Damon Webb's Commitment Could Be Bigger Than You Think
By Tony Gerdeman
Following an unofficial visit to Ohio State this past weekend, highly-touted 2014 cornerback Damon Webb committed to Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes on Sunday. Webb, who is from Detroit, shunned in-state schools Michigan and Michigan State, and shocked everybody while doing so.
It wasn't necessarily shocking that he committed to Ohio State, as we've reported several times that the Buckeyes were right in the thick of it for Webb's services, but the fact that he committed so early definitely caught people off guard, and certainly the people at the University of Michigan.
You see, Webb is from Cass Tech, a Detroit high school that has become a Wolverine pipeline of late. There are currently five Cass Tech alums on Michigan's roster, and they have signed a total of seven players from the school in the last five recruiting classes.
At present, they also have three Cass Tech players committed for the 2013 class as well. If they sign all three, that would give Michigan 10 signees from Cass Tech in the last six recruiting classes. For comparison's sake, Ohio State's own "pipeline" of Cleveland Glenville has sent eight players to Columbus in that same time frame.
Assuming the Wolverines' 2013 commits all sign letters of intent to Michigan, 28% of their in-state signees since 2008 will have come from Cass Tech. That's an astounding number for a state university, even one who doesn't have a high quantity of quality in-state FBS talent.
However, if Urban Meyer has his way, he may single-handedly drive that 28% number down just a bit lower.
Landing Webb is a huge coup for Ohio State because schools are always looking for lockdown cornerbacks. It's also big because this affects Michigan's talent pool as well. In other words, as long as Webb is playing cornerback for Ohio State, he isn't playing cornerback for Michigan.
Any time you can go into enemy territory and land a contributor, it's essentially a double bonus. But this isn't just any player from enemy territory, it's one of the best players to ever come out of Michigan's pipeline school.
Even though rankings for 2014 recruits are still early and will go up or down based on future performances over the next 12 months, Webb is currently the fourth-highest rated prospect to come out of Cass Tech in the Rivals era (since 2002).
To give you an idea of what that could potentially mean for both schools, if Michigan had landed the fourth-highest rated Glenville prospect during the same time frame, that would have been Donte Whitner. Whitner ended up being one of the best players of the Jim Tressel era. Do you think Michigan could have used him?
Michigan hasn't landed a Glenville player that had an Ohio State offer since Pierre Woods in 2001, so I realize that it may be difficult for you to imagine such a scenario happening, but trust me, it is certainly an apt comparison.
Securing a commitment from Webb is exactly like Michigan crossing state lines and taking Glenville's best player. In the 2014 class, that player is athlete Marshon Lattimore, who is currently Scout's second-ranked receiver in the class. Both Scout and 247 Sports have him as a top 30 player in the nation, which equates to a five-star prospect.
You can't lose those types of players to your out-of-state rival if you want to continue beating your out-of-state rival, because if you lose those players, they may come back to beat you.
And you never want to take the chance that one player could lead to two. Basically, you never want the seal on that pipeline broken, and that's exactly what Urban Meyer has done in just his 14th month on the job.
That doesn't mean Michigan isn't also going to try to break that seal on the other side. They have offered Lattimore, and have landed a Glenville player in both the 2011 and 2012 classes, so they at least have some "ins" at the school. But it's still a long shot for Lattimore to end up anywhere other than Ohio State, and that's the point.
Much like nobody expects Michigan to take a Tarblooder from Ohio State's clutches, nobody expected Ohio State to do the same to Michigan with a player from Cass Tech. Especially when you consider that Cass Tech is coached by former Wolverine running back Thomas Wilcher. But Urban Meyer did it, and it would be foolish to think that he won't do it again.
Heck, Mark Dantonio just got his first commitment from a Cass Tech player this year, and it was Michigan State's first since 2000. It took Dantonio 69 months to do what Meyer did in just 14.
This pipeline is relatively new for the Wolverines, basically starting in 2008, and so the foundation isn't quite as strong yet. The sooner Meyer can get his foot in the door, the worse it will be for the Wolverines moving forward.
Being so new, however, there has really been no massive payoff for the Wolverines yet. Starters William Campbell and Thomas Gordon are both Cass Tech alums, but there has been no superstar like Glenville's Ted Ginn Jr. or Troy Smith.
In fact, in the last 10-plus years, Ohio State's own relationship with Cass Tech has actually been more productive than Michigan's, thanks to Jim Tressel landing Vernon Gholston in 2004.
Gholston only set Ohio State's record for sacks in a single season (14), and the Buckeyes just happened to go 4-0 against the Wolverines in Gholston's four years as a Buckeye.
Cass Tech wasn't a Michigan pipeline back then, so Lloyd Carr can be forgiven for missing out on Gholston, I suppose. But a loss like this for the Wolverines could once again have some long-lasting negative effects.
The Michigan football program is investing its time and effort into the Cass Tech football program, and those efforts need to start paying off a bit more for the Wolverines.
After all, it wouldn't look good for Michigan if the two most productive players to come out of Cass Tech in a decade both turned out to be Buckeyes.
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