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February 20, 2012
Now the two Big Ten foes are absolutely sizzling on the recruiting trail.
Ohio State's Urban Meyer justifiably garnered plenty of attention the last few months after overcoming NCAA sanctions to sign the nation's fourth-ranked recruiting class. And he's off to a hot start in 2013 - OSU already has verbal commitments from four of the nation's top 130 prospects.
But Michigan's Brady Hoke keeps firing back.
Less than three weeks after signing the nation's seventh-ranked 2012 class, Hoke got verbal commitments this weekend from eight of the nation's top 200 recruits for 2013, giving Michigan 10 top-200 pledges so far. That it happened on the same weekend that Michigan's basketball team knocked off Ohio State made the news even sweeter for Wolverines fans.
"The most intriguing battle that I'm looking forward to this year, next year and even the year after that is between Michigan and Ohio State in recruiting," said Mike Farrell, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. "It's the first time I've thought that. Usually it's Florida State and Florida, or USC vs. the world or Georgia-Tennessee or Alabama-Auburn.''
Michigan's big weekend began Saturday with commitments from Wheaton (Ill.) St. Francis offensive tackle Kyle Bosch (the nation's No. 60 prospect), Pickerington (Ohio) Central defensive end Taco Charlton (No. 183), Detroit Cass Tech offensive tackle David Dawson (No. 199), Parker (Colo.) Ponderosa offensive tackle Chris Fox (No. 46), Cass Tech cornerback Jourdan Lewis (No. 167) and Novi (Mich.) Detroit Catholic Central athlete Wyatt Shallman (No. 160).
"I've known long ago - for a long time - ever since I did their summer camp, pretty much," Fox told TheWolverine.com. "So it's been a long time. I just have known that's where I wanted to go, and I thought, 'Why not do it?' So I did it.''
It was the type of weekend that should cement Hoke's status as an expert recruiter, though he already had been building that type of reputation.
Hoke signed a top-10 class earlier this month that featured five-star prospects Kyle Kalis and Ondre Pipkins. Hoke capitalized on Ohio State's off-field troubles to sign Kalis, an offensive tackle from Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward's who had previously committed to the Buckeyes. The Wolverines also signed Mentor (Ohio) defensive end Tom Strobel, a four-star defensive end who admitted he had grown up hating Michigan.
One of Hoke's biggest achievements as a recruiter thus far was holding on to that 2012 class after Meyer arrived at Ohio State in November and immediately began using his powers of persuasion on prospects who had previously committed to other schools.
Meyer got Glen Ellyn (Ill.) Glenbard West defensive tackle Tommy Schutt and West Roxbury (Mass.) Catholic Memorial teammates Armani Reeves and Camren Williams to switch from Penn State. He persuaded Canton (Ohio) McKinley defensive end Se'von Pittman to flip from Michigan State. He got the signature of Vandalia (Ohio) Butler offensive tackle Taylor Decker, who had been committed to Notre Dame.
But he couldn't get any Michigan commitments to make the switch.
"They're just trading blows back and forth and are having dominant starts to their 2013 classes," said Josh Helmholdt, the Midwest recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. "It will probably be a fight to the finish as to which team will end up with the top class in the Big Ten. Both teams are off to phenomenal, phenomenal starts."
They're putting together the types of classes that eventually could make the Big Ten race an annual Michigan vs. Ohio State tug-of-war once again. Michigan and Ohio State have combined to win 77 Big Ten titles - Minnesota ranks a distant third with 18 league championships - yet the Wolverines haven't won even a share of the league crown since 2004.
While Ohio State placed third and Michigan seventh in the 2012 team recruiting rankings, Nebraska was next in the Big Ten at No. 25. No other Big Ten team finished in the top 30.
Although it is very early in the 2013 recruiting cycle, Michigan already has 10 four-star commitments and Ohio State has pledges from one five-star recruit and three four-star prospects. The other 10 Big Ten schools have a combined total of four verbal commitments for 2013.
"Michigan State's doing pretty well early on and has a couple of commitments, with one [LB Jon Reschke] being a four-star kid,'' Helmholdt said. "But nobody else is even coming close to picking off the level of talent and type of talent.''
Recruiting success doesn't always translate to the field. Wisconsin has earned the Big Ten's Rose Bowl bid the past two years, even though it hasn't signed a top-40 recruiting class since a 2007 haul that ranked 34th. But the recent results of Michigan and Ohio State certainly suggest bright futures for both programs and potential danger for the rest of the Big Ten.
While most of his conference rivals begin work on their own recruiting classes, Hoke can focus on enhancing the nucleus he already has built. Helmholdt expects Michigan to concentrate on adding offensive skill position players to complement Warren (Mich.) De La Salle quarterback Shane Morris, who committed to Michigan last May and is rated as the nation's No. 16 prospect for 2013.
Likely targets include Joliet (Ill.) Catholic running back Ty Isaac (the nation's No. 18 recruit) and Crete-Monee (Ill.) wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (No. 31). Both players also have Ohio State offers as well, which means they could add a couple more chapters to this blossoming Hoke-Meyer recruiting rivalry.
"Urban Meyer's the Axl Rose of recruiting," Farrell said. "He's the rock star. Brady Hoke is not out there like that. He's not the same type of guy. He's an old-school, shoot-it-straight guy. But he's obviously getting the job done at an equal level. With these two, recruiting will be fun because they're unlike each other. That's going to make things very interesting. They each have different approaches to things. It's going to be a great battle.''
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