September 29, 2008

LaLota, Roh prove Rodriguez's recruiting acumen

In a span of seven days, Michigan's defensive end recruiting went from priority to one of the nation's best with the commitments of four-stars Anthony LaLota of New Jersey and Craig Roh of Arizona …

"This has to be considered one of the best 1-2 punches at defensive end in the country right now," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. "And they were both relative surprises. Obviously, Rich Rodriguez is an established head coach but he's never recruited quite like this at the highest level for four- and five-star prospects.

"For him, in his first full recruiting year at Michigan, to get a kid in LaLota that Rutgers, Notre Dame and Penn State really wanted - and they traditionally do well in New Jersey - and then to pull Roh away from the entire Pac 10, including Southern Cal, is impressive.

"Michigan has always recruited nationally and Rodriguez, in pulling two kids that most experts would tell you were probably going elsewhere until they visited Michigan, appears quite capable of keeping that tradition going. These were very big gets for him."

Roh announced his decision on ESNPU Sept. 19, opting for Michigan over Nebraska, UCLA, Arizona State and USC. The 6-5, 230-pounder is rated the No. 3 player in his state and the No. 8 weakside defensive end. In four games this season for Chaparral High School, Roh has 39 tackles, including 5.5 sacks.

"He will play a little bit earlier than LaLota because he has more experience," Farrell said. "He's very good instinctively, is strong and just has a natural understanding of the best pursuit to the ball carrier."

The 6-6, 260-pound LaLota, who only began playing football as a junior at The Hun School, is ranked the No. 6 strongside defensive end and No. 1 player in New Jersey according to Rivals.com. He picked U-M Sept. 12 over offers from Notre Dame, Penn State and Boston College.

"LaLota needs a lot of coaching but he has a greater upside," Farrell said. "His future will depend on how he reacts to coaching, but you can't teach his physical ability. He has a basketball player's feet, a long frame with plenty of room to add weight, and he's very explosive with a great motor. He loves to run things down. His biggest challenge will be learning to read and recognize plays better. He has a tough time finding the ball sometimes but that comes with experience."

With LaLota, Roh and four-star Bastrop, La., defensive tackle DeQuinta Jones in the fold, and a likely re-commitment from five-star Detroit tackle Will Campbell, U-M may just finish the recruiting year with the best defensive line class nationally.

"Obviously, [five-star end] Devon Kennard hasn't committed and wherever he decides, especially if that's USC, will get a big boost. LSU is going to be up there too but if Campbell signs with Michigan - and from what I'm hearing he will - they should have one of the top three or four classes and maybe the best in the country at defensive line.

"Their success so far, in the entire class, really puts them in a position to potentially compete with Ohio State and no one really thought that would be possible because of the way Ohio State started. But it's obviously important for Michigan to be competitive with the Buckeyes and certainly they can say that based on their class so far."

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