Michigan can be patient with 2015 class

Penn State's blistering start to 2015 recruiting under new coach James Franklin has a familiar feel for Michigan fans.

In recent years Michigan has been the Big Ten school to get a jump on the upcoming class, racking up verbal commitments well before its conference brethren. Coach Brady Hoke's first full recruiting class in 2012 had 11 players committed by the end of May and 20 commits before the 2011 season kicked off. It was much of the same for both the 2013 class (14 commits by mid-March 2012, 21 before the end of August) and the 2014 class (15 of 16 recruits committed before the 2013 season).

Michigan had established itself as the Big Ten's fast-starter in recruiting.

That title, at least for now, belongs to Penn State, which has 16 verbal commitments for 2015, tied with Clemson for the most nationally. Of the Lions' pledges, eight rank in the ESPN 300, and Penn State is second behind Alabama in 2015 class rankings.

Michigan, meanwhile, has seven commitments, including four in the ESPN 300. The Wolverines picked up a big addition this past weekend in linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr.

The quality is there, but Michigan's recruiting pace is a bit slower this year, as four Big Ten schools -- Penn State, Nebraska, Northwestern and Iowa -- have more pledges. And that's just fine with Hoke.

"It's not a big class, that's one reason," Hoke told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "We haven't been as quick to offer, been as quick on trying to find the right fit. That's a big part of it. When you have 25 or 28 [scholarships], you also need to offer more guys.

"But at the same time, we're real happy with the guys who have made those commitments."

Michigan signed 25 players in 2012 and 27 in 2013. Last year's class was smaller, and Hoke expects Michigan to sign 15 or 16 players in February 2015.

The reduced scholarship pool allows Michigan coaches more opportunities to evaluate prospects they aren't completely sure about. Hoke said his assistants are traveling to states that have high school spring football to scout recruits.

"Trying to make sure that fit is right from an academic, social and athletic standpoint, that's a reason why you want to get as much information as you can," Hoke said.

Michigan's 2015 recruiting pace is a bit slower than in past years, but Hoke is speaking out about his support for an early signing period and earlier official visits. He would like to see an Aug. 1 signing date and official visits allowed in late May and early to mid June. Hoke thinks prospects and their families shouldn't have to shoulder the financial burden of getting to campuses in the spring of the players' junior year.

CBSsports.com reported Tuesday that more than half of the Big Ten recruits in the 2014 class come from areas outside the league's current footprint (Maryland and New Jersey not included).

"It would help everybody," Hoke said. "The other conferences aren't just staying in their region, either. They're all spreading out through the country.

"You've got guys on unofficials and families spending a lot of money. What can we do to help them and help their families?"