Meyer "Planting the Flag (Pennant)" in That State Up North
By Tony Gerdeman
The battle between Ohio State and Michigan started nearly 180 years ago when the Toledo War was "fought" between the states of Ohio and Michigan. Both states claimed the narrow strip of land that stretched from Lake Erie to Indiana, and neither wanted to give up such an important port.
Eventually, because of the ongoing costs of "war", Michigan decided to cede control of the "Toledo strip" to Ohio, giving up their perceived rights and claims to the area. In exchange for their obeisance, they received statehood and the Upper Peninsula as a consolation, and so the state border was moved north.
Now, nearly 200 years later, the Ohio State coaching staff is attempting to move the border north once more, and this time for much different reasons.
Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs tweets his recruiting travels quite regularly, and when he is in the state of Michigan, he will sometimes add in the hashtag #MovingTheBorderNorth. Without governmental backing it will never happen, of course, but it's a clear shot across the bow at both the University of Michigan and Michigan State.
Ohio State's intent is obvious, as the Buckeye coaches have infiltrated the state of Michigan, visiting on a near-weekly basis, attempting to land the best that the state has to offer. They talk constantly about "Planting the Flag (Pennant, see editor's note below)*", and they've got the post holes all over the state to prove it.
The state of Michigan doesn't usually have a great deal of depth when it comes to top-level high school prospects, but there is always talent at the top, and the 2014 class is no different.
To this point, the Buckeyes have offered arguably the top four prospects that the state of Michigan. Detroit cornerback Damon Webb's commitment to Ohio State a month ago set the tone for what could possibly be a momentous shift change in Meyer's fiendery.
Coupling Webb's commitment with defensive end Lawrence Marshall's commitment on Sunday, Urban Meyer has already landed two of the four Michigan prospects that he has offered, and there are still 51 weeks left until Signing Day 2014.
All that remain are defensive lineman Malik McDowell and wide receiver Drake Harris, both ranked among the best in the nation at their respective positions.
Going after the top prospects in Michigan is really quite diabolical. Ohio State is attempting to strengthen itself while at the same time weakening its enemy. That sounds like something straight out of Sun Tzu's diary.
Michigan comes into Ohio every year and signs players that Ohio State wants. They've already got one committed in 2014 with linebacker Michael Ferns. However, there's a larger pool of prospects to work with in Ohio, so losses can be easier mended. That's not quite the case in the state of Michigan.
Imagine that you own a pond. It has a few fairly large fish in it, but it's mostly just loaded with bluegill. Now imagine your neighbor coming over, he of the much larger pond with many large fish, and while you're doing whatever it is that you do, he's sitting on your dock, landing the biggest fish in your pond.
Wouldn't feel too good now, would it?
That's what Brady Hoke and Mark Dantonio are going through right now. Yes, they get to fish in their neighbor's pond as well, but they have to because they don't have many big fish in their own pond. And it doesn't help matters when the big fish that they do have are slung over their neighbor's shoulder as he walks home.
Michigan expects to get the best that their state has to offer, as does Michigan State. It's something that is assumed before the process even begins. If the Wolverines and Spartans lose the top in-state players, then they have to go somewhere else to find them, and most likely that somewhere else isn't going to be as inviting as the in-state schools.
Just think about what it would be like if Ohio State offered the top four prospects in Ohio, and not only did they not land any of them, but two or three of them signed with Michigan. That would not be a comforting thought for Meyer and his staff, and they would wonder how such a thing could happen. I have to imagine that Brady Hoke is wondering the exact same thing right now.
Early last year, Michigan offered a batch of Ohio kids before Meyer and his staff had a chance to evaluate them. That was not lost on the Buckeye head coach, and it appears now that he has returned the favor by invading Hoke's side of the border.
This is no small thing. This is going after the best that Michigan's high schools have to offer, and removing them from the state before they ever get a chance to contribute to it.
This is a battle that will never end, nor should it. It pre-dates the existing border between Ohio and Michigan and will post-date any future borders.
If there was mutual assured destruction in football, you might not find two better candidates than Ohio State and Michigan. (Michigan State's destruction would be seen as acceptable collateral damage.)
Meyer's desire to plant the OSU flag around the state of Michigan can't be anything but troublesome for Hoke and Mark Dantonio. The renewed focus on the cream of Michigan's crop won't be taken lightly because those two coaches simply can't allow it to be.
The state of Michigan doesn't have much milkshake to drink, and they can't afford to let Urban Meyer have the best parts of it.
Brady Hoke will ramp up his efforts to secure his borders, as will Dantonio, but much of the damage has already been done. The Buckeye flags have been planted, the seeds have been sewn.
And if they're not careful, Michigan and Michigan State will be on the inside looking out at the best that their state produces.
* Editor's Note: Ohio technically does not have a state flag, but rather a state pennant. A flag is square while a pennant is triangular like Ohio's banner.
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