The Michigan and Notre Dame rivalry is coming to an end soon, and so too have some of the bigger recruiting battles between the programs.
The schools are ending their annual meeting after the 2014 season, and the Irish are moving toward an ACC-focused schedule. There has already been a shift in the number of recruiting battles between the rivals, and that change in scheduling might be a reason for it.
Of the 11 prospects who committed to Michigan or Notre Dame who held offers from both schools, only three -- tight end Ian Bunting (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central) and offensive linemen Mason Cole (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) and Alex Bars (Nashville, Tenn./Montgomery Bell Academy) -- really came down to one or the other.
Michigan linebacker commit Michael Ferns (Saint Clairsville, Ohio/Saint Clairsville) had offers from both schools but says Michigan was the clear choice for him. Ferns says the opportunity to play close to his hometown factored into his decision to pick the Wolverines.
"I think part of it for Midwest kids is being in the Big Ten conference. With Notre Dame everything is up in the air," he said. "I look forward to playing Ohio State every year, and I think that's a big aspect to recruiting kids in this area."
Ferns might be on to something since most of the battles that have taken place were in the Southeast or in ACC territory.
Wide receiver Corey Holmes (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) and Bars both considered Michigan but ultimately chose Notre Dame. Both happen to be from outside the Midwest and closer to ACC and SEC land.
Part of the reason behind the decrease in recruiting battles between the schools is likely due to the philosophy and areas each school is targeting. Holmes says the style of play for Notre Dame is definitely something that appeals to Southern prospects.
"The flashiness of the offense is what we like. Their style of offense is something like an ACC or SEC team," Holmes said. "The type of guys they have and the way they use them is what guys down here like."
That flashiness is something noticed not just by recruits, but even former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie. When Davie was with the Irish he thought Michigan was the flashy school that appealed to Southeastern recruits, but that has now flipped to Notre Dame.
"Michigan was just flashier than Notre Dame. We'd find that in recruiting. It was probably their uniforms, but their style, a lot of it came from the Fab Five in basketball," Davie said. "What I've seen now, as you've looked at the evolution of Notre Dame, Notre Dame now is flashy as well. They've changed the color of those uniforms a little bit, a little brighter gold pants. They're spreading out, recruiting guys."
Michigan understands that it will take more time and resources to land prospects in the South. The Wolverines thus target the Midwest more as it is easier for the coaching staff to get comparable players and ultimately focus on more recruits.
Notre Dame, however, has placed a lot of emphasis on the South and East in recruiting, offering 79 prospects from the two regions in 2014, compared to only 19 Midwest prospects.
Sure, the two schools will target and offer similar prospects, but that doesn't signify a recruiting battle.
Michigan has also targeted East Coast prospects, specifically in Virginia and New Jersey, with running back Derrick Green, defensive back Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic), quarterback Wilton Speight (Richmond, Va./Collegiate) and defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge), who is deciding on Nov. 14.
The common theme among all of those prospects is that Notre Dame wasn't in the top group for any of them. Peppers and Hand both have offers from the Irish but never listed Notre Dame as a top school.
The switch in schedules also might mean it's a necessity for the Irish to recruit a different type of prospect. Ricky Powers, an Akron High School coach who played at Michigan, says if the Irish want to compete with the top schools in the Southeast, they'll need to recruit like them.
"The ACC is different than the Big Ten, so you have to recruit to win those games. The ACC and SEC have speed and the spread, so they need that to win," he said. "Plus, kids want to be seen by their families and want their families to come to the game. That helps Notre Dame with the kids outside of the Midwest if that's where they'll be playing."