability to assemble a great staff, notably including offensive coordinator Al Borges and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
Borges has coached at Oregon, UCLA, Cal, Indiana, Auburn (part of the 2004 team that finished 13-0), San Diego State and now Michigan. He essentially took Rodriguez's offense, added a few more packages and was very successful with it.
Mattison is in large part the reason for Michigan's overall success this past season, turning a defense that was yielding 35.2 points per game in 2010, to a defense that cut those points per game it was allowing to over half in 2011.
Mattison served as Michigan's defensive line coach from 1992-1994 and as defensive coordinator from 1995-1996. Mattison has also coached at notable schools such as Notre Dame and Florida, among many others. He served as the Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator last year, a year where the Ravens led the NFL in scoring defense.
I would have to say an even bigger story surrounding Hoke is his recruiting ability though. Hoke has landed numerous 4-star recruits, and according to some websites, 5-star recruits. In 2012, Michigan is going to have a likely top five recruiting class nationally, and one of the best classes it has seen in a long time.
Here are Michigan's top recruits that Hoke hopes make an immediate impact on the field in 2012 for the Maize and Blue...
Kyle Kalis originally committed to Ohio State, but later changed his mind and switched to Michigan after he realized the kind of turmoil the Buckeyes were in.
Kalis is a 6'5", 302 lb. offensive lineman out of St. Edwards High School in Lakewood, Ohio. Kalis is a very powerful lineman with great consistency, and there is no doubt he has the size to play at the collegiate level. He plays with very good leverage and doesn't stop his block until he hears the whistle blow.
With Michigan losing center David Molk and right tackle Mark Huyge, the Wolverines could use a bit of an upgrade up front. Three starters return on the offensive line for Michigan in 2012: Taylor Lewan, Michael Schofield and Patrick Omameh. The Wolverines are getting a good upgrade in Kalis, as he looks to compete hard in spring practice.
Yahoo! Sports has rated Kalis a 5-star recruit, so Michigan is the big winner here after Kalis had originally committed to its arch rival.
Perhaps the biggest losses the Wolverines have endured are in the defensive trenches. Michigan has lost both Ryan Van Bergen and Mike Martin, two quintessential pieces to Michigan's strong defense in 2011.
The Wolverines have some major shoes to fill there, and many young players are going to have to step up in 2012. Craig Roh along with Jibreel Black, Quinton Washington and Richard Ash will likely be among the candidates to anchor the defensive line in 2012.
Ondre Pipkins is definitely going to make his presence known in spring ball this year. Pipkins is a 6'3", 325 lb. defensive tackle, who Yahoo! Sports have also rated a 5-star recruit.
The great thing about Pipkins is his innate ability to stay disciplined on his gaps, drawing double-, some times triple-teams from offensive tackles and guards. This allows linebackers to come free and make plays, and that's something defensive coordinator Greg Mattison licks his chops at.
Pipkins has a huge body, quick off the ball and has a great motor on him. Although it is his job to draw 2-3 linemen on a given play, he does his duty in the backfield a lot of the time.
I would be very surprised not to see Pipkins receive a lot of playing time this fall, as Michigan's experience on the defensive front is already quite absent.
Michigan is going to have a LOT of competition in the corps of linebackers this spring. The Wolverines have quite the depth here, and Royce-Jenkins Stone out of Detroit, Michigan is going to add to that depth.
In a pool of linebackers such as Kenny Demens, Desmond Morgan, Jake Ryan, Cam Gordon, Mike Jones, Brandin Hawthorne and Antonio Poole (freshman), how likely it is that Royce-Jenkins Stone gets significant playing is yet to be seen.
The Detroit native will definitely compete, no doubt about that. At 6'2", 215, Jenkins Stone has a typical size for a linebacker. His best assets are his speed, athletic ability and coverage ability.
The reason I believe Stone can make an immediate impact is due to his coverage ability, which Michigan seemed to struggle with this year from its linebackers, especially in the Sugar Bowl.
Yahoo! Sports has Jones rated as a 4-star recruit, and will have to work extra hard to receive playing time in a large pool of talented linebackers, The great thing about Stone is the added depth he brings to the Wolverines' corps of linebackers.
Jarrod Wilson has seemed to be quite the under-the-radar recruit, with not many people recognizing him. The Akron native is 6'2",190 lbs.
Wilson has very good closing speed on the ball, good awareness in coverage and always seizes the opportunity to pick off a ball in his range with his great hands.
Brady Hoke is smart to be recruiting in the secondary, because it's better to build now when he has a young secondary. Wilson will be competing with the likes of Jordan Kovacs, Thomas Gordon and Marvin Robinson in spring practice.
Like Royce-Jenkins Jones, Wilson provides good, talented depth on defense, and he will see playing time because of his young skill.
Obviously, the primary safeties are going to be Jordan Kovacs and Thomas Gordon, but when they need a rest look for Wilson to get some good playing time.
Yahoo! Sports has rated Wilson a 4-star recruit. Hoke and Mattison are building a defense that could be one of the best ever at Michigan, and that's saying a lot.
The loss of Junior Hemingway to Michigan's receiving corps is a big blow. In 2011, it almost seemed as if when Denard Robinson was in trouble, Hemingway always bailed him out. In case you didn't see the Sugar Bowl between Michigan and Virginia Tech, Robinson completed a pass on 3rd-and-17 to Hemingway in what I believe was triple-coverage for a touchdown that was simply amazing.
Now, the Wolverines are left with the likes of Roy Roundtree, who had a disappointing season in 2011, Jeremy Gallon, big surprise for Michigan in 2011, Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson, Jerald Robinson, among others.
Michigan was hoping to get back Stafford, Texas native Darryl Stonum, who was suspended all of 2011 for violating his probation. Stonum was recently dismissed from the team for another violation of the law.
Amara Darboh is going to bring a lot of talent to Ann Arbor. The West Des Moines, Iowa native stands at 6'2" and weighs 190 lbs. Darboh is going to add great depth at receiver, and has a lot of great talents such as solid deep speed, excellent hands and the ability to catch in a lot of traffic.
Darboh can hopefully bring some reminiscent flashes of Hemingway with his size, because Robinson, as we all know, is the type of quarterback that has a LOT of trust in his receivers.
Yahoo! Sports has rated Darboh a 4-star recruit. He runs a 4.4 in the 40 yard dash, and for a lanky receiver that stands at 6'2", that's amazing.