Sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due- Brady Hoke and his Michigan program did very well on the recruiting trail this past weekend.
The weekend was so good, in fact, that the rest of the Big Ten- and especially those of us in Buckeye Nation, need to sit up and take notice.
Not only did Michigan land eight verbal commitments in a matter of 48 hours, some of those commitments came from players on Ohio State’s radar- and a few even had offers from the Buckeyes! *gasp*
On top of the numbers is the quality- every last one of the eight verbals was a four-star prospect according to Rivals.
This type of success, particularly head-to-head with the Buckeyes, is a far cry from what we had all come to expect and enjoy during the Rodriguez era.
Is it time for the Big Ten to panic?
With Meyer’s close to the 2012 class and this opening for Hoke’s 2013 class- probably.
Is it time for Buckeye Nation to panic?
The answer to that is a resounding no, but this weekend sent a clear message.
Hoke is doing something up north that works, as evidenced by the slew of early commitments. The competition is about to go up a few notches in Big Ten country.
It is a situation worth monitoring closely, particularly as it relates to the recruiting momentum that Urban Meyer has built in Columbus.
The Big Two in the Big Ten are back and slugging it out.
Let’s start with a recap of the weekend before getting into the implications it has for Ohio State.
Ohio State wasn’t in the picture for either and therefore I know nothing about them.
Rivals ranks them both as four star prospects. They could turn into good college players- or not.
Either way, both are not that interesting from a Buckeye perspective, so let’s move on to the targets that Ohio State got beat head-to-head for.
I won’t spend time rationalizing their decisions from a Buckeye point of view (although you can if you would like-it’s pretty easy to do). The bottom line is that three very talented players Ohio State wanted chose the dark side.
When you throw in IL OL Kyle Bosch (who lacked an offer from the Buckeyes), you get a Wolverine offensive line class that has Ohio State and the rest of the Big Ten playing catch-up.
The implication here is fairly obvious- Michigan is back and competing with Ohio State for top players on the national stage- something that they were clearly (and hilariously) not doing under Rodriguez.
This is all noteworthy, but the really interesting stuff stems from the final two weekend commitments.
As an Ohio State fan, you hate to see Ohio high school players head north regardless of the circumstances- in this case, neither player had an Ohio State offer and wasn’t likely to get one.
Offered or not, the defectors could turn into very good players for the maize and blue and come back to haunt the Buckeyes on the field.
It has happened numerous times before and it will certainly happen again.
Will that be the case with these two players?
Who knows, but it opens up a can of worms that fuels the greatest rivalry in sports.
The can of worms is this: taking talent from Ohio is the foundation of success for Michigan’s football program.
From Bo Schembechler to Desmond Howard to Charles Woodson and hundreds more, the Wolverines would be nothing without constantly raiding the state of Ohio.
That is a fact.
Brady Hoke, who was born in Ohio, knows this fact all too well and is taking advantage accordingly.
Poaching Ohio talent is clearly one of the cornerstones of his recruiting strategy.
After a Rodriguez themed vacation, Michigan is back in Ohio forcing the Buckeye coaching staff to put a lot of thought into who they do- but more importantly who they don’t extend early in-state scholarships to.
If the staff delays offering to evaluate at camp or for other reasons, more often than not Hoke will be there in a second with an offer of his own.
That alone is not remarkable- Michigan stealing from Ohio has been and always will be a huge part of the rivalry.
What is noteworthy is the new level that Hoke has taken raiding Ohio to.
Part of his initial success was clearly due to the Tat-gate fiasco, but this weekend indicates that Hoke’s presence in Ohio is here to stay and is something Buckeye Nation will have to deal with.
In particular, Hoke has been extremely effective with his pitch that Ohio kids are being ‘disrespected’ if they lack an early offer from the Buckeyes.
What better place for ‘disrespected’ Ohio kids to go than Michigan, right? They can really stick it to those non-offering meanies in Columbus at Michigan!
Once again, there is nothing inherently wrong with Hoke using this strategy- other than it being slightly juvenile and obnoxious.
When Michigan offers rain down on Ohio kids that the Buckeyes haven’t offered (like they have been), you know exactly what the recruiting pitch is going to be.
Obnoxious or not, you can’t dispute the results- a juvenile recruiting tactic works on juveniles… who would have guessed?
While I readily admit that Hoke’s obvious and constant use of the ‘disrespect’ angle annoys me, it might ultimately be a good thing for the rivalry. After all, it adds to the motivation of players as well as providing plenty of bulletin board material in the locker room.
Good or not, it is the recruiting reality that Urban Meyer and his coaches are dealing with.
So, what are the Buckeyes to do in the face of such an onslaught on in-state talent?
The only way Ohio State can respond is to make sure that the kids they do target develop into successful college players at a higher rate than the ones they pass on- particularly the in-state kids that Hoke is waiting to snatch up.
Buckeye fans have to trust Urban Meyer and his staff’s ability to evaluate and target players.
Based on his track record, I am perfectly fine doing just that.
As frustrating as it is to watch Ohio kids without offers defect north each year, there is a risk involved for the Wolverines.
After all, there is usually a reason the Ohio players Hoke targets lack an early offer from the Buckeyes.
To bring this discussion back to this weekend, Jake Butt and Taco Charlton certainly have plenty of potential, but Meyer clearly has higher priorities on his recruiting board.
Brady Hoke could turn each player into a success story, but raiding Ohio for players that the Buckeyes pass on will result in plenty of misses to go along with the ones that pan out.
Once again, as an Ohio State fan, you just hope that the Buckeye staff can bring in successful college players at a higher rate than Hoke and his minions can develop the talent that they poach from Ohio.
It is a back-and-forth dynamic that has always been present in the rivalry and makes following recruiting that much more interesting for both fan bases.
What does this all mean?
To summarize, this weekend made two things abundantly clear:
The Buckeyes lost a few players head-to-head this weekend, they passed on some Ohio talent that Hoke snatched up, and Michigan clearly jumped out to an early recruiting lead in the 2013 class.
Fortunately, recruiting is a marathon and not a sprint.
Urban Meyer will have plenty of time to respond and overcome Michigan’s hot start in the coming months.
The greatest rivalry in sports is back.
On the recruiting trail and on the field- It’s on!