THE BATTLE FOR BRIONTE
Disclaimer: I am a die-hard Michigan fan. I am also a J-School graduate. I try to work both sides of the coin. If you cannot read something that doesn’t widely slant towards Michigan, I wouldn’t suggest reading this. My diaries will always have a news feel to them because, dammit, it’s all I know. Furthermore, I'm not a recruiting expert and all the information I've delineated has been from info talked about on this blog. So, thanks to everyone. I hope you enjoy.
P.S. The lede is buried. DEAL WITH IT.
The Beauty of the Beast
He was a freak and a rare combination of speed and size. We all watched as he sprinted gracefully down the sidelines, enamored with his every move, gasping at the highlight reel level jukes, spins and stiff arms. He was an athlete unparalleled, and he was going to help turn the program around. When he ran, it seemed like he was gliding rather than sprinting. Everyone wanted him, but only two truly contended.
Of course, the player referred to here is Terrelle Pryor, the disgraced Ohio State quarterback who, during his tenure as starting quarterback, went 31-4 and helped Ohio State to three wins over Michigan.
For all of his exploits on and off the field, his recruitment was equally bizarre. A consensus 5-star athlete with offers from all of the major programs. Ultimately, the battle for Pryor came down to the bitterest rivals in all of college sports.
This month, the battle for a top-prospect torn between Michigan and Ohio State may not grab the same headlines as the Terrelle Pryor saga, but it is just as important, if not more important, for the Wolverines to score a victory.
Current Buckeye commit Brionte Dunn also has that rare combination of speed and size. He is the type of prospect that can help propel a program to years of success. In Al Borges’ offense, Dunn can be the type of powerful downhill runner that Michigan currently lacks. And since the day Tressel stepped down as head coach, Dunn has slowly been wavering towards the Wolverines. Before we dive deep into the recruitment of Brionte Dunn, let’s take a walk down memory lane.
In 2007, Michigan was going through and identity and culture change with the hiring of Rich Rodriguez as its new head coach. Rodriguez and his staff hit the recruiting trail hard, attempting to mold graduating a wealth of NFL talent in Jake Long, Chad Henne and Mario Manningham. The cupboard was empty, primed for restocking with talent that could run the spread offense Rodriguez had helped master at West Virginia. There was one glaring problem; Michigan lacked a quarterback to run the system. Urged by many, including those within the school, traditional drop-back passer Ryan Mallett transferred to Arkansas. Rodriguez had three quarterbacks on the roster, and none with the skill set necessary to run the spread. So Rodriguez bet the house, and pushed all in on the quarterback prospect being hailed as “The Next Vince Young”.
Torn between Michigan and Ohio State, Pryor prolonged his recruitment turning it into media frenzy with its fair share of Internet stalking and mass speculation as to where the top prospect would decide.
What ensued was another loss to its arch nemesis, this time on the recruiting trail with Ohio State receiving a commitment from Pryor weeks after National Signing Day had come and gone.
The bitter pill most Wolverines fans had to swallow the day Pryor signed with the Buckeyes seems perfect today considering the person Pryor became on and off the field. In the long run, and of course with gleeful hindsight, Pryor selecting the Buckeyes was the best thing to happen to Michigan. He is one of the main focal points in the Buckeyes ongoing NCAA investigation, having accepted inappropriate gifts and allegedly trading school equipment for goods and services.
Had Pryor chosen Michigan over Ohio State, Rodriguez possibly would still be the coach and potential NCAA sanctions could be looming for Michigan. For his talents, his on-the-field prima donna behavior and off-the-field arrogance ultimately brought down the most successful coach in Columbus since Woody Hayes.
Rodriguez was not the right coach for Michigan. From the start, Rodriguez brought a ton of baggage with him to Ann Arbor. His divorce from West Virginia was tabloid worthy, he allowed “Stretchgate”, and led Michigan to three of its worst seasons in the programs history.
The shortcomings of both Rodriguez and the university itself are well documented in John U. Bacon’s Three and Out. There was failure from the top down and in order to right the ship, a great cleansing had to take place.
'A New Hoke'
Since Tressels departure, Michigan has seen a rapid resurgence. Brady Hoke has helped turn Michigan into a potential national title contender in one season. He has a Top-5 recruiting class this season after closing last season’s recruiting season with a bang. He is every bit deserving of his Big 10 Coach of the Year honors and should be the front-runner for National Coach of the Year. He led the Wolverines to a 10-2 record and its first BCS bowl since 2006, but most importantly, he beat Ohio State.
One of Hokes greatest attributes, and something frequented on this blog, is that Hoke “Gets It”. He understands the rivalry and how it’s a year round battle. Every action, every plan, every move from here on out should be with the intent to “Beat Ohio”. Hoke is out in front early and continues to win battles off the field. He snuck into Ohio and pulled 5-star offensive lineman Kyle Kalis from Ohio State. Nine of Hokes current commitments hail from the State of Ohio, and they’re not done.
The Cold War
Recruiting can be akin to The Cold War. The lies, secrecy and blatant piracy that take place around the country to secure the top recruits. Rodriguez was called a “Snake-Oil Salesman” after pilfering recruits from Purdue. Coaches are continuously dishonest with recruits about their potential roles with the team.
Ohio State fans are crying foul regarding the recruitment of Kalis stating Hoke and his staff lied about the severity of Ohio State’s potential sanctions. Kalis himself was quoted as saying "I can't go to (Ohio State) and take penalties for something I never did. I'm just not sure how long it will take them to recover."
The current recruiting pitch to Dunn by new Buckeye coach Urban Meyer is that he’s never had a 1,000 yard rusher because he never had a running back with his size and speed. While its not true, it apparently has given Dunn enough pause to consider sticking with the Buckeyes despite his lack of desire to play in the spread offense.
Hoke and company had two thousand yard rushers this season, a likely pitch being thrown at Dunn by Hoke and company. Whatever they’ve done up to this point as worked as well, as many on this blog and in other media outlets are reporting that Hoke will be in-house with Dunn Thursday. If they can convince Dunn to bring his family with him for a official visit on top of that, Hoke will have accomplished both on the field and off the field what Rodriquez and his staff could never do: Beat the Buckeyes.
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