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August 22, 2012By popular demand - a look at Michigan's 2012 lacrosse recruiting class. Will the new Wolverines be able to help their program improve from its 1-13 flop in Year One?
The RankingsAlthough there is no Rivals.com for lacrosse, there are still recruiting rankings available for the sport. Inside Lacrosse magazine is the game's authority in the United States, and ranks Michigan's incoming 2012 class No. 19 nationally (out of 63 Division I programs). ECAC conference foes Hobart (No. 20), Ohio State (No. 16), Loyola (No. 15), Denver (No. 14), and Fairfield (No. 12) also make the top 20, as does Big Ten rival Penn State (No. 7).
A couple of Michigan's incoming players also make the cut as top players at their own positions. Carlsbad (Calif.) La Costa Canyon's Brendan Gaughan - a football teammate and friend of football signee Erik Magnuson - is the No. 14 attackman in the nation, and Chaminade (N.Y.) freshman Matt Graham is ranked No. 29 among midfielders. Both players also clock in on the national top 100, at Nos. 44 and No. 95 overall, respectively.
ESPNHS ranks another player, faceoff specialist Brad Lott from Louisville (Ky.) Trinity, as the No. 15 player in the nation. It also gives Gaughan the nod as No. 27 in the country, a slightly better ranking than given by IL.
Overall, Michigan signed 18 players in the class of 2012, and should bring in some preferred walkons and possibly even some transfers as well.
The Impact PlayersAs top-100 players should, both Gaughan and Graham should make an early impact in Ann Arbor.
Gaughan is a 6-3, 180-pounder who is physically reminiscent of outgoing attackman Trevor Yealy, who holds the program record in goals as both a club player (283, an MCLA record) and the team's brief varsity tenure, with 26 goals last season. If Gaughan - expected to play crease attack, like Yealy - can be nearly as productive a player as the one he's replacing, he should be bigtime.
Graham played his high school ball on a loaded Chaminade team (he is one of eight Division I prospects in the senior class), and has the ability to excel as both a defensive and offensive midfielder.
Faceoff specialist is a position that may confuse many people who don't follow the sport. However, even a player who is only on the field to take draws can have a huge impact in games. For example, VMI's Stephen Robarge won 209 of 314 faceoffs last season - giving his team an advantage of 105 possessions over there opponents, and more opportunities to score goals. According to ESPNHS, Lott is the top faceoff specialist in the country (IL doesn't rank players at the position), and with the departure of fifth-year senior Brian Greiner, Lott should have the chance to prove himself worthy of the ranking.
Other players who didn't receive recognition could also impress. Sachem (N.Y.) goalie Gerald Logan is an excellent athlete - and a darn good backstop, as well. Though Michigan's starting goalie last year, Emil Weiss, was just a freshman, he could be supplanted (or at the very least augmented) by Logan between the pipes.
Defensemen such as Hudson (Ohio) graduate Cooper Charlton (who played basketball with 2013 football commitment Ben Gedeon in high school before doing a post-graduate year in Canada) should make an impact on the game, helping Michigan improve from the ranks of the country's worst in its first year.
Back on offense, Hill Academy (Ont.) midfielder Kyle Jackson is not the biggest player in the world, but players from north of the border are known for slick skills with the ball in their sticks, and he's no exception. Jackson is a very quick player, and has a good enough shot that could help him make a big impact on the field.
For much more on the 2012 signees, see this post from Great Lax State.
The OutlookSo, Michigan is bringing in a solid recruiting class, but how much will they be able to improve the Wolverines' team? That's tough to say, but it's unlikely that coach John Paul's charges repeat a 1-13 campaign.
Lott should be an immediate upgrade on faceoffs, Gaughan will (hopefully) fill in where Yealy departs, and the midfielders and defensemen should upgrade the talent in those areas immediately. Logan has a chance to improve goalie depth, if not challenge for a starting job there.
Add in another year of experience for most of the other Wolverines - and possibly some student body walkons - and the record should be improved, along with the overall team ability. Michigan has a tough slate ahead of them for the 2013 season: Conference-mate Loyola is the reigning national champion, and Denver also made the national tournament. Big Ten foes Ohio State and Penn State - with whom Michigan competes for the Creator's Trophy - are ahead of the Wolverines in terms of program building. You can also expect U-M to schedule heavies like Notre Dame and Johns Hopkins in the near future.
While the going will be slow at first, Michigan isn't shying away from anyone - nor should they.
The FutureLike football - or perhaps even moreso - lacrosse recruiting has sped up in recent years. Michigan's class of 2013 is mostly complete, and the Wolverines have a number of 2014 commits (and even a 2015) in the fold. Two of those 2013 commits were recently selected to participate in the Warrior 40 in Denver (a lacrosse equivalent of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl), and both performed well, with Whitby (Ont.) attackman Austin Shanks winning the accuracy prize in the skills competition. Future teammate Ian King (Cincinnati/St. Xavier) scored two assists in the all-star game.
Michigan's 2013 goalie commit, Conestoga (Pa.) product Robbie Zonino, is ranked the No. 30 overall player in his class by Inside Lacrosse, and Brunswick (Conn.) goalie commit Tommy Heidt is No. 42 overall in the rising junior class.
Though it will take the Wolverines some time to catch up to opponents in recruiting, the trajectory in Ann Arbor is clearly pointing upward.