2011 was definitely a great debut season for Brady Hoke.
Not only did the Michigan Wolverines go 11-2 and win the Sugar Bowl, but they also defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes for the first time since 2003.
There isn't much time for Michigan to rest on its laurels because it looks like the Buckeyes might have won the first key battle of 2012: recruiting.
According to ESPN, the last time Michigan had a better recruiting class than Ohio State was back in 2007. Surely with all the turmoil in Columbus, that would change in 2012. If there was ever an opportunity to overtake their Big 10 rivals on the recruiting trail, this was it.
But then, the NCAA handed out its punishment to OSU: a one-year bowl ban and a loss of nine scholarships over the next three years. It looked like a slap in the wrist compared to what USC had received in light of the Reggie Bush scandal.
With that news and Meyer being named Ohio State's coach, the Buckeyes have seen their 2012 recruiting class reinvigorated.
It is quite the turnaround and begs the question: Can Brady Hoke ever top Ohio State in the recruiting rankings?
I would argue no.
The biggest stumbling block might be something that is completely out of Michigan's hands.
Ohio State is the only game in town when it comes to top-notch college football in the state of Ohio. OSU doesn't really have to worry about any significant in-state competition for top recruits.
Of course, every once in a while someone like Cincinnati will make a BCS run, but no school has had the sustained success the Buckeyes have enjoyed.
The state of Ohio is very underrated when in comes to high school football, and Ohio State generally gets the pick of the litter.
Geography is one area that Ohio State has, and for the foreseeable future, will hold an advantage over the Wolverines.
Then, you look at what be the biggest factor when it comes to recruiting: coaches.
The right coach can lure the some of the best recruits to even the most unattractive of schools. Just look at Ron Zook and Illinois.
While his apparent lack of coaching ability was exposed, the Fighting Illini got some of the best recruiting classes in the country under Zook.
One of the biggest criticisms of Rich Rodriguez from Michigan fans was that he was not a "Michigan man." He didn't understand some of the school's biggest traditions, such as giving the No. 1 jersey to a defensive back.
While he isn't the kind of sexy hire that Rodriguez was, Brady Hoke has the fit of what a "Michigan man" would be, having been an assistant at the school from 1995-2002.
And it wasn't as if Jim Tressel had serious name recognition either when he was hired by Ohio State, and that seemed to work out well for the school, until his acrimonious departure.
The fact of the matter is that Michigan appears to have gotten somebody that can lead the school in the way Lloyd Carr had.
It probably had to be frustrating for Ohio State fans to see Michigan be so successful in Hoke's first season. The realization had to set in that Michigan weren't going to be pushovers anymore.
Following Tressel's dismissal, something had to be done to get Ohio State back to an elite level in 2012.
If you were an Ohio State fan, Urban Meyer had to be at the top of the list of candidates to replace Jim Tressel. His arrival was treated almost like a national championship in Ohio. It's not every day that your school can hire a coach who has won two national championships.
Although some of the shine has come off Meyer a bit with his last season at Florida and then going 6-6 this season with players that Meyer had recruited.
The fact is that Meyer has won at every school he's coached, whether it's Bowling Green, Utah or Florida.
At Florida, his reputation as a great recruiter was built. Here's the rankings of Florida's recruiting classes from 2006 to 2010, according to ESPN: 1, 2, 4, 5 and 1.
Tom Lemming believes Meyer is "one of the three best recruiters in the country."
Brady Hoke has not built anywhere near the reputation that Meyer has. He may get there in a few years, but Ohio State already has a key advantage.
Ohio State has had an added advantage this year, which is probably the biggest reason their recruiting class has shot up so much since Meyer was hired.
Fair or foul, Ohio State was essentially able to have two coaching staffs. Luke Fickell and the existing Buckeye coaches prepared for the bowl game while Meyer and his coaches hit the recruiting trail.
This enabled the Buckeyes to really go after players who had verbally committed to other schools. Ohio State was able to get eight players to renege on their original commitment and play in Columbus.
After all of the controversy and turmoil surrounding Ohio State, the Buckeyes have recovered and fired the opening salvo for 2012.
It's only a sign of things to come in the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry.
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