Michigan and Jim Harbaugh Haven't Been Able to Invade Ohio for Recruiting Talent Like Past Wolverines Coaches

By David Regimbal on April 27, 2020 at 2:50 pm
Jim Harbaugh's weird high five

Ohio State's recent domination over Michigan is a popular topic around here.

The Wolverines have only beaten the Buckeyes once in the last 16 matchups, and that lone win came against what might be the worst Ohio State football team since the players were dawning leather helmets.

The last two matchups have been more lopsided than anyone expected. In 2018, the favored Wolverines came into Ohio Stadium looking to punch tickets to their first Big Ten Championship Game appearance and ensuing College Football Playoff bid. They left on the losing end of a historic 62-39 thrashing that could've been worse had Ohio State not killed the game clock on the Wolverines goal line.

And going into last fall, it was supposed to be Michigan's year. Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines were favored to win the Big Ten with a multi-year starter at quarterback and a bevy of weapons at his disposal. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, had a first-year head coach trying to replace a hall-of-famer and a first-year transfer quarterback behind center.

The result was an even more complete beatdown, this time in Ann Arbor, as the Buckeyes rolled to a 56-27 win.

The gap was supposed to shrink when Urban Meyer hung up his whistle, but last year's game and the recruiting momentum Ohio State is generating would suggest otherwise.

It wasn't always this way. As popular as this topic is around here, Michigan's domination of the rivalry during the 90s lingers like a bad dream for fans old enough to have experienced it. The coaching staffs from Bo Schembechler to Brady Hoke understood the importance of recruiting the state of Ohio, and they all had a certain level of success doing so.

Harbaugh and his staff haven't had that same success since he took over in 2015.

In two of the recruiting classes leading up to Harbaugh's hiring, Michigan signed four of Ohio's top 10 prospects in back-to-back cycles. But dating back to his first class in 2015, the Wolverines coaching staff have only signed a combined four top-10 Ohio players in six combined classes. 

Those four players are defensive back Tyree Kinnel (who Buckeye fans fondly remember as the guy Dwayne Haskins targeted relentlessly in 2018), James Hudson (the offensive tackle whose transfer to Cincinnati was allegedly blocked by Harbaugh), and tight end Erick All and offensive guard Nolan Rumler, both of whom redshirted as freshman in 2019.

That's the list of Michigan players from The Buckeye State under Harbaugh. No one who had the kind of impact Charles Woodson made for Lloyd Carr. None of the players like Shawn Crable, Mario Manningham, Justin Boren (heh), Frank Clark, Kyle Kalis (heh), Joe Bolden, Taco Charlton and Ben Gedeon, all Ohioans who put together solid careers as Wolverines.

Over the years, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan State and most recently Kentucky have prioritized the state of Ohio as an integral part of their recruiting strategies. Under Harbaugh, Michigan is either unable to or uninterested in doing the same, and if that continues, the gap between the Buckeyes and Wolverines would only continue to grow.

Unless Harbaugh is somehow rewriting the script after shifting his attention to the football hotbed of // checks notes // Massachusetts

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