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August 17, 2001

Don't forget about Michigan

A lot of the talk in the Midwest has been centered on Ohio State's fast start out of the blocks, but don't forget that Michigan's Class of 2002 is nothing to sneeze at either.

That's because Lloyd Carr and the Wolverines are doing what they do best - recruit early and recruit nationally.

Joe Paterno at Penn State and coach Carr have been the grandfather's of the early recruiting trend that has swept the nation, and teams that now encourage players to commit early have Penn State and Michigan to thank for the advance in recruiting.

While some teams are better at it than others, Michigan is still one of the best. This year's group also reflects that. The Wolverines have gone out and snagged significant early pledges from eight solid prospects - including many of the top players in Michigan and a few from neighboring states.

In-state blue-chippers like all-purpose back Darnell Hood (left), tight end Kevin Murphy, inside linebacker David Harris, cornerback William Cooper and defensive tackle Larry Harrison give the Wolverines the early advantage when it comes to battling teams like Michigan State, Ohio State and a few others in their own back yard.

That's a great group to build a class of, and it's gone a long way toward addressing the Wolverines needs at several key positions. Michigan fans are also going to be extremely excited when they see Cooper and Harris take the field in Ann Arbor since they are considered to be big-time blue-chippers that could have gone anywhere in the nation.

"You just get that special feeling about Michigan," Cooper said.

"I didn't get it anywhere else. I know that they are putting together a great class already. I've been reading a lot about it. That stuff makes me excited because I want to play with the best."

When you throw in solid commitments like Pierre Rembert and juco placement James Taylor, this Michigan class packs a punch.

But they're not landing the knockout blow quite yet. The Wolverines have lost out on some highly touted recruits and highly publicized battles, too.

Then again, Michigan - being Michigan - still has many major battles to wage.

It still looks pretty solid that the Wolverines are going to heavily recruit a quarterback and several big-time blue-chippers are interested. Guys like Anthony Martinez, Matt Gutierrez, Trent Edwards and James Banks are all listing the Wolverines at this point and Drew Olson has taken a sudden liking to them and hopes to get an offer.

And let's not forget about running backs Kyle Brown and Gerald Riggs. Both are the type of back that could flourish in Michigan's system.

But there seems to be one recruit that is peaking the interest of Wolverine fans more than others - the Woodlands, Texas, standout strongside defensive end Travis Leitko. Maybe because it's a Notre Dame-Michigan battle, maybe it's because he's a sure-fire blue-chipper, maybe it's just because it's recruiting, but for some reason Leitko's battle is one that Wolverine fans don't want to lose.

Only time will tell who wins that battle, but if you're keeping score early - you have to put Michigan near the top of the national rankings.


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