Around the Big Ten: Michigan, Harbaugh Shifting Recruiting Focus Back to the Buckeye State?

By Andrew Ellis on April 3, 2016 at 7:15 am
Michigan commit Leonard Taylor
Leonard Taylor

While the Wolverines have definitely had their success on the recruiting front since Jim Harbaugh's arrival, the state of Ohio has seemingly been ignored. The Buckeyes, Fighting Irish, Spartans, and even the Kentucky Wildcats have been pillaging the fertile recruiting grounds while the University of Michigan has – for the most part – been looking elsewhere. 

The recruiting approach seems to be evolving in Ann Arbor as a couple of Ohio's best have pledged to the Wolverines over the last couple weeks. 

This past February, Jim Harbaugh brought home his first full recruiting class as Michigan's head coach. The class checked in at No. 5 in America; one spot behind Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. It included Rashan Gary, the nation's top-rated player, and a number of other top prospects from throughout the nation. States like Georgia, Florida, California, New Jersey, and even Colorado were targeted by the Wolverines in 2016.

One-time Michigan commit Messiah deWeaver.
One-time Michigan commit Messiah deWeaver.

Perhaps the strangest thing about the class was its lack of a single signee from the state of Ohio. It's becoming more and more difficult to evaluate a school's real interest in a player based solely on an offer, but there definitely were a few of the state's top players who were being targeted by Harbaugh and Co. Jake Hausmann, Luke Farrell, and Liam Eichenberg were all recruited by the Maize and Blue. Dayton's Messiah deWeaver (Wayne) was committed to the Wolverines at one point before eventually committing to and signing with the Spartans. 

Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State and (occasionally) Penn State are the traditional non-Buckeye programs that are expected to make a bit of a splash in the state. The lack of a Wolverine presence has probably aided schools like Pitt, West Virginia, and even Indiana in their Ohio recruiting endeavors.

When looking at Ohio's best for 2017, the Wolverines really aren't doing much better. The Buckeyes have already locked up three of the state's top five players, and the other two – Cincinnati's Amir Riep and Cleveland's Jaylen Harris – are expected to join the class as well.

Riep has been adding offers right and left and is in the midst of a flurry of visits to schools all across the country. The four-star was in Ann Arbor a few weeks back and had some positive things to say about the visit. While the Buckeyes are certainly in the driver's seat, Michigan may be one of the few legitimate contenders for his services. The Colerain star was back in Columbus yesterday for Ohio State's Student Appreciation Day and spent some time with a familiar face.

Springfield's Danny Davis is a talented wideout who is still working to earn a Buckeye offer. The Spartans have already come calling but thus far the Wolverines have not extended an offer. Mansfield (Madison) athlete Tyrell Ajian has been offered by the Wolverines, though they don't appear to be actively recruiting the four-star at this time. Ajian seems like a prime candidate to end up in Lexington, which we will touch on a bit later.

The Buckeyes are in a bit of a unique spot at tight end. After signing a trio in 2016 (though Kierre Hawkins could be more of an H or wideout), it's yet to be seen if they are set on adding another to the 2017 class. Cincinnati's (Moeller) Matt Dotson has been offered by Ohio State, and right now the Volunteers look like they could be the biggest threat. Earlier this week, he announced that he will check out the Spartans and Wolverines in mid-April; both of whom have offered.

It seems like it is an eternity away, but the class of 2018 is where things have already started to get interesting. The Wolverines have been in hot pursuit of at least five of the state's top ten players. With Friday's commitment from Springfield's Leonard Taylor, Jim Harbaugh currently has commitments from two of Ohio's top eight prospects.

The Buckeyes extended an offer in mid-March and Taylor was in Columbus less than a week ago. Currently listed as a tight end/defensive end, he is expected to grow into one of the nation's top defensive tackles. At 6-foot-6, 260 pounds and checking in as the country's 22nd-ranked player, Taylor was expected to make a return trip to Columbus for the spring game. We will have to wait and see if said visit takes place, but right now it's safe to chalk this one up as a nice victory for Jim Harbaugh. 

Linebacker Antwuan Johnson, another Springfield product, committed to Michigan just about two weeks back. The biggest difference here being that the Buckeyes had yet to really get involved in his recruitment. 

Toledo linebacker Dallas Gant has yet to be offered by Ohio State or Michigan, but it's safe to assume that more offers are on the way. Gant currently finds himself ranked as the nation's No. 42 prospect. The Toledo area has been kind to Michigan in the past, so it will be interesting to see how things unfold as more and more offers come in. 

When examining the Ohio players who "escape" Urban Meyer's reach, it's really important to keep things in context. The amount of talent in the state combined with the Buckeyes' ability to go national means that a number of Ohio players – some of whom may have more than three little stars next to their names – are going to end up elsewhere. 

Since Meyer's arrival, the number of in-state signees has of course fluctuated a bit per class, but the average number seems to be hovering right around ten. So far, the 2017 class has 13 commits, and six of those hail from the state of Ohio. The class is already likely more than halfway full, so it could be tricky for the Buckeyes to reach that magic number of ten. 

Long story short: there's no reason to fret when some in-state prospects look elsewhere for their collegiate careers. Jim Harbaugh, Mark Dantonio, and Brian Kelly are going to get theirs, and some of those Ohioans are going to have amazing careers (see: Scott, LJ). There's no sense in getting worked up, especially as it pertains to the 2018 class which is a whopping 674 days away from putting the pen to paper.

Reminder: #context


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