Football Recruiting The Rivalry

Tale of the Tape: Matching Up the 2017 Signing Classes of Ohio State and Michigan

Ohio State vs Michigan

You’ve all seen a “Tale of the Tape” somewhere or other before. In sports, it’s a breakdown of one team against another. Who has the better quarterback? The better defensive line? The better cornerbacks? Etc.

For me, those tales are always a bit flawed because the two quarterbacks never step on the field at the same time, nor do the two defensive lines, or the receivers, or any other position group, save for the special teams.

A more accurate tale of the tape would pit the offense against the defense.

So with that in mind, I thought we would do a tale of the tape between Ohio State’s 2017 signing class and Michigan’s 2017 signing class, and we’d do it in the proper fashion. Passing games against defensive backs, offensive lines against defensive lines, and running backs against linebackers.

Ohio State signed 21 players in this cycle and Michigan signed 30, so the quantity is going to be in the Wolverines’ favor a bit.

It will take a couple of years, however, before we determine the quality.

How did the four services rank the two classes nationally? Good question. Here you go.

247 Sports Rivals Scout ESPN 247Composite
Ohio State 2 2 4 2 2
Michigan 3 4 3 6 5

So the plan here isn’t overly scientific. I’m just going to look at defensive lines vs. offensive lines, quarterbacks and receivers vs. defensive backs, and running backs vs. linebackers.

Now that we’ve got everything set up, explained, and ready to go, let’s take a look and see how Ohio State’s “greatest recruiting class of all time” stacks up against the one team it will be measured against more than any other. (Other than Alabama and probably Clemson, of course.)

(Note: Each school signed a kicking specialist and they are not included in this exercise.)

Michigan Passing Game Ohio State Defensive Backs
24 stars (6 players | 4.00 star avg) 26 stars (6 players | 4.33 star avg)
The star of Michigan’s class is 5-star Detroit receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, rated the No. 1 WR in the nation. One day — possibly this November — he will get to match up against either Jeffrey Okudah or Shaun Wade, respectively rated as the No. 1 and No. 2 cornerbacks in the nation per the 247Sports Composite. Or possibly Kendall Sheffield, rated the No. 1 junior college cornerback in the nation. The Wolverines signed five receivers and zero tight ends in this class, and the Buckeyes countered with five cornerbacks and a safety. The safety is Isaiah Pryor, rated the No. 7 player at his position in the nation. Three of Michigan’s receivers fall into the top second dozen or so of pass catchers in the 2017 class. They got 4-star prospects Nico Collins out of Alabama and Tarik Black out of Connecticut, and both are in the 6-4 or 6-5 range. It’s probably a good thing that OSU signed a couple of taller cornerbacks this time around. Michigan also signed Iowa receiver Oliver Martin, who Ohio State was trying to lure at the last minute. The guy throwing them the ball is 4-star Dylan McCaffrey, rated the No. 5 pocket passer in the nation and the No. 123 player in 2017 class overall. The two cornerbacks who went unmentioned for Ohio State here are in-state prospects Amir Riep and Marcus Williamson, who are both inside the Top 200 prospects in America.

Edge: Ohio State  Who wins when one of Michigan’s best receiving classes goes up against arguably Ohio State’s best defensive back class ever? We all do. Dylan McCaffrey dropped in the rankings this past season, but should rebound with the kind of receivers Michigan is bringing in. With an entire dime package to counter the Wolverines, however, the Buckeyes get the nod here.

Ohio State Passing Game
Michigan Defensive Backs
19 stars (5 players | 3.80 star avg) 15 stars (4 players | 3.75 star avg)
The star of this group for the Buckeyes is Trevon Grimes, who was arguably the nation’s top receiver before tearing his ACL early on last season. He’ll be good to go for fall camp, however. Michigan counters with Detroit cornerback Ambry Thomas, rated the No. 94 player in the nation. He is UM’s highest-ranking defensive back signee per the Composite. Detroit safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell was recruited by the entire nation, so he is very highly thought of as well. The Wolverines also signed the top cornerback in Quebec, Benjamin St-Juste. Les Wolverines ont également signé le premier cornerback au Québec, Benjamin St-Juste. The Buckeyes’ numbers may dip here as Brendon White could also be considered a linebacker. For this exercise, however, we’re putting him at his current position of receiver. He is rated the No. 3 athlete in the nation and No. 126 player overall. Also in the class is 6-foot-5 Cleveland receiver Jaylen Harris, rated the No. 30 WR in the nation. Ohio State reached out at the last minute for 3-star receiver out of Texas, Elijah Gardiner, who is big (6-5) and fast (4.4s), but rated the No. 115 receiver in the class. Michigan also signed 3-star Alabama safety J’Marick Woods, rated the No. 30 safety in the nation. Getting the football to these pass catchers is Tate Martell, the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the nation and the No. 57 player overall. While most will point to Martell’s 5-foot-10 height, Urban Meyer points to his 45-0 record and three-straight national championships.

Edge: Buckeyes  Trevon Grimes appears to be the best prospect in this group, but with Brendon White possibly playing defense and Benjamin St-Juste being Canadian, there are almost too many variables at this point to pick a winner. In close contests, however, Tate Martell is undefeated in his career, so Ohio State gets the nod here against a Michigan pass defense that is signing just one player in the Top 250. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, signed four players in the Top 200 in this group.

Michigan Defensive Line Ohio State Offensive Line
31 stars (8 players | 3.88 star avg) 13 stars (3 players | 4.33 star avg)
Michigan clearly has the numbers here, with six of their eight defensive linemen falling in the Top 300 players in the nation. The star is defensive tackle Aubry Solomon, a 5-star prospect out of Georgia. Given what Michigan has lost on the defensive line from last season, Solomon could step right into the two-deep this summer. Ohio State counters Solomon with Wyatt Davis, a 5-star prospect rated the No. 1 guard in the nation. He is joined by Josh Myers, who is rated the No. 2 guard in the nation. Four-star offensive tackle Thayer Munford, rated the No. 28 OT in the nation, joined the fold on signing day. The Buckeyes were only looking for three offensive linemen in this class. The Wolverines clearly had to attack their front four with an enthusiasm only known to Jim Harbaugh, and they did just that. While Solomon was a signing day coup, 4-star defensive end Luiji Vilain shouldn’t be forgotten. He is rated the No. 5 weakside defensive end in the nation. The rest of Michigan’s defensive line signees fall outside of the Top 200. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if both the Buckeyes and Wolverines are starting a freshman from these two respective groups this year.

Edge: Michigan  Due to sheer numbers the Wolverines get the nod here. Plus, we’ve seen the way Michigan has been able to develop their defensive linemen of late.

Ohio State Defensive Line Michigan Offensive Line
13 stars (3 players | 4.33 star avg) 18 stars (5 players | 3.6 star avg)
Five-star defensive end Chase Young is the star here for the Buckeyes. He is rated the No. 8 player in the nation overall and was a terror at the Army All-American Bowl. Young is joined by 4-star defensive tackles Haskell Garrett and Jerron Cage. Garrett is rated the No. 6 DT in the nation and the No. 70 player overall, while Cage is the No. 14 DT and the No. 236 player overall. The top offensive line signee for Michigan is 4-star prospect Cesar Ruiz out of IMG Academy. He is the No. 1-rated center and the No. 44 player overall. He and Haskell Garrett will be getting to know each other fairly well over the next four years or so. Interestingly, both come from high school powerhouses, as Garrett attends Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas. Chuck Filiaga is a big 4-star offensive tackle out of Texas who committed to the Wolverines at the Army All-American Bowl. I probably should have watched him closer at the time to see if he and Chase Young ever matched up as that would have surely been an accurate foretelling of the future to come. The other three offensive line signees for Michigan reside outside of the Top 300.

Edge: Ohio State  Most offensive linemen are projects anyway and take time to produce. Michigan has the quantity, but OSU clearly has the quality in this one.

Michigan Running Backs Ohio State Linebackers
7 Stars (2 players | 3.5 star avg) 9 stars (2 players | 4.5 star avg)
Granted, this isn’t the greatest way to compare these two groups, but I must remind you that a “tale of the tape” is rarely a great way to measure anything other than something you’re cutting or throwing back. New Mexico running back O’Maury Samuels is a 4-star prospect and rated the No. 21 running back in the nation. He’s a home run hitter of the highest order, and I’m still waiting for somebody in that state to find a good angle to bring him down. Georgia 3-star running back Kurt Taylor is also in this class, and while he is “only” a 3-star, he is also a Georgia running back, which is almost worth half a star all by itself. The Buckeyes counter with 5-star prospect Baron Browning, the No. 1 outside linebacker in the nation and the No. 11 player in the 2017 class overall. He is fast enough (4.54) and athletic enough to play the any of the linebacker spots. Four-star linebacker Pete Werner is the other signee in this group for the Buckeyes. He is rated the No. 14 inside linebacker in the nation. He was once committed to Notre Dame.

Edge: Ohio State  Both Browning and Werner are ranked ahead of either Samuels or Taylor, since we’re counting stars here. I like the potential of both Michigan running backs, but I want to see the Wolverines have one reliable workhorse before giving them the edge in a matchup like this one.

Ohio State Running Backs Michigan Linebackers
4 stars (1 player) 15 stars (4 players | 3.75 star avg)
Texas running back J.K. Dobbins is the lone Buckeye in this fight, but at 5-foot-10 and 208 pounds and running in the low-to-mid 4.4s, he’s the kind of guy who can win with a knife in a gunfight. He is a future star in my opinion. Michigan fans, go ahead and bring this back to me in two years when he has transferred to Akron. I can take it. Michigan signed three 4-star linebackers who could have pretty much gone anywhere they wanted to go. Drew Singleton is rated the No. 4 OLB in the nation. Jordan Anthony is the No. 8 player at that position. In-state prospect Josh Ross is the No. 9 inside linebacker in the nation. They also added 3-star Ben Mason, but he’s already listed at 247 pounds, so you wonder if he might be moving down in the future.

Edge: Michigan  While I think J.K. Dobbins could very well end up the best player of this group, he’s just one player. It’s hard to argue with what Michigan has brought in at linebacker in this class.