Urban Meyer points out a major recruiting flaw for the Michigan Wolverines as a reason the talent gap is so vast between them and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
When you have better players, you win more.
The Ohio State Buckeyes are one of the few programs in the Power 5 that can regularly compete with the SEC powerhouses on the recruiting trail. A lot of this has to do with Ohio having so much high school football talent in-state. The Buckeyes can usually get whoever they want in-state, leaving other Power 5 and Group of 5 programs to sift through the scraps.
Former Buckeyes head coach turned FOX college football analyst Urban Meyer told David Briggs of the Toledo Blade the dirty little secret about why the gap is so wide between Ohio State and the Michigan Wolverines these days: Apparently, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh isn’t all that interested going into Ohio to look for top-flight high school talent.
“If you look a their history, and I know their history very well, two Heisman Trophy winners from Ohio, great players from Ohio. … Coach [Ryan] Day and myself and our recruiting guy, we monitor them. Even to this day, I’ll ask, ‘what’s going on [at Michigan]?’ That usually was a street fight when we first got there, with Brady Hoke and even coach Harbaugh.”
Even though the Brady Hoke era in Michigan did not end well, the former Wolverines head coach would venture into Ohio and sign excellent players. From 2011 to 2014, Hoke signed 27 Ohioans, including four in the top-100 recruits. He signed one more player from Ohio than the 26 he signed in-state with Michigan upbringings.
Now everything has totally changed after Harbaugh arrived. It’s not a “street fight” anymore.
Harbaugh has not signed a top-100 player from Ohio in his six years at Ann Arbor. Two of his last three recruiting classes haven’t had a single player from the Buckeyes State. You see what’s going on here, right?
There is a direct correlation to lesser programs historically like Meyer’s alma mater Cincinnati Bearcats and the SEC’s Kentucky Wildcats ascending in the last five years. It helps that their head coaches in Luke Fickell and Mark Stoops have Ohio roots, respectively. Fickell was on Meyer’s staff in Columbus before getting the Cincinnati gig. The Stoops Brothers all hail from Youngstown.
By not going into Ohio, Michigan is continually missing out on signing the next Charles Woodson. What Harbaugh is doing would be like Tennessee Volunteers football not recruiting in nearby talent-rich states like Georgia or Florida. Like Michigan, Tennessee has talented players in state, but not the sheer amount of high school talent as Georgia or Florida offers. You gotta do what’s uncomfortable.
There is also a direct correlation to Michigan’s Big Ten East rivals. Ohio and Pennsylvania have historically more high school football talent in-state than Michigan. It’s a big reason Ohio State and Penn State are undeniable college football blue-bloods. Despite little brother status, Michigan State was never afraid to go out-of-state to find quality talent under Mark Dantonio.
Is it hubris, is it pettiness, what is it? The best programs in the country recruit the best players, regardless of where they played high school ball. Nick Saban shouldn’t be afraid to go into Georgia to find talent, just like Kirby Smart shouldn’t be afraid to find great players who grew up in Alabama.
Michigan needs to overcome this major recruiting flaw before it becomes a fatal one.
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