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Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Region Series Quick Hits: Midwest

By Chantel Jennings & Tom VanHaaren

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Quick Hits is a look at the must-know facts for each region in regard to Michigan and its football recruiting efforts. It will give you an idea of the Wolverines’ history in that region, as well as what one can expect from that region over the next few seasons.

MIDWEST

1. How many players on Michigan’s roster are from the region?

Most of Michigan’s current roster is comprised of players from the Midwest. Brady Hoke likes to focus within a five-hour distance of Ann Arbor, and his recruiting classes have reflected that. The main Midwest contributors this season will probably be Detroit native Devin Gardner, tight end Devin Funchess and linebackers James Ross and Desmond Morgan.

2. Which targets are in that region now?

In the 2014 class, Michigan is still closing in on a few top Midwest guys. DB Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) and DT Malik McDowell (Detroit/Loyola) top the list. Offensively, WR KJ Williams (Bethlehem, Pa./Liberty) is an option as well as OT Jamarco Jones (Chicago/De La Salle Institute), though Michigan might not lead for him. The Wolverines also have a head start in the 2015 class and like in-state talent such as RB Mike Weber (Detroit/Cass Tech), DL Joshua Alabi (Detroit/Cass Tech) and ATH Brian Cole (Saginaw, Mich./Heritage). They also put out early offers to DE Jashon Cornell (Saint Paul, Minn./Cretin-Derham) and DB Shaun Crawford (Lakewood, Ohio/St. Edward).

3. Which top former players came from the region?

Desmond Howard
Desmond Howard was one of two Heisman Trophy winners that Michigan pulled from Ohio.
The list goes on and on. Players such as Braylon Edwards, who attended Harper Woods (Mich.) Bishop Gallagher; or Charles Woodson, who played for Fremont (Ohio) Ross; or Desmond Howard, who wowed crowds at Cleveland St. Joseph before doing so in the Big House seem to be at the top of the list. But other players such as Tom Harmon -- Michigan’s first-ever Heisman winner -- deserve mention as well. He attended high school in Gary, Ind., where he lettered 14 times before coming to Michigan. Grand Rapids native and eventual president Gerald Ford also represented the Midwest on Michigan’s football roster.

4. What is Michigan’s current presence in the region?

High school coaches in the Midwest have felt a renewed Michigan presence with Hoke in Ann Arbor. One place he has tried to get talent from is the Cleveland area, and with it being nearly equidistant to both Michigan and Ohio State’s campuses, it seems like a good place to gauge the Wolverines’ feel.

Cleveland Glenville offensive coordinator Tony Overton, who played against Howard in high school, said he feels like Hoke understands the importance of the Midwest recruit. “It has always been big to go to Ohio State or Michigan,” Overton said. “A lot of Ohio football players have been an integral part of Michigan football history.”

Overton said the location of Cleveland between the schools has allowed for growth of the rivalry within Cleveland itself because so many players there have gone to games, camps and combines at both schools since it’s an easy drive. And with Hoke and Urban Meyer, the rivalry has taken an even bigger stance in Cleveland because it’s a hotbed that both coaches want to claim as their own. Hoke might take even more pride in Ohio, as he is an Ohio native.

“Brady Hoke is a guy who knows about the rivalry, about Ohio talent,” Overton said. “And he knows how important it is to the rivalry to have those Ohio players on the Michigan roster.”

5. What is Michigan battling in the region?

Mainly Meyer. It looks as though the great recruiting and on-field battles between Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes might be happening again. In the 2013 and 2014 classes there have already been several recruiting battles, with each side winning a few. Ohio State was able to draw defensive back Damon Webb (Detroit/Cass Tech) out of Michigan and what appeared to be a Wolverine pipeline school. But wide receiver Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian) and linebacker Chase Winovich (Jefferson Hills, Pa./Jefferson Hills) chose U-M over OSU.

6. Why is it important for Michigan to have success there?

Because the large majority of Michigan’s roster will most likely be Midwest kids, Hoke needs to clean up in the Midwest. To take a Schembechler-like approach, every talented kid that Michigan gets would be one that Ohio State doesn’t get. However, if the Wolverines want to have success in this battleground, they need to make strides on the field. If Ohio State dominates on the field and has undefeated seasons while Michigan plays in mediocre bowls, it won’t help on the recruiting trail.