Michigan-OSU rivalry takes a break
Fans might not like it, but UM and OSU recruits were being friendly at The Opening
BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The image is disturbing to fans of college football. ESPN 150 quarterback Shane Morris (Warren, Mich./De La Salle Prep), a Michigan commit, is sitting next to ESPN 300 defensive back Jayme Thompson (Toledo, Ohio/Central Catholic), an Ohio State commit.
The two, Morris wearing his Michigan Swag shirt and Thompson decked out in the Scarlet and Gray, are laughing, joking, sipping smoothies, basically hanging out as friends.
The scenario is replayed at camps and 7-on-7 tournaments across the nation. Prospects committed to rival schools are befriending each other at an alarming rate. While the fans of their prospective programs still harbor plenty of bitterness toward each other, such venom has not spread to the next generation of college football players.
"I guess they became pretty good friends during the camps," said ESPN 150 cornerback Jourdan Lewis (Detroit/Cass Technical), another Michigan commit. "It's hard when you see a lot of the same people at the camps to not walk up to them and say 'What's up.'"
Lewis high-fived fellow ESPN 150 cornerback and Ohio State commit Eli Woodard (Voorhees, N.J./Eastern). The two were teammates on the Field Generals for the 7-on-7 competition at The Opening.
"Right now, Eli and I are doing our thing in the secondary, and we want to win this event," Lewis said. "He's a cool guy. Sure he's a Buckeye, but he's still a cool guy."
Back in the days of Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes, a Michigan man would never refer to an Ohio State man as a cool guy. He wouldn't refer to him at all. These days, he wouldn't even call him an Ohio State man, as current Michigan coach Brady Hoke refers to his Big Ten rival school simply as "Ohio."
What would Hoke and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer think of this sort of camaraderie between their future players?
"I don't think Coach Hoke would like it very much," said Michigan defensive end commit Taco Charlton (Pickerington, Ohio/Pickerington Central). "I mean it's tough for me because I live in Ohio and I have to deal with it all the time.
"And in Pickerington, you have a lot of guys that went to OSU and guys like me and Jake [Butt] that chose Michigan. Everywhere I go, I generally see an Ohio State guy, and after a while, you just have to make nice and be friends. We're a little mixed up."
But are they friends forever or friends for now?
"Listen, I'm going to hate those guys for the next three to four years, believe that," Charlton said. "Right now, out here in Oregon, it's cool because we're competing and having a good time, but next year in November, there won't be a lot of friends on the field."
There is hope, and it comes from the words spoken by ESPN 300 running back Ezekiel Elliott (St. Louis/John Burroughs). Not living in Ohio or Michigan has given the 6-foot, 197-pound future Buckeye some perspective.
"They might be friends because they all live together," Elliott said. "I know Cam Burrows and Mike ... umm ... I don't know his last name [McCray], but I know they are teammates, so that's probably part of the reason they are cool.
"I don't know what the rest of this is about. Whatever it is, I know it better end by the time we get to Columbus because Coach Meyer isn't going to be about no friends on the other side. He wants victories and championships, and I'll gladly walk over Michigan to get both."
The more this unholy alliance is examined, the seeds of distrust creep in. Are Michigan prospects and Ohio State prospects merely using each other, only to show their true colors next fall?
One can only hope.
"Right now everyone is cool," Woodard said. "But we'll see who's really cool next year.
"Could I be suckering a few of those guys into a false sense of security? Maybe. Right now, we'll just shake hands, but next year, if they go for a handshake, I don't know what I'll do."
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