In years past, July was a time when offers were still being earned and there were plenty of names going around for who might round out the rest of a recruiting class. Now, with recruiting so accelerated, July is the time to compare the almost completed classes of two bitter rivals.
While some spots remain open that can affect how Ohio State and Michigan’s classes stack up against each other, there is a clear enough early picture to see how the classes rank when placed head-to-head.
Here is my shot at giving the most conceivably unbiased (for a Buckeye fan), in-depth perspective on how the classes compare, starting with quarterback.
Michigan: 1) Shane Morris (MI)- Rated as a consensus top 5 QB nationally, Morris has all the tools to thrive in Brady Hoke’s pro-style offense. Competing in nearly every national combine and competition, Morris has proven himself time-and-time again to be among the nation’s best pro-style passers. The only real knock is size (a tad skinny now for his 6’3 frame), but a college weight room should alleviate most concerns there. The Wolverines will be done here with his commitment.
Ohio State: 1) J.T. Barrett (TX): There is a new J.T. in town and he is a perfect fit in Urban Meyer’s spread offense. One of the top dual-threat QB’s in the country, J.T. selected OSU over offers from the nation’s best programs to wind up in Columbus. While J.T. is slightly more advanced running the ball right now, his passing skills are not far behind. He possesses the uncanny ability to make time with his feet and make throws downfield, which shine through more clearly on film than in combines. As of now, J.T. has some work to do in his game overall but his talent is tremendous.
Edge: Michigan- This position edge is not by a wide margin. Both QB’s are great fits for their respective offense, but Morris is simply more advanced at this stage. However, by the time each QB takes their talents onto the field, I have the suspicion neither side will be disappointed.
Michigan: 1) DeVeon Smith (OH): A power-back hailing from Ohio, Smith is usually a 3-star on most recruiting sites. Possessing good power and vision, DeVeon is an extremely productive high school back that did earn an offer from OSU. However, the interest level on both ends did not seem high and Smith committed to the northern foes early on.
Ohio State: 1) Ezekiel Elliot (MO): This Show Me State talent has an ideal blend of size and speed, checking in at 6’0 200 lbs. and running a laser-timed 4.4 forty. Though his highlight film was phenomenal, there were concerns about his level of competition. These concerns were put to rest over the summer when Ezekiel tore up the camp circuit and blew up at The Opening, a premiere 7-on-7 event hosted by Nike. Elliot is just as effective from the backfield as he is in the slot, which makes him a match made in heaven for the new offense in Columbus. Most sites have him ranked a 4 star and as high as top 100 nationally by some services.
Edge: Ohio State- I see the talent gap as significant here. Although Smith is a talented high school back, he may be near his ceiling and simply does not have the playmaking ability of Elliot. Add in the fact that OSU has a good chance to land 5-star Derrick Green from Virginia and the gap could widen here. It seems likely that the Buckeyes will take one more RB if it is the right player.
Michigan: 1) Jaron Dukes (OH): Dukes was taken early by the Wolverines and has good size at 6’4 200 lbs. While not highly touted, Hoke saw enough talent to offer the Buckeye state receiver early on. Dukes is a 3 star or lower on most services.
2) C’sonte York (MI): Another under the radar type with good size at 6’3 185 lbs., York had few BCS offers before being offered by Michigan and promptly accepting. York is also a 3-star or lower on most sites.
Ohio State: 1) Jalin Marshall (OH): One of the top players in Ohio, Marshall is an electric playmaker with blazing speed, and is consistently in the top 100 nationally, often being ranked a 5-star athlete. Although he plays QB now and his game may take some work to transition to the slot, Marshall is an ideal fit for the proverbial “Harvin” position, which will allow Jalin to get the ball via handoffs and passes. Marshall was an early commitment and is one of the gems of Urban’s 2013 class.
2) Tavion Jacobs (MD): The Buckeyes most recent commitment possesses an abundance of the one thing you can’t teach: Speed. Although there are some worries about his size at 5’10 165 lbs., the track star can flat out fly and has an extra gear with the ball in his hands. Jacobs’s rating varies greatly, with some sites having him ranked as a high 4-star and some as low as a 2-star. Either way, this surprise commitment, coupled with Marshall, gives the Buckeyes another serious speedster at the WR position.
Edge: Ohio State- Looking at Michigan’s WR class, I just don’t see any standouts and adding a playmaker here will be a top priority for Hoke. As for Ohio State, they have two terrific athletes who can make things happen in the open field, but they will undoubtedly want to add another pure WR or two. They currently have 3-4 talented and very interested targets (Robert Foster, Devon Allen, James Quick, and Demorea Stringfellow), so the prospects for that happening are looking up for the Bucks. As for now, the playmakers heavily tilt the scales for the Bucks here.
Michigan: Jake Butt (OH)- With a good blend of size at 6’6 235 lbs. and athleticism, some sites have this Ohio star rated as a top 100 player. He had a good showing at The Opening and although he was not shown much interest from the home-state Buckeyes, his ceiling is intriguing at this position. If he does not pan out as a pass catcher, he should fit nicely as a blocking TE in Hoke’s pro-style scheme.
Ohio State: Marcus Baugh (CA)- Baugh shocked the recruiting world early on with a commitment to the Buckeyes over tons of offers nationally. He has decent size at 6’4 230 lbs. but his athleticism and hands are what make Marcus so special. Showing a great first step off the line on his routes and great ability to separate from defenders, Baugh should be an ideal TE for Urban’s offense. He dominated at The Opening and showed great hands and body control. While it may be an obvious comparison, he reminds me of Aaron Hernandez quite a bit.
Edge: Ohio State- This is by the slightest of margins, as Butt has a ton of potential at the position. However, on paper Baugh should make a huge impact catching the ball for OSU and will be an able blocker after some time in the weight room with some time with Mickey Marotti. Call me a homer, but there is also the fact that Meyer showed little-to-no interest in Butt and knocked the doors down to get Baugh.
Michigan: 1) Kyle Bosch (IL)- Consistently rated as a top 100 player nationally, Bosch is a mauler of a right tackle at 6’5 310 lbs. Bosch could also project at guard and he is a tad more advanced as a run blocker, but has the feet to be a great pass blocker at the next level. With the amount of tackles in this class, I see Bosch inside for Michigan. Bosch is one of many outstanding OL for Hoke in this class.
2) David Dawson (MI)- Dawson has absolutely blown up on the combine circuit and consistently has stood up the nation’s best defensive linemen. An early commit who seems to be interested in looking around at some other programs (OSU just offered), Dawson projects as an outstanding guard at the next level and is a 4 star by nearly every recruiting service.
3) Chris Fox (CO)- Fox is yet another stud tackle for Michigan with long arms at 6’6 295 lbs. Fox is light on his feet but also gets after opponents in the run game. Fox could play either left tackle or right tackle at the next level, or slide down if need be. I see Fox at RT for Michigan.
4) Patrick Kugler (PA)- Kugler has been rated as high as a 5-star by some services and is one of the best OL in the country. At 6’5 280 lbs. Kugler could project at RT, or inside at guard. Kugler has excellent feet and gets great pad level while moving defenders in the run game.
5) Logan Tuley-Tillman (IL)- Logan was a hot commodity at the beginning of the recruiting cycle as a left tackle, with only his 6’7 320 lb. frame eclipsing his hype. While his ceiling is high, Logan has struggled greatly on the combine circuit and has seen his stock fall some. In any case, the talent is there for this massive stud.
Ohio State: 1) Evan Lisle (OH)- A consensus 4-star tackle, Lisle has tremendous feet and gets good leverage in the run game for a guy with a 6’6 270 lb. body. Evan will need some time to fill out his frame in college, but he has all the tools to be a great OL for the Bucks. Lisle could play right tackle, but I see his talents best served at guard.
Edge: Michigan- This one is by a landslide. Michigan has the best OL class far-and-away in the country, perhaps one of the best ever on paper. I see Tuley-Tillman and Fox manning the tackle spots, with Bosch, Kugler, and Dawson inside. Either way you stack it, Hoke had an amazing haul at OL. On the flip side, OSU has struggled greatly to attract OL thus far. Lisle is a legitimate talent, but the Buckeyes need at least one more tackle and likely one more interior OL. It is a distinct possibility to see 4-star DT Billy Price (see below) move to offensive guard if the Buckeyes can’t get a high-caliber interior OL, as he is a standout at guard as well.
Michigan: 1) Wyatt Shallman (MI)- Shallman is an athlete that could wind up playing any of FB, TE, or DE, but I see him playing DE for the Blue out of necessity. Shallman was offered early by OSU and has great athletic ability and is stronger than an ox at 6’3 245 lbs. Wyatt is considered a 4-star prospect by most services.
2) Taco Charlton (OH)- Taco is seen as a major project by most, although the upside is there for the 6’6 250 lb. athlete. Charlton is yet another Pickerington North player (the other being Butt) that received almost zero interest from Urban & Co., yet received an early offer from Hoke. Charlton has struggled greatly at combines, has played little varsity ball, and to me is one of the bigger head-scratchers on Michigan’s commitment list.
Ohio State: 1) Joey Bosa (FL)- Joey may be my favorite player I have watched on film in a long time. He is a giant strongside-end at 6’5 270 lbs. and plays with a mean streak that I have not seen on film for a high school prospect in some time. Not only does Bosa play like a bull who had his huevos spurred, but he also possesses elite athletic ability for his size and can flat out get to the QB, making him one of the most balanced ends in the country. Bosa is ranked as a 5-star by some services and is a consensus top 50 player nationally. When added to the pass rushers from the 2012 class, Bosa’s skill-set is a great addition for the Bucks.
2) Tracy Sprinkle (OH)- A somewhat surprise offer, Sprinkle is another strongside-end type that has a good blend of strength and size at 6’4 245 lbs. Sprinkle is strong at the point of attack and can run well for his size. Sprinkle is rated as a 3-star by most sites.
Edge: Ohio State- While Shallman is a good one for Michigan, Charlton just is not a major BCS player in my opinion. Add in the elite Joey Bosa and a solid Tracy Sprinkle, and the edge goes to Buckeyes as of now. Michigan also had trouble luring pass rushers last season, so adding another quality end should be a top priority for Hoke moving forward.
Michigan: 1) Maurice Hurst Jr. (MA)- Hurst is a phenomenal athlete who may be slipping under the radar a bit. Although the word is that his verbal commitment was turned down by Urban Meyer at the spring game, he was receiving heavy interest from the Buckeyes. While he is more of a project at this point, Maurice can flat out move for 305 pounds and is one to watch.
2) Henry Poggi (MD)- Poggi was offered by nearly every major university in the country, including Ohio State. At 6’4 260 lbs., Poggi blows up the line-of-scrimmage and is quick off the snap with his first step. He will need to fill out some, but this 4-star has a ton of talent and good bloodlines, as Poggi is a Maryland high school football household name.
Ohio State: 1) Michael Hill (SC)- Yet another surprise commitment, Hill is a consensus top 10 DT in the nation. Big, mean, and athletic, Hill is the prototypical southern DT that wreaks havoc at 6’3 315. Hill can plug the gap on in the run game and can get close on the QB in a hurry. Hill has the tools to make an immediate impact at OSU, especially if Hankins leaves early.
2) Billy Price (OH)- A consensus 4-star at 6’4 280, Price was originally offered by Jim Tressel and was then confirmed by Urban Meyer, validating this stud’s talent. Price is equally suited for DT or OG with his quick first step and exceptional leverage. If he plays DT, look for Price to be a gap-plugging DT that specializes in stopping the run.
Edge: Even- I want to say OSU has the edge but I see Price potentially moving to offense and Sprinkle sliding down, which would make this a toss-up. However, I would take OSU by the slightest of margins if Price stays at DT, as I would take him over Hurst slightly, and Poggi vs. Hill is a draw.
Michigan: 1) Ben Gedeon (OH)- Gedeon is a 4-star that Urban hesitated to offer and perhaps was the difference in Gedeon turning Blue. Gedeon has great instincts and athleticism at the middle linebacker position, and has a great frame at 6’3 215. Hoke stole a good one here.
2) Mike McCray (OH)- A good all-around defender, the 4-star McCray could very well end up moving down to DE with his 6’4 230 lb. size. The Buckeyes offered McCray well after he verballed to Hoke but he likely will keep his commitment with Michigan.
Ohio State: 1) Darron Lee (OH)- Lee came into OSU’s summer camp looking for an offer, worked out at safety, and verballed the second he received the offer after an impressive showing. I put the 6’2 195 lb. Lee here because I think he will fill out into a very athletic LB, or man the STAR position at OSU. Lee is rated as a 3-star athlete by most sites and has an extremely similar skill-set as former safety Jermale Hines.
Edge: Michigan- Michigan has a clear advantage at this point. Though McCray may move down at the next level, I would still give the advantage to Gedeon over Lee. However, there may be an impending commitment from stud Texas LB Mike Mitchell for the Buckeyes, which would pull them nearly even.
Michigan: 1) Gareon Conley (OH)- A lean and aggressive corner measuring in at 6’2 170 lbs., Conley is an intriguing prospect whose rating varies greatly amongst most sites. Conley is usually between a 3-star and 4-star, but certainly has the potential to be a solid contributor at Michigan.
2) Jourdan Lewis (MI)- Although a tad undersized at 5’10 160 lbs., Lewis is fluid in coverage and is a great athlete from the Michigan pipeline of Detroit Cass-Tech. Lewis should be able to step in and contribute early at corner for the Blue.
3) Channing Stribling (NC)- One of the more unknowns (at least to me), Stribling is rated a two star by most services.
4) Dymonte Thomas (OH)- One of the bigger steals for Hoke from Ohio, Thomas is an athletic safety with size to back it up at 6’1 180 lbs. Thomas was swayed in the Fickell interim, as an offer did not come until Meyer came onto the scene and Thomas was already committed to Michigan. OSU could still continue to try and persuade Thomas up until February though, so he may be one to watch.
5) Ross Douglas (OH)- Michigan’s most recent commitment comes from the wake of Penn State’s scandal, as Douglas de-committed from Penn State and verballed to Michigan all within this week. Douglass is a good athlete that has been rated as high as 4-stars by some services and should round out Michigan’s DB class. Douglass was not pursued by OSU.
Ohio State: 1) Cameron Burrows (OH)- A consensus top 100 player and a 5-star on many sites, Burrows has surprisingly fluid hips and outstanding ball skills for a 6’1 205 lb. corner. Burrows is an ideal mold of a rangy, athletic corner who can cover and get physical in the run. Burrows may very well be the best player in this class.
2) Jayme Thompson (OH)- Originally a West Virginia commitment, Thompson flipped to OSU with an offer from Urban. A 4-star safety on most sites, Thompson has great range at 6’2 185 lbs. and is equally adept at coming up to play the run.
3) Eli Woodard (NJ)- Woodard is likely one of the better and more physical cover corners in the country. At 6’0 185 lbs., Eli is outstanding at finding the ball in the air and staying in receiver’s hip pocket. He shined at The Opening and showed physicality in jamming receivers at the line. He is a 4-star and top 100 nationally on most sites, but moved up to 5-star status on ESPN after his great performance at The Opening. Eli is a lifelong Buckeyes fan and committed early on.
Edge: Michigan- Ever so slight is the edge here after the Douglass commitment, but only in terms of numbers. Lewis and Thomas stand out, plus Douglass is a solid player. However, OSU has two fantastic bookend corners that can be viewed as legitimate 5 star players, plus Thompson is in the same league as Thomas at safety. The Buckeyes will likely add one more safety and if that safety is Vonn Bell from Georgia (one of the tops in the country, very good odds on him) they will get the edge here.
- Michigan has a long snapper and Ohio State has a kicker/punter. Way too difficult to judge either at the recruiting stage, so let’s just call it even there.
Michigan will get the better ratings on paper with higher numbers and deservingly so, as they have a great class thus far. In terms of quality of the commitments, I see OSU having a slightly better rating at the end. However, the most important factor will not be how each position stacks up against each other, but against the opposing offense or defense on the field.
The most interesting matchup (in my eyes) will be Michigan’s OL matched up against OSU’s phenomenal DL haul, especially when coupled with last year’s class of Spence, Washington, Pittman, and Schutt. Also keep in mind Michigan had a good OL class last year as well in Magnuson, Kalis, and Bars. On one hand, Spence and Washington provide more of a finesse, quick rush that will require their tackles to be light on their feet, while Pittman, Bosa, and Sprinkle will provide great run support and a bull-rush. On the inside, Schutt is a gap plugger, Price is great against the run and is a decent athlete, and Hill is going to be a handful. However, Michigan’s interior is going to be brutal, so future OSU DT’s will have their hands full.
On the other end with OSU’s OL vs. Michigan’s DL, OSU’s current depth concerns at tackle are somewhat diminished in this matchup, as Michigan has struggled getting pass rush ends. The school up north has had some success at DT the last couple years, but luckily Ohio State has also added some talent to the interior and guard is not a huge concern moving forward.
The other intriguing matchup will be how these passing attacks match up against the defense. For Michigan on offense, they have an outstanding QB in Morris and a good OL to block him, but I’m not sure the playmakers are there to get the ball to. OSU should still be able to pressure the QB with all of their DL talent and the last two DB classes have been phenomenal. I see Reaves, Bogard, Murray, and Powell, combined with Burrows, Woodard, and Thompson (also possibly Bell) to be a formidable group that has the clear advantage over Michigan’s WR classes.
There are still a few spots left to fill though and how the classes end up comparing will depend greatly on 2-3 positions for each team. Michigan must add 1-2 playmakers at WR and a pass rushing DE to meet their needs. OSU must add two more OL, 1-2 WR’s, and a talented LB. Regardless, both teams look to have fantastic classes and should fuel the fire for the nation’s greatest rivalry in the future.