Michigan's recruiting efforts during the Brady Hoke era have been nothing short of outstanding. The 2012 class ranked No. 7 nationally, and the group that signed earlier this month came in No. 5. Michigan already has three commits in the 2014 class, and that group looks like another that could achieve high national acclaim.
The credit goes to all of Michigan's coaches and support staff. One of them, Director of Player Personnel Chris Singletary, could have one of the biggest behind-the-scenes roles in the process.
"I think the biggest thing in my job is, I try to be the information gatherer for our staff," Singletary said. "Whether it's film, whether it's academic information or things of that nature, I really get all of that legwork done for our guys. I make sure they have everything they need in order to start evaluating these guys.
"If there's a guy on the radar that I hear about, or that we do research about, I make sure that they get [that information] right now so they can get a good evaluation on him. They can call the high school coach so that they can get the background."
The Director of Player Personnel role has become more important in the last few years as the recruiting process moves closer to the mainstream. With so much information available, Singletary does what he can to collect it all for each player on the radar. Once that information is gathered, he acts as a filter for the coaching staff.
When prospects do make it onto the Michigan campus, he's also tasked with making sure the itinerary for the visit is set - and executed to perfection. The importance of campus visits can't be overstated, and Singletary plays a crucial role in that process, as well.
"When that kid gets on campus, my job is making sure that he has a great visit," Singletary explained. "Whether it's unofficially or officially, you want that young man to say, 'You know what? Michigan is different. It isn't like every other school. It's Michigan.' Making sure they have a great experience from that standpoint and really conveying to them what this place can do for you outside of football I think is the biggest thing.
"It's not necessarily about the facilities and things of that nature - and they all play a big part in it - but it's also about the people. I think they see the University of Michigan: great academic institution, great football. They know that. Then they get to Ann Arbor and they see what the campus is like, they see the environment, and they like that."
As has always been - and will always be - the case in recruiting, it's the relationship-building process that truly helps a school move from a favorite contender to a place that the prospect and family feel comfortable.
"They see how we interact with our players, that we care about them not only as football players but more importantly as a person and as a student-athlete," he said. "Understand, sooner or later football is going to end. From that standpoint, the parents know it's just not football football football: it's life. Our staff is going to take that young man and we're going to build on those things that the mom and dad taught them.
"I was fortunate enough to work with NFL players for seven years and that's not the be-all end-all that's just the vehicle. That's not - football is not - who you are, it's what you do. Getting those guys to understand that there's more to life."
Anyone who has played at Michigan - as Singletary did from 1994-98 - will tell you: It takes a special person to understand that Michigan is about more than just football. Even more importantly, having that understanding while also possessing the football talent to make an impact on the college level narrows the list further.
The Michigan coaching staff starts each class considering upwards of 1,000 prospects for 16-28 slots in the class. That list is added to over the course of the process, but also pared down through a variety of factors. Michigan's 2013 class of 27 signees is the cream of the crop that the Wolverines were able to reel in, as is the case in every year.
"Michigan is a different place from the standpoint that it's a rigorous academic institution," Singletary said. "From that standpoint, you have to be able to not only make it on the field, but you've got to be able to succeed in the classroom. That's one factor that might whittle it down some. Then you also have to look at the need. Sometimes the need is going to be different depending on what side of the ball and which position.
"Then you have what we call 'signability': Relationship, location, travel: some guys from way out-of-state might not want to make that trip. I think really you try to look at a year-to-year and try to find out an exact science to it, and there's no exact science."
Stay tuned for part two of the interview tomorrow. Singletary discusses "The Policy" that Michigan's coaching staff has established for commit visits, the trend of prospects enrolling early in college, and more.