The Michigan/Ohio State rivalry is known best for its battles in the "Horseshoe" and "The Big House." But just as important are the battles off the field, in the living rooms of high school stars in the Midwest and all over the United States of America.
Both Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke know the most important pieces to beating their hated rival are the recruits they get and in turn keep away from the other.
Hoke has Michigan on an upswing on the field after going 11-2 last season and winning a BCS Bowl. This season his Wolverines are 8-3 and their only losses have come against the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 14 teams in the BCS rankings. Somewhat surprisingly Hoke has been just as successful, if not more successful, in the recruiting arena.
Meanwhile in his first season at Ohio State, Meyer has the Buckeyes 11-0 and one win away from an undefeated season. Likewise, Meyer is once again cleaning up in recruiting. Despite being hired three months before National Letter of Intent signing day, Meyer secured one of the top five recruiting classes in the country.
Both have been able to build on their success in recruiting this season, but I suspect as the years go along Meyer will start to pull away from Hoke on the recruiting trail and leave Michigan in the dust.
Meyer's Track Record
Meyer has won everywhere he has coached. He is 115-23 in his four stops as a head coach. Meyer won in the MAC at Bowling Green, accumulating a record of 17-6. He won in the Mountain West with Utah, finishing at 22-2. Then he won big in the SEC with Florida, achieving a record of 65-15 and winning two national titles. Now in the Big Ten at Ohio State he is 11-0.
Meyer's recruiting success at Ohio State is nothing new for him. In his six seasons at Florida his average class ranking was No. 8 nationally. At Ohio State he is only continuing that trend with a top five class last year and a likely top 10 class in 2013.
Hoke's Track Record
In his 10th season as a head coach, Brady Hoke has had a similar rise to a big-time program. Hoke coached six seasons at Ball State where he went 34-38 with one MAC title. He then left for a Mountain West program and went 13-12 in two years with San Diego State. Now at Michigan he is 19-5 and has taken his career record over .500 with a 66-55 record.
However, despite his lack of a great track record, Hoke has been recruiting at the same level as Meyer and Ohio State thus far. But that has much to do with the situation Hoke and Meyer are in.
"You're My Guy"
Both Meyer and Hoke are relatively new at their respective programs, so both can sell early playing time to prospective recruits by telling them that the recruits fit their respective systems better than the players already on campus.
That will work for the 2013 class and early on with the 2014 class for these coaches, but then they will have to recruit on what they are, not what they will be.
What is Hoke's Style?
Everyone knows what you will get from an Urban Meyer-coached team. A spread offense with a lot of zone read and a focus on the QB as a playmaker. On defense he will be somewhat hands off, but he expects a pass rush, speed and physicality. Meyer is somewhat Frank Beamer-like with his attention to detail in special teams, especially when it comes to blocking punts and kicks.
Hoke has maintained since he took over at Michigan that he wants to change the offensive style back to a physical pro-style offense used by Lloyd Carr when Hoke was an assistant with the Wolverines. Thus, he would want his offense to be focused on the success of running backs.
However, Hoke has never really run that style of offense and has typically relied heavily on his QBs to carry the offense. To Hoke's credit he didn't make the same mistake Rich Rodriguez did at Michigan, which was force a pro-style roster to play in a spread offense. Instead Hoke has adapted to his players, which bodes well for his future.
Ohio Boy at Michigan
When Ohio State's players and coaches met with the media yesterday, Meyer and senior safety Zach Domicone expressed confusion as to how an Ohio boy could grow up a Michigan fan. Despite his Judas-esque love for Michigan, Hoke has had success recruiting the state of Ohio. However, I have to imagine that more and more doors will be shut when Hoke appears in his maize and blue polo as Meyer's shadow grows over the state.
Meyer's National Footprint
While Hoke has done well in the Midwest—20-of-23 of his 2013 recruits hail from Midwestern states—he doesn't have the same national impact as Meyer. Ohio State's 2013 recruiting class has 17 members, eight of which are from the Midwest. The other nine are from Florida (2), California, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas, New Jersey and Missouri.
This isn't new for Meyer either. Even in a talent-rich state like Florida, Meyer recruited on a national scale. Meyer's second national championship team featured Percy Harvin from Va., Brandon Spikes from N.C., Aaron Hernandez from Conn. and Will Hill from N.J.
Next season will be vital for Hoke if he wants to continue to get the Michigan program back to where it once was because it will be the first season he will have his players in his system. If the slide-back continues, expect recruiting to slow down and Ohio State to pull away even faster.
I think Hoke is a good coach for Michigan and wouldn't be surprised at all if he got Michigan back close to where it was with Lloyd Carr. But I think Meyer is the right coach for Ohio State, and if health and family permit then Meyer could lead the Buckeyes to heights they have never reached before.
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