It’s been a long time since Ann Arbor heard this, but Michigan is leading Ohio State. Rest easy, Buckeye fans, it’s early. Jim Tressel has dominated Ohio State’s rivalry with Michigan like nobody before him. While it may be difficult for Rich Rodriguez to be seen in his own state after losing for the first time to the Buckeyes, he’s walking around Ohio with his chest puffed out.

It’s been a long time since Ann Arbor heard this, but Michigan is leading Ohio State. Rest easy, Buckeye fans, it’s early.

Jim Tressel has dominated Ohio State’s rivalry with Michigan like nobody before him. While it may be difficult for Rich Rodriguez to be seen in his own state after losing for the first time to the Buckeyes, he’s walking around Ohio with his chest puffed out. Rodriguez has found somewhat of a sanctuary in Stark County.

On the heels of signing three players from Ohio ‹ including Massillon’s J.T. Turner, regarded by some as the best in the Buckeye state ‹ RichRod is coming after Stark County again. The Wolverines were the first school to offer Canton South wide receiver Jerald Robinson a full-ride scholarship for 2010.

That’s no accident, either. Offer early and often is Michigan’s creed when it comes to recruiting its rival state.

“In order for them to get some of the Stark County guys and Ohio talent, they have to offer a little earlier before everybody else comes in,” Canton South head coach Moe Daniska said. “... They jump on local talent in Stark County and show them love early in the hope that will help them.”

Look at college football recruiting like it’s a romance. An offer is a kiss, and no player forgets his first kiss. In Robinson’s case, Michigan will always be the school that offered him first, the one that likely will start an avalanche of offers.

Ohio State? The Buckeyes are already trailing. They haven’t offered Robinson.

“I don’t know how far behind they are, but definitely in Jerald’s eyes and his parents ... it leaves an impression,” Daniska said. “He was excited about getting, No. 1, his first offer and then it being a school like Michigan. In any young man’s eyes it puts that team out front because they were willing to take a chance and offer you like that.

“So many Ohio guys want to go to Ohio State. They can take their time because of that, but sometimes they miss out on guys by waiting.”

Rodriguez has plenty of connections in Stark County. Several teams -- Massillon, Louisville and Canton South -- attended his football camps when he was at West Virginia. Part of the intrigue in Robinson is he runs the same spread offense at South that Rodriguez is running at Michigan.

Rodriguez signed three players from Ohio during Wednesday’s signing day. In addition to Turner, the Wolverines grabbed Fitzgerald Toussaint and Isaiah Bell, both from Youngstown Liberty High School. Twice during his press conference Wednesday, Rodriguez gave a nod to Liberty head coach Jeff Whittaker.

“(Bell) played for Jeff Whittaker, who is a long time friend of ours from Ohio,” Rodriguez said.

On Turner, RichRod said, “A lot of people had him rated as the top player in the state of Ohio. It’s pretty neat for us to have what many consider the top player in Ohio, the top player in Michigan and the top player in Arizona all in the same class.”

Of the three, Turner is the only one Ohio State offered. Bell and Toussaint were not heavily recruited by other Big Ten schools. Conversely, the Buckeyes signed two players from Michigan in tight end Reid Fragel and wide receiver James Jackson. Interestingly, Michigan did not offer either player but Jackson had offers from Alabama, Florida, Miami and UCLA.

Rodriguez did not endear himself to fellow Big Ten coaches last February when he took a couple of soft verbal commitments away from rivals. Ohio State lost a recruit to Illinois this year after the Buckeye signed Melvin Fellows away from Illinois.

Ohio State and Michigan seem to be pitted in a battle for a couple of players for the 2010 class. The Buckeyes haven’t offered Canton South’s Robinson yet, but they’re interested.

Solon defensive end Darryl Baldwin has been offered by both schools. Michigan has already offered Columbus Brookhaven defensive end Derrick Bryant. He’s right in Tressel’s backyard and the Buckeyes, who have offered about a dozen juniors already, haven’t extended one to him.

The OSU-Michigan rivalry on the field has been a one-sided argument. When it comes to battling over players and recruiting territory, Rodriguez is doing what he can to gain ground.

“There’s no such thing as a gentleman’s agreement,” Tressel said regarding in-conference verbal commitments. “There’s a signing day. That’s why they have it.”

The Repository