Cass Tech Becomes Recruiting Target for Buckeyes

By Kyle Rowland on June 2, 2014 at 8:30a

Michigan has convinced countless Ohioans to travel north and play football for the maize and blue for several decades, transforming them into home-state pariahs in the process.

Urban Meyer is hoping to reverse that history. Consider Damon Webb the first in a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

Since Meyer took over in late 2011, Ohio State’s zeroed in on the Wolverine State – Cass Tech in particular. The football powerhouse, located in downtown Detroit, has long been a Michigan and Michigan State pipeline. Since 2008, Michigan has welcomed 10 Cass Tech alums to campus. 

“Michigan is always going to be Michigan,” Cass Tech defensive coordinator Jermain Crowell told Eleven Warriors. “Kids that grow up in the state of Michigan want to go to Michigan. So if an out-of-state school comes in they have to do a really good job of establishing a relationship with the kids. With [Ohio State] getting Damon Webb, he and his father are very active and vocal in how well they treat Damon.”

Now, coaches and players sense the Buckeyes gaining ground on Michigan, even head coach Thomas Wilcher, a former Michigan player under Bo Schembechler. The Buckeyes have extended offers to four Cass Tech players – running back Mike Weber (2015), defensive end Joshua Alabi (2015), offensive lineman Michael Onwenu (2016) and wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (2017). None of the four have committed, but Ohio State’s expected to remain a serious suitor till the bitter end.

“Michigan and Michigan State have made a big impact on Cass because it’s the home state,” Weber said Sunday at the Nike FTC in Columbus. “But I think Ohio State has really come in the mix as far as offering our guys, and a lot of them are considering Ohio State. I look forward to Ohio State being one of the top pipelines for Cass.”

Weber, who’s recently attracted headlines and misspellings, may have tipped his hand with the last comment. But he’s still considering Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Tennessee. His college decision won’t come until the U.S. Army All-American game next January. That doesn’t mean the Buckeyes will lay low.

With just three players committed in the current class, Ohio State’s been courting Weber like a potential prom date. There have been flashy mailings and a swanky new locker room to impress him. Weber said there’s contact from Meyer, Kerry Coombs and Stan Drayton during every live period. No school is pursuing him more actively right now. 

But he admits a winning program, good coaches, positive environment and solid academics are the factors being weighed in his decision. It doesn’t sound like a huge removal from Cass Tech. The Technicians won state titles in 2011 and 2012, claim 32 Division I players since 1997 and 15 NFL alumni in the league’s history. One of those NFL players is former Buckeye Vernon Gholston. 

“Ohio State makes an impact at Cass Tech and in Detroit,” Wilcher said. “They make themselves visible in the state and city. They want to dominate the Midwest and they’re very comfortable in Michigan. The things the coaches do always make me smile because I’m like ‘Gosh, these guys work hard.’”

At the top of the list is Kerry Coombs, who’s quickly learned every bump and curve in I-75 North. His frequency in the halls of Cass Tech has led some teachers to wonder whether he’s the first gray-haired student. Not really, but he’s become a constant guest. Peoples-Jones believes Coombs’ visits contributed to his offer after taking notice when watching other players.

“Kerry Coombs is one of my favorite recruiters,” Crowell said. “He did a really good job with Damon Webb. They offered People-Jones, Michael Onwenu, they’re looking at LaVert Hill, I know they’re one of Mike Weber’s early favorites. They’re doing a really good job. The impact is evident.”

Said Onwenu: “He’s always energized. Whenever he sees you, he’s happy.”

Soon after being hired, Meyer made Cass Tech a recruiting priority. The opportunity to break up a rival’s monopoly and cash in on its own riches appealed to Ohio State’s new leader. Securing a commitment from Webb was the beginning of what Meyer hopes is a warm relationship.

The four-star cornerback was the top prospect in the state of Michigan. In other words, he was destined to wear a winged helmet, touch the M Club banner and sing “The Victors.” Instead, the Buckeyes better suited Webb and he sensed the Wolverines felt they didn’t need to consume themselves with flattering a homegrown kid who belonged in Ann Arbor.

Big mistake.

“[Ohio State] didn’t come in with the attitude that all our kids were going to go to Michigan,” Crowell said. “They came in and tried to disprove that. They thought Michigan goes into Ohio and pulls out a lot of their best players, so they felt like they could return the favor and get some of the to players out of the state of Michigan, and we happen to have some of them.”

Michigan would be wise in not making the same tactical mistake with Peoples-Jones, a legacy player whose father played for the Wolverines. He currently holds a single offer, and it’s from Ohio State. There was a smattering of Ohio State-Michigan jokes, but the overriding sentiment was elation.

“It was very special for Ohio State to offer me first,” Peoples-Jones said. “I’ll always remember that Ohio State offered me first. I’ll always have them high because they were the first ones that gave me a chance. [My family] was proud of all the hard work I put in and that the results are showing.”

Over the next three years, he hopes to become faster, stronger and add height. Peoples-Jones is currently 6-foot-1, but believes he’ll shoot up to 6-4 or 6-5. Most important during the recruiting process is relationships and feeling comfortable.

The competition level at Cass Tech was palpable on Sunday when a litter of players turned in impressive performances, including Onwenu, who took home offensive lineman MVP honors.

“That was huge. I came in thinking I needed it,” he said.

Onwenu called Ohio State’s offer “a big deal.” It won’t speed up his recruitment, though – he said he’ll wait to make a decision until his senior year. And those few years might involve him rooting for Michigan and Michigan State over the Buckeyes, as he did in 2013. That admission came with a wry smile. Or Ohio State’s offer may change his rooting habits.

“I think it’s great to have schools like Ohio State come in and recruit our kids and want to make an impact at our school,” Wilcher said. “As long as we have kids here, they’re going to want to try and get kids out of our school. As you saw [Sunday], we have some great kids. I think it’s great to have Ohio State come in because they’re a big BCS school, and that’s who we want coming in.”

It’s only the beginning.


Comments Show All Comments

BierStube's picture

Love the flag planted deep in enemy territory! 

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

+9 HS
kholmes's picture

Kyle -- FYI - Im pretty certain Onwenu won the MVP award for offensive line not defensive line as you state. 247 and Onwenu's own twitter account are stating he won at OL. I noticed you have referenced DL in a couple articles yesterday and today.

+1 HS
shortbus20's picture

The competition level at Cass Tech was palpable on Sunday when a litter of players turned in impressive performances, including Onwenu, who took home offensive lineman MVP honors

Says Offensive line to me.

  • shortbus20
kholmes's picture

Yes - he edited it and fixed the mistake after i pointed it out.

+5 HS
osu407's picture

Hopefully Clark can get to know Peoples-Jones and flip him to us by their senior year. 

Onwenu would be awesome too. 

+2 HS
sharks's picture

What a nice looking school building. 

Glenville North.

A man got to have a code...

+7 HS
buckeyedude's picture

Probably the nicest looking building in Detroit city limits.



+8 HS
1MechEng's picture

I don't know that I've ever seen a 5 or 6 story high school building before. Dang.

+2 HS
buckeyeradar's picture

Is that a resent photo?  I don't see any plywood over any windows.

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

+1 HS
buckeyedude's picture

I don't understand why you got the downers, but a large portion of housing in Detroit is boarded up. Facts are facts. This is why the governments are talking about spending millions of $ to tear them down. It's horrendous, and if you've never been around that town as I have, you wouldn't understand. You wouldn't even think you were in America. That's why I laugh every time I hear those Chrysler 200 commercials, "imported from Detroit," because it looks worse than a third world country, in some respects. That is my opinion.




+3 HS
NuttyBuckeye's picture

You should see the neighborhood it sits in... NOT PRETTY - like East Cleveland...  It is right off of I-75 just off of downtown.

What's round on the ends and high in the middle? Tell me if you know!

buckeyedude's picture

Let's do this! I love pulling the Craig Krenzel's and Reid Fragel's and Damon Webb's out of TSUN and them making them(TTUN and MSU) pay on the gridiron.

I love Woody Hayes and his philosophy of hating everything M*chelin, but I think it was a mistake to not recruit the TSUN. I'm glad Tressel and UFM don't share Hayes' philosophy in this matter.

One other thing: speaking of bumps in the road, I hope Coombs and the rest of the OSU coaches get used to I-75 going up to Detroit, because it is one of the most pot hole-ridden interstates in the nation, bar none. I know from first hand experience.



Ahh Saturday's picture

~~I love pulling the Craig Krenzel's and Reid Fragel's and Damon Webb's out of TSUN.

Add Vernon Gholston and Jonathan Hankins to that list.  Buckeyes don't go up north for talent often, but when they do, they've come back with some good ones.

+3 HS
CTBuckeyeFan's picture

Meyer is a genius.

Gotta go behind enemy lines and establish a FOB, who better to send than Kerry Coombs?


+3 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

I think it's amazing how we have made inroads in this school and how the coaches at the school really like and respect tOSU and their coaches.

+2 HS
YTOWNBUCKI's picture

Even if a lot of them don't commit I think it sends the message.  "We're here to get the best players and we don't give a damn where they're from."  TTUN will whine about it but they've been recruiting Ohio forever.  They end up getting our 3rd stringers, but they still try.

CJDPHoS Board of Directors

Go get your shine box, Gumar!

James Mee's picture

I love stealing their top talent. It feels right, after they keep coming down here. I would have loved to take Malik but hopefully we pull some down this year. 

YTOWNBUCKI's picture

Anyone else notice that the front of the building looks like the American Flag?

CJDPHoS Board of Directors

Go get your shine box, Gumar!

THEOSUfan's picture

Pull a player or two out of there every year or two just to send a message to the Evil Empire.

osubuck57's picture

Glad we have made Cass Tech a priority. The Webb family, will be great recruiters for us as well. Weber, Alabi, Onwenu, and Peoples-Jones all seem to be special players, on and off the field. Who wouldn't want to recruit all these kids??


KBonay's picture

Love. This. Guy.


+1 HS
FitzBuck's picture

"At the top of the list is Kerry Coombs, who’s quickly learned every bump and curve in I-75 North."

next time anyone drives back from that shit hole up north pay attention to how ruff the ride is until you hit the Ohio border.....smooth as a sheet of glass the second you cross the line.  My wife and I laugh about the huge difference every time.

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

+1 HS
CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Good!  All part of the evil plan Muhahahahahha!!

Go Bucks!!

nm_buck's picture

"Fire Coombs."

"The future is bright at Ohio State."  - Urban Meyer 1/1/15

Tanner's picture

Seven Nation Army was written by a Cass Tech grad, so singing that in the Shoe while watching all their best players play for the Bucks will be enjoyable