Battleground 2014: OSU-Michigan

The 2014 recruiting class for Ohio State is expected to be small. At the same time, it could be very strong.

That is, if the Buckeyes can get some of the monster names they will most likely have to fight Michigan for next year.

The Wolverines struck first at the most pressing need for Ohio State when they swiped inside linebacker Michael Ferns out of St. Clairsville, Ohio. In turn, Urban Meyer swooped in for Ferns’ state final game last weekend with four of his closest friends -- all Buckeyes assistants -- to watch the ESPN Watch List junior play.

He’s not the only linebacker the two will fight for: Dante Booker showed his worth in the state finals as well in front of coaches from both schools.

Booker probably will watch offers come piling in once other coaches see his junior season tape, and this could get ugly, but BuckeyeNation expects it to really turn into a two-horse race between OSU and U-M.

The next two biggest battles probably will come along the lines -- both offensive and defensive -- with Da’Shawn Hand and Jamarco Jones getting serious attention.

Both Jones and Hand came up to Ohio State for the Michigan game and were wowed by the experience, but recruiting battles for the Class of 2014 aren’t won because of one three-hour game, so expect the fight to continue.

Hand has more than 30 offers but already has cut his top 10 down and the Buckeyes and Wolverines are on it along with Alabama, Florida State, LSU, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia Tech.

A big key to Meyer’s national champion Florida Gators teams was a strong defensive line, where he rotated a number of athletes in and out all game, wearing down opposing offenses.

The Buckeyes jumped on Jones early in June, but since then 13 other schools have offered the big offensive tackle, including virtually everyone in the Big Ten and that team up north.

Meyer’s offensive line is in line for much-needed depth, so Jones could be a large pickup.

The Buckeyes won’t shy away from a fight, but the four athletes mentioned above would be big gets in a recruiting year when every choice counts.