The recruiting war between Michigan head coach Brady Hoke and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer won't be coming to an end on National Signing Day in little over a week. It'll only let up for as long as it takes for the two coaches to read their faxes and conduct press conferences about the incoming players.
After that, it's back to the trail for the classes of 2014 and beyond—a recruiting process that's already underway. So who's out in front?
As yet, each team has two commitments for 2014, but the interesting thing is where those commitments come from. Ohio State went to Cass Tech in Detroit—Michigan's backyard and the home of several Michigan players and commits—to pick up standout cornerback Damon Webb, who per 247Sports.com, also had a Michigan offer. Brady Hoke could easily try to get Webb to reconsider over the coming 12 months.
Not to be outdone, Michigan went down to Ohio for its first 2014 crown jewel, middle linebacker Michael Ferns of Saint Clairsville. Ferns is a big-time prospect with 5-star-caliber athleticism, and per 247Sports.com ($), he's already so far in the Michigan camp that he's actively working to recruit others to the cause. And yes, Ferns had an Ohio State offer as well.
So with both schools holding major recruiting victories in their rivals' territory, it's pretty much a draw as to who's on top early. Ohio State also has a commitment from big-time lineman Marcelys Jones of Cleveland, Ohio; he's already 6'5" and 325 pounds. Meanwhile, Michigan has its own massive lineman in 6'8" offensive tackle Denzel Ward; he committed back in October of 2012.
The real key for evaluating where each school stands in recruiting, then, is who's going to be next up to commit.
Ohio State is in on numerous high-level prospects, including 5-star CB Jabrill Peppers of Ramsey, N.J. Per 247Sports.com, Ohio State and Stanford are neck-and-neck for Peppers, though Michigan's still in the mix; Hoke just visited Peppers at school a couple of weeks ago.
Also, don't be surprised to see 5-star LB Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga.) announce for the scarlet and grey soon. Ohio State leads for McMillan thus far, and while Clemson and Georgia aren't out of the mix yet, Urban Meyer doesn't seem like the type who's going to let a big-time recruit like McMillan slip away.
On Michigan's side, CB Parrker Westphal gives the Wolverines a heavy advantage; Westphal is a 4-star prospect from Bolingbrook, Ill. Westphal has visited Michigan multiple times (247Sports.com counts three unofficial visits already), and there doesn't appear to be a serious challenger for his services. Similarly, 4-star OL Tommy Doles (Grand Rapids, Mich.) heavily favors Michigan and will be visiting this weekend; he could commit at any moment.
Overall, the big recruiting fight for Michigan and Ohio State in the coming months is likely going to be Da'Shawn Hand, a no-doubter 5-star defensive end from Virginia. Hand recently named his top five schools on his Twitter account. Alongside Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia Tech in Hand's top five is—yep—Michigan. Ohio State? The Buckeyes are sixth on Hand's list, according to Eleven Warriors, and "not out of it."
It's going to be tough for Hand to turn down Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide, of course, but who knows? He may end up being Big Ten bound. And if so, man, to be a fly on the wall when Meyer and Hoke talk to Hand about their teams—and their rivals.