“Games are won in the trenches.”
Sure, we’ve all heard this saying, and that’s fine and dandy if one team has an major advantage in one trench or the other, but what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? In other words, what can we expect when one of the most touted offensive line recruiting classes goes up against a school’s best defensive line class in years?
Immovable Object (UM Offensive Line)
Brady Hoke has been on the warpath in his recruiting efforts for the 2013 class, and a large portion of his success has come in the form of gigantic offensive linemen. His memorable beginning to this hogmolly restructuring came with the highly publicized recruit flip of Kyle Kalis. Kalis, to date, is Hoke’s most highly touted offensive line recruit, ranking in at #22 overall, the 4th best lineman, and a 5* recruit in the 2012 class, according to Rivals. Kalis is especially notable, since he had previously committed to Jim Tressel and OSU, but decided to be a Wolverine instead once the allegations hit the fan in Columbus. In that same 2012 class, Hoke brought in a couple more line fillers, and a 4* prospect in Erik Magnuson, who ranked at #78 overall and more than slightly resembles the fatter version of Mac on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Two of the nation’s top linemen was only the start for Brady Hoke, as he picked up the 2013 class right where he had left off.
M*chigan’s O-line additions in next year’s group could certainly become a force to be reckoned with. This group, according to ESPN recruiting rankings, includes the #1, #4, and #5 overall offensive guards in the country (David Dawson, Kyle Bosch, and Patrick Kugler, respectively), as well as the class’s #9 and #10 offensive tackles in Logan Tuley-Tillman and Chris Fox. This enormous group averages in at just under 6’5″ and 295 lbs each. Not bad for kids that are currently juniors in high school and still have time and motivation to bulk up more before they hit Ann Arbor’s campus. Each member of this group is ranked by ESPN and Rivals as a 4* recruit, and each was highly sought after by many of the nation’s top schools. In fact, Chris Fox and Logan Tuley-Tillman also had scholarship offers from Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.
This recruitment of 7 intimidating offensive linemen (not counting any 3* recruits at the position) in less than two full years shows that either Brady Hoke has some confidence issues and is unhappy with his own weight, thus surrounding himself with bigger people to feel better about his image, or more likely, that he plans on getting M*chigan back to the days of beating your opponent at the line of scrimmage and daring them to stop your run game first. At first glance, this future UM O-line certainly seems like an immovable object, but…
Unstoppable Force (OSU Defensive Line)
Urban Meyer, although he has the reputation for being a purely offensive-minded coach, has shown that he has a knack for loading up his defense with nearly unblockable linemen, highly skilled linebackers, and lightning-fast backs. Ohio State fans still shiver when thinking back to his 2006 team at Florida that absolutely manhandled a formerly powerful OSU offense to the tune of 82 total yards (35 passing on 4/14, and 47 rushing), 5 sacks, and 1 of 9 on third down conversion attempts.
Urban, much like Hoke, arrived on the recruiting scene with a bang. Unlike Brady Hoke, however, who has built a large portion of his future teams around his offensive line, Urban went to work on his future defense. Out of Urban’s completed 2012 class and still in progress 2013 group, 10 of his top 11 recruits (by ESPN’s grading system) are on the defensive side of the ball. Urban’s top prospects are both 5* recruits, according to Rivals, in defensive ends Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington. This pair, along with Se’Von Pittman, are ranked by Rivals as the #2, #7, and #15 best defensive ends in the 2012 class. Spence, is also the #4 overall prospect according to ESPN. This threesome was not alone on the defensive line, as Meyer also flipped the highly touted Tommy Schutt from Penn State to Ohio State. Schutt, a big time run stopper (6’3″ and 300 lbs) at defensive tackle is ranked as the #6 prospect in 2012 at his position by Rivals.
Similar again to Hoke, Meyer didn’t take a slower approach to his powerful future defensive line, but instead dove full force into making sure that it would be locked and loaded in the upcoming years with more recruits in the 2013 class. He first got Billy Price to commit, who is listed as the #11 overall defensive tackle in his graduating year. On top of that, the Buckeyes just added another top level player in Joey Bosa, from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Bosa is a freakish talent who stands 6’6″ tall, weighs in at roughly 260 lbs, and can do a standing back flip on cue. Oh, and he can also chase down a mobile QB and nearly decapitate a running back going around the end. Bosa is the nation’s #2 defensive end prospect, and should compete for playing time with the other talents on the OSU line.
Go back and look at Urban Meyer’s national championship runs in 2006 and 2008, and you’ll come back talking about Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Aaron Hernandez, and the infamous spread offense that Meyer takes with him everywhere he goes. However, something that is often overlooked is the quality of his defenses. In those two seasons, 28 games in total, Meyer’s squads allowed more than 21 points just twice, and a great deal of their success began with fast, strong, athletic defensive linemen who were constantly in the face of the opposing quarterbacks.
Isaac Asimov answered the immovable object vs. unstoppable force conundrum by saying that, quite simply, both forces could not exist in the same world. Well, that doesn't happen to help at the moment, since both forces appear to be doing well and residing just 3 hours away from each other. Something eventually has to give between UM's incoming offensive linemen and OSU's incoming defensive linemen...
As a Buckeye fan, I certainly hope that another classic football cliché holds true, and defense wins us a championship!