A Sonic Boom
A few weeks ago Michigan’s 2020 recruiting class was kind of floundering around. It wasn’t anywhere near the top ten nationally, and was even rated behind a few Big Ten teams. But, after hosting a sizeable number of potential recruits the third weekend in June, the flood gates opened, and the Wolverines got twelve new commitments. That vaulted them to seventh in the country, and second in the Big Ten. The usual amount of hyperbole and noise from Michigan media outlets, bloggers, and fans began. We were told how Wolverine head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff have gotten their top target on both offense and defense. There was also the inevitable breathless-with-excitement report on how the Wolverines beat Ohio State for a certain recruit. All of this had Wolverine faithful feeling pretty good about their favorite college football team. Things had to be looking up if all of these good players think Harbaugh’s program is the place to be, right? The gap between the Wolverines and Buckeyes has to be closing, right? Yes, Michigan folk were in the middle of celebrating their good fortune when a sonic boom came from just south of them, and drowned out all of the noise from their little party.
It all began on just after 3 PM on June 29th when Cody Simon from Jersey City, NJ announced he will become a Buckeye. Simon is a top-ten nationally outside linebacker. Not long after, Ohio State coaches got to tweet another BOOM! (now do you get the whole sonic boom thing?..lol) when defensive tackle Darrion Henry of Princeton High School in Cincinnati said he was joining the Buckeyes as well. Henry is the fourth-ranked player in the state, and a teammate of OSU commit Paris Johnson, Jr., who happens to be the state’s top recruit.
Things were calm for a few days, and I’m sure the party continued for Wolverine fans because those two Ohio State commits were just blips on the radar screen compared to Harbaugh’s recent haul. On July 2nd Elder tight end Joe Royer gave his pledge to the Buckeyes. Just one day later came another when another outside linebacker, Mitchell Melton of Olney, Maryland, said he is becoming a Buckeye as well. So, in the span of two days, Ryan Day and his staff got two commitments. They weren’t finished yet. Michigan people had to be getting a bit uneasy.
On Independence Day, while your neighbor and his stupid kids were trying to blow off their fingers with fireworks, the Buckeyes had some fireworks of their own when Muskegon, Michigan’s Cam Martinez committed. He’s listed as an athlete, but is expected to end up at receiver or, most likely, safety. Martinez was MLive’s player of the year in 2018 (MLive is a news website covering the state of Michigan). This had to get the attention of those who cover and cheer for the Wolverines because the Buckeyes went and took one of the better players in their state. There were even more Buckeye fireworks that day. Josh Fryar, an offensive lineman and second-ranked player in Indiana, said he also is coming to Ohio State. Fryar is ranked just414th nationally. So, why does Ryan Day want him? Because he’s very versatile, and can play any position along the offensive line. They got a commit from one more early this week. Mookie Cooper from St.Louis, the second-ranked player in his state, was Day’s top target at slot receiver.
Those seven new recruits have pushed the Buckeyes’ recruiting class of 2020 to fourth nationally, and solidified their spot atop the Big Ten. With their next commitment, it is expected OSU will move ahead of LSU and into third place in the rankings. Recruiting rankings are compiled by adding the totals of the ratings of each player. The more commitments you have, the more of a chance a team has to be highly ranked. But, the Buckeyes are still far and away ahead of Michigan despite the Wolverines having two more players committed. The average rating of the twenty Ohio State recruits is 91.88 (according to 247 Sports), while Michigan’s twenty-two have an average of just 89.42. Do you want some perspective on each of their recruiting classes? Michigan’s top-rated recruit, receiver A.J. Henning from Illinois, would be just eighth on OSU’s list, AND only the fourth-highest rated receiver.
Once again the Buckeyes have upstaged their biggest rival. I’m sure Michigan fans and media are trying to keep a stiff upper lip, but their ears have to be ringing from the sonic boom that came out of Columbus. Being near the top of recruiting rankings doesn’t guarantee success on the field. But, I’d much rather be consistently ahead of my biggest rival in those rankings than behind them, and that’s exactly what the Buckeyes are doing again in this cycle.
There’s A Reason Why He Never Lost To Them
Back in April the Buckeyes received their Big Ten championship rings, and Gold Pants for beating Michigan. Ryan Day invited Urban Meyer to speak to the team. Eleven Warriors detailed what he had to say in a recent article. Once you read through Meyer’s speech, you get a greater understanding of why he went 7-0 against Michigan. Folks, it isn’t just because the Buckeyes had better players and coaching. No, it goes far beyond that.
The former Buckeye head coach spoke with a passion about respecting the rivalry with Michigan. “So it really bothered me when I heard a player for the other team come out and guarantee wins, and Revenge Tours, and shit like that, and I remember those days and my head almost popped off my shoulders. That’s disrespecting the rivalry,” Meyer said. He questioned if some at Michigan understand how to respect the rivalry. I’ve felt this way for a few years now. As I said in a recent blog, a lot of former and current Wolverine players, coaches, fans, and media love to talk, and never seem to know when to shut up. Meyer spoke further on respecting the rivalry, “How do you respect a rivalry? You work it every day. You don’t shoot your mouth off. If I ever hear, whatever’s going on, I hear a player take a shot verbally at them - that’s a problem. How do you show respect for a rivalry? You work it every [expletive] day. Not by tee shirts. Not by bullshit.” We’ve seen just how well the bullshit has worked for the Wolverines.
Meyer pointed out you live this rivalry everyday if you’re a Buckeye. You don’t wear blue at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. They don’t use blue pens. He said it’s not a game, it’s not silly, and it’s a way of life. Meyer made sure to point out Michigan is a great program with great players and coaches, but, “You never lose to those pricks. Ever. Ever. And you work it every day. And I don’t give a shit if you’re from California or Texas or whatever, as soon as you say you’re a Buckeye this is part of your life for the rest of your life - and you don’t lose to those pricks. You beat them every day. Every day.”
For those who question if this rivalry is losing importance, you just don’t get it; you don’t understand rivalries. Urban Meyer does understand them, and that’s why he never lost in college football’s greatest.
You can read the entire Eleven Warriors article on Meyer’s speech by clicking here.
An American Hero
Last week I saw where a former NFL player, who is considered a hero by many, was in the news again. It is said this former NFL player sacrificed everything for what he believed in. I didn’t bother reading the article, so I don’t know the name of the former player, but I’m assuming they were talking about Pat Tillman.
In May of 2002 Tillman gave up his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals, and became an Army Ranger. He was part of the original invasion of Iraq in September of 2003, and also did tours of duty in Afghanistan. Tillman was killed on April 22nd, 2004. So, if you’re going to talk about a former NFL player who sacrificed everything for what he believed in, I’m going to assume you’re talking about Pat Tillman.
A Giant Leap Turns Golden
July 20th will mark the 50th anniversary of Wapakoneta’s Neil Armstrong becoming the first person to set foot on the Moon, and claim it for the Great State of Ohio. That’s right folks, it belongs to Ohio. Trust me on this one (Eleven Warriors has a t-shirt and sticker to prove it-I have the sticker on my desk at work).
When you hear that Apollo 11 mission talked about, all of the focus is on Armstrong’s memorable step, and his words. But, the story of he and Buzz Aldrin actually landing the lunar module on the Moon is an amazing one. As they were descending, Armstrong saw they were going to land in an unsafe area, so he took control, and began trying to find a better place to set down. This took a bit of time, and Mission Control was concerned they were going to run out of fuel. People were getting very nervous, but Armstrong didn’t seem concerned. He concentrated on one thing: flying his craft. He did his job, and he let everyone else do theirs. Eventually, about the time people were really beginning to sweat, he brought the Lunar Module to rest on the Moon’s surface. The reaction of legendary news anchor Walter Cronkite during CBS’s coverage was priceless. A few hours later, at 10:56 PM, Armstrong stepped off the ladder, and put his left foot onto the Moon’s surface. A little while later Aldrin joined him. Over the next few years ten more men would set foot on the Moon. But, Neil got there first….and claimed it for the Great State of Ohio.
I haven’t done a section like this in a while, so this is going to be a mishmash of a few different things. You may already be aware of some of these things, but I still felt I should mention them.
Buckeye basketball legend John Havlicek passed away in April at the age of 79. The Bridgeport High School grad won a national championship with the Buckeyes in 1960, and eight NBA titles with the Boston Celtics in his sixteen seasons with the team. He was a four-time first team NBA all-star, and was named to the league’s 50th anniversary team.
A couple of other legends were lost this spring. Green Bay Packers’ Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Star died in May. He was just a 17th round pick by the team in 1956, but would lead the Packers to five NFL championships; they are still the only team in league history to win three
straight titles. Another Packer we lost from those great teams is Forrest Gregg. Many probably remember him most for coaching both Cleveland and Cincinnati; he took the Bengals to Super Bowl 16. Gregg’s coaching career does not come anywhere close to matching his as a player. He was the center for the Packers’ five NFL championships, and won Super Bowl VI with the Cowboys to give him six NFL titles for his career. He’s a Hall of Fame member, and was named to the league’s 75th anniversary team. When the NFL comes out with its 100th anniversary team, Gregg should be one of the few locks to be on it. Vince Lombardi confirmed Gregg’s greatness as a player when he said the seven-time first team All-Pro was the greatest player he ever coached.
Earlier this week my head coach at Martins Ferry my sophomore year, Bob Bruney, passed away. Coach Bob was one of the great characters you’ll ever meet, and was a lot of fun to play for. He was a two-year letter winner for the Buckeyes (1962-63) before going into high school coaching. He helped turn around a floundering Ironton program, and laid the foundation for the early success of the legendary Bob Lutz. He took over at his alma mater in 1974 where he coached through the 1978 season, my sophomore year. I’m forever grateful to Coach Bob because he gave me a chance to play that year. He put me on the punt and extra point/field goal teams before the second game of the season. It may not seem like much, but when you’re a young player on a roster of 85 guys, you were happy to get on the field any way you could. You never knew what Coach Bob would do or say. He was unforgettable.
Last year I had to say goodbye to The Middle, one of my favorite TV shows. Unfortunately I had to say goodbye to one of my favorites again at the end of the most recent television season. The Big Bang Theory ran for 12 seasons, and much like The Middle, it didn’t try to make a statement, or tackle social issues; it was simply funny each and every week for 279 episodes. The finale was one of the best you’ll ever see. I’m really going to miss this show.
Woodstock, the iconic music festival, is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer. Trust me, Live Aid from 1985 was a festival that had far, far better music. Hey, Woodstock didn’t have The Hooters doing “And She Danced”..lol. The Browns and Bengals open camp in a few weeks; the Buckeyes start practice not long after that. It’s the calm before the storm, but it’s still summer, and I plan to enjoy it. You do the same.