BY DENNIS CHASE
TRAVERSE CITY -- Rocko Khoury felt a little lighter Wednesday morning.
"I'm glad it's finally over," the 6-foot-6, 275-pound Traverse City West offensive lineman said minutes after signing his national letter of intent with the Michigan Wolverines. "I didn't think it would be this much of a load off my shoulders. Now I can stop thinking about it."
Khoury was one of three West linemen to ink letters on national signing day. Darren Keyton, who committed to Central Michigan last summer, signed with the Chippewas while Dominic Cundari made his commitment to Division II Grand Valley official.
"It's a great day for these kids," former Titans football coach Matt Prisk said. "Their (immediate) futures are laid out. All they have to do now is attack it."
Khoury thought his recruitment was over last June when he verbally accepted an offer from Michigan. But then coach Lloyd Carr retired after the Ohio State game, leaving Khoury with some unanswered questions about his future.
"Anyone would have questions," he said. "To not know who your coach is going to be? That's the next five years of my future. At that point, I needed to step back and look at it -- and try to be reasonable about things."
Michigan State coaches called -- and Khoury listened.
"I still wanted to go to Michigan," he said, "but I didn't want to close the door on MSU in case something happened at Michigan with the new coaches coming in. I'm glad how things worked out."
The Wolverines hired Rich Rodriguez a week before Christmas and he immediately went to work recruiting -- and trying to keep Carr's recruits on board.
"I like him a lot," Khoury said. "In fact, I love the new coaching staff. It's a younger staff, and they really have a passion for the game. It's going to be fun."
Greg Frey, 35, will be Khoury's line coach.
"He knows what he's doing," Khoury said. "I like his personality. He's going to be your friend, but he's going to be a friend that you're going to work hard for."
Khoury said the former coaching staff told him he would be red-shirted this fall. Rodriguez, though, has not ruled out early playing time for his new recruits.
"He pretty much said the best players are going to play," Khoury said. "If you're outplaying one of the older kids, you're going to play."
Khoury took his official visit to Michigan last weekend, meeting Rodriguez for the first time. Khoury's future teammates on the offensive line were also on campus.
"It's a pretty tight class coming in," Khoury said. "We talk on the computer. It's neat that we're already friends."
Like Khoury, Keyton plans to work hard in the off-season in hopes of playing his freshman season at Central Michigan.
"I'm going down there with the mind set of playing my first year," the 6-5, 270-pound Keyton said. "I'm going to hit (the weight room) hard after basketball is over. I'll be going home every day barely able to move."
Keyton called CMU "a perfect fit."
"I love the place. I love the coaches," he said. "I had a lot of fun when I was down there. Plus, I have family nearby. My brother (Corey) is at Northwood, which is a half hour away. My dad and brother (Jim) are in Lansing, only an hour away. And I'm only two hours from home. It was the best option for me."
Khoury is one of only three offensive linemen signed by Central Michigan, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) champion. Cadillac's Matt Kanitz will be a preferred walk-on on the line. Keyton and Kanitz played on a travel hockey team together a few years ago.
Keyton said he was glad he committed early.
"During the football season, I didn't have to think about it," he said. "I wasn't under any pressure. All the stress was off."
Keyton said he was contacted by other schools.
"But I told them I'm committed to Central Michigan and they honored that," he said. "They let me be."
Cundari was hoping to play in the MAC with Keyton. He was interested in Ball State and Northern Illinois.
"They said I wasn't quite tall enough to play at that level," the 6-2, 290-pound Cundari said. "So I looked at D II."
Ferris State and Grand Valley pursued him. His visit to Grand Valley, where former West quarterback Tony Thompson acted as his tour guide, sold him on the Allendale school.
"Everything is state of the art -- the facilities, the weight room," he said. "They're building a new $15 million indoor facility that will be done by the time I get there. It's as close as you can get to a D I program at the D II level. It's high class and they carry themselves that way."
Grand Valley -- 91-6 over the last seven years with four national championships -- signed 20 players Wednesday. The list also includes Elk Rapids defensive back Zac Dreffs.
Elks' lineman Matt Miller signed with Ferris State.
Khoury, Keyton and Cundari signed their letters in a ceremony at the school.
"It's a great feeling to know that all of our hard work has paid off," Cundari said.