ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It’s the question and saying that won’t go away.
Ohio may have beaten Michigan in the NCAA tournament. The Athens, Ohio-based school expressed its displeasure with Wolverines coaches and players referring to Ohio State just as ‘Ohio’ -- a battle those two schools have gone through themselves.
Yet when Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs was asked about Ohio State on Tuesday, he referred to the Buckeyes as ‘Ohio.’ When a reporter joked that Kovacs couldn’t say Ohio State, he laughed.
Then responded: “I can’t.”
While Michigan coach Brady Hoke started this when he arrived at Michigan in January 2011, it quickly spread through the Wolverines’ fan base and athletic department. Now with Urban Meyer’s hire at Ohio State, there is even more intensity in a rivalry that has always been saturated with it.
“It’s going to be great for the rivalry. Two of the best coaches in the nation are coaching these two programs and they are recruiting better than anybody in the nation right now,” Kovacs said. “It’s historically a great rivalry and I think it’s going to take that next step and going to be an elite rivalry for the next few years with these two going at it.
“Next year is going to be a big year for us and them as well and it’s going to be fun going down to Columbus and playing there and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Hoke, though, refused to acknowledge the rivalry will take on a stronger flavor with Meyer on the opposing sideline. Already, Meyer has started to tweak Michigan as well. It is also a rivalry that really took hold when Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler coached at Ohio State and Michigan and the games went to another level.
“Obviously you’ve got two storied programs that have a lot of great tradition and as far as I know it’s never been about the coaches,” Hoke said. “It’s always been about those two schools and that rivalry and that whole week when you get ready to play each other and what a great game and fun game it is to coach in and play in.”
So far, so good. Good enough that Kovacs, one of the team’s senior leaders, has been impressed.
“He’s come in and picked up the defense really, really well. That’s one of the things he’s got the football smarts and as a defensive back you really need that,” Kovacs said. “Don’t get me wrong, there are things he needs to get cleaned up and improved on, but I’m definitely impressed with how much he’s progressed and how good of a ballplayer he is as a senior in high school. He has a lot more time here and I expect big things in the future.”
Kovacs went another step. When asked if he felt Wilson could play in the fall, he said he could see it.
“The one thing I don’t know if I’m a great believer of it in some degree because I think it is important to have that maturity and have that senior year of high school and if you play baseball to be able to play with your buddies,” Hoke said. “You only have one senior year of high school and I hope guys aren’t jumping too soon.”
This and that
Hoke said Saturday’s spring game will be more like a practice and controlled scrimmage due to depth issues, but in the future he’d like to be able to draft teams and play an actual game. ... Hoke also acknowledged he has spoken to Meyer before, but doesn’t “know him great.” He said any of their meetings is something that “is personal to some degree.” ... Hoke also reaffirmed his want for scrimmages between different football teams, something currently not allowed by the NCAA.