When Ohio State and Michigan line up against each other Saturday for the latest installment of the rivalry, one of the nation's top quarterbacks will be under center for each team: Terrelle Pryor for the Buckeyes, Denard Robinson for the Wolverines.
Rodriguez had a shot at landing both of them. Less than one year before signing Robinson to a national letter-of-intent, the U-M head coach found himself left at the altar as Pryor selected the Buckeyes instead of the Wolverines.
Had Pryor signed with Michigan, however, Rodriguez said he would not have altered his approach the following season when he signed both Robinson and four-star prospect Tate Forcier.
"No question about it," the coach said. "I would think (Robinson) still would've come. You see sometimes at the quarterback position guys don't want to go to a school because they think there's a guy established. We like to have that quarterback who's going to come and compete every year."
Pryor had eliminated the Wolverines from his list of schools under consideration but then reopened his interest in them once Rodriguez was hired. With those around him telling him to go to Michigan, Pryor eventually selected the Buckeyes because he felt they could best prepare him to play in the NFL.
It was such a tough decision, however, that Pryor said he woke up the morning of his announcement with his stomach in knots.
Robinson, meanwhile, selected Michigan on National Signing Day. He was a four-star cornerback prospect rated 16th in the nation at his position by Scout.com while Pryor was the No. 1 overall recruit.
This season, both have spent time as legitimate contenders for the Heisman Trophy. Pryor was listed as one of the top preseason candidates and remained in the running until an Oct. 16 loss at Wisconsin while Robinson burst into the national spotlight as a dual-threat option.
In Columbus, landing Pryor had an immediate impact on OSU's recruiting effort. The Buckeyes had lost backup Robbie Schoenhoft to a transfer and Pryor's primary backup, Todd Boeckman, exhausted his eligibility after the season. That left two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster: Pryor and Joe Bauserman.
But trying to recruit a quarterback in the class of 2009 proved difficult for head coach Jim Tressel. In the final weeks before signing day, OSU found itself in the running for two quarterbacks. First, five-star prospect Tajh Boyd turned the Buckeyes down and committed to Clemson. Then OSU issued a late offer to two-star prospect Austin Boucher, who had already given a verbal commitment to Miami (Ohio).
Boucher opted to stick with his prior commitment, leaving the Buckeyes without a quarterback with about a week until signing day. After some scrambling, they wound up inking Kenneth Guiton, a three-star prospect who was otherwise set to attend I-AA school Prairie View A&M.
On signing day in 2009, then-quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels said it is difficult to land high-profile quarterback recruits in consecutive seasons.
"They want to play next year," he said. "How do you tell a kid (either) you can't or you can, but it's going to take work and (have them) really understand that. There's no question (it was more difficult), because it's not like you had to go into somebody's school and tell them about Terrelle. They sort of knew."
Rodriguez said his goal is to recruit a big-time quarterback every season. One year after bringing in Forcier and Robinson, he landed five-star prospect Devin Gardner and three-star prospect Conelius Jones. Gardner has seen spot duty this season while Jones is not with the program after having academic difficulties.
"I've always believed that you try to recruit a great quarterback every year," the coach said. "I feel that no matter what happens or who you sign, if you sign one quarterback this year and you think he's a great player you still have to go and sign one the following year because you never know what's going to happen with that guy, particularly with injuries."
The Buckeyes never recruited Robinson, Tressel said Monday.
Both Robinson and Pryor will take center stage Saturday. OSU senior safety Jermale Hines said the two quarterbacks are comparable.
"They're similar," he said. "Both can make throws. Both can break at any given moment. Terrelle is a little bigger than him. They're very similar in a lot of ways."
Not similar enough to end up on the same roster, however.