Over Thanksgiving, I spoke with two nephews from Ohio who played college ball, both at lower Div 1 schools. It gave me a much different perspective on recruiting. What I understand better is the interplay of different priorities in a high school player choosing a college.
Here are some of the factors that go into choosing a school:
1) Playing for a generally highly rated Div. 1 school.
2) Playing your favorite position.
3) Distance from home.
4) Coaching Staff.
What I found out was that if they had been given a full ride to go to one of the schools rated in the top 40, they probably would have gone.
However, short of that, distance from home and playing the position they wanted to play weighed more heavily.
If, for instance, they had been offered a full ride from Stanford, UCLA, Washington, Florida, Oklahoma, etc., they would probably have taken it. However, to go that far from home for a MAC level school wouldn't happen.
I also got the sense that the coaching staff made a big difference. They seemed to believe that at all levels, from Div. III through Div. 1, promises were made which weren't intended to be kept. Specifically, offers were made for one to play receiver, but the intent was a position change. In other words, recruiting felt slimy to them at many levels.
This sliminess meant that trusting the coaches . . . both to keep their word, and to be competent, was more important than going to an in-state school or a school they were a fan of.
I really get the feeling that to some degree, many athletes are mercenaries. They know they're being used by coaches, which is ok if there is mutual benefit. However, love for a college was secondary to being on a team with coaches and teammates they liked. They would sooner go to a "rival" team if the coaching staff was honest and was competent, than attend a school they had been a lifelong fan of.
In reference to Michigan, they had very high regard for Rodriguez and for his recruits. Even though one of them is currently a student at OSU, and has friends on that team, that didn't mean they despised Michigan. It was very interesting, to say the least. I came away very encouraged for our future. Apparently, OSU players know that Rodriguez and Michigan, given the time to succeed, will be a very serious force to be reckoned with.