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10 Players Who Can Boost NFL Draft Stock at Pro Day

With Super Bowl 49 in the record books, the NFL has officially shifted into draft mode. We’re less than two weeks from the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where coaches and executives from across the league gather to analyze, measure and interview the top prospects for May’s NFL draft. It’s the most high-profile scouting event of the NFL draft cycle, but it isn’t the only one.

For players who have questions about their games, are rebounding from injuries or are attempting a position shift, pro days are just as important as the combine. They’re a chance for scouts and coaches to focus more attention, dole out one-on-one time and perhaps take a closer view than they’re able to in the meat market that is the Indianapolis scouting combine.

Here are 10 players who can benefit from a big showing at their pro days, whenever they are.

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National Signing Day Drama Shows Recruits Should Sign to a School, Not Coach

Flipping season for recruits starts when the dead period ends in January and lasts until national signing day.

For some coaches, flip season starts after recruits sign on the dotted line. 

There were several key coaching moves that took place shortly after national signing day, including UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich heading to the Atlanta Falcons according to FoxSports.com and Florida defensive line coach Terrell Williams' jump to the Miami Dolphins, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Shady? You bet, especially considering the slanted contracts high school football players signed on Wednesday, as Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples notes:

This brings us to what should be the No. 1 rule of thumb for top-tier prospects during the recruiting process: Commit to the school, not the coach.

Several prospects in the class of 2015 found this out the hard way.

Roquan Smith—a 4-star linebacker from Montezuma, Georgia, committed to UCLA on ESPNU on Wednesday, but opened back up his recruiting process shortly after the cameras turned off and he found out that Ulbrich was leaving the program.

"We just got the news on Coach Ulbrich getting the offer from the Atlanta Falcons," Smith's high school coach Larry Harold told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Roquan just holding his UCLA papers to see what Coach Ulbrich is going to do. We’re just sitting tight right now."

Ohio State 4-star running back Mike Weber found out running backs coach Stan Drayton is leaving for the Chicago Bears according to the Chicago TribuneWeber took to Twitter to vent his frustrations.

CeCe Jefferson—a 5-star defensive end from Glen St. Mary, Florida, committed to Florida later in the afternoon on ESPNU, but has yet to send in his national letter of intent after learning that Williams is leaving the program.

It should never get to this point for either side.

From a player's perspective, it's incredibly disingenuous for a coach to sell a program for two or more years only to bail the day after signing day, leaving the kids with a different product than they purchased. But it does happen a lot, and prospects should know this. More importantly, the program should be upfront about these possibilities.

From a program's perspective, it shouldn't matter.

There are assistants like Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and others who are long-time assistants at their respective schools, but those coaches are the exception, not the rule.

Most assistants—position coaches, in particular—are in very volatile positions on coaching staffs. If they succeed, plenty of coordinator jobs open up every offseason that present options. If they fail, they're easily replaceable, especially in this day and age of growing off-the-field staffs.

Over the last five years, we've seen eight of the 14 SEC programs make wholesale changes to their entire coaching staffs, not just position-coach movement. 

Assistants often provide the day-to-day contact for prospects along the way, and of course those relationships are important. For proof, look no further than 4-star linebacker Jeffery Holland, who directly credited defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson for his commitment to Auburn.

"That was just a big deal right there," Holland said, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. "I've been loving Auburn and that just put the icing on the cake."

That's fine. 

If an assistant is the deal-breaker but a player is happy regardless, that's the appropriate way this process should work. But an assistant coach being the primary reason a player commits anywhere is silly.

Players should know that post-signing day coaching moves happen every year. Coaches should be upfront about opportunities and even if the marriage lasts for a little while. Players should recognize that, even if position coaches stick around for the prospect's freshman year, the coaching carousel spins pretty fast every offseason, and that could change the structure of the staff at any given school.

Coaching is a nomadic business, but playing college football isn't. As a result, player should commit to schools, not people.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Jim Harbaugh Is Building a Recruiting Machine at Michigan

Recent moves made by the Michigan Wolverines athletic department make it clear that Jim Harbaugh is upgrading his recruiting infrastructure hoping to shift the balance of power in the Big Ten East Division.

While Harbaugh was crisscrossing the nation on the Michigan private jet to complete his first recruiting class, his recruiting support staff was being transformed in Ann Arbor.

Harbaugh acknowledged his strategy of continuous improvement on national signing day:

"We'll make some improvements in all areas of our organization," Harbaugh said. "I look at it that way and always be striving to get a percent better, a mile an hour faster, better today than we were yesterday, better tomorrow than we were today in all areas in everything that we do. We'll take a look at how we're doing it, start with why and attack, even a .01 percent improvement if we can find it."

The most visible addition is the hiring of Chris Partridge as recruiting coordinator.

Harbaugh has already assembled a coaching staff with nationwide ties and both collegiate and professional experience. He now adds Partridge to the mix to serve as liaison to high school coaches. He brings experience as a high school coach who has won two state titles while developing a number of college football recruits.

"[He] coached current Michigan players Jabrill Peppers and Juwann Bushell-Beatty at Paramus Catholic in New Jersey," Harbaugh mentioned. "His job is an increasingly popular position on college football staffs. Among their many other duties, similar folks at other schools develop camps, recruiting events and high school relationships to help their coaches identify and connect with future prospects."

If Harbaugh had any doubts about his staff relating to high school coaches, Partridge’s hire should erase that concern.

It also doesn't hurt that he has ties with a future top recruit, Rashan Gary.

While Harbaugh is expanding both the reach and depth of his staff, two recent Michigan recruiting targets learned how quickly circumstances can change once they sign their letters of intent.

Mike Weber, a 4-star running back, was a longtime Michigan commitment before switching to Ohio State. After signing with Ohio State, he found out that the coach who recruited him was leaving for the NFL.

Roquan Smith, a 4-star linebacker, had a similar situation develop as rumors broke that UCLA’s defensive coordinator was leaving for the NFL, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Carvell. But unlike Weber, Smith hadn't signed his paperwork yet, so he has a chance re-evaluate his decision.

Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program, and players have huge restrictions on changing schools while coaches are free to leave without penalty. Players have the upper hand during recruitment, but the balance of power shifts quickly to the coaching staff after national signing day.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand.

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Texas Football: Charlie Strong's Recruiting Is Proof He Belongs at Texas

Through his core values and persistent approach, Charlie Strong has set the foundation for Texas' future and proven he belongs as the Longhorns' head coach.

The Horns came out of national signing day with the nation's No. 11 class, which was tops in the Big 12. Led by 5-star linebacker Malik Jefferson, the 29 signees include 10 of the country's Top247 players along with some lesser-known talents with plenty of upside.

It's not quite the dream finish Strong had almost pulled off with Kyler Murray, Daylon Mack, Soso Jamabo and DaMarkus Lodge. But the Horns filled every need, per SB Nation's Wescott Eberts, and did so in spite of a dreadful finish to the 2014 season.

The credit for the recruiting resurgence goes to Strong, and his unusual list of demands that drew so much public criticism.

Less than three months after booting that ninth player, Strong rode those same core values to the commitment of Jefferson, the state's top player. As Jefferson told WFAA's David McNabb, it was Strong's firm hand that made the difference in his recruitment.

"Charlie Strong is a guy of discipline," Jefferson said. "He has the same core values as my father. The same core values of my (Poteet) coaches. He's a pretty good fit for what the guy is and what he is about and I love and respect him for that."

Once Jefferson bought in, the Longhorns had the face of their program for the foreseeable future. In turn, they unleashed him on everyone they could get to campus, as Strong said on Wednesday:

I made the statement earlier in December, I said that anytime you're in a recruiting process, there's got to be a player, there's got to be a marquee player – that was Malik Jefferson for us. When he got on board, it got us started. With him getting the program jumpstarted, he was able to sell the program. There were recruits that were kind of sitting on the fence, and then when they saw Malik jump on board, some of them jumped on board. Then the ones that were not trying to make a decision on where they wanted to go, he was able to sell the program.

From there, the rest of the class took form with 12 more recruits following the elite linebacker's lead, including top cornerback Holton Hill.

But beyond the values around which he has molded his approach, Strong has recruited right down to the wire. As explained by Eberts, Texas' head coach has been relentless in his pursuit of his prized recruits, yielding results unheard of under Mack Brown.

Chris Warren, Ryan Newsome and PJ Locke join 2014 signees Poona Ford and Chris Nelson as recruits Strong has pulled on signing day. Under Brown, only defensive end Shiro Davis waited until the bitter end to make an official pledge to Texas.

A few days before, Strong was working to secure commits from John Burt, Hill, Kris Boyd and Kai Locksley. All three ended up signing, with Burt, Hill and Boyd ready to contribute immediately, while Locksley adds quarterback depth.

Even the failed attempt to land the likes of Murray, Mack, Jamabo and Lodge should excite Longhorn fans. The Horns had no business getting the state's best quarterback and receiver on campus, and they were in serious contention with all four until the end according to 247Sports' Bobby Burton.

So, along with the ratings, rankings and sheer number of commits, let's look at the hustle stats for Strong and his staff. 

Of the 29 signees, eight were flipped from other programs, nine come from another state, six committed within the final week of the cycle and one recommitted. Just as important is that only Jamile Johnson left the class in the week leading up to signing day.

Down 10 starters, including each of its All-Big 12 performers, Texas will be in rebuilding mode next season. The Longhorns are going to be young, and they just won't have the experience necessary to win a conference title.

That said, this team will play hard for its head coach, just like it did in 2014. 

So long as that holds true, Strong's work on the recruiting trail proves he and his core values belong at Texas.

Unless otherwise noted, all stats and information courtesy of TexasSports.com and 247Sports.com.

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Meet DeAngelo Gibbs: College Football Recruiting's Next Big Thing

“You’ve got to be kidding me!”

Alabama Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart uttered and then repeated that phrase to Peachtree Ridge (Georgia) High School head coach Mark Fleetwood upon seeing then-rising sophomore DeAngelo Gibbs in action for the first time at a Lions practice during the spring.

Smart heard the whispers about a young, dynamic athlete who had set the metro Atlanta recruiting circuit on fire since the end of the 2013 season. Still, what he saw left him lost for words.

“Golly, that No. 8, he looks like one of ours right now,” Fleetwood recalls hearing Smart expound on Gibbs. “Look how he comes off the ball.”

According to Fleetwood, that story is one of several versions of the same conversation that played out when college coaches descended on this campus just north of Atlanta last spring.

Such praise isn’t supposed to be heaped on players with little more than one year of experience playing high school football. Then again, Gibbs isn’t your typical 16-year-old football player.

Last year, the 6’2”, 200-pound athlete stunned onlookers in attendance at the Atlanta NFTC in March by winning the camp’s MVP award for the defensive backs segment over notable attendees such as 2015 5-star corner Kevin Toliver.

Considering that he wasn’t invited to the camp until the day before the event, and only after days of his family lobbying with the camp’s organizers, his performance spoke louder than words ever could.

“The same guy that wasn’t going to let him in the camp was the same guy who fought for him to get MVP,” said Derrick Tatum, who trains DeAngelo at Atlanta’s Elite Talent Football Academy.

It didn’t take long for colleges to begin taking notice. His father, Deon, estimates that “14 or 15 schools” have offered his son. Fleetwood notes that “almost the entire SEC” checked on him in the spring. Included in his group of suitors are powers such as Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia and South Carolina.

However, Gibbs’ journey to being the next can’t-miss recruit isn’t just about his athletic prowess.

Long before he ever surfaced on the recruiting radar, Gibbs has been trained for these moments on and off the field. He carries a 3.7 GPA and plans to graduate high school early. He’s heavily involved in his church’s youth programs, which Deon credits for keeping his son grounded and humble amid his growing celebrity. 

Genetics were kind to DeAngelo as well. His family lineage is littered with athletic excellence.

Two of his uncles, Jake Reed and Dale Carter, starred in the NFL for more than a decade. His mother, Karen—who now works as an assistant principal in the metro Atlanta area—competed in four sports in college and is a member of the Miles College (Alabama) Hall of Fame. His older sisters, Destinie and Lydia, are currently playing college basketball at USC and Truett-McConnell College, respectively.

While it’s only a matter of time until he becomes a 5-star recruit, it’s the years of learning from a 5-star support system that have DeAngelo Gibbs on the fast track to success on the field and in life.

“I tell DeAngelo all the time, ‘we’re built for this! The bloodline is real.’”  Jake Reed

Destinie Gibbs remembers receiving her first letter from a college program when she was in 10th grade. More so than the joy of receiving her first offer, her fondest memory from that experience was the comical reaction from her baby brother.

“He was like, ‘why am I not getting any letters…I work so hard,’” Destinie says while laughing. “I was like, ‘DeAngelo, you’re in the fifth grade!’ I told him to calm down and that his time was coming. He’s always been very competitive.”

Back then, DeAngelo was a bustling young athlete excelling in baseball, basketball and football. However, he began to slowly gravitate more toward the gridiron.

Around five years ago, DeAngelo’s parents started an annual tradition by sending him to Dallas for the summer to stay with his uncle Jake, who spent the majority of his 12-year NFL career with the Vikings as part of a dynamic receiving trio with Cris Carter and Randy Moss.

“As he got older and started coming down here (Dallas) every summer and he started working with me, you could see the football side of him come out more,” Reed said. “We didn’t do basketball because I’m a football guy and we’re a football family. You could start to see his talent come out more when he was with us.”

Jake—who still refers to DeAngelo as “Papa,” a name which he gave him when he was very young—would take him and his son, J.R., through a series of daily workouts led by trainers and former NFL players Omar Stoutmire, George Adams and Clay Mack. These workouts also featured some of the top prep players in Texas, such as Adams’ son—current LSU safety and former 5-star recruit Jamal Adams—and J.R., who enrolled at Tulsa last month.

DeAngelo spent his early years in football playing skill positions such as quarterback, running back and receiver.

Reed worked diligently with his nephew on the finer points of playing receiver. In fact, Reed recalls Baylor offering DeAngelo a scholarship as a receiver just months prior to his freshman year. But as DeAngelo returned home to Georgia and began to gain weight and mass, he worked with Tatum on learning the nuances of playing corner.

The rigorous training schedule helped him learn the work ethic and techniques necessary to maximize his enormous potential.

“He’s training with guys who can and do push him,” Reed said. “He’s able to see how hard he has to train to be elite. He works like a dog because he knows he has to get better. A lot of kids don’t have that outlet.”

Destinie credits the family environment that DeAngelo has grown up in as a critical factor in allowing him to develop as a student-athlete. Eric Lee, who is the pastor of Springfield Baptist Church in Conyers, Georgia, where the Gibbs family have been members for more than a decade, agrees.

“The community that surrounds him and the family that surrounds him, those factors gave him such a great head start to where he is today,” Lee said. “And as his father typically says, it’s taken a village of people to continue to allow him to cultivate and maximize his God-given talent.”

“We don’t raise dumb jocks in our family. That’s just not what we are trying to do. With a 3.7 GPA, he hasn’t been given that. That’s something that he’s worked for and something his mom has been very involved in.” — Jake Reed

Given Karen’s background as an educator, the Gibbs family has always placed more emphasis on the student aspect of being a student-athlete with DeAngelo.

Even during his summer trips to Big D, and despite a training schedule with two, and sometimes three, workouts a day, Reed noted that his sister made a list of books for her son to read and then write subsequent reports on.

“Just as hard as he’s working on his athletic skills, he’s doing classwork all summer long,” Reed said. “She pushes education first. He just doesn’t have school off in the summertime. Not in that house.”

DeAngelo learned the importance of academics in the recruiting process after watching Destinie go through it.

“We always try to make sure that he understands that in order for him to be the best player he can be, or the player he aspires to be, you have to be the best scholar you can be,” Destinie said. “Because without those grades, Nick Saban doesn’t want you. UGA doesn’t want you, or any other colleges, because you can’t even get into their school.”

Fleetwood notes that DeAngelo has asked for and received his blessing on occasion to arrive late at football practice in order to put extra time in the classroom. It’s something that he encourages because of the attention and focus that his star pupil displays with regard to his classwork.

“He’s serious about it (academics),” Fleetwood said. “He’s a student-athlete. I believe deep down there’s a correlation between the two. A true competitor wants to compete as much in the math classes as he does on the football field. He’s got that burning desire in him. He doesn’t just want to get by. He wants to do the best he can do. I think a lot of times, that comes from home.”

Lee—who notes that as an eighth-grader, DeAngelo used the Heimlich maneuver to save the life of a classmate who was choking—said that part of what makes him rare is the maturity he displays in everyday life.

“He’s a very unique kid,” Lee said. “His social development is not second to his football development. People want to follow him. I would suggest that is more out of the way he carries himself more so than being a vocal leader. You can see it in how he treats other people. He never makes people feel less special or important than he is.”

“You would think he’s a senior the way he goes about doing things and the way he carries himself. He’s serious. He leaves that locker room door to go to work, and he really goes to work. He is not a guy that takes it for granted. I think that’s a really good thing.” — Mark Fleetwood, head coach, Peachtree Ridge HS

One day.

That’s how long DeAngelo lasted on the ninth-grade team before being moved up to varsity. An injury to the team’s best corner pressed Fleetwood to plug in his talented freshman against defending 6A state champion Norcross.

Gibbs’ assignment was to cover Blue Devils star receiver Chris Herndon, a 6’4”, 230-pound senior who was verbally committed to Miami. Tatum recalls watching film with DeAngelo that week in preparation for the first major test of his playing career.

Figuring they would have a mismatch, Norcross tried to attack Gibbs early in the game. On their first attempt throwing at him, Gibbs picked it off.

“It wasn’t a badly thrown ball either,” Fleetwood said. “It was an out route, an intermediate out route about 14 or 16 yards, and he stepped right in front of it on our sideline and picked it off.”

According to Tatum, Norcross would target Herndon another eight times that evening. He ended with zero receptions, while Gibbs recorded four pass breakups.

“I remember it because it was one of the best games I’ve seen a corner play against a top receiver,” Tatum said.

Two weeks later, Gibbs drew 4-star Missouri commitment Nate Brown—who entered the game having caught 18 touchdowns on the season, including at least one in every game.

Gibbs ended the streak, limiting him to just three receptions.

“After that, I told him he will be the No. 1 cornerback in the country next year,” Tatum said. “Some people laughed at me when they heard that.”

Less than a year after his prep debut, Tatum’s prediction came true. 247Sports named Gibbs as the No. 1 corner prospect and the No. 5 player overall in its initial 2017 class rankings.

He was also one of just three 2017 prospects to earn a coveted invitation to the 2014 Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, joining Louisiana phenom Dylan Moses and fellow Georgia standout Richard LeCounte. As Mike Farrell of Rivals noted, Gibbs turned in a dominant performance in a showcase featuring the nation's top prep talent.

With the recruiting process set to crank up for Gibbs, it’s just the next step in a journey he’s prepared for his whole life. Hype, social media and the notoriety that comes with being a top recruit are all things his inner circle have preached to him about.

“You want people to take him seriously when he opens his mouth,” Reed said. “We tell him about all of the pitfalls and how to handle himself around people. We’ve talked to him about social media. We want to teach him about these things so that he can see them before they are coming and try to head them off.”

Another thing the Gibbs family has focused on with him is handling the attention from colleges and coaches. Regardless of whether it's Georgia or Georgia State showing interest in him, his approach in dealing with every school will remain the same.

“His mom told me about a story of him speaking with a coach from a smaller school who was talking to some of the other kids on his team, and that coach told him, ‘I know you are probably not going to come to our school, but I appreciate you stopping by and talking to us,’” Reed recalls. “He’s that type of kid. He’s not going to get on his high horse and say a school is too small to visit with or things like that. He’s going to give them that time and respect because they came out to see him.”

Before he took over at Peachtree Ridge, Fleetwood spent 22 years coaching on the college level, with most of them coming under Larry Blakeney at Troy (Alabama) University.

He discovered and recruited the likes of DeMarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora to the Trojans program. While the pass-rushing duo were lightly regarded as recruits, Fleetwood notices some similarities between them and his new protege.

“I see a young man right here that’s a 10th-grader in high school, and I watched those other guys when they were coming out. He is going to be a lot farther along than those guys when he gets to his senior year if he continues on his current path,” Fleetwood said. “It’s because of his work habits and his maturity and his desire to want to compete and practice well and do the little things.”

While there’s a long time in between now and national signing day for the 2017 class, DeAngelo is well on his way to becoming a household name in recruiting circles.

His sophomore season got off to a fast start. Playing receiver, he caught six passes for 142 yards and a score against Archer—a team that features a trio of defensive backs who possess offers from Power Five schools.

However, most of his work came in one half of football, as he left the game with a knee injury in the third quarter that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Still, it was yet another glimpse of the talent that people around Gibbs feel is destined to lead him to big things in the future.

“He’s one of those kids that works hard and enjoys life,” Reed said. “I think he’s going to be a great asset to any university. He’s got the grades, he’s going to work hard in the classroom and he’s going to be a leader on your football team, and he’s going to make the team better.”

“He’s just that type of talent that any skill position on the field, he can play it. He’s just that talented. That’s the joy of working with a kid like that. When you get a kid like that, you can put him anywhere.” — Jake Reed

The scary part about the exploits of DeAngelo Gibbs is that he’s still only scratching the surface of his immense potential.

Regardless of what the future holds, DeAngelo and his family have a plan for it.

Thanks to a support system littered with experience and wisdom surrounding him, he’s been aptly prepared for the pitfalls and spoils that come with the increased attention.

If his past is any indicator, Gibbs is primed to take the recruiting world by storm.

“He’s a true student-athlete,” Fleetwood said. “To watch his work ethic, he comes here every day thinking he needs to get better. It’s a really neat thing to see a young man as talented as he is with that type of attitude. He has the desire to want to be great and to be recognized for doing things the right way.”

  

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports

 

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Can Ohio State, Urban Meyer Continue Raid of Michigan's Top Recruiting Pipeline?

Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes have made a habit of beating Michigan.

The Buckeyes have dominated on the field, coming out with victories in 12 of their last 14 meetings with the Wolverines. On the recruiting trail, Ohio State has signed the higher-rated class in each of the last eight years.

And over the course of the last two recruiting cycles, the Buckeyes have found a new way of besting their chief rivals—by invading their backyard and raiding their top in-state recruiting pipeline. 

Detroit's Cass Technical High School—which is to Michigan what Glenville High School is to Ohio State—routinely produces some of the state's top football prospects. For years, those recruits were sending their letters of intent 42 miles west to Ann Arbor, pledging to play for the home-state Wolverines.

But that hasn't been the case since Meyer got involved.

It started in January of 2013, when Cass Tech's top prospect—4-star cornerback Damon Webb—spurned Michigan in favor of Ohio State. It was a surprising move, as most expected the ball-hawking defensive back to wind up at Michigan, but Webb told Miles Joseph of Eleven Warriors that the Wolverines were never at the forefront.

"Michigan was never my leader," Webb said, via Joseph. "I think people thought they were because I live near the school and a lot of my Cass teammates have gone to Michigan."

At that point, those assumptions were fair. It would have been easier for Webb's family to make it to games with The Big House less than an hour's drive away. And the familiarity Michigan offered—six of Webb's former high school teammates were suiting up for the Wolverines—would have made his transition to college much easier.

On top of that comes the pressure Cass Tech blue-chippers feel from their friends and the surrounding community to stay home and play for the team they cheered for growing up. Those ties to the Wolverines run deep in Detroit-area high schools, and that's especially true at Cass Tech. Just ask the head coach of the football team—Thomas Wilcher—who was a running back at Michigan from 1982 to 1986.

But the Buckeyes found a way to overcome those obstacles to land Webb, in part because their program was trending up while Michigan was struggling with Hoke at the helm.

"The chance to win championships," Webb said of why he chose Ohio State, via Joseph. "I think the Buckeyes are going to start winning national championships."

That thought turned to reality for Ohio State in 2014. And while the Buckeyes were marching toward their eighth national title, Meyer was continuing his assault on Michigan's biggest in-state resource. 

Webb's commitment opened the door for Ohio State to gain a July commitment from 3-star defensive end Joshua Alabi, Cass Tech's second-best prep prospect for 2015. Five months later, the Buckeyes snagged 4-star running back and Cass standout Michael Weber, who had decommitted from the Wolverines after Brady Hoke's termination. 

Scout recruiting analyst Allen Trieu told David Briggs of The Toledo Blade that Ohio State's assault on Michigan's bloodline was both practical and personal.

"[The Buckeyes] realize that's not only a place that they can get good talent, but they're also taking it to their top rival," Trieu said, via Briggs.

But now that Jim Harbaugh has taken over at Michigan, will Ohio State be able continue its Cass Tech success?

That run almost came to a halt on Wednesday when Harbaugh nearly flipped Weber back to the Wolverines. The bulldozing ball-carrier was on the receiving end of Michigan's most intense recruiting pitch, but the last-minute signing of running back Karan Higdon soiled those efforts.

Meyer knows that Harbaugh's presence will make things more difficult.

"We felt it," Meyer said of Harbaugh's recruiting impact, according to Austin Ward of ESPN.com. "They contacted all of our players. They really went after Mike Weber and Josh Alabi."

The Cass Tech studs.

How long will it take Harbaugh to loosen Ohio State's hold over his top in-state pipeline? According to 247Sports' Crystal Ball predictions, the Buckeyes are favored to land 4-star lineman Michael Onwenu and 4-star wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones—Cass Tech's top prospects in 2016 and 2017. 

Stealing those recruits away from Michigan is something Meyer would relish, something he made very clear after Weber reaffirmed his commitment to Ohio State over the Wolverines on national signing day.

“We do keep score against our rivals in everything we do," Meyer said, according to Ben Axelrod of Bleacher Report.

And if Harbaugh can't change the momentum, that score will continue to swing drastically in Ohio State's favor.

 

All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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