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Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Top Big Ten recruiting rivalries

By Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival


With any conference there will always be battles on the recruiting trail within the Big Ten. Coaching changes, different philosophies and geographic location all factor in to who battles who.

Here is a look at the top five Big Ten recruiting rivalries.

1. Ohio State-Michigan
This season's list of battles includes recruits like Kyle Berger (Cleveland/St. Ignatius), Damon Webb (Detroit/Cass Tech) and Jamarco Jones (Chicago/De La Salle), who chose the Buckeyes over the Wolverines. Michigan counts wins with Ian Bunting (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central), Mason Cole (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) Michael Ferns (St. Clairsville, St. Clairsville), Chase Winovich (Jefferson Hills, Pa./Thomas Jefferson), Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic) and Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids).

While Ohio State coach Urban Meyer rarely loses a battle head-to-head for athletes from Ohio, Michigan coach Brady Hoke wins many national wars for recruits against the Buckeyes. This recruiting rivalry is one of the fiercest in the nation and goes beyond just Meyer and Hoke. Woody Hayes battled Bo Schembechler forever on the field and in recruiting for players. Gary Moeller and John Cooper waged battles, and recruits aren’t afraid to bark at each other during camps. There have been recruiting letters set on fire much to the delight of Twitter followers. For Ohio State, much like Michigan, a win in anything over the other is a feather in the cap in what is known as the No. 1 rivalry in college sports.

2. Michigan-Michigan State
The two in-state rivals will naturally target similar recruits, since they are only about 65 miles from each other. Michigan has been winning a lot of the battles under Hoke with defensive end Lawrence Marshall (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) in the 2014 class picking Michigan. Probably the most well-known battle is wide receiver Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian), who initially was committed to Michigan State but later flipped to the Wolverines. There have already been some recruiting battles picking up in the 2015 class as well, especially with the Spartans recent hire of Detroit native Curtis Blackwell to aid recruiting in the city. These two programs have gone after similar prospects for years and those battles will undoubtedly continue in the future.

3. Ohio State-Penn State
This one has really heated up as of late after Meyer raided the Nittany Lions after Joe Paterno’s dismissal. In 2012, the two-time national champion flipped Joey O’Connor (Windsor, Col./Windsor), Tommy Schutt (Glen Ellyn, Ill./Glenbard), Armani Reeves (West Roxbury, Mass./Catholic Memorial) and Camren Williams (West Roxbury, Mass./Catholic Memorial) from Penn State.

On national signing day this year, Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien made it a point to say his program would concentrate on Western Pennsylvania and Ohio where many headed to Columbus in the past. This year, Alex Bookser (Pittsburgh/Mt. Lebanon) is one of the biggest remaining targets for both squads. In 2015, prospects like Jerome Baker (Cleveland/Benedictine), Andrew and David Dowell (Lakewood, Ohio/St. Edward), Justin Hilliard (Cincinnati/St. Xavier) and Sterling Jenkins (Pittsburgh/Baldwin) are already being fought over. Back in the days of Paterno this wasn’t that big of a recruiting rivalry as Penn State focused elsewhere for players. Now the two seem to butt heads on virtually every potential pledge and it doesn’t look likes it’s going to slow anytime soon.

4. Michigan-Northwestern
This one might seem out there at first, but it makes sense. Northwestern is recruiting better than it ever has and the program is on the rise. Much like Michigan, the Wildcats pride themselves on academics and are going to target similar prospects. There hasn’t been a real head-to-head recruiting battle yet between the two, but it’s building up to where there will be in the future. Northwestern has offered and targeted plenty of prospects that Michigan has and it’s looking like that is shaping up to stay the same in 2015. Michigan’s recruiting has taken off under Hoke, but around the Midwest and the East Coast these two programs will see a lot of each other on the recruiting trail.

5. Indiana-Purdue
Let’s start with the fact that it’s just a little over a two-hour drive between universities. That backdrop alone says a lot. But it’s much more than that and it’s not just about basketball between the two universities.

Think these two don’t go after the same type of player? Think again. In 2014, the Boilermakers and Hoosiers have both offered the same player 51 times so far.

While Purdue has won both head-to-head commitments with Indiana -- the Boilermakers grabbed Drue Tranquill (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll) and Gelen Robinson (St. John, Ind./Lake Central -- national signing day is a long ways away.

Both Indiana and Purdue are heavily targeting Nile Sykes (Lombard, Ill./Montini Catholic), Kenric Young (Gainesville, Fla./Gainesville) and Lukayus McNeil (Indianapolis/Decatur Central). Wins by either school as the final months close will surely be felt at both universities.