Feb. 1, 2012
Press Conference with Coach Hoke | Signing Day Coverage
Signing Day Video: The First Hour | Mid-Day Update | Wrap-Up
Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke
Opening statement ... "First, I want to thank the people within the athletic department, the professors that are on campus that give up their time on Saturdays to meet with these young men who come on campus and their families. The representation that they bring with them in how they treat these kids is something that I don't know if other universities get, so I really want to think them.
"This class we're very excited about. I know none of you will ask the question -- is this a good class -- because it is. We don't try and recruit bad classes. But I've been asked that before, so I was hoping to save anybody an embarrassment.
"Really, the exciting thing is I think we hit some needs and some areas of need that we needed to address -- some of that from maybe the lack of scholarships that were at some positions. The other part of it is the style of offense and style of defense that we want to play. So I think that's a big part of it.
"(We're) excited about the kids in the class. The integrity and the character in our research and our detective work or whatever you want to call it of really trying to find out about the kids is something that we're really proud of, and their families and the integrity that this class has.
"I want to go through them, and I think you got a handout. I'm going to go through them relatively quickly. The coaches are (here), and they'll spend some time with you afterwards when you look at positions.
"But the three guys who came early, Kaleb Ringer and Joe Bolden and Jarrod Wilson, the two linebackers and a safety. They've been here since the semester started and they're doing a great job from an academic standpoint issue. Just talking with the winter conditioning, those three are doing a tremendous job there.
"Blake Bars is a big offensive tackle out of Nashville, Montgomery Bell High School. He's a guy that we really liked early in the recruiting, and gives us more size up front in what we want to do.
"Ben Braden is an offensive lineman out of Rockford. Ralph Munger, his coach, is one of the legendary coaches in the state of Michigan. But, again, another big-bodied guy who has got a lot of range and a guy we really think is going to be, like all of them, a good player and will play for Michigan.
"Jehu Chesson, 6-3 receiver out of St. Louis. He's a guy that we targeted early. You can imagine we target most of these guys early. But really he's got a lot of the range to him, his hand-eye skills and how he handles the ball.
"Jeremy Clark is a big safety out of Madisonville, Ky. He's a guy that we had in camp and watched run around and watched his film and thought he was a great fit.
"Amara Darboh, again, is another lengthy receiver out of Des Moines -- West Des Moines, Iowa. He's a guy that we thought could go up and get the ball. He had good numbers, if you want to call them that, when you look at speed and his length and everything like that.
"Devin Funchess out of Farmington Hills. I think on here is says 205. He's more 220 now. He's a very athletic tight end; a guy who can play your 'move' tight end. A guy you get down near the red zone you can put him on the outside. He catches the ball extremely well with his hands, but you can put him in the red zone and throw the ball up to him.
"Allen Gant from Sylvania, Ohio. That name might be familiar. His father, Tony played here, played for Coach Schembechler. Allen is a big safety. He's a guy who has got a knack for the football.
"Matt Godin is from (Catholic Central), a school that in this state is coached extremely really. Tom Mach, who has been coaching there a long time, has produced a lot of great players. Matt is a big defensive lineman that we're really excited about.
"Willie Henry from Cleveland -- Glenville High School -- is a young man that we kind of got on late. We're very happy we got on him late, to be honest with you. He's very athletic and he's a young guy who is a very good football player.
"Sione Houma from Salt Lake City is a fullback. And within the offense, we really need to get ourselves some fullback-type bodies. He's extremely strong, physical guy.
"Royce Jenkins-Stone is a linebacker from Cass Tech. He's a guy who committed early to us. He's a very talented young man. He will run and hit, and that's kind of what you kind of want linebackers to do.
"Drake Johnson from Ann Arbor Pioneer, again, is a guy who's had tremendous numbers. He's a bigger back. He'll be a 215-pound back, probably, 220. He is a physical runner, and really (good) hand-eye skills, catching the football. We had him at camp and got to really test him in some of those areas. In the offense, you've got to have backs who are big enough to protect and big enough and good enough from an athletic standpoint to catch the ball out of the backfield. We really like what Drake does.
"Kyle Kalis is an offensive lineman out of St. Ed's in Lakewood, Ohio. He's a powerful, strong, road-grating type of offensive lineman that we want to have in the offense. He's very talented.
"Erik Magnuson is an offensive tackle out of Carlsbad, Calif. We've been recruiting him for a couple years because we were trying to get him to go to San Diego State. There is a lot of familiarity. He had come to a bunch of practices and it was a great fit for us and a great fit for him.
"Dennis Norfleet, from Martin Luther King, happened at the end. One reason was when you look at it, we had a couple scholarships left that we had either sign over with or we would make sure that we could have him in this class. The other part of it was our needs when we lost Darryl Stonum. This guy is a guy who returns kicks. He's got speed. He's a guy who can do a lot of things catching the football. He runs the football. He's an athlete. We're really impressed with him.
"Mario Ojemudia is from Farmington Hills. He's a very talented rush end. He's very quick, we like how he comes of the ball and, again, well-coached. John Herrington over there does a tremendous job, and has for years.
"Ondre Pipkins, or Pee Wee, is a big man. He's a big man in the middle, which you need on defense. Play three or one shade. We're very excited about him.
"Terry Richardson is, again, another Cass Tech young man who is well-coached by Thomas Wilcher, state championship football team. There's been a lot of connection obviously with Michigan and Cass Tech over the years, and Terry is a corner that we think is going to do a great job for us.
"James Ross is from Orchard Lake St. Mary's -- again, another linebacker. He's a guy who -- see ball, hit ball. He has very good football sense and instinct when you look at a linebacker. I think that's important.
"Tommy Strobel is from Mentor, Ohio. He's another defensive end. He's a guy that we really liked from the get-go and is really a guy that we expect big things out of.
"A.J. Williams is a big tight end out of Sycamore High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. He's very physical young lad at the point of attack; but at the same time, he's tremendously skilled running routes and catching the football.
"And then Chris Wormley, a big defensive end out of Toledo, Ohio, Whitmer High School. Joe Palka, his coach, is one of the better coaches in the state of Ohio. He just took the Saline coaching job not too long ago. But he's an extremely talented young man. He's very long, very physical. We're excited that he's there.
"So I think I got them all. Those are the guys in this class. We're extremely excited about them. We can't wait to start working with them."
On recruiting so many offensive and defensive linemen ... "When we got here, we had eight guys on the offensive line on scholarship. Usually that number is 14 to 16. So that part of it, going to a 4-3, I think we had seven or eight guys on scholarship on the defensive line. Usually that's 12-14, so our numbers have been down there for one reason or another. So we tried to address that. As you know that's where the game is played. We got a tremendous quarterback, but he can't do anything if those guys up front aren't blocking at the line of scrimmage, and same thing defensively if we don't have who can be aggressive at the line of scrimmage."
On having an entire year to recruit this class as opposed to last year when it was one month ... "Obviously it's a lot different. You have a chance to start on guys, and we started on the '13 class already. Having a whole year to get to know families, to make those relationships, and to touch people and really find out as much as you can about a guy from the academic to the character side of it, you know, their love and passion for the game and understanding the value of a Michigan degree is all part of it definitely helps."
On learning how best to navigate the recruiting process over the years ... "I think the biggest thing is you have to talk to the right people. Look, it's not an exact science, none of it is. You do as much as you can with the people in the high schools, people within the community. You try and find out as much as you can. I think that's all a big part of it. It's sad to say that some of the stuff, because of social media, you can find out a lot about guys, so that's all part of it. That's what's changed, and I don't think it's for the good in a lot of ways."
On how many players will have a chance to play right away ... "We'll see. It's not fair to any of them. You ask that question, well, all of them have an opportunity. They have to take advantage of it. They have to know the expectations."
On whether these are one-year or four-year scholarships ... "We went and made them four-year scholarships. We'll see where all that goes with the NCAA with some addendums of how you would lose a scholarship. Obviously you quit football, you're not going to be on scholarship."
On the connection to Toledo, Ohio, with Kevin Koger and Jordan Kovacs and now Chris Wormley and Allen Gant ... "Obviously, it's a lot closer to Ann Arbor than it is Columbus, so I think that helps. But I think over the years, Michigan coaches and being here before (myself), I think they've always taken a lot of pride in how they recruit Northwest Ohio and the relationship with the coaches that have been built up over many years."
On recruiting against Michigan State and Ohio State for Michigan and Ohio recruits ... "We're going to run into them and we're going to compete. I guess the best way to answer it is we really like the class we have."
On if early commitments help build momentum in a class ... "Two things. Number one, we've got a great institution. A degree from Michigan is a global education and what it all stands for, I that that's part it of. Then I think the winningest program in the history of college football, the facilities we have, the people at the university. Having those early commitments definitely helped, because you see those guys working and recruiting guys that they want to play with."
On positions where depth concerns may necessitate freshmen contributing ... "We lose three starting seniors on the defensive line, so obviously that's an opportunity. We lose a center and we lose a right tackle who both played a lot of football at Michigan. So as you look at it, I think that's all part of it. Tight end wise, you lose two tight ends, so I think that's part of it. On paper and everything else that makes sense, but like the kids here in this program know, it doesn't matter if you're fifth-year senior or wet behind the ears and a true freshman, the best player is going to play. There is an expectation for how you play at that position."
On the relationships he has with the high school coaches in Ohio ... "I had recruited it enough. I obviously grew up there. At Ball State we did a lot of work in Ohio, so there is a lot of fellowship there and some relationships. Then Mark Smith has recruited the portion of Ohio that he has for 25 years. Greg (Mattison) has recruited Cleveland and that whole area and Columbus before, so there are some preexisting relationships that are pretty good. Obviously the comfort level that they feel with you, your integrity and your character in taking care of their kids, I think they all understand that."
On when Michigan began looking at Dennis Norfleet and what was it you saw in him ... "To be honest with you, it was pretty much yesterday. You go through the process. We're talking about numbers and building this puzzle. We were going to have the numbers to be able to take a guy like him. It happens that way sometimes. Believe me."
On the fact that so many of Michigan's "early" commitments stayed true to their verbal commitment ... "That says a lot about Michigan. It says a lot about our kids on this team and the guys in the program who they develop relationships with. I think it has a lot to say about this university. I think it has a lot to say about the (assistant coaches) and the job they do."
On recruiting being easier this year than last because prospects could better see his coaching efforts ... "It's never easy. It's competitive. It's 12 months a year, 365 days a year. If you're not writing a handwritten note, if you're not watching tape, if you're not calling a coach or having a kid call in to talk to you, then you're going to go backwards. We don't intend to go backwards."
On Ondre Pipkins and how he fits into the U-M defense ... "Any time you have a big defensive lineman in the middle that's always important. I think there is a great relationship that we've built to this point."
On choosing to give out four-year scholarships to each player ... "You had to kind of figure it out. You didn't know what everybody else was going to do. I think sometime they're either going to go, 'Okay, we'll make them two-year deals and not four.' They were four a long time ago. You decided you don't want to play anymore but you're still on scholarship, that's not fair to the school. I always thought the one-year renewables were fine, because in my tenure as head coach or being an assistant coach, I don't remember guys that their scholarship was taken because of (athletic) performance. It was something socially; it was something academically. So I don't know why the change. I think the NCAA made a lot of decisions in that one meeting they had probably six months ago when the cost of education and all that, and they put the brakes on a lot of things. We need to find out more about it and how conducive it all is.
On how important the relationship-building process is over the course of recruiting a player ... "I think it always is a difference. The longer you're engaged and building those relationships and the information and the commitment, it's like going to the bank. You're putting your money in the bank. You're making the commitment. It's no different. When you commit to people and they see that commitment, usually things go pretty well."
On if this class has replenished the numbers for the offensive and defensive lines ... "We're always going to take guys up front. You just think about the pounding of the game of football. Most of it wears at the line of scrimmage, so we've always got to be recruiting three, four, five offensive linemen a year. Same thing with defensive linemen. So are we replenished -- no, but we're making progress."
On Kyle Kalis facing pressure to attend Ohio State ... "He's got tremendous resolve. When you have a great rivalry, those things happen. "