This is the fourth in our series examining the Ohio State and Michigan football rosters through the scope of recruiting that began last month.
The first piece was just an overall look at both rosters and it revealed findings such as the OSU roster has 33 players on it who were ranked in the top 100 of their respective recruiting classes. Michigan, on the other hand, has only five. That’s quite a stark contrast between the two rivals, but one that mirrors the results on the field perfectly.
The next two compared the recruiting rankings of each passing offense against each passing defense. Some of the findings there included the fact that Ohio State has twice the number of 5-star players in their passing game (6) as Michigan has Top 100 players in their pass defense (3).
The Buckeyes also have more players in their pass offense ranked in the top 10 of their respective recruiting classes (4) than Michigan has top 100 players in their pass defense (3).
When looking at Michigan’s passing game against the Ohio State pass defense, the findings showed that the Wolverines have no top 100 players in their passing offense (QB, WR, OT), while the Buckeyes have eight players in the pass defense (DE, CB, SAF) ranked in the top 100 of their respective recruiting classes.
Granted, in Michigan’s offense, the tight end should be included here, but since none of them are top 100 players either, nothing really changes.
Now we turn to the respective running games against the rush defenses, and when we eventually get to Michigan rush offense we will finally get to the Wolverines’ lone top 100 player on offense.
But up first, it’s the Ohio State running game, which includes the offensive line, tight end, quarterback, and running backs. They will be compared against Michigan’s run defense, which is basically just their front seven.
Here is a look at the numbers at each position. The rankings in parentheses are where they ranked at their respective positions. The number outside of that is their overall rank in their respective classes.
As you’ll see when it comes to Michigan’s defensive tackles, they’re probably going to need a few defensive ends to slide inside. Also, the linebacker alignment isn’t exact given the fact that no linebacker alignments are exact right now.
When it comes to the Ohio State – Michigan rivalry, in general the team that runs the ball better in The Game wins. For a while now, that has been the Buckeyes.
Just over the last 10 years, here is how the matchups have gone in terms of rushing yards.
2019 Ohio State 56-27 ………. OSU 264 – UM 91
2018 Ohio State 62-39 ………. OSU 171 – UM 161
2017 Ohio State 31-21 ……… OSU 226 – UM 100
2016 Ohio State 30-27 ……… OSU 206 – UM 91
2015 Ohio State 42-13 ………. OSU 369 – UM 57
2014 Ohio State 42-28 ………. OSU 233 – UM 121
2013 Ohio State 42-41 ………. OSU 393 – UM 152
2012 Ohio State 26-21 ………. OSU 207 – UM 108
2011 Michigan 40-34 ………. UM 277 – OSU 137
2010 Ohio State 37-7 ………. OSU 258 – UM 182
As you can see, the team than runs the ball best, wins.
Now when you apply that belief structure to the recruiting rankings of Michigan’s front seven against Ohio State’s offensive line and quarterbacks, tight ends, and running backs, the data should be concerning for Wolverine fans.
There are two top 100 players in Michigan’s run defense. One of them — defensive end Luiji Vilain — has been injured for much of his Michigan career. The other is defensive tackle Chris Hinton, who was a true freshman last season and played sparingly.
Incoming freshman linebacker Kalel Mullings is the only other player in the front seven ranked among the top 10 recruits at his respective position.
Now when we compare those numbers with the level of players they will be competing against, things start to look a bit 56-27ish.
At every spot in the Ohio State running game, they can field a player who was a top two recruit at his respective position. That’s all across the offensive line, including the tight end. And then quarterback and running back as well.
Now, not all of those guys are starters, which may actually make Michigan fans feel worse.
Overall, there are 10 Buckeyes in the rush offense who were ranked in the top 100 as recruits, compared to just two for the Wolverines.
Let’s Take A Look At That Ohio State Offensive Line
The Ohio State offensive line — including the tight ends — have players at each position who were 5-star recruits at one point. Now, they didn’t all stay there, but they also didn’t drop down into obscurity.
Also, the second-highest rated player on the OSU offensive line is incoming freshman Paris Johnson at No. 9 overall, which doesn’t really mean much for the 2020 season as he isn’t expected to start. It does, however, provide a bit of foreshadowing into the future.
Starting left tackle Thayer Munford was ranked No. 285 overall in the 2017 recruiting class. He was the third-lowest ranked signee for the Buckeyes that year and was also a Second-Team All-Conference selection last season.
Overall, Ohio State has six offensive linemen who ranked in the top 68 as recruits. The entire Michigan team has four players who would fit that criteria. Fortunately, two of them are on the defensive line in Chris Hinton (31) and Luiji Vilain (57).
The Buckeyes also have seven offensive linemen who ranked first or second at their positions in their recruiting classes.
Here’s the list.
OT Nicholas Petite-Frere – 1 (2018)
OT Paris Johnson – 1 (2020)
OG Wyatt Davis – 1 (2017)
OC Matthew Jones – 1 (2018)
OG Josh Myers – 2 (2017)
OC Harry Miller – 2 (2019)
OC Luke Wypler – 2 (2020)
The only player on Michigan’s roster who ranks in the top two at his respective position as a recruit is sophomore linebacker Daxton Hill, who was the No. 1 safety in the 2019 recruiting class.
Hinton ranked as the No. 4 defensive tackle in the 2019 class and Vilain was the No. 5 weakside defensive end in the 2017 class.
The average recruiting ranking for OSU’s top 10 offensive linemen (essentially a two-deep) is 83. The average recruiting rankings for UM’s top eight defensive linemen is 186.
A Glimmer of Maize and Blue Hope?
The numbers above do not yet include transfer running back Trey Sermon, who will come to Ohio State from Oklahoma. Sermon was the No. 12 running back and the No. 191 player overall, which would put him above every other current Buckeye running back except for fifth-year senior Demario McCall, who was the No. 2 all-purpose back and No. 44 player overall in the 2016 recruiting class.
McCall has rushed for 553 yards in his career, which is below expectations. He has also moved back and forth from tailback to receiver, so that has led to some of the consistency issues as well.
But when you look at the recruiting rankings outside of McCall and Sermon, maybe there’s some hope here for Michigan.
None of Ohio State’s other running backs were top 100 recruits or ranked in the top 10 at their position. The Wolverine linebackers, however, have three guys who were ranked in the top 10 linebackers in their respective class.
Still, those Buckeye running backs rushed for 1,161 yards last year on 179 attempts (6.5 ypc), which is fairly decent.
It probably needs to be mentioned that having the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the 2018 class (Justin Fields) makes each of those Buckeye running backs more effective.
It probably also needs to be mentioned that Ohio State’s 2021 recruiting class features two of the nation’s top six running backs and both are top 100 players.
TreVeyon Henderson is the No. 2 running back and No. 17 player overall in the 2021 class and he committed to OSU late last month. Evan Pryor is the No. 6 running back and No. 85 player overall and he committed to Ohio State 11 days prior to Henderson.
The 2021 class also features the No. 3 pro-style quarterback, No. 1 offensive guard, No. 15 offensive tackle, and No. 16 tight end.
How is Michigan combating that in their own 2021 recruiting class?
In terms of the front seven, they have a commitment from the No. 57 weakside defensive end, who is also the No. 1,210 player overall, and a commitment from the No. 40 inside linebacker, who is also the No. 1,004 player overall.