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February 27, 2012

Re-Ranking U-M's recruiting classes: 2005

We conclude the re-ranking of Michigan's recruiting classes from 2002-09 with the worst of the bunch - the 2005 cohort. This class ranked sixth nationally but largely fizzled ...

This nine-part series started Feb. 7, with a quick glance at how the classes stacked up. The players were divided into three categories: standouts, contributors and busts, each respective to the rest of the class.

In other words, someone like punter Zoltan Mesko didn't have to be a two-time All-Big Ten first-team performer to be considered a standout, he just had to be someone in his class that belonged in the upper tier. A bust, say tight end Carson Butler, in contrast, was someone that accomplished very little or nothing at all (or was dismissed from the team) compared to the rest of his classmates.

Overview

A total of 23 athletes signed letters of intent with Michigan in February 2002, including 10 four-star recruits and five-star tailback Kevin Grady. Out of the 23, seven would hold a full-time starting job for at least one season, but with the exception of receiver Mario Manningham there were no true stars. The class had some solid players, like defensive tackle Terrance Taylor and offensive lineman David Moosman, but too many burnouts.

Fulfilling Their Potential

Here is a look at the stars each player earned as a recruit and what they earned as a player at Michigan.

Athlete
Recruit Stars
Michigan Stars
Antonio Bass
Inc.
Carson Butler
Andre Criswell
Jason Forcier
Inc.
Eugene Germany
Inc.
Kevin Grady
Brandon Harrison
Brandon Logan
Mario Manningham
Tim McAvoy
James McKinney
Inc.
Chris McLaurin
Zoltan Mesko
David Moosman
Mark Ortmann
Chris Richards
Inc.
LaTerryal Savoy
Justin Schifano
Inc.
Johnny Sears
Inc.
Mister Simpson
Inc.
Marques Slocum
Inc.
Terrance Taylor
Cory Zirbel

*Editor's Note - How Stars Were Awarded:
A five-star is a multi-year starter All-American type.
A four-star is a multi-year starter that was all-conference caliber (first, second or HM).
A three-star was a solid role player that may have started but never played at a consistently high level, moving into that four-star category.
A two-star was someone that never or barely played but stayed through graduation.
And an Incomplete is for those who do not complete their eligibility at U-M.

Best Player - Offense: Four players from the Class of 2005 would be ranked a four-star or better after their U-M careers and only one resides on the offense so this is a pretty easy pick for wide receiver Mario Manningham. Had he faced greater competition, it still probably would have been Manningham, though.

The Ohioan immediately began starring for the Wolverines as a freshman, pulling down 27 catches for 433 yards and a freshman single-season receiver record six touchdowns.

In 2006, he was, arguably, the best deep man in the country, using a ridiculously-honed double-move to juke cornerbacks, and the speed to outrun safeties, as he and quarterback Chad Henne connected on nine touchdown passes of 20 yards or more, including three greater than 40 yards. He finished his sophomore campaign with 38 grabs for 703 yards (18.5-yard average) and would have had bigger numbers if not for a knee injury that sidelined him for four contests.

Fully healthy in 2007, Manningham had a season for the ages, catching 72 balls (sixth all time) for 1,174 yards (second) and 12 scores (sixth) en route to All-Big Ten and All-American honors. He also set a Michigan record with six consecutive 100-yard performances while his six straight games with at least one touchdown represents the fifth-longest streak by a Wolverine.

Best Player - Defense: Like on offense, there is very little to choose from defensively unless we lumped punter Zoltan Mesko into this group. But defensive tackle Terrance Taylor is deserving, even if he ended his career with a whimper.

The Muskegon, Mich., native was a big get for Loyd Carr's staff, showing the talent to be a difference-maker for years to come. And in fact, he was, to some degree, starting three years on the interior of the defensive line for the Wolverines.

After playing a key role along the line for a 2006 defense that held opponents to a mere 43.4 yards rushing per game, Taylor really came into his own as a junior, earning All-Big Ten second-team honors after recording 8.5 tackles for loss among 55 total stops for a 9-4 Michigan team.

He wouldn't go out the way he wanted, struggling to help a porous defense and a team that would limp to a 3-9 finish - the worst season is more than 50 years - and was responsible for some of the failures, as the defensive line failed to live up to its expectations. However, Taylor was never accused of dogging it, like some teammates, giving his best every snap because that's all he knew.

Biggest Surprise - Offense: The biggest success story offensively out of this class is shared by offensive linemen Mark Ortmann and David Moosman. Thrown into the trash heap after three unproductive years, the two resurrected their careers under Rich Rodriguez, each becoming a two-year starter for the Maize and Blue.

Seemingly always trying to grow into his 6-7 frame, Ortmann finally filled out and began finding his place towards the end of the 2007 season. In 2008, he started 11 games for U-M, including nine at left tackle and two at left guard. As a senior captain, he was the permanent starter at left tackle and was awarded the Hugh R. Rader Jr. Award as Michigan's top offensive lineman.

A true student-athlete, Moosman was a selfless teammate during his career, moving to center to fill in for an injured David Molk for eight games during his senior year. Moosman was a better guard, a spot where his athleticism was an asset, as he showed while starting 12 games in 2008. A terrific team spokesman, with outstanding passion, Moosman was given the Robert P. Ufer Bequest award, which honors the Wolverine with the greatest love and enthusiasm for U-M.

Biggest Surprise - Defense: When Michigan signed Brandon Harrison he was no slouch, ranked a four-star prospect and the No. 16 cornerback nationally. However, it was easy to envision a career in which he became a key nickel back but not much else. Harrison, however, had greater ambition than that, and he would, during his career, start at safety, cornerback and nickel back for the Wolverines.

Though only 5-9, Harrison had electric 4.3 speed, and he was surprisingly physical for his stature. As a freshman, he started four games at safety for an injury-deleted secondary, earning Freshman All-American honors. He would start 15 games over his next two seasons, all in a five-defensive back formation in which he covered the slot receiver, and he did the job well, racking up four pass breakups and two picks, with 9.5 tackles for loss among 72 stops.

In his senior year, Harrison moved back to safety, starting all 12 games. He was a demon off the blitz, recording seven tackles for loss among a career-high 69 stops, and would finish his career with 16.5 TFLs and 12 pass breakups. Harrison may not have wanted to be a jack-of-all-trades performer when he arrived at U-M but that career paid off for him and the Wolverines.

Bust - Offense: When Kevin Grady offered his pledge to Michigan, Mike Hart was a nobody, just some kid with really cool highlight film, and he was the big dog everyone wanted to see in a U-M uniform. As it played out, though, Grady would live in Hart's shadow and would then disgrace himself before finding some redemption in the end.

Grady was a five-star. The first and only five-star running back Michigan has ever landed. He was expected to dominate the Big Ten like he did as a star from East Grand Rapids. But by the time he arrived in Ann Arbor, Hart had set a Wolverine freshman rushing record and wasn't about to cede his job to someone, even someone with Grady's hype.

Grady did start twice as a freshman, in place of an injured Hart, and finished his rookie season with 483 yards and five scores on 121 carries (4.0 yards per rush). That was the high point for Grady, who would serve as Hart's backup in 2006 and would miss the 2007 season with a knee injury.

With Hart gone, and no heir, Grady might have had a chance to make a name for himself but he was busted for alcohol-related charge before the 2008 season and was almost kicked off the team. He returned in 2009 as Michigan's fullback, and played the role well, at least going out on his own terms. However, he never came close to living up to his potential and his career was marred by the off-field incident.

Bust - Defense: It has to be Eugene Germany, right? What about Chris Richards? Johnny Sears? Marques Slocum? We're going with James McKinney, ranked a four-star and the No. 98 player in the country, because he was compared to Warren Sapp during his prep career and was supposed to team with Taylor to form one of the best interior duos U-M has ever had.

McKinney was a talent. Boy, was he a talent. Blessed with unbelievable quickness off the snap from someone 6-2, 285 pounds, he could have been that playmaking defensive tackle Michigan had lacked since Josh Williams graduated in 1999. Instead, he was kicked out of school before the 2007 campaign for a variety of reasons. He wound up on Louisville's roster in 2008 but was ruled academically ineligible and did not resurface.

McKinney epitomized the 2005 class. A talent, but talent wasted.


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