After yet another blowout to Ohio State, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was asked a pretty fair question by an out-of-town reporter.
“Jim, is this a talent gap? Is it a preparation gap? Is it a coaching gap? What is the biggest difference between you and Ohio State at this point?”
Harbaugh didn’t answer that question. In fact, he took it as an insult. Which as the head coach, I can certainly understand. He would never throw players or other coaches under the bus, so I completely get his stance on the question, even though it’s a warranted one.
Allow me to answer it for you, coach. The biggest difference between Michigan and Ohio State right now is the talent gap. And it all starts on the recruiting trail.
Let’s take a look at Michigan’s offense from Saturday compared to Ohio State’s, based on how many stars each player had during their recruitment. For this, I am going based off players who participated in the game. If you aren’t familiar with Maize n Brew’s recruiting coverage, we go based off the 247Sports composite rankings.
The Game 2019 Recruiting Rankings
Michigan offense: Shea Patterson (5), Hassan Haskins (3), Zach Charbonnet (4), Tru Wilson (2), Ben Mason (3), Donovan Peoples-Jones (5), Nico Collins (4), Tarik Black (4), Giles Jackson (4), Ronnie Bell (3), Cornelius Johnson (4), Mike Sainristil (3), Sean McKeon (3), Nick Eubanks (3), Jon Runyan Jr. (3), Ben Bredeson (4), Cesar Ruiz (4), Michael Onwenu (4), Jalen Mayfield (4).
Average rating: 3.63. Now, how about Ohio State’s?
OSU offense: Justin Fields (5), Chris Chugunov (3), J.K. Dobbins (4), Master Teague (4), Chris Olave (3), Austin Mack (4), Binjimen Victor (4), K.J. Hill (4), Garrett Wilson (5), Jeremy Ruckert (4), Luke Farrell (4), Rashod Berry (3), Thayer Munford (4), Jonah Jackson (3), Josh Myers (4), Wyatt Davis (5), Branden Bowen (3).
Average rating: 3.88. Take out Chugunov, who only came in for a few plays when Fields got banged up, and the average rating is 3.93.
Here is where things get real ugly — the defense.
Michigan defense: Kwity Paye (3), Mike Danna (3), Michael Dwumfour (3), Chris Hinton (5), Carlo Kemp (4), Jess Speight (0), Donovan Jeter (4), Aidan Hutchinson (4), Khaleke Hudson (3), Jordan Glasgow (0), Josh Uche (3), Cameron McGrone (4), Lavert Hill (4), Daxton Hill (5), Josh Metellus (3), Vincent Gray (3), Ambry Thomas (4).
Average rating: 3.23.
OSU defense: Chase Young (5), Tommy Togiai (4), K’Vaughan Pope (4), Baron Browning (5), Jordan Fuller (4), DaVon Hamilton (3), Pete Werner (4), Tuf Borland (4), Damon Arnette (3), Amir Riep (4), Jonathon Cooper (4), Malik Harrison (3), Justin Hilliard (5), Robert Landers (3), Jeff Okudah (5), Sevyn Banks (4), Tyreke Johnson (5), Dallas Gant (4), Marcus Hooker (3)
Average rating: 4.0.
The Bigger Picture
Since 2016 (Harbaugh’s first full recruiting class at Michigan), the Wolverines have reeled in five five-star players, along with 15 top 100 players — six in 2016, six in 2017, zero in 2018 and three in 2019.
During that same time period, Ohio State has managed to take in 12 five-star players and 35 top 100 players — seven in 2016, 11 in 2017, 13 in 2018 and four in 2019.
Obviously the numbers are in favor of Ohio State, but what also hurts Michigan is the fact that so many of those top 100 guys have either transferred out or have yet to make a big impact. Devin Asiasi, Brandon Peters, Drew Singleton and Aubrey Solomon are all top 100 guys no longer on the team. And up to this point in his career, Luiji Vilain has not made an impact on the field due to injuries.
Of course, the Buckeyes have had their fair share of busts and transfers as well, but they can make up for that with the high volume of top recruits coming in every single year.
And this isn’t going to change any time soon. Michigan currently has one player in the top 100 committed to its 2020 class — four-star wide receiver A.J. Henning.
Ohio State? A whopping eight top 100 guys, with four in the top 50.
Recruiting is a major part of college athletics. You have to be able to get the top guys in order to compete at a top level. Not to dismiss the hard-working underrated guys, like Ronnie Bell for example, but if you want a chance to win a Big Ten Championship, a National Championship, or even just against your biggest rival, you have to recruit at a high level every year.
And if you don’t? More often than not, you’ll get blown out to teams like Ohio State that out-recruit you.