ALL IS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD
It's kind of weird, isn't it? Ohio State finished off their second straight undefeated season with a hard-fought, close win against a tougher than expected Michigan team, yet we're still a week away from truly knowing what becomes of this incredible Urban Meyer-led run of 24 straight wins. Thanks, Obama.
With the 2013 version of "The Game" out of the way, I wanted to spend this weekend's Sunday night recap getting some feedback from recruits who were on hand, Buckeye commitments who had their first real taste of what it means to be a part of the greatest rivalry in sports "and so on and so forth." #Tressel'd
Worry not, we'll still check in with how the few Buckeyes recruits still playing high school football did this weekend and any other recruiting tidbits that feel necessary, as well. (I mean, Jeremy, what about 'Kwon????")
If you were at the game, please comment below on your experience in Ann Arbor and what being at "The Game" meant to you, especially if it was your first time. The first time is always special, I've heard.
Enough dilly-dallying, let's talk to some of your favorite players and see how they felt about "The Game."
As you can imagine, recruiting — more specifically being recruited — has a way of changing your perception about football. If you grew up in Ohio and spent your whole life rooting for the Buckeyes but found yourself invited to The Game as a guest of the University of Michigan, it could be a difficult situation. That's the scenario that faced two highly-ranked Ohio juniors who were in attendance, Jackson's linebacker Reagan Williams and Lagrange native, and Ohio's top 2015 tight end prospect, C.J. Conrad.
"(The Game) was awesome," Conrad said. "I liked the way (Michigan's staff and team) handled things pregame and throughout the game. They are very laid back. Their players were confident and you could tell they were ready for a tough game. The fans were not really confident though (laughs,) they were yelling at us recruits during pregame saying 'we hope we keep it close for you guys.'"
Williams had a similar feeling from the staff at Michigan, saying he was very comfortable with how they operate.
"Their staff made it very easy once we made our way to the recruiting lounge," Williams told 11W. "I got to have conversations with every member of the staff and they made me feel extremely welcome and you could tell that they had a family atmosphere and that they really cared about their players. (Once the game started) I just tried to stay neutral because of the situation, but it was hard when I got there. I just speculate about what the offenses should do schematically (because of the defensive struggles.) I am an avid fan of defense as you could assume, but when it's a shootout like it was you start looking at it like, 'oh if they maybe ran this play it would work.'"
And as the clock hit zeroes and the Buckeyes fans inside of them saw their beloved scarlet and gray pull out the victory? That's when things get even a bit more challenging, Conrad admits struggling throughout the game to focus his attention solely on the Maize and Blue.
"I had a tough time not paying attention to what the Buckeyes staff and players were doing," Conrad said. "It was super hard to not explode with excitement when they picked off the two-point conversion, but I was not going to be disrespectful. I like Michigan's staff and team and would absolutely definitely consider an offer from them from very seriously."
"I was very excited (when the conversion happened," Williams said. "The outcome was kind of what I was looking for. It was an extremely competitive close game with the Buckeyes edging it out at the end, and we got just that. In a bigger scheme of things it's also great for the Big Ten because we have a contender for a National Championship. It will sway some respect towards the Big Ten, and more importantly, Ohio State."
passion of the game impresses commitments
Players a bit closer to being a part of the rivalry no doubt look at things from slightly different perspective. Some players, like Stephen Collier, are so close to being Ohio State students that they can taste it, and watching The Game helps put a lot of life, including his future, in perspective.
Stephen Collier: '"The Game" exemplified everything great about college football. Intensity, emotion, execution, all of those things were seen yesterday. It also goes to show rankings don't matter in a rivalry game like that. A team could go 0-11 but play like beasts just for one game. It's really insane when I look back six months ago, I was scared out of my mind because I had no idea where I was going and spots were filling up fast. Now I'm about to join the second-ranked team in the nation lead by arguably the best coach in college football. I'm blessed beyond measure."
Demetrius Knox: "The score being that close was not a surprise to me, it's a true rivalry game, and anyone can win that sort of game, especially at home. There were some mistakes on both sides of the ball for the Buckeyes but overall they played well in a tough environment. The fight was disappointing to see, but I know that sometimes you have to defend yourself and your teammates so I appreciate the guys coming out to Dontre's aid. Our school has a saying 'KAWC', which stands for 'kick (butt) with class,' and when Hall threw his helmet and was flipping people off, that was hard to see. I understand he was upset and fired up but that was definitely overboard.
Kyle Trout: "It was a good game, and it was fun to watch most of the time. I was kind of shocked about the brawl, especially when players who shouldn't have been on the field were fighting. I think they could has handled themselves better but after that they didn't let it effect their game, they still played hard and got the win. That Auburn game though, War Eagle!"
Malik Hooker: "It was definitely a good day to be a Buckeye. I felt that wasn't our best game but the leaders stepped up and made plays like their supposed to. That game made me even more excited to be apart of this program, for sure. As the defense struggles, I feel like there are plays I could help make an impact on, but that's everybody's thoughts from the outside. It was a great gam, and we didn't play our best ball but we got it done and that's all that matters. Now we get ready for next week, and they need to refocus on Michigan. I don't think they'll do much different from any other week, they go back to work tomorrow, so there's no time to relax. It's crunch time now."
Terry Mclaurin: "It was a good game. Both teams showed the intensity of the rivalry, Ohio State played until the very end and finished it with a win. It's a good feeling, watching that rivalry and I know I chose the right place, and I see success for years to come. I didn't like the fight, but it's sometimes part of the game just shows the emotions of that rivalry. Things can always be handled better, but I like the passion." (Mclaurin won a state title this weekend, you can read the recap of his dominating performance here.)
Nothing worthwhile to report from Raekwon McMillan's Auburn visit yet, as anything comes to fruition I'll be sure to update the primary McMillan thread here. He did see a pretty darn exciting football game, but it will be very difficult for two-plus years of relationships that have been built with Ohio State, Clemson, and Alabama to be so easily usurped.
One key 2015 recruit that was not in attendance for The Game, Cleveland Benedictine star running back/linebacker Jerome Baker, who was at some point in the week expected in Ann Arbor. Baker apparently has given some Michigan writers/fans the same feeling I've gotten from Myles Autry a few times. The feeling of "he can say he is going to visit as much as he wants, but until he does, we know he's not coming here." Baker is a likely Buckeye commit, and I think it could be sometime soon.
He did watch the game, and shared a few thoughts on the outcome with me.
"It was just an epic game," Baker told 11W. "It was a great, hard fought game for both teams. Each team really showed incredible will to win."
Sterling Jenkins visited Ohio State last weekend, and the Buckeyes made a big impression on the Pittsburgh star who had been thought a Michigan "lock" for a while. Yesterday Jenkins took in The Game in Ann Arbor and had another great visit.
"The atmosphere was intense, and so were all the players, everyone played so hard. It was great to watch," Jenkins said. "I was watching both teams closely, but I was so into the game itself. I took some time to watch Mewhort and Lewan and it's crazy to think 'that could be me.'"
With consecutive visits to two schools firmly entrenched in the greatest rivalry in sports, Jenkins has a unique perspective on the coaching staffs of the two teams.
"Well off the field and in other games I've watched, they seem like opposites," he said. "Yesterday they didn't seem too far off from one another. The rivalry brings out the best in everyone. They both wanted to win so bad."
Jenkins lists Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State as three schools standing out to him, but says they are not his top three and that he has no preference at this time.