Trades aren't happening in college football any time soon. Even if they were legalized, the thought of two hated rivals doing anything to potentially help each other out would make Woody and Bo start spinning in their graves.
But pretend for a second those laws were relaxed and the Buckeyes and Wolverines each had a need so pressing that the programs at least kicked around some ideas. As part of our ongoing look this week at "The Game," a couple ESPN.com beat writers took a shot to see just what they could get from each other that might spur on a championship run for the current roster. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, here's a look at how a (fictional) deal might have gone down.
Subject: Don’t tell anybody
We probably shouldn’t even be talking, and if word gets out that we even considered making a deal, we might need to consider looking for new jobs. But since the rules against trades in college football magically vanished and we were hired for some reason to become general managers for Ohio State and Michigan, respectively, I think we at least owe it to ourselves to pursue all options. As I’m sure you’re aware, the Buckeyes were hit pretty hard by graduation in the front seven after knocking off the Wolverines to cap a perfect season last fall (in case you forgot about the celebration in the ‘Shoe). And recently the program has seen a group of linebackers that was already thin lose a couple more bodies that could have offered some help off the bench this fall. Additionally, while the future looks pretty bright at tackle for Taylor Decker or Chase Farris, right now there is one spot without much experience that tends to stand out when there are four seniors starting elsewhere on the line. So, I don’t know what position is troubling you most as training camp sneaks up on college football, but if there’s a potential swap or two that might help us both out, I am all ears. But you didn’t hear that from me.
Interim Ohio State personnel director
Subject: Too late
Unfortunately for you, I'm mouthy. And I've already started rumors you are trying to trade Braxton Miller for the remnants of Rich Rodriguez's offense. Apologies in advance. Not going to lie, looking over my roster I have concerns at wide receiver, running back and I could use some experience on the interior of the offensive line. Also, while there's some depth at cornerback, wouldn't mind grabbing one or two from you. Oh, and since you're interested in giving up Miller, that would solidify some of the depth issues there. I see you're fishing for a tackle. Sorry, Taylor Lewan is not available. While I like Michael Schofield a lot, he is more available at the right price. So too are some of the linebackers. What interests you on the Michigan squad? I'm willing to listen for anyone except for Lewan and quarterback Devin Gardner.
Fake Michigan personnel director
Subject: Re: BRAXTON
Hey bud, these talks just about ended instantly with any mention of the franchise quarterback being available. Newsflash -- Miller won’t be on the market heading into his senior season either, so get used to trying to defend him. At any rate, Schofield would be an intriguing option for the Buckeyes because he could provide another veteran presence with ample experience in the Big Ten, potentially giving Decker or Farris another year to develop physically before moving into the starting lineup in 2014. After getting a glimpse at what Desmond Morgan could do last fall when he made 11 tackles (in a losing effort) against Ohio State, he might look good in Scarlet and Gray, especially if the spring gave him flexibility to play in the middle. I probably don’t need to mention that Bradley Roby is untouchable in the secondary, but there is no shortage of talent alongside him in the backend. Might want to take a look at the stable of running backs the Buckeyes have in the fold as well -- but feel free to skip over Carlos Hyde.
Subject: No subject
Had to try, right? What was it Casey Kasem once told me: "Keep you feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars." So had to try. With that out of the way, you're asking for two starters without willing to give up much, apparently. I think I'm settled at running back despite not being settled on paper. I like my options there. If I'm giving you Schofield, I need an interior lineman in return since I'd be kicking Ben Braden out to the right side, where he'll learn on the fly at his more natural spot. You might think this is a bit much, but I'd like Andrew Norwell in return. I'm giving up a starter and probable NFL draft pick on the line so I'd like one back at guard. If you really want Desmond Morgan, he will come at a price as he quite valuable to what the coaches are trying to do defensively. I'm looking at Adolphus Washington and perhaps quarterback Kenny Guiton. I'm guessing you're going to have to say something about this.
Subject: Hard bargain
Nothing comes easily in a rivalry, I guess. Reading that email was like how I imagine it felt getting rocked by a blitzing Zach Boren. (There’s lots of those photos around Columbus if you need a reminder -- I’d be happy to send up a framed copy for the office if you’re interested.) Not sure I can pull the trigger on Norwell there, because a starter-for-starter swap on the line wouldn’t really address the issue for the Buckeyes. Decker might have to play guard in that scenario, and if Schofield isn’t in the picture, I’d prefer him to get his reps at tackle since he’s destined to wind up in the premier spot on the left. But those things happen, just part of the fictional business of trading college football players that everything doesn’t always work out. I’m going to pretend like Washington’s name was never brought up, especially after that spring game. The coach here prizes athletes up front, and there’s nothing he could get in return that would allow him or Noah Spence to leave the program. Guiton, though, I could be talked into that. With Cardale Jones starting to show some things and J.T. Barrett now on campus, arguably the best backup quarterback in the game could be expendable. Any interest in Jordan Hall to add some diversity to that Michigan offense or maybe Doran Grant to fill out the secondary? Again, keep those names on the hush-hush.
P.S. I’m serious. Hall was a captain last fall and might be again this year, so shopping him might not go over so well. But Dontre Wilson will be in pads soon ...
Subject: If it were professional to use emoticons...
There would be a sad face right now. That said, it feels like we are getting closer. It is starting to become clear you won't part with Norwell, which means Schofield is off the table. So this is what I propose as I believe it makes both of our teams better. Joel Hale, Guiton and Gareon Conley for Desmond Morgan and the rights to Michigan commit Lawrence Marshall. It might sound ridiculous, but Hale strengthens the Michigan defensive line and Conley allows for more future in the secondary. Guiton gives Michigan perhaps its most important thing for this season -- cover in case Devin Gardner is injured. Meanwhile you get back a smart, instinctual linebacker in Morgan and and a potential future starter at defensive end.
Let me know what you think. The coaches are getting impatient here since the season starts in a few weeks and they have to explain this to families.
Subject: Crazy is right
Championships aren’t won by playing it safe, though. Losing such a bright future with Conley is tough to swallow, but the pill goes down a little bit smoother since the incoming class of defensive backs might still be the strongest in the country with Eli Apple, Cam Burrows and Vonn Bell remaining in the fold. And while Hale is a respected leader and a grinder on the inside, a combination of Tommy Schutt, Chris Carter and J.T. Moore should be more than enough for this season along with junior Michael Bennett and (another) deep group of signees. As for Guiton, that really stings as well, particularly because of how seamlessly he came off the bench last year when Braxton Miller was hurt. But Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett figure to be nice insurance policies, and this team could really use another talented, veteran presence at linebacker -- and the 2014 class doesn’t have a pass rusher in it yet to complement Washington and Spence.
You’ve got yourself a fictional deal. See you in November, punk.