College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation.
Ohio State and Michigan appear poised to separate themselves from the rest of the Big Ten. For the second straight season, nothing can illustrate this more than the conference's recruiting rankings. In the first battle for talent between Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke, the Midwest duo finished fourth (OSU) and sixth (Michigan) nationally, while Nebraska finished third in the league, but outside of the top 25 nationally. With two more top-five classes nationally, the league appears to be headed for another Big Ten-Year War.
No. 5: Michigan Wolverines
Big Ten: Second
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees: 6
National Signees: 5
Total Signees: 27
Where They Got 'Em:
The Midwest will always be Michigan's focus in recruiting and 2013 was no different. In fact, the biggest difference between Hoke and Meyer thus far in recruiting is Ohio State's national approach while the Wolverines are more regionally focused. Ohio (9), Michigan (8) and Illinois (3) provided three-quarters of this group, including ten of the 15 nationally ranked prospects in the class. Snagging nine prospects from that state down South has to be particularly satisfying for Hoke.
Other Big Ten footprint states like Indiana and Pennsylvania as well as Northeastern territories like Massachusetts, Virginia and Maryland each provided one player each. The only states located outside of the Big Ten region to send a player to Ann Arbor were Colorado (1) and North Carolina (1).
Areas of Focus:
Meyer has cast a major shot across the Big Ten offensive line bow with two elite defensive line classes in a row at Ohio State. Hoke countered with one of the best offensive line classes in the nation as six new faces signed with the Maize and Blue. Five of those six new blockers are nationally rated prospects who were coveted by nearly every team in the league. Patrick Kugler and Kyle Bosch are AC100 prospects while a pair of massive tackles — Chris Fox who stands 6-6 and Logan Tuley-Tillman who stands 6-7 — give Michigan not only one of the most talented line classes but also one of the largest. This group will have to develop quickly in order to keep up with OSU's stellar defensive line over the next four years.
The skill positions are also a big part of Hoke's 2013 haul and it should only help the transition back to a pro-style attack. Shane Morris is the No. 3-rated quarterback prospect in the nation and could be a special talent who reminds fans in Ann Arbor of Michigan quarterbacks of past years. And he won't be alone in the backfield either. Burly workhorse tailback Derrick Green is the top-rated player in the class and might be able to start immediately if he can grasp the offense. Along with De'Veon Smith, Hoke should have plenty to work with in his backfield for the first time since getting to Michigan.
Morris is joined by three wide receivers and two tight ends in this class to help rebuild the passing attack. Only tight end Jake Butt is nationally rated so this isn't an elite haul, but the added depth is excellent.
On defense, Hoke focused on the secondary as six new names will join the depth chart. Defensive back is the new glamour position and Michigan got one of the best groups in the nation, led by AC100 talent Dymonte Thomas. Thomas has excellent range, physicality and size, so he will likely star at safety while Jourdan Lewis, who barely missed landing in the top 100, is the top coverman in the group. Reon Dawson (6-2, 175) and Channing Stribling (6-2, 170) bring elite size and length to the defensive backfield as well.
Up front, a trio of nationally ranked lineman restock the D-line. Henry Poggi (6-4, 260) can play inside or out but should grow into the tackle position. Taco Charlton (6-5, 250) has unpolished, elite upside and should be a terror off of the edge once he gets into a big-time football program. Maurice Hurst Jr. is a true tackle (6-2, 305) and should help clog up the middle as well. This isn't a deep group, but it is an overtly talented bunch.
Nationally rated Mike McCary and Ohio native Ben Gedeon were the only two linebackers to sign with the Wolverines.
Offense: QB: 1, RB: 3, WR: 3, TE: 2, OL: 6
Defense: DL: 3, LB: 2, DB: 6, ATH: 0, LS: 1
No. 23 (DL)
No. 26 (DL)
Maurice Hurst Jr
No. 42 (DL)
Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes: