In the fall of 2004, I went to watch the Warren G. Harding Raiders take on the Lakewood St. Edward Eagles in an Ohio Division 1 football playoff banger. I was cheering for Warren G. Harding, not only because they were named after this nation's greatest President, but because I will always cheer for public schools when they're pitted against private schools. (Yeah, it's like that.)
Warren G. Harding had a player by the name of Mario Manningham who ended up having a decent career at Michigan and is now playing in the NFL. This game, though, was a bit of a rough time for ol' Mario. He dropped a fourth down pass late in the fourth quarter. Then when his defense got the ball back for a final drive, Mario muffed the punt and the game was lost.
My eyes, however, were drawn to the biggest human being I had ever seen in my life: St. Edward's Alex Boone. I'm sure I've seen bigger people, but at that time, Alex Boone looked like a colossus. He worked like a bulldozer, sometimes clearing two blockers at a time out of the ballcarrier's way. I learned later that Alex Boone was the top recruit in the state of Ohio. I didn't blink twice.
Two years later, I watched Alex Boone get eviscerated by Urban Meyer's Florida Gators. Play after play, there was another rabid jackal clad in orange and blue, running down a previously elusive Troy Smith. There was no mercy and no quarter given. There was no pity. It was just unrelenting pressure, and Alex Boone succumbed to it.
The next year, Alex Boone got eaten alive by LSU's defensive line in a game where I'm surprised Todd Boeckman wasn't killed. Again, it was a straight up mauling for which Boone and his compatriots had little defense. The Buckeyes didn't get beat like a drum against LSU as they did against Florida, but it was another poor showing for the offensive line. (SEC coaches understand: a deep, versatile defensive line will give bigger, slower offensive lines nightmares over the course of a game.)
So, this is why I laugh at Michigan and their recruitment of Boone-like clones to stock their offensive line. It's also why I get super giddy when I compare those efforts against Urban's.
I can almost see Brady Hoke, naked in his tub of gravy, fantasizing about playing 'bullyball' in the Big Ten. He probably envisions massive offensive lines bulldozing enemies out of the way en route to another BCS capstone over a shitty team from the ACC. It's something Wisconsin has been trying to do for years.
Michigan's 2012 recruiting haul fit that ticket. Hoke's swooped Kyle Kalis, 6'5", 305 lbs. He signed naive shit-talker Erik Magnuson, 6'5" 275 lbs. He recruited Ben Braden, 6'5", 285 lbs. For good measure, Michigan also picked up Blake Bars, a 6'5" 260 lbs. tackle.
While Hoke's 2012 class was impressive and his 2013 class might be even better, there is a glaring weakness: the defensive line. Hoke has yet to sign a defensive lineman to his 2013 class. His 2012 defensive line haul was headlined by five-star Ondre Pipkins and four star Tom Strobel, the other four defensive lineman in the class are each 3-star prospects.
Brady Hoke is a damn fine football coach, so I have no doubt these defensive linemen will be coached to the best of their abilities. These players, however, don't compare to the talent Urban Meyer has begun to stockade his defensive line with in Columbus.
Urban's first recruiting class -- and remember, he was hired December -- had the likes of Adolphus Washington, Tommy Schutt, Se'von Pittman, and Noah Spence in it. That's more defensive line talent in one class than Hoke has managed to pull down in two. Lest you think Urban is one to rest on his laurels, Ohio State has earned the 2013 commitments of Joey Bosa, Tracy Sprinkle, Billy Price, and Lewis Neal.
Are you starting to see why Urban Meyer thinks Ohio State's defensive line could be "borderline ridiculous" in a few years? Urban Meyer will have every single type of defensive line ICBM to deploy against his foes. Their defensive line is going to be deep, versatile and vicious.
Brady Hoke will be good for Michigan. He may even beat Ohio State once or twice during his tenure, but he doesn't seem to realize that college football has shifted away from massive, clattering offensive lines. By the time he does, it might already be too late.