Michigan head coach Brady Hoke likes his 2014 recruiting haul, small as it may be. Here's part II of his Signing Day presser in News and Views form …
News: Five-star cornerback Jabrill Peppers is expected to play early, but Hoke wouldn't say who else he thought might contribute in their first years.
Hoke: "That's always a tough question. You hestitate to say because all of a sudden you say it and then everybody thinks that's gospel, and then when a guy doesn't play for one reason or another, they start questioning the kid.
"We really got away from this being about this being about the kids playing the game. It's not going to go back; its' not going to get any better. But I think there are five or six guys who may have an opportunity."
Views: And several of those are likely to be from the early enrollees, Hoke added. That's to be expected. Jake Butt and Kyle Bosch were two who played early after arriving in January last year. We'd bet on receiver Drake Harris and possibly slot receiver Freddy Canteen, who has great speed at the position, receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski noted Wednesday. Harris didn't play last year due to a hamstring injury.
"Physically, he's improved. He's doing more and more," Hoke said. "He ran yesterday, and he's feeling closer to 100 percent all the time."
He'll be ready by the time spring ball starts.
Overall, Hoke said there wasn't a need that went unfulfilled despite the low number.
"We really hit the sweet spots on where we needed help and depth," he said. "I was pretty proud of being able to keep that all together. We were really happy with that."
News: The Wolverines signed four, highly rated linebackers in Michael Ferns, Noah Furbush, Jared Wangler and Chase Winovich.
Hoke: "Micahel is in school right now. We've played with and had a little shorter guys in the mix a little bit at 6-1, 6-0, but the length Michael and Noah have, the athleticism Jared has - he was a safety, but as the evoluation of man got a little more he went down in the box more. I like all three, their attitudes, how they attack the game. Noah played with a cast on his hand all year. He took it off with a hedgetrimmer by himself. I wouldn't recommend it, he just wanted to play.
"Chase is really athletic. It will be interesting to watch him play and all of them. He's a very good athlete with good length. He will remind you physically a little bit of Jake Ryan, that type of body type."
Views: Time will tell which linebacker position each plays, but there are options given the versatility of the group.
"You can go two different ways with your SAM," Hoke continued. "Long arms and has a lot of range playing over a tight end, more 4-3 where you don't have to have that kind of guy, or if you're playing in an under front the SAM can play wider. The width will help you in his leverage of the ball.
"We've got to see them run around a little bit and see what they do best. We do think Chase could be the SAM, so we've kind of thought about that. Noah can be a Mike or Will, Ferns is a mike, Jared is a will, or Jared because of his athleticism could be a SAM."
News: Floridian Brady Pallante started off as a greyshirt, but he earned a scholarship with his play.
Hoke: "We were looking at a lot of different inside guys, and as we kept looking at them, he had something special a lot of them didn't have. His hand placement, his movement, how he played with his hands, all that stuff.
"This was one of those things where Greg and thought, let's bring this guy in now. He was a state wrestling champion a year ago and Rob Renes some of those guys who have played inside - wrestlers have a pretty good leverage standpoint and know what to do."
Views: But they're not all great football players. Pallante is seen as a stretch, a two-star prospect without a lot of great offers. He's one of the reasons the class isn't ranked higher, but Hoke is confident in his decision.
"Size of class has something to do with [the ranking], but I really don't think I care. I think of the guys who have been pretty good football players here or other schools that are three or two stars, and Idon't know how much I would put stock into that."
"The class fits what we needed to fit."
Three-star cornerback Brandon Watson was another who didn't have a number of big time offers, but he earned his scholarship at camp in front of the coaches.
"When they came to camp, when the coach brought them, you saw the competitiveness those guys had. Freddy Canteen and him, they'd line them up and watch them go at it," Hoke said. "His athleticism, the toughness for a corner, he's already a bigger corner in some ways.
"The neat part is you're in the homes before Chirstmas of the guys who came early, being with their mothers, dads, grandmas. How they treat each other is really neat. That's the fun part about recruiting. After January, getting in the homes with all the families, their commitments to their sons and their next journey is really neat."
News: Some have suggested the perception is a program in trouble after a 7-6 season.
Hoke: "I don't really listen to outside people. The guys who are in Shcembechler Hall, in the offices, the meetings, the players - those are the ones you listen to. Eveybody's got opinions. Whether you were here or not, you're going to write what you think. It doesn't matter.
"My point is, that stuff doesn't matter. If you get worried about that, you're going to do a poor job coaching and making sure the young guys on that team learn how we do things."
Views: There's no question the program has lost some momentum under Brady Hoke, with a poor season having cost them at least two, highly rated linemen in Da'Shawn Hand and Malik McDowell.
It doesn't have to be a program killer, though. There's plenty of young talent, and this class adds to it. There are only a handful of recruits in the last three classes that didn't have big time offers.
That said, this is a critical season upcoming. Win and you get guys like Damien Harris and George Campbell back. Lose, and you've got serious problems recruiting. Hoke isn't on the hotseat, as some have indicated, but he and the coaching staff have their work cut out for them this year to prove 2013 was a fluke.