Hoke not sure where he stands on early recruiting
Michigan is operating almost a class ahead in recruiting, having filled most spots in the 2013 class before August and already extending offers to 2014 prospects. Head coach Brady Hoke doesn't like the trend, but that doesn't mean the Wolverines will change.
Programs like Texas and Penn State have employed the strategy in the recent past, and with mixed success.
"I think it's going to be interesting in a lot of different ways," Hoke said. "I'm not sure where I stand totally on it yet. I don't like it. I can tell you that. It's putting a lot of pressure on high school kids, their parents, everything else."
If they didn't take kids early, he added, they'd be in danger of falling behind.
"If we didn't, somebody else would," he said. "We're going to be aggressive in what we do. You can't sit back, or somebody's going to pass you, but I don't know what they're going to do [to slow it], or who's going to handle it.
"It's because of technology why it's progressed, become early. It used to be you'd call a coach, ask, 'do you have film?' They'd send it out, you'd get it a week later, look at it, and you may want a new one. The coach may not have the film you wanted. Now you click on the [computer] and it's right there."
Hoke added the process has become unfair to the kids, though he understood - and was grateful for - those who wanted to jump on board early at Michigan. Likewise, he remains against early enrollees, though he won't say 'no' if a kid is certain he wants to join the team in January.
"Three wanted to come, and they got it done. It was good for them and good for us," Hoke said. "But to be honest, I'd like them to go to senior prom, play baseball. I like kids playing three sports, because they're competing. Competition is the most important thing there is in life and athletics. I don't like kids who when you sign them, they say, 'I'm not going to run track - I'm going to get big for football.' No, go run track; go play baseball. Represent your team and community."
Regardless, linebackers Joe Bolden and Kaleb Ringer and safety Jarrod Wilson took advantage of it, and all benefited.
"Joe Bolden had a really, really good spring," Hoke said. "Jarrod Wilson, he played well. Kaleb Ringer had a good spring - I think he learned a lot. He was banged up a little early, but I think he did a nice job. He is going to be a good football player - all three. They got acclimated academically, which is as important as anything. We're glad they came early and are on our team."
There's been plenty of talk that a freshman offensive lineman or two might crack the lineup this year. Hoke wouldn't rule it out.
"It's probably always tough there, but at the same time it depends on the kid," he said. "You can't just lump everyone in the same boat. From a physical standpoint, a mental standpoint, fundamentals and techniques, schemes - the toughest thing for a high schooler is protection. Are you sliding weak, sliding strong? What's a double read? That's the hardest part.
"We've started freshmen before. The good thing about freshmen is they get older, but we may have a couple guys who are ready for it."
Special teams will be a point of emphasis in the fall.
"We've got to do a better job in the return game," Hoke said. "Kickoff returns were not very good. You can gain some first downs for your offense if you can move the ball down the field.
"We'll have some competition at punter with Will Hagerup and Matt Wile. Brendan Gibbons came out last year and had a good year [at kicker], made great improvement. Now we'll see with competition in fall camp where he's at."
Hoke isn't certain when Michigan will know about junior quarterback Devin Gardner's potential redshirt. Gardner will apply for a medical after being sidelined much of his freshman year with a reported back injury.
"Compliance and our trainers will send all the information in, and it will go to league office first," Hoke said. "If they think it's okay, they'll award it. I don't know the whole timeline, but I think we'll start sometime in mid-fall."