The Foundation: A Look at the 2009 Recruiting Class

Cass Tech teammates Thomas Gordon and Will Campbell should both see increased roles in 2010.

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be examining the foundation for the 2010 Michigan Wolverines: the five recruiting classes, from 2006 to 2010, that comprise the team. So far, I’ve examined the classes of 2006, 2007, and 2008. Today, I move on to this year’s sophomores and redshirt freshmen from the class of 2009:

Class of 2009 (Sorted by Rivals.com Rating):

[table id=106 /]

The Upshot:

I’ve been doing “Who’s Left” and “Who’s Gone” for the last few classes, but in this case that seems unnecessary. So far the 2009 class has had just one loss: Adrian Witty, who couldn’t get academically qualified. So, let’s go straight to the analysis.

It goes without saying that it is far too early to evaluate a class that has all of one collegiate season under their belts, but the class of 2009 has already had a large impact on the field. That impact, of course, starts with the two quarterbacks, Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson — both saw the field last year as true freshmen, and both showed flashes of brilliance while experiencing the expected freshman growing pains. Craig Roh stepped onto campus in the fall and immediately took over the starting quick end position, and is making the transition to outside linebacker this year. He looks like an all-conference candidate, and should be a leader on the defense for the next few years. Vincent Smith, surprisingly, was the other true freshman to have a major impact, filling in admirably when Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown were injured and putting himself in position to start at tailback in 2010. Will Campbell, Je’Ron Stokes, Vlad Emilien, Brandin Hawthorne, Teric Jones, and Mike Jones all saw the field in some capacity last season as well — Campbell should start at nose tackle this season, and the other five will all battle for starting spots as well.

Several other players from this class will compete for snaps this fall after taking a redshirt year in 2009. Jeremy Gallon looked solid in the spring game and should have an impact in the slot and as a returner. Taylor Lewan has emerged as the leading candidate to take over the left tackle position, despite not playing on the offensive line until his senior year of high school — he could be a very special player with his huge frame and potential. Fitzgerald Toussaint is in the mix in a crowded offensive backfield, and Thomas Gordon has been a spring surprise at one of the strong safety positions in the new 3-3-5 defense — both could conceivably start, though Gordon has a better chance of doing so than Toussaint. Isaiah Bell has bulked up to 237 pounds and is fighting for playing time at linebacker, while Anthony LaLota is now a solid 263 pounds and could be in the rotation along the defensive line. Quinton Washington and Michael Schofield are both battling for playing time on the offensive line, but they’re each probably a year or two away from taking over a starting job. Brendan Gibbons will likely be the starting kicker in the fall, as he is the only scholarship kicker on the roster. Finally, Cameron Gordon has been the breakout player of the spring after moving over to the defense from wide receiver — he appears to have solidified himself as the starter at free safety, and could be the type of ball-hawking, hard-hitting player Michigan has sorely lacked at the position.

The jury is still out on one player in particular: Justin Turner, who has just as much recruiting hype as Will Campbell, didn’t see the field last year after arriving late and out of shape in the fall after struggling to qualify, and this spring has not been able to seize the open cornerback job over J.T. Floyd and James Rogers. Turner looks like he has outgrown the cornerback position, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up at safety when this year’s crop of freshmen, which includes several cornerback prospects, hits campus.

Overall, this class has been a very solid one — Forcier, Robinson, and Roh provided early impact, several players will see the field in major roles this fall, and there is great potential for the future in players like Campbell, Lewan, Cameron Gordon, Vincent Smith, and more. After a three-year run of disappointing recruiting classes, the class of 2009 should be the one to lead the turnaround this program desperately needs.

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