“If you look at the Ohio State roster, there are not a ton of Ohio guys, and I would suggest maybe looking at that aspect of the roster and finding more Ohio guys that qualify to be on the Ohio State roster to make them appreciate what this game really means,” Herbstreit told the hosts of the “Pardon My Take,” podcast.
“I’ve always felt that when Ohio State is tougher (it has more Ohio natives),” said the Centerville High School grad who is the son of an Ohio State captain (Jim Herbstreit) and later became one himself. “The recruiting that they have done from the end of the Urban Meyer era to now, they recruit nationally. They go to Florida. They go to Georgia. They go to North Carolina. They go to Texas. They go to California.”
Meyer became the head coach of the Buckeyes in late 2011.
He signed six national top five classes before retiring in 2018 and handing the program over to Day, who has signed four top five classes himself.
Day also continued a trend of signing fewer players fro Ohio.
While 41 percent of Meyer’s Ohio State signees were from in-state, that number has dipped to 31 percent under Day.
In contrast, the two full-time coaches before that — John Cooper (1988-2000) and Jim Tressel (2001-10) — both signed classes that were on average 60 percent Ohioans.
“Ohio State lived in Michigan’s head for a number of years with Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer,” said Herbstreit. “And (Michigan head coach) Jim Harbaugh, to his credit, they were ready to fire him, but now he’s completely turned this thing around.”
The Wolverines snapped an eight-game series losing streak with a physically dominating 42-27 victory in 2021, giving rise to a narrative the Buckeyes lack toughness.
Although the outcome of the last two games appeared to have more to do with capitalizing on opportunities (or not) than pure physical prowess, the toughness talk was renewed after Michigan prevailed again 30-24 last Saturday, and the issue figures to hang over the Buckeyes until they get back in the win column in the series.
“You can put slogans up. You can do a fourth-quarter drill (in practice) and call it the Michigan drill. You can have a (countdown) clock in the Woody Hayes (Athletic Center), but the reality is, when we watch The Game, it feels like the Michigan team plays as a group where they play like with a chip on their shoulder,” Herbstreit said. “They play like they’re mad at the world, and they play with something to prove. And in the last three years that has been more than what Ohio State has brought to the table in that game.”
Michigan has flipped the rivalry without out-recruiting Ohio State — the Wolverines have only signed a higher-rated class than the Buckeyes once since 2011 — but Harbaugh steered the Wolverines back into the winner’s circle by remaking them as a blue-collar outfit.
“I feel like right now Ohio State has great players, and they have a great culture, but when it comes to that game, it’s become a psychological aspect of the game,” Herbstreit said. “I still think Michigan has a bunch of guys that are great players but maybe not quite as recruited at the level of Ohio State. And they’ve got a chip on their shoulder to prove that they are collectively better than the Marvin Harrison Jr.’s and Emeka Egbuka and all the great individual superstars that Ohio State has. They have a chip on their shoulder to show Ohio State, we have a better culture, we’re better than you, and right now that united front is more powerful than what Ohio State has.
“Even with that being said, you had the ball late. You had a chance. You moved the ball into Michigan territory, and you have to give Michigan all the credit in the world. They made the plays they had to to win the game.”
At this point in the 2024 cycle, they have verbal commitment from seven Ohioans in a class that numbers 23 but figures to keep growing until the first National Signing Day of the school year (Dec. 20) and beyond.
Ironically, Michigan’s recent recruiting has featured fewer players from Ohio, too.