Gameday+ | Why Ohio State and Michigan are competing less on the recruiting trail
It used to be that the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry was almost as heated on the recruiting trail as on the field in late November.
For generations, Michigan would poach more players from Ohio than the Buckeyes would from up north. Many of those native Ohioans became Wolverines stars, and that added even more spice to the rivalry. Of course, there have been native Michiganders who came south — Craig Krenzel, Mike Weber, etc. — who did the same.
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But the recruiting rivalry doesn’t exist in the same way now. Both schools recruit mostly nationally, and their paths only cross occasionally.
“It's not like the old days in the ‘80s and ‘90s,” said Steve Wiltfong, director of recruiting for 247Sports.
In recent years, the Buckeyes have had the better of it in recruiting. Based on the 247Sports rankings, Ohio State has had a higher-ranked group of prospects every year except last year, and that requires an asterisk. Michigan’s class ranked eighth to Ohio State’s 14th, but that’s only because the Buckeyes signed only 17 players compared to Michigan’s 26. The average rating of Ohio State’s recruits was higher than Michigan’s.
For the 2020 class, Ohio State again has the advantage. The Buckeyes’ class ranks fourth nationally. Michigan’s is 12th.
The Buckeyes have two five-star players — receiver Julian Fleming and offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. — and 13 four-star players. Michigan has 12 four-star prospects but no five stars.
Eight of Ohio State’s recruits are ranked higher than Michigan’s top-rated one, wide receiver A.J. Henning, who’s ranked 90th.
Michigan fans had to be hoping that Ohio State’s recruiting would slip after Urban Meyer’s retirement. Not only did Meyer have the resume to attract blue-chippers, but he was more hands-on in recruiting than most head coaches of his stature.
But Ryan Day has proved in his short time as coach to be quite effective. A year ago, five-star defensive end Zach Harrison from Olentangy Orange was considered to be leaning toward Michigan until shortly before he picked Ohio State on signing day.
The momentum has continued with this class.
“His personality is a lot more laid-back compared to Urban Meyer's,” Wiltfong said, “but he's putting in a ton of effort to really get to know Ohio State's top targets and allowing them to get to know him. So they're comfortable with the idea of playing for him, and I think it's really paid off.”
That’s not to say that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is a slouch as a recruiter. Wiltfong said he’s able to draw on his Michigan roots and success as a player and coach in the NFL.
“He's a unique individual,” Wiltfong said, “but people need to remember that Jim Harbaugh is an alpha as much as anybody.”
Harbaugh played for the Wolverines in the 1980s, when many of the recruiting battles between the programs took place in Ohio and, to a lesser extent, Michigan.
Now they rarely go head-to-head. The only Michigan starters from Ohio are punter Will Hart and long-snapper Camaron Cheeseman. None of the Buckeyes’ current starters are from Michigan.
In this recruiting cycle, Ohio State has two commitments from Michigan: athlete Cameron Martinez and offensive lineman Grant Toutant. Michigan has none from Ohio.
The only lingering battle among uncommitted prospects between OSU and Michigan is for California four-star quarterback C.J. Stroud. He is scheduled to take a visit to Michigan on Dec. 7 and to Ohio State a week later.
The 247Sports crystal ball forecast has him signing with Ohio State.
Julian Fleming, WR, Southern Columbia (Pa.) 6-2, 199
Paris Johnson Jr., OT Cincinnati Princeton 6-7, 290
Clark Phillips III, CB La Habra (Calif.) 5-10.5, 178
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Rockwall (Texas) 6-1, 188
Gee Scott Jr. WR, Eastside Catholic (Wa.) 6-2.5, 207
Lathan Ransom, S, Salpointe Catholic (Ariz.) 6-0.5, 193
Mookie Cooper, WR, Pattonville (Mo.), 5-8.5, 193
Luke Wypler, C, St. Joseph Regional (N.J.), 6-3.5, 285
Cody Simon, OLB, St. Peters Prep (N.J.), 6-1, 218
Kourt Williams, OLB, St. John Bosco (Calif.), 6-1, 216
Jacolbe Cowan, DT, Providence Day School (N.C.), 6-5, 262
Darrion Henry, DT, Cincinnati Princeton, 6-4.5, 279
Jack Miller, QB, Chaparral (Ariz.), 6-4, 210
Lejond Cavazos, S, IMG Academy (Fla.), 6-1, 196
Ryan Watts, CB, Little Elm (Texas), 6-2.5, 187
Cameron Martinez, ATH, Muskegon (Mich.), 5-11, 183
Josh Fryar, OG, Beech Grove, Ind., 6-5.5, 305
Grant Toutant, OT, De La Salle Collegiate (Mich.), 6-7, 320
Joe Royer, TE, Cincinnati Elder, 6-5, 225
Miyan Williams, RB, Cincinnati Winton Woods, 5-10, 210
Mitchell Melton, OLB, Good Counsel (Md.), 6-3, 235
Ty Hamilton, DE, Pickerington Central, 6-3, 250
Jakob James, OG, Cincinnati Elder, 6-5, 285
Trey Leroux, OT, Norwalk, 6-8, 355
Jake Seibert, K, Cincinnati La Salle, 6-1, 190
A.J. Henning, WR, Lincoln-Way East (Ill.), 5-10, 183
Braiden McGregor, DE, Port Huron Northern (Mich.), 6-5.5, 248
Blake Corum, RB, St. Frances Academy (Md.), 5-8, 193
Jordan Morant, S, Bergen Catholic (N.J.), 5-11, 212
Kalel Mullings, OLB, Milton Academy (Mass.), 6-1, 220
Andre Seldon, CB, Belleville (Mich.), 5-8, 154
Makari Paige, S, West Bloomfield (Mich.), 6-3, 182
Zak Zinter, OG, Buckingham Browne & Nichols School (Mass.), 6-6, 300
RJ Moten, S, Delran (N.J.), 6-0, 200
Osman Savage, OLB, St. Frances Academy (Md.), 6-2, 225
Jeffrey Persi, OT, J Serra Catholic (Calif.), 6-7, 265
Roman Wilson, WR, St. Louis (Hawaii), 6-0, 175
Nikhai Hill-Green, OLB, St. Frances Academy (Md.), 6-1, 230
JD Johnson, QB, Pinnacle (Ariz.), 6-4, 215
Reece Atteberry, C, Eaglecrest (Col.), 6-5, 280
Cornell Wheeler, LB, West Bloomfield (Mich.), 6-1, 220
William Mohan, ATH, Erasmus Hall (N.Y.), 6-1, 195
Aaron Lewis, DE, Williamstown (N.J.), 6-5, 235
Matthew Hibner, TE, Lake Braddock (Va.), 6-4, 230
Eamonn Dennis, ATH, St John's (Mass.), 5-10, 173
Kris Jenkins, DE Our Lady Good Counsel (Md.), 6-4, 239
Micah Mazzccua, OG, St. Frances Academy (Md.), 6-5, 335
Nick Patterson, TE, San Antonio Christian (Texas), 6-3, 225
Gaige Garcia, RB, Southern Columbia (Pa.), 5-10, 205