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March 05, 2008 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-03-05

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8A - Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

A new standard for recruiting


Daily Sports Editor
Michigan football coach Rich
Rodriguez had just three weeks
to assemble next year's freshman
class, but Signing Day treated the
Wolverines' coaching staff well.
Not only did it keep the majority
of former head coach Lloyd Carr's
verbal commitments, it also pulled
out some last-minute surprises
before introducingthe new recruits
on Feb. 6.
Even though Michigan was
pleased with its class, ranked 10th
in the nation by recruiting website
Rivals.com, other Big Ten coaches
certainly weren't pleased with some
of the Wolverines' late recruiting
For better or worse, it's clear
Rodriguez has already set a new
Persuading Carr's recruits
Rodriguez's first priority was to
make sure the 16 athletes who com-
mitted under Carr still wanted to be
"Obviously, there were a lot of
new coaches and some new philoso-
phies coming in - I didn't want to
assume anything," Rodriguez said.
"So we took the approach with them
that this was the first time that the
University of Michigan had talked
to them."
Rodriguez said he empha-
sized face-to-face communication
between recruits and his "very
personable staff" while trying to
persuade commits to stick with
Michigan, but with his busy sched-
ule, much of the recruiting was also
done over the telephone.
During the Wolverines' trip to
Florida for the Capital One Bowl,
Rodriguez called wide receiver
Darryl Stonum and his father to
make sure the Sugar Land, Tex.
native was still interested in coming
to Michigan. Stonum enrolled early,
began classes this semester and has
already started training with the
Boubacar Cissoko, the first
recruit of the 2008 class, scheduled
a visit to Penn State after learning
of Carr's departure. After hearing
media reports that Rodriguez had
fired all nine of Carr's assistant
coaches, Cissoko told the Detroit
Free Press in mid-December he was
no longer committed. But by the end
of December, Cissoko reasserted
his status as a Wolverine.
The Charleston (W. Va.) Daily
Mail wrote in January that Rodri-
guez had a head start on keeping
Carr's recruits because he started
wooing them the same day he offi-
cially resigned from West Virginia.
Records from his West Virginia-
issued cell phone showed that he
made calls to Cissoko and Traverse
City lineman Rocko Khoury.
Regardless of the controversy
surrounding the timing of Rodri-
guez's cell phone calls, he success-
fullyminimized Michigan's losses.
Two of Michigan's notable
decommitments were h-back Chris-
tian Wilson and quarterback John
Wienke. Wilson originally commit-
ted to the Wolverines in August,
but after Carr retired, Wilson was
unsure how he would fit into the
new offense and defected to North
Wienke, who committed to
Michigan in July, switched to Iowa
in December.
Rodriguez said he was told that
"you lose as many as half of the

commitments" after a coaching
But in Rodriguez's case, many
recruits ended up coming to Michi-
gan at the last minute.
Controversial additions
Being a Michigan Man entails

somebody verbally commits to your
institution, but they continue to
visit, that verbal commitment is not
a real solid verbal commitment.
"That's like you say you're
engaged to someone but you con-
tinue to date. Your fiance ain'tgoing
to be very happy."
To improve recruiting practices,
Tiller said he supports an early
Signing Day that would theoretical-
ly eliminate Roundtree-esque sce-
narios. Under that system, athletes
would be able to sign a binding let-
ter of intent in the first half of their
senior year.
Interestingly, despite his success
with last-minute switches, Rodri-
guez also said he supports the idea
of an early Signing Day similar to
the one in basketball. The date
would most likely be in mid-Decem-
ber and would cater to athletes with
long-term verbal commitments,like
Shaw to Penn State or Roundtree to
Purdue. Coaches would also ben-
efit because they would have more
time to fill holes in their recruiting
Rodriguez is on the board of the
American Football Coaches Asso-
ciation, and he said the group has
talked about implementing an early
Signing Day for years.
"It really makes too much sense,"
Rodriguez said. "Hopefully, we can
get that done. There are always
going to be signing-day surprises,
but that would clear up a lot of the
Branching out
Of Michigan's 24 recruits, just
five are in-staters.
And despite the presence of a
football power in Columbus, the
Wolverines continued their tradi-
tional success in Ohio by grabbing
seven players - the most from any
state in this year's class.
Some of the Ohio recruits also
received offers from Ohio State, but
usually after Michigan had already
been pursuing them.
Columbus native and offensive
lineman Patrick Omameh was
originally committed to Cincin-
nati, but changed his mind days
before Signing Day after Michigan
and Michigan State showed inter-
est. The same day he announced his
verbal commitment to Michigan,
the Buckeyes offered him a scholar-
ship. But Omameh stuck with the
"You always have to be focused
on in-state and any state that bor-
ders you," Rodriguez said. "You
want to see if you can get a few guys,
and there are a lot of great football
players in the state of Ohio."
The Wolverines also signedthree
players from Florida - Barnum,
quarterback Justin Feagin and wide
receiver Martavious Odoms.
Odoms committed five days after
Signing Day after narrowing his
choice to Michigan and West Vir-
ginia. The class is Michigan's larg-
est from Florida in the last eight
Rodriguez also praised running
backs coach Fred Jackson's recruit-
ing success in Texas. Jackson con-
vinced Stonum, running back Sam
McGuffie and multi-threat athlete
Terrence Robinson to commit to
Michigan, and his success is a sign
the Wolverines will be looking in
warmer climates more often.
Both Smith and linebackers
coach Jay Hopson have southern
recruiting ties. Smith's South Flor-
ida stint lasted six seasons. Hopson
was at Southern Mississippi for six
years and was the defensive coordi-

nator at Mississippi in 2004.
"There are alot of great football
players in Florida," Rodriguez said.
"A lot of those guys will leave, par-
ticularly to a place like Michigan.
We will be in Florida quite exten-
sively in the future."


Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez kept most of Lloyd Carr's recruiting class intact and added a few players who changed their commitments on or near National Signing

integrity and honesty.
But according to Purdue head
coach Joe Tiller in his now-infa-
mous rant to the Indianapolis Star,
Rodriguez doesn't fit that descrip-
"If we had an early signing date,
you wouldn't have another outfit
with a guy in a wizard hat selling
snake oil get a guy at the last min-
ute, but that's what happened," Til-
ler said.
Tiller was referring to wide
receiver Roy Roundtree, who had
verbally committed to Purdue in
May. The Boilermakers pursued
Roundtree for two years, but the
Trotwood, Ohio native visited
Michigan on Feb.1, received aschol-
arship offer on Feb. 5 and signed
with the Wolverines the next day.
Roundtree wasn't Rodriguez's
only Signing Day steal. Trotwood-
Madison (Ohio) running back
Michael Shaw had been commit-
ted to Penn State since August, but
in January, after Rodriguez was
hired, Shaw announced he would
visit Michigan and Tennessee.
After taking his trip to Ann
Arbor, he quickly changed his mind
about his commitment to Penn
State - and didn't bother visiting

Shaw told news outlets he made
his decision about20 minutes before
he signed his letter of intent on Sign-
ing Day. His last-minute departure
no doubt left an unexpected hole in
the Nittany Lions' recruiting class
that won't be easily filled.
"Mike is a guy we have known
about for a
little bit,"
Rodriguez RICKY
said on BARNUM
SigningDay. POS.:OL
"He's a very HEIGHT:6-2
conscien- W
tious young
gan also Florida
two touted
from SEC schools. Defensive back
J.T. Floyd had been committed to
Tennessee since his junior year of
high school.
Floyd told Rivals.com in Sep-
tember 2006, shortly after he com-
mitted, that the atmosphere at
Tennessee was a large factor in his
"The stadium is just crazy, that's
a big thing for me," he said. "I can't
waitto getto playinfront ofl8,000.

That's a great opportunity, espe-
cially coming from my high school
where we might be lucky to get
1,000 people there for a big rivalry
game. I can't wait to get here."
His comments, made nearly one
and a half years ago, could eas-
ily refer to the Big House. And next
year, Rodri-
guez said,
the Green- MICHAEL
ville, S.C., SHAW
native has a POS.: ATH
good chance HEIGHT:6-0
to see the
field as a WEIGHT:185
freshman. PREVIOUS
lineman Penn State
Ricky Bar-
num, who
had been
a Florida commit since January,
decided to visit Michigan the week-
end before Signing Day and inked
his letter of intent with Michigan
days later. Rodriguez said former
South Florida offensive coordina-
tor and current quarterbacks coach
Rod Smith had been recruiting Bar-
num "for some time over the last
year or two" and that he was "tick-
led to death" the Lakeland, Fla.,
native decided to play up north.

How committed are they?
After the tumult of Signing Day,
the definition of a "verbal commit-
ment" is seemingly open for debate
within the Big Ten - and that's not
to everyone's liking.
that if a guy commits (to another
school) and
you've been
recruiting ROY
him hard, ROUNDTREE
you always POS.: WR
call them HEIGHT: 6-0
up and say, WEIGHT 154
'Are you
sure about PREVIOUS
this?' Til- COMMITMENT
ler said to Purdue
the India-
napolis Star.
"If he says
yes, you back off."
But Rodriguez offered a different
He said athletes will sometimes
commit before visiting other cam-
puses or weighing all their options,
and coaches should understand that
players may change their minds.
"Sometimes coaches will tell
you, when somebody verbals, that
just tells you who you've got to beat
to get him," Rodriguez said. "If


Phelps shouldfocus on more than swimming in Beijing

n essence, the Olympics are
about two ideas: peace and
moral principles.
The Chinese government violates
both. It repress-
es human rights
and supports
the genocide-
enabling gov-
ernment in
Some have
advocated a
boycott of this IAN
summer's Bei- ROBINSON
jing Games, but
that won't hap-
That doesn't mean the world
should stand idly by as the host
government continues its violation

of the United Nation's Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. The
Olympics are the perfect platform
to pressure China to abide by inter-
national standards.
One group that can force the Chi-
nese government to listen and raise
awareness is the athletes.
And Michigan men's swimming
and diving volunteer assistant
coach Michael Phelps is one of the
most powerful members of that
As he aims for eight gold medals
this summer, Phelps could be the
most dominant athlete in the world.
But his performance in the pool
shouldn't define his Olympics.
Whether or not he uses his promi-
nent position to challenge the Chi-
nese government should.

If a Chinese citizen tried speak
out against his or her government,
that person would get jailed. If
they organized a rally, they would
- well, we've all seen pictures of
Tiananmen Square.
If Phelps does something, he'll be
He would not only be remem-
bered as a great athlete, but also,
more importantly, as a great human
Phelps would be the ideal ath-
lete to launch this movement. The
media will cover his every move in
At the same time, it doesn't have
to be Phelps. Whether he would
be willing to take such a stand is
unknown, since his media represen-
tative did not respond to a request

for comment.
As much as people want to keep
sports and society separate, they
are inextricably linked.
Whether it be the Miracle on Ice
or Jackie Robinson breaking the
color barrier in Major League Base-
ball, separating the two is impos-
A couple weeks ago, the Brit-
ish Olympic Association essen-
tially placed a gag order on its
athletes. Under pressure, it has
since rescinded that rule. The
United States Olympic Committee
said that it wouldn't restrict its ath-
letes beyond the IOC's ban on "(any)
kind of demonstration or political,
religious or racial propaganda" in
Olympic venues.
But what Phelps could advocate

goes beyond natonal politics. It's
about humanity - about giving a
voice to people whose government
doesn't give them one.
Steven Spielberg heard these
calls for protest and responded.
He was supposed to be a creative
consultant for the Games' opening
ceremonies but pulled out because
China has given financial support
to the Sudanese government.
Phelps won't pull out of the
Games. He has too much on the
line. But that shouldn't stop him
from making a difference.
In Beijing, Phelps has the oppor-
tunity to establish his legacy, and it
will have nothing to do with how
many world records he sets.
How he protests is unimportant
- what matters is that his message

is clear. The most remembered ath-
letes are the ones with conviction
for a cause.
Jesse Owens's career wasn't
defined by the four gold medals he
won in 1936. He's remembered for
defying Hitler's claims of Aryan
supremacy at the Berlin Games.
Tommie Smith and John Cas-
tillo are most known for their Black
Power protest on the podium in the
1968 Olympics, not the medals they
Phelps won't be defined by his
medal count. We should care about
whether he decides to defend peo-
ple who don't have anyone to stand
up for them.
- Robinson can be reached
at irobi@umich.edu.

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