Last year, I took a peek into the Upside Down and wondered out loud what would happen how you’d feel if some of Michigan’s best players were Buckeyes, actually.
I plucked five players from the Wolverines roster and placed them oh so lovingly onto the Ohio State roster and queried directly: what if?
Here’s an example of this witchcraft in action, using 2016’s most polarizing figure, Jabrill Peppers, as my first Buckenstein.
I want you all to close your eyes and envision a world where Peppers — who was recruited by the Buckeyes when he came out of New Jersey’s Paramus Catholic in 2014 — is lining up in the Buckeyes secondary.
The 6-foot-1, 205 pound Peppers, a first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft, lining up next to Malik Hooker — a first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft — at safety. Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore, first-round picks in next year’s NFL draft, flanking them. Four early entrants, all from one secondary, all going to the league.
At Ohio State, Peppers wouldn’t need to be a gimmick in the offense. He wouldn’t need to slide down and play linebacker. He could play the position he’ll play professionally and still be regarded as one of the country’s best athletes.
Dare to dream, right?
Let’s play it back, but this year – as rosters have developed and needs have changed – we’re going to narrow our search to three players from Michigan’s roster who would be really valuable on the Ohio State football team.
One more time, give me Rashan Gary
Maybe this is cheating, but I don’t really care. Last year I picked Rashan Gary, and I’m once again picking the 6-foot-5, 290-pound freak defensive lineman. The choice of Gary then was more about potential and less about productivity, envisioning a world where he and Nick Bosa could line up next to each other for three years on one defensive line, terrorizing quarterbacks all over the country.
The two freshmen are among the best newcomers in college football. It’d be insane to watch them complement each other for Larry Johnson’s rushmen.
Now, Gary has not produced at Bosa’s level – few have – but his impact is felt on every play and he is one of the reasons why Maurice Hurst has become a one-man wrecking crew on the Wolverines defensive line.
Where Gary really would help the Buckeyes is in the 2018 season. As Tracy Sprinkle, Michael Hill, Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes and probably Dre’Mont Jones head off to the next level, Gary and his versatility would be a perfect addition to Larry Johnson’s proud group.
It stinks to face Maurice Hurst, doesn’t it?
Speaking of Hurst, the fifth-year senior from Massachusetts decided against the NFL a year ago – when 11 Michigan players were drafted – and returned to Ann Arbor but can you imagine him in scarlet and gray?
Hurst is a monster in the middle for Michigan and would be a staple on the inside for the Buckeyes as well, even with their depth at defensive tackle. So far in 2017, Hurst has 5.5 sacks and three games with at least 8 tackles, while Dre’Mont Jones (per ESPN, the same stat service used for Hurst) has just 16 tackles total on the year, the most of any interior lineman for Ohio State.
Yes, responsibilities and roles are different in different defensive systems, but Maurice Hurst – who was lightly recruited by the Buckeyes and took an unofficial visit to Columbus for the spring game in April 2012 – sure would look good in the middle of Ohio State’s defense.
Khaleke Hudson would be a fantastic addition for the Silver Bullets
Ohio State was back and forth in its recruitment of Khaleke Hudson – he visited in October 2015 – when he came out of McKeesport (Pa.) in the Class of 2016 but ultimately never offered the budding Wolverines star. Michigan was able to pluck him out of the Keystone State, keeping him away from Penn State and Pitt in the process, and he’s now becoming one of the country’s most dynamic linebackers in Don Brown’s system.
His 66 tackles, including 15 against Minnesota and an NCAA record 8 for loss, 7 sacks, a pair of interceptions and another pair of fumbles forced? Yes, Hudson is a disaster creator for Michigan and would be a nice addition to an Ohio State team that hasn’t been forcing the action from the linebacker position for much of 2017.
He’s athletic enough to play safety and physical enough to play linebacker and hits with a lot of passion, and he’s just a sophomore. He doesn’t get the hype that Devin Bush gets, but he’s been just as important because of his game-changing ability.