Ohio State's Urban Meyer justifiably garnered attention after overcoming NCAA sanctions to land the nation's No. 4 class in 2012. And he's off to a hot start for next year -- the Buckeyes already boast verbal commitments from four of the nation's top 130 prospects.
But as in the game last fall, Brady Hoke and Co. are proving to be resilient. They simply continue to fight back.
After inking the nation's No. 7 haul on Signing Day, Hoke received verbals from eight top 2013 recruits over the weekend, giving Michigan 10 top 200 pledges in the current junior class. That it happened on the same weekend that Michigan's basketball team upended Ohio State made the news that much sweeter for Wolverines fans.
"The most intriguing battle that I'm looking forward to this year, next year and even the year after that is between Michigan and Ohio State," said Rivals' national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell. "It's the first time I've thought that. Usually it's Florida State and Florida, USC versus the world, Georgia [versus] Tennessee or Alabama [versus] Auburn.''
Michigan's big weekend began with commitments from Wheaton (Ill.) St. Francis offensive tackle Kyle Bosch (the nation's No. 60 prospect), Pickerington (Ohio) Central defensive end Taco Charlton (No. 183), Detroit Cass Tech offensive tackle David Dawson (No. 199), Parker (Colo.) Ponderosa offensive tackle Chris Fox (No. 46), Cass Tech cornerback Jourdan Lewis (No. 167) and Novi (Mich.) Detroit Catholic Central athlete Wyatt Shallman (No. 160) on Saturday.
Pickerington (Ohio) North tight end Jake Butt (No. 96) and Peoria (Ill.) Manual offensive tackle Logan Tuley-Tillman (No. 109) added their commitments on Sunday.
"I've known long ago -- for a long time -- ever since I did their summer camp, pretty much," Fox told TheWolverine.com. "I just have known that's where I wanted to go, and thought, 'Why not do it?' So I did it.''
It was a landmark weekend in Ann Arbor -- the type that should cement Hoke's status as one of the sport's premier recruiters.
Hoke's class earlier this month featured two five-star prospects, Kyle Kalis and Ondre Pipkins. Kalis flipped from Ohio State after last offseason's Jim Tressel scandal, and Pipkins pledged to the Wolverines over Alabama, Florida and Oklahoma, among others, in August. Michigan also signed Mentor (Ohio) defensive end Tom Strobel, a four-star prospect who admitted to hating the maize and blue growing up.
But Hoke's greatest achievements wasn't landing top recruits, it was keeping them. Despite Meyer's efforts to sway several prospects to Columbus, Michigan's class held strong.
Since his hiring on Nov. 28, Meyer convinced Glen Ellyn (Ill.) Glenbard West defensive tackle Tommy Schutt and West Roxbury (Mass.) Catholic Memorial teammates Armani Reeves and Camren Williams to flip from Penn State, Canton (Ohio) McKinley defensive end Se'Von Pittman to flip from Michigan State and Vandalia (Ohio) Butler offensive tackle Taylor Decker to flip from Notre Dame. But he couldn't persuade any Michigan commitments to make the switch. It heightens anticipation for what should be a thrilling 2013 battle.
"They're just trading blows back and forth and are having dominant starts to their 2013 classes," said Josh Helmholdt, Rivals' Midwest recruiting analyst. "It will probably be a fight to the finish as to which team will end up with the top class in the Big Ten. Both teams are off to phenomenal, phenomenal starts."
In fact, they're assembling the caliber of classes that eventually could turn the Big Ten into a two-horse recruiting race. While Ohio State and Michigan finished third and seventh, respectively, in the 2012 recruiting rankings, Nebraska (No. 25) was the only other conference member to land a highly touted class. No other Big Ten team finished in the top 30.
And though it's early in the 2013 recruiting cycle, Michigan has 10 four-star commitments and Ohio State has one five-star pledge and three four-star commits. The 10 other Big Ten schools have a combined four verbals in the class of 2013.
"Michigan State is doing pretty well early and has a couple of commitments, one [LB Jon Reschke] being a four-star kid,'' Helmholdt said. "But nobody else is even coming close to picking off the level of talent [that Michigan and Ohio State are].''
Of course, recruiting success doesn't always translate to the gridiron. Wisconsin has earned a Rose Bowl berth in each of the past two years despite not signing a top 40 class since 2007. But the recent efforts of Michigan and Ohio State certainly suggest bright futures for both programs, and potential danger for the rest of the Big Ten.
While most conference rivals are beginning work on their 2013 classes, Hoke can focus on building off the nucleus he has. Helmholdt expects Michigan to concentrate on adding offensive skill position players to complement Warren (Mich.) De La Salle quarterback Shane Morris, who committed to Michigan last May and is rated as the nation's No. 16 prospect for 2013. Likely targets include Joliet (Ill.) Catholic running back Ty Isaac (the nation's No. 18 recruit) and Crete-Monee (Ill.) wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (No. 31), both players that also hold offers to Ohio State.
They could add the latest chapters to a blossoming, and captivating, Hoke versus Meyer recruiting rivalry.
"Urban Meyer is the Axl Rose of recruiting," Farrell said. "He's the rock star. Brady Hoke is not out there like that. He's not the same type of guy. He's an old-school, shoot-it-straight guy. But he's obviously getting the job done at an equal level. With these two, recruiting will be fun because they're unlike each other. That's going to make things very interesting. They each have different approaches to things. It's going to be a great battle.''