It's summertime in Ann Arbor and it's getting very, very hot. The kind of hot that makes you stockpile popsicles and invest in new oscillating fans. Well, that's what I do.
For those of you who have yours fans set up around the couch and are eating endless amounts of popsicles, watching reruns of old Michigan games and waiting for the 2012 season to arrive, here is something that will help tie you over.
The 2012 season will come and answer its own questions. But until then, I'll answer some. We love hearing from our readers so tweet me @chanteljennings or email me firstname.lastname@example.org to get your questions in our weekly mailbag.
Miles, Pittsburgh: What do you think was Michigan's mindset in setting up those future schedules, and how do you think the four-team playoff affected the thinking behind it?
A: Michigan has a lot of big-time games until 2016. Most notably, you aren't seeing the Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Akron-type games on the schedule, which I think is big. The Wolverines are looking to play in high-profile matchups and in interesting venues over the next few seasons. Those can definitely be statement wins, which I think the committee will look at.
Yes, the schedules came out after the playoff was announced, but obviously these games were being discussed before Michigan's athletic department was sure that the playoff system would pass. But I'm sure that affected the thinking behind each decision. You have hundreds of schools vying for four spots. The BCS has upped the ante and schools need to respond in big ways now. I think Michigan's schedules reflect that.
Trevor, Grand Rapids: Are we going to have a lot of in-state battles with Michigan State over recruiting? They already got Drake Harris. Is this going to heat up the rivalry even more?
A: Anytime you have two schools that are close to each other or in the same state, coaches will go after the same top talent. And yes, that helps to keep the rivalry going. Yes, Harris chose Michigan State. But no, I don't think that single decision is going to make the rivalry that much more intense. Had he waited it out and made a decision on signing day or made it like "The Decision," that could've heated things up more. But he chose early and was pretty low key about everything, so I don't think his decision alone will tip any scale.
As far as the in-state recruiting goes, yes, there will be several battles to keep the Michigan players in Michigan. In the 2014 class, there's already potential for Michigan/MSU battles over Damon Webb (Detroit/Cass Tech) and Malik McDowell (Detroit/Loyola), though more will surely come.
Alex, Milwaukee: Who is our must-have 2014 football recruit?
A: I think it's too early to have a 2014 "must-have" recruit. So much can happen in two years and I haven't seen every prospect out there. However, I do think there are a few players who could mean a lot for Michigan. Webb is a very talented player with tons of potential. Plus, it keeps the Cass Tech-Michigan defensive back pipeline open (Terry Richardson, Jourdan Lewis).
But what I do think the Wolverines must have for 2014 is a stellar group in the trenches. Michigan coach Brady Hoke has preached that he wants to play aggressive, tough football on the lines. That means year in, year out the Wolverines need to pull in top classes for the offensive and defensive lines. Defensively, I like Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) and McDowell. Offensively, I think Alex Bars (Nashville/Montgomery Bell Academy), Jay Hayes (Brooklyn/Poly Prep Country Day) and Tommy Doles (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian) are all solid.