Mailbag question: Ohio recruiting


Posted at 8:00am — 6/8/2010

Mailbag question: Ohio recruiting

Hey guys,

After reading your take on the Michigan program, and the differences with Ohio State, does it seem like more and more elite level kids from Ohio are not even interested anymore in Michigan, compared to the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s?

It now seems as if Ohio State is getting almost every kid they want in-state, along with rubbing Michigan’s nose in it by getting legacy kids, either now or in the future.

I have read recent stories about current recruit Trey DePriest, along with 2012 recruits Chris Wormley and Allen Gant. They all do not seem very excited or interested about the Michigan program. These kids all seemed like they were interested in Michigan at one time or another, or were fans of the Maize and Blue.

Thanks guys for your thoughts and opinions on this matter, keep up the good work in a slow time for Michigan football.

Greg S.


Thanks for the question.

Please note that the response below is primarily directed towards the three players mentioned by Greg. There is some general talk about recruiting in general. It should be noted that many offers have been made lately, with many players responding favorably. This article focuses on a mini-recruiting scenario, not the entire Michigan recruiting effort.

Since Coach Tressel took over the Ohio State program and put a heavy emphasis on Ohio recruiting (the Woody strategy), Ohio State has been regularly (perhaps easily) beating Michigan for top recruits within Ohio. Coincidently or not, since near invincible Ohio recruiting has returned to the Buckeye program, the tide has turned regarding wins and loses on the field, where it really matters.

In Coach Carr’s final years, Ohio State was getting almost all of the top level Ohio talent. The development is not an accident, Ohio State has developed (or redeveloped, if you will) a recruiting machine that will force an opponent to instill and obtain notable and effective organizational strategies and production to neutralize or defeat Ohio State’s current advantage. This advantage applies to nearly every team nationally, not just Michigan. Only a handful of elite programs with similar built in talent sources can stand with Ohio State.

The Buckeyes, under Coach Tressel, use Ohio as the primary recruiting base and then pick and heavily recruit elites from football factory states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, occasionally California, and so on. The recruiting strategy of Ohio State now frequently entails identifying, intensely recruiting, and eventually signing an occasional elite player from Michigan.

Tressel excels at precise and long-term management, even though on the surface his strategies appear to be simple and foolproof. Everything done in recruiting at Ohio State is by careful design; there rarely is any deviation. Positions and individual players are put into the total encompassing plan like jigsaw puzzle pieces. Ohio State targets far fewer players and issues far fewer offers than many programs. The Buckeyes will readily throw a hat in the ring for the national level elites sought by everyone, hoping to land a couple a year. But for everyone else, caution and heavy scrutiny apply.

There is, some, good news in that there generally remains (after Ohio State is done) enough Ohio talent that if another team can get any of the remaining top 20-25 prospects (or so) in Ohio, the result is usually a good to very good prospect. Essentially, Ohio State is getting the A players and other schools scramble for the B+ to B- players.

As for the individual players mentioned in your query above, of the three mentioned two grew up Michigan fans and the other is a legacy.

In our opinion, Michigan still has a solid shot at one of the mentioned players, if the coaches get on him quickly. If there is inaction, this will allow Ohio State to take a player, who from all accounts, grew up bleeding Maize and Blue.

GBMW did an early interview with Trey DePriest last year and Trey mentioned how much he respected Michigan and really liked the Wolverine tradition. Well, surprisingly Trey stated that he had not heard much from Michigan (he did have an offer at the time) either by mail or by being contacted through his school. Trey was offered, we believe, September 1st and to the best of what we have been informed, he did not hear from the coaches for several more weeks. When a program is rebuilding and struggling like Michigan’s the last two years (8-16 defines struggling), said team simply cannot get behind in recruiting, especially when battling elite teams such as Florida, Alabama and Ohio State. At the same time, another high profile player informed us of the same lack of immediate Michigan response after an offer.

So, as the battle now stands Ohio State and Alabama might be the two teams to beat for DePriest. Trey is everything a coach or university seeks in a football player: outstanding character, great grades, and superior leadership, in short, the absolute total package. There was indeed, at one time, a window of Michigan opportunity.

Allen Gant is a legacy kid and as you stated it is hard to swallow that he is likely going to Ohio State. Coach Tressel and the Ohio State coaching staff have really shown young Gant obvious interest.

Tressel and his staff go to strategic coaches’ clinics and visit the high schools of elite recruits often to signal clear interest to selected (read targeted) recruits. As one example, the Ohio State coaches have been in the Toledo area recently, visiting selected high schools and “bumping” into the recruits in the hallways. Just being in town to visit provides immediate and positive media attention for the Ohio State program. Such efforts are sometimes linked to volunteer efforts at a charity event, leading to more good public relations and bridge building.

Chris Wormley is a recruit from Toledo Whitmer (Kevin Koger’s school) who is a big Michigan fan. ErocWolverine observed him twice last season and both times it was believed Chris might be as good or even better than 2011 Ohio State commit Ken Hayes (who is a great athlete). Michigan better start picking it up with some of the regional kids that at one time favored Michigan, or Ohio State is going to rather easily recruit them (assuming they are OSU targets).

If the Michigan staff is truly serious about competing nose-to nose with Ohio State and other elite national programs in recruiting (especially concerning players with at least some Michigan inclination), then attention to detail and strategizing for maximum impact must be pursued. This attention is defined as identifying recruits early in the process and immediately putting forth the necessary time and energy to convince the young recruit that no other school will show more interest or is a better final destination than UM.

Michigan does a splendid, absolutely top job on campus, but for many recruits, the on campus attention, or occasional communication, is not sufficient to close the deal. Unfortunately recruiting is now akin to a wooing process, and to the victor goes the prize recruit.

So here is the short scenario: there are a few recruits out there with Michigan leanings, however small or large. Some of these recruits receive less interest from the Michigan program and more from Ohio State.

There is one question we here are not sure of- how serious is Michigan regarding the recruits Greg mentioned? The assumption throughout this entire article is that Michigan indeed is actively recruiting these players very hard and desires their commitments. That may be a faulty underlying assumption, although such realism would indeed be a head-scratcher.

If Michigan is indeed serious about landing recruits where Ohio State is the prime competitor, there is a ton of work to do and recruiting strategies to assess. Currently it will be tough to beat Ohio State head-to head for any regional recruit Ohio State truly wants.

Ohio State has some natural advantages in landing talent: a rich talent base that grows up very pro-OSU, a program guaranteed to go to major bowl games, a great heritage, a monster stadium, and at the present time stability. Michigan has strengths: a monster stadium, a great heritage, the value of the UM degree, the beautiful campus, the great lifestyle of Ann Arbor, and the wonderful academic assist program.

Ohio State has maximized its stated natural advantages for recruiting through careful management (yes, indeed winning is a prime factor, but even so, Ohio State has been very successful). Michigan, although painful to say, is not near the level of its primary adversary in head to head recruiting and hence some opportunities may have gone by the wayside.

It is what it is and Michigan’s primary goal needs to be to change what is. That little dictate is obvious. What is not so obvious is how Michigan will accomplish the task, that query could fill up reams of paper. But simply put the entire Michigan football operation has some tough questions to ask as to how the team can ascend back to national prominence, perhaps starting with winning some head-to-head battles for prized recruits.

Ohio State is now using successful recruiting strategy and opportunity provided by success to form rosters capable of winning more national titles, not just beat Michigan. This current Ohio State class will likely be top five and the once tender quarterback situation has been soothed by the announcement of Braxton Miller (yes, indeed, Baxton is very good for anyone wondering) attending Ohio State.

One thing for sure, when given that rare opportunity of recruiting a quality recruit that has signaled Blue interest, jump on that window of opportunity, get there first and pour on the resources. After all, there is still an old axiom that few, if any, dispute: recruiting is the lifeblood (also lifeline) of a football program.

Written by GBMW Staff

Go Blue — Wear Maize!