Wins on the field are at a premium, but victories on the recruiting trail are, for the most part, plentiful for Michigan coach Brady Hoke.
Since taking over Wolverines football in 2011, his national signing days have become blessed hours of joy, full of wish-granting for the loyal Maize and Blue faithful.
At one point, it seemed as if every 4- and 5-star prospect had Michigan on his list. And, at one point, it seemed as if Hoke had a legitimate chance to land just about anyone he targeted.
Whether it was defensive tackle Ondre Pipkins in 2012, or running back Derrick Green in 2013, Michigan’s cupboards have been healthily stocked with blue-chips thanks to the efforts of the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Football Coach.
However, lately, things have been at a relative standstill—partly because of the recruiting period’s idle time, but also due to plummeting stock caused by 8-5 and 7-6 finishes.
Three years ago, recruits looked at Michigan as a true national contender. Today, some of them are changing their minds and looking elsewhere.
Unfortunately for Hoke, some college football pundits view the Wolverines as pretenders, evidenced by Athlon Sports’ recent ranking of Hoke—who finished at No. 38 in the country and No. 8—yes, No. 8!—in his own league.
Leaders and the best, or (bottom) feeders like the rest? For all intents and purposes, the Big Ten belongs to Mark Dantonio’s Michigan State Spartans and Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes.
Don't agree? Well, once another team says otherwise, the anti-Spartans or -Buckeyes talk carries no weight. It's "put up or..."
Well, you know the rest—right?!
Nationally speaking, Hoke’s slipping; and the only way to avoid the moderate descent is to remain in line with his recruiting philosophies, which continue to woo prospects regardless of Team 135’s current predicament.
The allure of running onto the field at The Big House remains strong. With Doug Nussmeier—a force in living rooms of 5-stars everywhere—providing a boost, the Wolverines won't (can't?) stay down for long.
As illustrated by the following table, Hoke's been consistent when measured against the Big Ten.
|Catch Him if He's Falling|
|2012||No. 6 overall, No. 2 B1G|
|2013||No. 4 overall, No. 2 B1G|
|2014||No. 20 overall, No. 2 B1G|
|2015||No. 25 overall, No. 2 B1G|
|247Sports; 2015 info accurate as of April 11, 2014|
Keep in mind that 2015 recruiting will get kicked into high gear this summer. Team 136 is a five-man class at the moment, but it has quality components, such as Shaun Crawford, a 4-star corner back out of Lakewood St. Edward who's ranked among the top 100 juniors (No. 5 in Ohio, No. 9 CB/No. 82 overall).
Garrett Taylor, a 4-star corner out of St. Christopher's in Richmond, Va., was the latest to give a verbal to Michigan (March 24, 2014).
Every school and coach has the "almost" recruit. You know the type; he's the guy who says he loves the program and the staff, can see himself playing at said school, graduating and having athletic and personal success.
It all sounds great. But sometimes, it's just talk.
Instead of going to Michigan, a school he reportedly really liked, Da'Shawn Hand chose Alabama. Apparently, the Tide offered the comprehensive curriculum that Hand, the No. 1 strong-side defensive end of 2014, sought after.
Great for him. Sometimes, it's not all about football (sure...).
Laquon Treadwell was a must-get. Instead, he joined Ole Miss' Super Class 2K13.
One of the biggest names of 2015, quarterback Josh Rosen once had mild interest in Michigan. However, his visit was fishy. It was basically a formality before committing to UCLA. Arriving in secret, Rosen's meeting with the Wolverines was short and not sweet.
Of course, circumstances dictate the outcome of recruiting processes. Rosen, a California kid, was never really an option. Hand was, but his choice to join Alabama shouldn't have shocked anyone. Treadwell was the only "surprise," but even he seemed just beyond Hoke's reach.
Fueling the Fire
It's not all doom and gloom for Hoke, but a quick reminder of the bad news is in order.
George Campbell, a 5-star wideout from East Lake Tarpon Springs (Fla.), was in the bag. Then he wasn't. He's yet to commit elsewhere, but he doesn't appear to be head over heels in love with the Wolverines.
Damien Harris, a 5-star running back who happens to be No. 1 of 2015, also gave his word to Hoke.
But then he decided to explore options. The good news is this: Harris isn't completely out of the picture.
Flexing in the Great Lakes State
It was a near-miss, but Hoke successfully separated Drake Harris, a 2014 early enrollee, from Michigan State.
Initially, the former Grand Rapids Christian standout wideout wanted to play basketball for Spartans coach Tom Izzo. But then decided against it.
Then he reopened his recruitment.
Then he committed to Michigan, which was a monumental win for Hoke. If Harris develops as forecast, great. If not, no big deal. These types of moves are far more complicated and calculated than meets the eye. If anything, getting Harris sent a message to high schoolers in Michigan: The best go to Ann Arbor, regardless.
Southfield's Lawrence Marshall, a 4-star defensive end, was recruited by the Buckeyes and Spartans. But he chose to "go blue" instead.
However, his teammate, Malik McDowell, did not. The 5-star defensive end picked Dantonio.
Securing Brian Cole of Saginaw Arthur Hill would help ease the pain of losing McDowell. Cole is No. 1 in the Mitten, and he's the No. 6-ranked athlete in the country. According to 247Sports, he has "warm" interest in Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State.
Needless to say, that's tough competition for Hoke, who can't win them all—right?
Most, but not all.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.