A big step to recruiting success is knowing exactly what you want, and Michigan's new coaching staff has a clear vision for its first full recruiting class.
Especially on defense.
"I know what our recruiting emphasis is going to be," Wolverines defensive coordinator Greg Mattison told me last month in Ann Arbor. "We need to get bigger, stronger defensive linemen. We've got to get bigger in a lot of ways on defense, and that's how we're recruiting."
The fact that Michigan already has 10 verbal commitments for the 2012 class -- most of any Big Ten team -- certainly stands out. But the more interesting element is that six of Michigan's commits play linebacker or defensive line, and all of the players are listed at 215 pounds or more.
The Wolverines are beefing up in their defensive front seven.
"They know what they want their identity to be," Tom Luginbill, national recruiting director for ESPN's Scouts Inc., told me Tuesday. "They know what type of fit works for them. That's one thing that is so overlooked and not given any credence in recruiting. Everybody wants to focus on, 'This guy's a four-star [recruit], this guy's a five-star.' That doesn't necessarily mean he's the right player for your program.
"There's got to be that happy medium between getting a great player, but getting the right guy for you. That can be hard to do."
Luginbill has seen Michigan strike a balance so far. Although the Wolverines haven't landed or even offered every top-rated local prospect, they've received pledges from players who can flourish in Mattison's defense, such as outside linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone.
"He's going to be a really, really, really good player," Luginbill said. "For what Greg Mattison wants out of the linebacker position, he brings that physicality and that Ray Lewis-style of play, which is something that they dramatically need."
Michigan's quick start to 2012 recruiting hasn't surprised Luginbill, who notes that coach Brady Hoke and several of his assistants, including Mattison, boast ties to the Midwest. And after the Wolverines' historic struggles on defense the past three seasons, the staff has made the unit its top priority clear on the recruiting trail.
"This is a very strong linebacker-based group right now," Luginbill said. "There's 10 verbal commitments, and you're looking at three of those top players [Jenkins-Stone, Joe Bolden and James Ross] are either inside or outside linebackers, as far as the way we've got them rated.
"We're going to be putting together the [ESPNU] 150 in the first week of June. Right now, the way we've got their guys rated, they've got three to four guys who are going to be in that ESPNU 150 grade range. So it's a strong group."