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Thursday, July 18, 2013
Border wars: How OSU is holding off U-M

By Brad Bournival

When Ohio State battles Michigan for players in the Buckeye state, it doesn’t lose too often. That said, it does happen.

Two of the biggest notables were Heisman Trophy winners Desmond Howard of Cleveland St. Joseph and Charles Woodson from Fremont Ross.

It’s happened in the Urban Meyer era, too, as Ben Gedeon (Hudson, Ohio/Hudson), Michael Ferns (St. Clairsville, Ohio/St. Clairsville), Dymonte Thomas (Alliance/Marlington) and Mike McCray II (Trotwood, Ohio/Trotwood-Madison) picked the maize and blue. It should be noted that McCray’s offer from Ohio State came well after he had committed to the Wolverines.

Michigan swooping in and nabbing players does happen from time to time, and the Buckeyes are looking to close the fence even more.

They’re doing it two ways. The first is by letting recruits do the talking for them.

The other is by having coaches strategically recruiting areas they know. Stan Drayton is in charge of Cleveland-area standouts, while Mike Vrabel has Akron, Luke Fickell shares duties in Columbus and Kerry Coombs is in charge of Cincinnati.

Drayton was a star at Cleveland John Marshall, Vrabel at Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit, Fickell at Columbus DeSales and Coombs coached Cincinnati Colerain.

“It helped a lot,” said outside linebacker and Ohio State commit Sam Hubbard about Coombs’ recruitment. “He coached for a team we played. He has good relationships with the coaches, so he can be honest with them because he knows them.

“The coaches that don’t know the area don’t get that gut feeling of who they want. These guys know what kind of kid they want and what type of kid each school produces.”

"It helps in the introductory stages first and foremost, but where it really helps is in the long term.”

Kyle Berger, who plays for Cleveland St. Ignatius, actually had the luxury of being recruited by Drayton and Vrabel. Vrabel has family in Berger’s hometown of Medina, and Drayton was coached in high school by a former relative of the Cleveland St. Ignatius star.

While coaches who know what they’re talking about has helped, so has a recruit’s word.

Berger was instrumental in landing Hubbard. Hubbard and Berger were all over Dante Booker -- as was teammate Parris Campbell Jr. Another commit, Kyle Trout, has been the mouthpiece at virtually every unofficial visit opportunity.

With Ohio State pledges spreading the good word, it’s been difficult for Michigan to come in and sell its product to recruits the Buckeyes are going after.

“It really is Ohio first with Meyer,” Hubbard said. “I’ve talked to him a lot about recruiting, and he says Ohio is No. 1 because he has a great relationship with the coaches. He wants kids that want to come to Ohio State because it’s their territory. He recruits Ohio hard and wants the best of the best.

“He wants to lock down Cincinnati and he wants to keep kids from Ohio here. Coach Meyer wants people at Ohio State that want to be at Ohio State.”