As national signing day sits just around the corner, Ohio State has gathered some of the best talent in the country according to the recruiting experts. It has the No. 2-ranked class in the nation according to 247Sports, No. 4-ranked class by Scout.com and No. 2-ranked class by Rivals.com.
That means Ohio State has a plethora of talent coming to the Columbus, Ohio campus, and it's likely more than just a few future stars will be signing on the dotted line and faxing in national letters of intent on Wednesday.
Ohio State will sign at least one 5-star recruit and 15 4-star players on Wednesday, but it won't be 5-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan who stands out as OSU's most important pickup of this class.
There is one recruit that stands out above McMillan as the "must-have" guy in the 2014 class, and that person is cornerback Damon Webb.
Webb is not only a 4-star recruit by the 247Sports composite rankings, but he is also at a position of some need thanks to the departure of All-Big Ten performer Bradley Roby and the shaky performance of the secondary most of last season.
Webb will have a battle for playing time on his hands when he arrives in the fall, considering names like Armani Reeves, Tyvis Powell, Dorian Grant and Gareon Conley are already on the roster with varying degrees of experience.
However, it isn't just Webb's obvious measurables (5'11", 180 lbs.) nor his tape that makes him so important in this class—it's the fact that Urban Meyer and Co. went in to the heart of Michigan Wolverine territory and snagged the best recruit right from under its nose.
He's the only member of this class from north of the Ohio/Michigan border, and that is significant. Across Big Ten country, Webb's high school—Detroit Cass Tech—is a well-known football institution. The school produces multiple FBS players on an annual basis.
It's also a well-known fact that Cass Tech is a "Michigan school," meaning the Wolverines have had their pick of the best of the best from that school over the years. Over the past two years, five players from Cass Tech have signed with Michigan, and all five of those players were the top-rated prospects out of the school as well.
Yet, in the 2014 class, not a single player from the high school is heading to Michigan. Instead, it was the Buckeyes claiming the 4-star cornerback after a very hard-fought battle with Michigan for his services.
In looking at the two schools, Webb found the Wolverines were resting on their connection to the school a bit too much, according to Ari Wasserman of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
“Michigan kind of felt like they already had me in the bag,” said Webb, dressed in a black and gray jacket with Ohio State’s logo prominently etched onto the front. “That’s kind of the vibe I was getting (during my recruiting process).”
Not only did the Buckeyes gain his commitment, but they also did so over a full calendar year ago and managed to keep him in the fold.
Considering Michigan's incredible ties to the school and its coaching staff, that alone is enough to make Webb the most important member of the 2014 class.
He's also the first Cass Tech player to leave for the Buckeyes since Vernon Gholston did it a decade ago in 2004.
In the cutthroat world that is college football recruiting, gaining Webb's commitment made a lot of people stand up and take notice of what Meyer is able to do on the recruiting trail.
With a rivalry as bitter and long-standing as Michigan and Ohio State, cutting the head off the snake—which, for Michigan, would be its pipeline of talent from Cass Tech—is just the latest salvo.
Consider it a game of cat and mouse between the two if you will, at least according to Cass Tech head coach Thomas Wilcher:
It is a motivation. (Ohio State and Michigan) know everything that’s going with each other. They know every freaking move each other makes. I am like, ‘How do you know?’ And they say, ‘Oh, I know. I have my sources.’ They know what they’re doing.
If OSU can start grabbing the best players from Michigan's best high school football program, that is a major advantage in the battle between them and "that school up north."
*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.
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