Despite last season’s 7-6 record and struggles versus key rivals, Michigan continues to perform well on the recruiting front. In the last two weeks, head coach Brady Hoke has received commitments from two coveted recruits and remains in the running for other top national targets.
Quarterback Alex Malzone, who committed earlier this month, praised Hoke to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press:
I know coach Hoke, he came in after coach (Rich) Rodriguez, and they had a little work of rebuilding to do. I think coach Hoke is doing a great job. We sat down with him today and listened to him talk about what he expects from his players. He wants to get the best guys in the program.
Four-star linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. committed on a recent visit after being impressed by the atmosphere of Michigan football under Hoke. Jed Richman, his football coach at Lawrence Central High School, discussed Kirkland’s commitment in a recent article by Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press:
As he put it, it was just a feeling. It was a nice family atmosphere, he was comfortable with everybody, and there’s obviously a great tradition. It’s a tremendous academic institution — he’s a good student — they were at the top of his list.
These commitments along with Hoke’s recent recruiting class bode well for the future of the program. Speculation that 5-star recruit Jabrill Peppers’ commitment wavered in the wake of Michigan’s slide last season proved unfounded—he will join the program when fall camp begins and is expected to immediately compete for a starting position.
And while cornerback Shaun Crawford has decided to take additional visits, a move that downgrades him from commitment back to recruit per Michigan’s policy, there hasn't been a massive wave of decommitments.
Any questions about Hoke's immediate future have been dismissed by athletic director David Brandon’s public support of Hoke and the support of influential program alumni, including Heisman Trophy winners Charles Woodson and Desmond Howard.
Many former Michigan lettermen also continue to support Hoke, a stark departure from the Rich Rodriguez era when the Michigan football family was sharply divided.
Hoke still enjoys wide support despite his program having declining wins every season since his inaugural 11-2 campaign. The decline culminated with a dismal 1-4 record last November that began with a thumping by in-state rival Michigan State and ended with a last-minute loss to national rival Ohio State.
Last season's collapse resulted in Michigan falling from Big Ten title contention. Its two biggest conference rivals played in the Big Ten title game, and both competed in prestigious BCS bowl games. Meanwhile, Michigan lost to Kansas State—a team that hadn’t won a bowl game in over a decade—in the mediocre Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
It’s great to have top recruiting classes, and alumni support gives Hoke some breathing room, but after last season’s 7-6 record, he has a razor-thin margin for error moving forward.
Hoke needs to do two things to validate his program: start beating Michigan’s rivals (Michigan State and Ohio State) and develop his recruits from high school stars to elite collegiate players.
If he can’t accomplish those two things, Hoke’s recruiting honeymoon will end, and his job will be in serious jeopardy.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conferences or in person.