Notre Dame football recruiting: U-M, Hoke stocking up

Tom Lemming
Tribune Correspondent

Notre Dame travels to Michigan this week, a team it also sees plenty of on the recruiting trail.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke was already a good recruiter during stops at Ball State and San Diego, but he’s moved to the elite level.

He’s actually taking players away from Ohio State. I haven’t seen Michigan recruit this well since Lloyd Carr was in the middle of his tenure as head coach.

Hoke makes it work because he relates to the kids well and he’s not a phony. He doesn’t come in and just glad-hand the parents and the kid. He spends a lot of time with them. He seems to really enjoy being with players, parents and coaches.

Everyone notices things like that. When you’re at San Diego State, nobody notices it. When you’re at Ball State, nobody notices it.

When you’re at Michigan, everybody notices it.

In recruiting, I think he’s got a certain flair. He’s different. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is more polished, but Hoke is more of the everyday guy. In recruiting I think he relates very well to people.

Hoke also sells Michigan very well. He’s been there long enough as an assistant and head coach to know every aspect of the school. He does an absolutely fantastic job of selling Michigan to the recruits.

He doesn’t have to look things up when they ask him. Immediately he can tell them every single thing about the place academically or athletically or socially. That really goes over well when a head coach can answer something rather than having to look it up or ask an assistant.

Right now the talent is good at Michigan. In two years it’s going to be great. Michigan and Ohio State, I think, will be up there with an Alabama talent-wise. Neither is there yet, nor is Notre Dame, but I think all three are just a year or two away to get to that talent level.

Hoke has a very good staff at Michigan. Jeff Hecklinski is outstanding. Fred Jackson is very good in Michigan. He’s been there for years and the high school coaches up there love him. Greg Mattison, who had success at Notre Dame, Michigan and Florida, is back at Michigan and recruits a lot of the defensive players since he’s the coordinator.

It’s a very collective group rather than one or two guys. I think Hoke’s assistants understand that they’ve got to do the job recruiting as well as coaching.

As good as Michigan’s 2014 class is shaping up, its 2015 group may be even better. They already have commitments from four of the top players in the country.

What’s happened?

Hoke has taken a page from Meyer and Nick Saban. They don’t recruit for one year; they recruit for two and three years. That’s why 2015 is looking so good for the Wolverines.

The success of Hoke and Meyer is starting to make the Big 10 the Big Two and the Little 10. I don’t think anybody is keeping pace with Michigan and Ohio State recruiting-wise.

A lot of it has to do with Hoke. He’s got a blue-collar attitude in recruiting. He’s relentless and personable. He has the same qualities that I see in Meyer and Saban.

Teams win because they have great talent. Hoke figured that out, and goes after and gets great players.

Hoke was a very good recruiter under Carr, but he’s taken it to a new level where he now knows it’s a year-round focus. You can’t just do it for a couple months.

Hoke and Meyer play off each other exceptionally well. Neither wants the other to get an edge. Their relationship is, I think, cordial. I don’t think it’s good, but I don’t think it’s bad. It kind of reminds me of Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes. I think they respected each other but they wanted to beat each other’s brains in, in recruiting and on the field. And I get the same feeling with these two guys.

They’re respectful, but I don’t think they’re making daily dinner plans together.

When it comes to recruiting in the Midwest, it looks like Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State are dominating. The Midwest has been down a bit talent-wise, but these three teams still find a way to get good players.

Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand beat Michigan and Ohio State for four offensive linemen this year.

Notre Dame now spends a lot of time in Atlantic Coast Conference territory. They’re not getting a lot of guys yet — they lost Elijah Hood to North Carolina — but they have more of a presence in the Carolinas, Virginia and Maryland than they have in the past. Hopefully they’re laying the groundwork for the future, particularly in Virginia, where they’ve struggled.

Virginia, particularly the Tidewater area, is loaded every year.

In this Sept. 10, 2011, file photo, Michigan head coach Brady Hoke looks over drills before the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame in Ann Arbor, Mich. In a sense, Hoke was right when he said Notre Dame was "chickening out" of its rivalry with the Wolverines. No, the Fighting Irish are not literally scared to play Michigan, but if the Wolverines weren't generally so good Notre Dame might not have ended the series between two of college football's most famous programs. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)