Brady Hoke hasn't seen many of his recruits lead the way for his Michigan program.
However, that doesn't mean the coach's selections won't become prime contributors to the Wolverines this fall. Development, of course, can be a lengthy process. Simply put, players aren't progressing quickly enough.
Hoke's entering his fourth year in Ann Arbor and has yet to groom a superstar of his own. He's treading water with the upperclassmen he inherited from Rich Rodriguez, and the time for his guys can't come a moment sooner.
Instead of speculating about who will do what for Team 135—or the perceived best, such as the Shane Morrises and Derrick Greens of the world—this post will focus on Hoke's best so far. Unfortunately for Hoke, that list isn't too long. His guys are just now getting the nod as Michigan looks to finally turn the corner from recent complications.
Statistical totals (some playing time is required) and overall progression will serve as the primary criteria for this who's-who. If a guy wasn't supposed to be all that great but is now looking like one of Hoke's best, he'll be on this list.
If he's finally developing into what he was supposed to be, he'll be on the list too.
One thing's for sure, the 6'2", 234-pound junior isn't short on passion. Nope, the former Cass Tech (Detroit) standout is pretty much full in that regard. As you'll recall, he was one of three ejected for fighting during Michigan's loss to Ohio State. Dontre Hall and Marcus Wilson, Urban Meyer's enforcers, were also tossed.
But here's the point: It was during The Game. It was a close one. Tempers were out of control, sure; but if you're a Michigan fan, you probably smiled a little inside knowing that at least some of Hoke's players know what's at stake during each late Saturday in November. They haven't forgotten what it means to play the Buckeyes, nor have they forgotten what it means to fans.
Jenkins-Stone is the type of player who doesn't quit. As a matter of fact, the Wolverines have several of those types, and a lot of them are linebackers (whom Hoke helped get). Again, this can't be stressed enough: The linebackers are going to be the glue of the defense. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has access to an incredible wealth of talent and, due to great depth furnished by recruiting, the Wolverines should have one of the sturdiest collections of middle defenders in the Big Ten this season.
The former 4-star Cass Tech superstar can most certainly change the tune of fans who think Hoke isn't developing talent. Across the board? Well, they may have a point there. But overall, it's reckless to accuse Hoke of being unable to push his recruits to the next level.
Once thought of as a modestly rated recruit, the 6'3", 240-pound sophomore linebacker is viewed today as a valuable piece to Greg Mattison's defense.
Perhaps his best game to date, the Ohioan let loose with six tackles and a sack during Team 134's 42-21 regular-season-ending loss to his home-state Buckeyes.
According to Joshua Henschke of Maize 'n Brew, Mattison has been recently impressed by Gedeon—and so have teammates James Ross and Jake Ryan, both linebackers.
These linebackers are everywhere, aren't they? Thank a defensive-minded coach with an even more defensive-minded coordinator for that.
Ross, a 6'1", 227-pound junior out of Orchard Lake St. Mary's (Mich.), was part of the storied 2012 class, which was supposed to mark the return to excellence and glory. It's now 2014, guys are entering their third year in the system, and they're just now starting to make a difference.
But at linebacker, it's a bit different: Michigan's been OK at the position for the past handful of years. Either way it went, players were going to have to wait. Including good, fresh talent.
Ross has waited his turn and is one of too many Hoke defensive recruits waiting to finally shine. Granted, he hasn't been as slow as others, but he's yet to even touch full capacity. In 2012, he was named to ESPN's All-Big Ten Freshman Team. He's also played 25 games at linebacker.
As is the case for many others, this is the year for James Ross, who is one of few Hoke players who hit the ground running.
As it turned out, the 5'10", 175-pound sophomore out of Cass Tech was an excellent find for Hoke and his staff. As a true freshman in 2013, Lewis showed off some of his lockdown abilities with 17 tackles and two pass deflections. The spring game was the spring game—nothing special, and a notch or two below Michigan's normal standard.
But Lewis looked great. If not for Freddy Canteen, Lewis probably would have been unanimously viewed as the top performer of the day.
OK, so you're thinking, "Lewis was a 4-star. How does his being good qualify as being a high achiever?"
For one, he's only a sophomore. The rest of the players mentioned are entering their junior years. Also, see above—not many of Hoke's recruits have made a tremendous impact just yet, let alone during early stages of their careers.
At 6'5" and 230 pounds, the junior out of Farmington Hills Harrison (Mich.) is a first-round pick in waiting. Don't be surprised to see him enter the 2015 NFL draft, especially given the current hype that surrounds him.
The tight end-turned-wideout (2013 Mackey finalist) is on just about every preseason watch list known to mankind. He is, without a doubt, Hoke's best recruit, performance-wise, to date.
It's fair to say that most saw a decent collegiate career for Funchess—but a potential three-year stay, miles of watch lists and first-round status before his junior season?
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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