Some weeks figuring out the biggest story is hard. This was not one of those weeks.
Jim Tressel did something last Monday he almost never did when he was head coach of the Buckeyes: Create headlines with a substantive speech.
Not only did the former Ohio State head coach stir up the rivalry between his old employer and Michigan by declaring the Wolverines are “a ways away from being at the level where there’s going to be a 10-Year War,” he also shared one of the secrets of their decline over the past decade or so: problems recruiting Ohio.
In referring to his 2002 recruiting class that was highly acclaimed, mostly Ohioan and ultimately very successful, Tressel said (Per ohio.com), “I think we might have lost one guy that whole year to Michigan. The door closed and it hasn’t been open.”
This is a key point. Michigan kept bringing in highly regarded recruiting classes in the years after Tressel arrived at Ohio State, but fewer highly coveted Ohioans became Wolverines than in the preceding decades when it seemed Michigan had a never-ending string of stars from the Buckeye State. Tressel was particularly dominant in northeast Ohio, the home of Desmond Howard, Elvis Grbac, Dan Dierdorf and Dennis Franklin, to name a few.
So Jim Tressel was not only 9-1 against Michigan, he also hurt the Wolverines’ chances to beat everyone else. He didn’t do it alone, though. The slide of Michigan also coincided with strong recruiting of Ohio by Big Ten schools such as Iowa and Wisconsin, but of course Michigan State is the gold standard in recent years. Zanesville native Mark Dantonio has made a mint on recruiting his home state since leaving Tressel’s OSU staff to become head coach at Cincinnati and then moving on to East Lansing.
In the past 10 years Ohio State and Michigan State have also won a lot of battles against Michigan north of the Ohio border, a double-whammy that has seen Michigan stripped of its backbone and having to face kids who are more fired up to beat the Wolverines than the average recruit who grew up somewhere else.
I’ll probably have more on this topic in the near future.
Of course many traditions are up for interpretation and they can mean different things to different people, but the idea Bo Pelini making guys earn the Blackshirts was a mistake or some kind of crime against the tradition is fairly laughable for a few reasons.
First, if you read the history of the Blackshirts (which I have always thought from afar is an awesome, badass tradition, BTW), you’ll find they began as something that was earned from day to day. Second, Pelini took over a defense that was like literally the worst in school history, an actual laughingstock. It’s not as if Pelini took something that was working and undid it.
If ever there was a time to have to earn the jerseys, that would be it. Also note this is a very frequent practice among coaches these days, particularly with the current generation of players for which entitlement is generally considered a big problem. It’s actually happening right this minute with the Nebraska basketball team and the coach who was a darling as recently as last year.
Third, the defense actually got good for a while under Pelini, so I guess he knew what he was doing at least at one point. Fourth, the reason the defense went downhill is not because of the clothes but because Pelini didn’t recruit and/or develop good enough players.
If Riley doesn’t change that — and it would be a minor miracle if he does — it won’t matter what guys are wearing or when they get it. But I guess I’ll be interested to see how history is revised then, too…
Michigan’s new offensive coordinator says winning tends to cure most ills. I say so does not having to rely on too many young offensive linemen.
Whoever wins the starting quarterback job for the Wolverines can expect to have the attack tailored to his strengths, another departure from the previous regime.
Connor Cook has high expectations for himself and offers a frank assessment of what he did well and needs to improve from last season. He’ll need to find some new targets this year to continue to improve himself.
Five questions for Maryland as the Terrapins begin spring football.
Strange things continue to happen with officiating when Ohio State travels to Penn State for things.