Ohio State and Michigan obviously see plenty of one another on the recruiting trail, but this time around things are going quite differently for the two old foes. The Buckeyes have been the class of the Big Ten since Urban Meyer's arrival, but it's looking like Jim Harbaugh is on the verge of capturing the conference's recruiting crown for the Class of 2019.
The Zach Smith saga has put Meyer's health and emotions at the forefront even though his sideline antics have been apparent dating all the way back to his days in Gainesville. It's gotten to the point where cameras seem to be focusing on his demeanor rather than pertinent angles for instant replay.
The Buckeyes have two five-stars in the fold for 2019 and the average per commit rating sits behind only Alabama and Georgia. Still, with just 16 commitments in late November, it currently checks in at No. 13 in the country which is good for second-best in the Big Ten. There's a growing sense of panic among the fanbase which likely stems from the recruiting trail as well as the defensive woes that have plagued the team all season long.
With the Wolverines playing well and poised for a potential playoff run, the recruiting battles are running hot and heavy for the Class of 2019 and the foreseeable future. We look at some of the top names to watch as the two rivals continue to duke it out.
Zach Harrison • 2019 Defensive End • ★★★★★ • Lewis Center, Ohio • Nat. Rank: No. 5
The local five-star has been at the top of Ohio State's recruiting board for nearly two years now. He's the biggest athletic freak we've seen in the state for some time and the potential is through the roof. We've been talking about the 6-foot-5, 243 pounder ever since he was offered in January of 2017 and most assumed it was just a matter of time until he'd be the cornerstone of Ohio State's 2019 class.
Things have been trending in a very concerning direction of late and most now have the Wolverines pegged as the team to beat. Michigan has already loaded up at defensive end and adding a talent like Harrison would be less than ideal for the folks in Columbus. We've seen Urban Meyer and Larry Johnson work plenty of magic in the past, and perhaps there's still time for the hometown pull to win out.
His official visits are a thing of the past, the high school season is over, and it sure seems like Harrison is in decision mode though no exact timeline is in place. He's expected to enroll early at his school of choice.
Tommy Eichenberg • 2019 Linebacker • ★★★★ • Cleveland, Ohio • Nat. Rank: 358
The Buckeyes are still looking for more help at linebacker and they got a bit of good news last night when Cleveland (St. Ignatius) four-star Tommy Eichenberg opened his recruitment after spending the last five months as a Boston College commitment.
This recruitment is almost assuredly going to come down to Ohio State and Michigan, but I suppose the Fighting Irish could get involved if they elect to offer. Eichenberg's older brother Liam is currently manning the offensive line in South Bend but at this point it doesn't look as though Brian Kelly will come calling.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder had a heck of senior season and certainly has the look of a pure middle linebacker at the next level. The loss of Kane Patterson means the Buckeyes don't have an inside backer in the class, and Eichenberg is the best bet to fill that role.
He's expected to be in Columbus this weekend for The Game and previously checked out Michigan earlier in the month.
Trevor Keegan • 2019 Offensive Tackle • ★★★★ • Crystal Lake, Illinois • Nat. Rank: No. 158
Offensive line is still a big area of need for the Class of 2019 and that's especially true at tackle. Trevor Keegan has been a priority target for both Ohio State and Michigan, but right now it's looking like there's a very real chance that Georgia ends up victorious in this one.
Initially the general thought was that the Illinois native wanted to stay closer to home, but he certainly appears to be opening up a bit to leaving the Midwest. Keegan has already used his officials to Columbus, Ann Arbor, and Athens and a trip to Clemson is still looming.
This one seems unlikely for the Buckeyes at this point with Georgia or Michigan being the likely destination.
Rashawn Williams • 2020 Wide Receiver • ★★★★ • Detroit, Michigan • Nat. Rank: No. 146
A few weeks ago Rashawn Williams' crystal ball had a very strong Ohio State feel to it, but it's since seen a Maize and Blue surge. The four-star made multiple trips to Columbus this summer and the Buckeyes appeared to be the clear-cut leader in his recruitment.
Some actually thought Williams was on commit watch back in August and September, but that never came to fruition as the Buckeyes transitioned over to Brian Hartline and have been extremely selective in terms of the 2020 wide receiver class. The Detroit (King) star was in Ann Arbor for the win over Penn State and the Crusaders have recently delivered with players like Ambry Thomas and Lavert Hill.
Michael Drennen II • 2020 All-Purpose Back • ★★★★ • Dublin, Ohio • Nat. Rank: No. 179
Ohio State already has a pledge from 2020 tailback Darvon Hubbard, and when the commitment went down some started to question where things stood with Dublin Coffman's Michael Drennen II; another player whose recruitment may very well come down to the Buckeyes and Wolverines.
A four-star all-purpose back, Drennen's skill set is a bit unique since he could be utilized as a bit of a running back/receiver hybrid in Ohio State's H-back role. The consensus seems to be that the local standout won't end up far from home as long as the Buckeyes have room at the inn. However, the 5-foot-11, 190-pounder has also checked out Ann Arbor this fall and the Wolverines are very much in the picture.
Georgia and LSU have also offered and Drennen is expected to make the short trip to campus this weekend.
Jack Sawyer • 2021 Defensive End • ★★★★ • Pickerington, Ohio • Nat. Rank: No. 3
There are bound to be plenty of battles for 2021, and while signing day is still over three years away, there's at least one big one that we're already watching. Since it's so early in the process, there aren't any five-star prospects yet according to the 247 Sports rankings, but as the country's No. 3 overall player, it's reasonable to assume Pickerington's Jack Sawyer will eventually be in the running.
I don't think this one is shaping up to be similar to that of Harrison, but there's a long ways to go before signing day and both Michigan and Penn State are toward the top of his early list. Sawyer was in Ann Arbor for the Nov. 3rd destruction of the Nittany Lions.