Erick Smith: 'Knowing the staff, getting along with the coaches, and knowing how they are -- those would be the main things.' (Photo courtesy of FOX Sports Next)
For as long as he could remember, Ted Ginn Sr. had made a habit of putting others before himself. Then last year the longtime Cleveland Glenville football coach was forced to change that mindset. After being suddenly stricken with pancreatic cancer, the man at the head of one of the country’s most talent-laden programs had to step away from it. But now six months removed from treatments and with a clean bill of health, he has retaken the helm for the Tarblooders.
“It’s an honor and a blessing to be back,” Ginn said. “God gave me another chance. It definitely was hard. When you lay down for about 60 days, that’s tough. I think what really got me through it was what I do for a living -- having love and passion for children, having my school, and having my programs. If I was a selfish man I would be a dead man. Just having the kids and wanting to get back to them and my family, it saved my life.”
Now that he is helping guide his youngsters fulltime again he can focus more attention to aiding many of them in navigating the often treacherous waters of recruiting. Based on the past matriculation of former Glenville stars like Troy Smith, Donte Whitner and Ted Ginn Jr. to Ohio State, many Michigan fans might think Ginn Sr.’s return has ominous implications for the Maize and Blue. However, the veteran coach has a message for those that harbor such thoughts.
“I say to those people, ‘Willie Henry and Frank Clark,’” Ginn said referring to the former Glenville standouts now at Michigan. “I think that’s a delusional thing that people think. I’ve been dealing with that for years. A lot of things that have gone down around here really wasn’t on me. It was on everybody else. I don’t do kids like that. I’ve had a couple of kids go to Michigan. I’m still suffering with that with my wife about my son (not going to Michigan). I didn’t have anything to do with it, (but) I still deal with that.
“The kids have dreams, too. It’s not about Ted Ginn. It’s about what the kids want. I’m just thankful and happy that Michigan will come and recruit my kids now. For a while they didn’t really come and recruit them.”
While Ginn insists he never discouraged any of his players from considering the Wolverines, he acknowledged that Brady Hoke’s return has made Michigan a more viable presence within his program.
“Brady is my guy,” said Ginn with a smile. “(Greg) Mattison’s my guy from way back. Brady has taken care of a lot of my kids. I had about seven kids at Ball State. I remember Brady when I had Pierre Woods (at Michigan). So he was Pierre’s coach and we have always had a good relationship. When he got the job back here it opened up a lot of doors for my kids, as you can see.”
This year Hoke and Co. made their way through those doors to court four-star cornerback Marshon Lattimore and four-star safety Erick Smith. Lattimore exploded onto the scene last year after injuries sidelined him the year prior. Now the 6-0, 175-pound senior is widely regarded as one of the nation’s best two way talents with the ability to affect the game on both sides of the ball.
“We've had great players come through Glenville in the past -- NFL players, All-Americans, just some fantastic individual talents,” Ginn told FOX Sports Next. “The only one that compares to Marshon in terms of talent would be Teddy (Ginn Jr.), but Marshon has a chance to be the best of them all. He could be a great tailback and carry the ball 25 times per game, or put him at wide receiver and throw it to him. He could be a great cornerback with his coverage skills, or put him at safety and he might be an All-American there. Just figure out where you need him, then put him out there and let him go."
At 6-1 and 190 pounds, Smith is the bigger more physical of the two talented youngsters. While he also plays both ways for the Tarblooders, there isn’t any debate over which side of the ball he is best suited for. The ball-hawking safety has a knack laying big hits, but this offseason he has also shown he could potentially play corner both in his last year at Glenville and later in college.
“He's a pure football player,” said FOX Sports Next Midwest Regional Manager Allen Trieu. “He's solid as far as testing numbers go, but once football stuff starts he shows great instincts and smarts. He does a great job of getting in front of passes and making the play without interfering with the receiver. From his film we know he can come up and hit. Now he has shown man to man (cover) ability as well.”
The size and versatility possessed by both players has commanded attention from coast to coast. Each has collected offers from Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Alabama, and a host of other BCS powers. While most pundits have long considered both strong Buckeye leans, Smith and Lattimore patently dismiss talk that they are locks for Ohio State.
“That’s just rumors,” said Smith.
“They don’t know nothing,” the normally quiet Lattimore said. “They think because we’re from Glenville, that we’re going there.”
That doesn’t mean they won’t wind up Ohio State. It merely means they are giving other schools, including Michigan, serious consideration. They plan to utilize all of their official visits to look into their top suitors more thoroughly before announcing their decisions after the New Year.
"My decision will come down to how I feel about the coaching staff and how I fit in to the program," Lattimore told FOX Sports Next. "If I feel at home with a program, then it will be the right place. I need to see other places to find the right school. Erick and I want to go to the same school, so we would be comfortable going far away from home."
Added Smith: “Coaching staff, somewhere that feels like home, where we can trust the coaches, and the atmosphere of the school are what I’ll be looking at. Tradition and size of the school -- that’s not really that big to us. Knowing the staff, getting along with the coaches, and knowing how they are -- those would be the main things.”
Helping them every step of the way in evaluation that criteria will be Ted Ginn Sr.
“He will play a big role in that,” said Lattimore. “He’s been through this a million times, so I’m going to take his word, my mother’s word, and my father’s word on where I should go.”
"These are all great schools and it's all going to come down to the staff and who I can trust,” said Smith. “Coach Ginn is the head man for me. I'm going to use his insight and that from my dad, and go from there."
Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine.com and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA. His Michigan recruiting column appears every week at detroitnews.com. For more on U-M recruiting, visit michigan.scout.com.