Brady Hoke has done exactly what he’s needed to do to land the best recruiting class in the Big Ten.
Hoke’s willingness to advertise Michigan football for exactly what it is—a storied program with a blue-collar mentality—is the perfect approach for drawing top high school athletes to Michigan. After all, he’s just pitching the truth.
Michigan has been one of the backbone programs of the Big Ten since the conference became football’s first Division I athletic conference. Its football team has won 42 conference titles and 11 national championships, and remains one of the most storied programs in the history of college football.
Michigan experienced its share of disappointment during the Lloyd Carr and Rich Rodriguez eras (namely their teams’ inability to beat rival Ohio State), but Hoke has changed the culture of the program, starting with a fundamental understanding of how important the Michigan vs. Ohio State rivalry is. The Wolverines bested the Buckeyes in 2011 for the first time since 2003, a statement game for Hoke in his pursuit to turn around the Michigan football program.
The Big Ten is a changing conference, though. Through expansion and a stylistic change in the way the game is being played, the shape of the recruiting landscape is changing as well. And to add another piece to the puzzle, former Florida head coach Urban Meyer took the helm at Ohio State last season, undoubtedly creating a draw from recruits that would have previously been more interested in SEC schools.
Hoke still has some recruits left to woo. An already strong recruiting class should help his case, but it will take more than that to entice some of his final targets to play for Michigan.
The Wolverines’ offense will be undergoing some changes this offseason. Quarterback Denard Robinson and starting left tackle Taylor Lewan will leave for the draft this year, and current starting quarterback Devin Gardner will be a senior next season. With current junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint recovering from a season-ending broken leg and a receiving corps without any explosive weapons, Michigan is the perfect position to tailor its future offenses around new talent.
Many recruits want the chance to play right away. With so many holes opening up on the offensive side of the ball, Hoke can present an opportunity for each of his offensive recruits to start within the next couple seasons.
Michigan also fielded seven seniors on the defensive side of the ball this season. While those seniors will be hard to replace, their departure gives Hoke another advantage in his pursuit for recruits.
This is a pivotal time for Michigan football. Hoke has already begun to change the culture of the program, and his 2013 recruiting class will only serve to strengthen its core. But with a resurgence in Ohio State’s recruiting and the success of several other Big Ten teams, Hoke needs to remain ahead of the curve.
Success begets more success in the recruiting process, and what Hoke does now will create more opportunities for future recruiting. He needs to finish the process strong, and already has a solid foundation to do so. If Hoke continues to emphasize the changing culture of Michigan football, he has a good shot at swaying his remaining recruits, and those in future years as well.