Michigan football needs to send a thank-you card to Ohio.
That’s right, the Michigan man is from enemy territory. He learned the game there. But now, he’s here, and Michigan wants to keep it that way.
Not only Hoke’s breeding ground, Ohio has been home to droves of talented players who have fashioned excellent collegiate careers at The School Up North.
Remember Desmond Howard?
He’s from Cleveland.
If history repeats itself, Michigan could have another national star from the Birthplace of Aviation. They may not win Heismans like Woodson and Howard, but there are former Ohio high schoolers who could lead the race for Big Ten—and national—supremacy.
According to MGoBlue, 25 Ohioans made the Wolverines’ spring roster. These aren’t just run-of-the-mill guys either. Some of them will heavily influence the outcome of Hoke’s third season.
Dear Ohio, Thanks For The Defense
If possible, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison may want to wrap his arms around Westlake, hug it, pat it on the back and maybe even kiss it on the cheek.
OK. Maybe kissing is going too far.
But the affection would be warranted.
By way of the Cleveland suburb with a population of just more than 32,000, the Wolverines are in possession of one of the best linebackers in the country, former St. Ignatius wrecking ball Jake Ryan.
A fierce competitor, Ryan, who is sidelined with an ACL injury, is expected to return in time for Nov. 30’s duel with Ohio State. When fully healthy, the junior is a real force behind his front four’s push.
Handpicked from northeast Ohio, Dymonte Thomas, a true freshman, could be one of Michigan’s top defensive backs in 2013. A multi-tool player, the former 4-star recruit could see time at safety or corner, making him an interesting athlete to monitor.
While Ryan rests, Mattison could plug in another Ohio-bred youngster to help maintain balance in the linebacking corp: former Cincinnati Colerain monster Joe Bolden.
During the 2012 Under Armor All-America Game, Bolden, then a high school senior, dazzled Rivals.com’s Terry Nee (via TheWolverine.com, subscription required). He’s commanded similar praise ever since. He’ll be a defensive asset this fall.
Ben Gedeon, who starred at Hudson High, could see meaningful snaps as well.
The secondary’s success may hinge on the performance of Jarrod Wilson, formerly of Akron Buchtel. As a possible replacement for All-Big Ten safety Jordan Kovacs, Wilson could be the second-most important Buckeye State defender.
But Jibreel Black, a senior defensive tackle out of Cincinnati, and Frank Clark, a junior defensive end out of storied Cleveland Glenville, may have something to say about that.
Former Pickerington Central standout Taco Charlton, a 6’6”, 265-pound defensive end, is an ace up Mattison’s sleeve. A pass-rushing extraordinaire, the freshman could be a key piece on third down.
However, Urban Meyer wants to add a pair of 4-star preps from Up North to his 2014 class.
Already successful in landing corner Damon Webb of Detroit Cass Tech, Meyer now chases Detroit Loyola’s Malik McDowell, a defensive end who 247Sports reports is considering the Wolverines. The Buckeyes went after 4-star end Lawrence Marshall of Southfield, but he chose Ann Arbor over Columbus.
Picking fruit off each other’s trees is commonplace. Ohio State and Michigan have been doing it for decades.
Hoke, though, is winning the battle. Part of his success is due to level of talent. Ohio high schools have more than Michigan, so the surplus makes its way here.
O From O-h-i-o
In the midst of recovery, Fitz Toussaint, who rushed for 1,041 yards in 2011, is the Wolverines’ most experienced running back. Healing from a gruesome leg injury, the former Youngstown Liberty All-American should add punch to offensive coordinator Al Borges’ backfield.
Toussaint, a senior, is considered the No. 1 runner until someone dethrones him. The pressure to remain atop the depth chart is rising.
With quarterback Devin Gardner—who is from Michigan, not Ohio—the Wolverines have the makings of an adequate air attack. Sophomore tight end A.J. Williams, a 6’6”, 265-pound former Cincinnati Sycamore regular, may find a role backing up Devin Funchess, who isn’t from Ohio. Williams has the size and strength to leapfrog others for playing time.
Tight ends are going to get a steady workout in years to come. And Jake Butt, a 2013 commit and early enrollee who shined during the spring game, is ready for the challenge. That’s one of the reasons why he chose Michigan.
The former Pickerington North—yeah, he’s from Ohio—star spoke in 2012 about his potential role at Michigan with MGoBlog, saying the following:
They've got two different tight ends, a 'Y' back and a 'U' back. A 'Y' back is a guy that's more on the line and a 'U' back is a guy that's off the line. As of right now they said I'm the only guy that can play both. They've got Khalid [Hill], who's going to be more of a 'U' back, they've got another guy [Devin Funchess] who's more of a 'U' back, and a guy [A.J. Williams] who's a 'Y' back; there no true fit, really, for both, and they said I'm that guy right now for them, and that's huge that I can play either/or.
Recruiting wars are the talk of the offseason. Nabbing a guy from Meyer’s lap gives Michigan fans something to cheer about. Sneaking out a would-be Michigan Man from Detroit—Damon Webb—provides plenty of ammunition for the Buckeyes' faithful.
At 6'4" and 197 pounds, Jaron Dukes of Columbus' Marion Franklin High is a prototype Borges receiver. He figures to have a bright future wearing maize and blue.
Is it Nov. 30 yet!
Recruit rankings courtesy of 247Sports.com.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81