Jim Tressel led Ohio State to a decade of unparalleled success on the football field.
There were numerous factors which contributed to that domination, but many fans look largely to Tressel’s focus on recruiting in the state of Ohio as the primary source of his success.
There is no doubt about it, the quality of high school football in Ohio is one of the major forces that helped turn the Buckeyes into the football juggernaut that we all know and love today.
There is also no question that Jim Tressel utilized that home-grown advantage to the fullest.
The days of Tressel roaming the sidelines in Columbus are obviously over, however, and with his departure goes his recruiting style and philosophy.
Enter Urban Meyer, who has been much more aggressive in identifying and offering out-of-state talent early in the recruiting cycle.
This change has many recruitniks worried that recruiting in Ohio might be damaged for the Buckeyes.
That worry is multiplied tenfold by the fact that many of the in-state players Ohio State passes on (or misses on) are now going to that school up north courtesy of Brady Hoke.
These days, there is no better way to get an offer from tsun than wanting to be a Buckeye without an offer from OSU.
My personal opinion is that it is entirely too early to start worrying about losing control of Ohio recruiting.
Urban Meyer is a born and raised Buckeye who understands better than most the importance of recruiting in-state players to Columbus.
The worry comes largely from the 2012 class (and to a lesser extent the 2013 class) and the difficulties Ohio State had recruiting top Ohio players- the most obvious example being Kyle Kalis.
As bad as the Kalis episode was for Ohio State, Bri’onte Dunn has already provided a counterbalance of sorts and some reassurance that Urban Meyer knows what he is doing.
I believe these past two years were aberrations brought about by extreme circumstances outside of Urban Meyer’s control.
The 2014 in-state class will be the first recruiting test for Urban Meyer and his staff without dark clouds hanging over their heads and so far things are looking just fine.
Here is a preview of the 2014 Ohio players already on the radar.
Marshon Lattimore – 6’0″ 185 lbs
ATH, Cleveland (OH) Glenville
Marshon Lattimore has exploded early in his junior year with some extremely impressive highlights from the first several games of the season. He has clearly demonstrated that he is one of the top offensive weapons in the 2014 class- not just in Ohio but across the country.
Dare I say his highlights are Ginn-esque?
Speaking of Ginn, Lattimore is a part of the Glenville pipeline and is on record saying that he has always wanted to be a Buckeye.
I would be surprised if he doesn’t end up being a Buckeye.
Joe L- Wow. Just wow is all I can say about Lattimore. I hadn’t heard his name until recently. All the talk was about Dante Booker being the #1 player in Ohio until Lattimore showed in the early season test against Solon that he may be a top 10 player in the whole country.
His ability to play anywhere on the field and take a ball to the house is electric- whether it is rushing, receiving, returning punts or whatever else . The best part is that he is another player in a long line of Glenville Tarblooders that can’t wait to be a Buckeye.
Dante Booker – 6’3″ 210 lbs.
LB, Akron (OH) St. Vincent St. Mary
Dante Booker is the top linebacker in Ohio and the Buckeyes are the early team to beat according to his father. He attended Friday Night Lights as well the first Buckeye game on September 1st and came away from both events very impressed.
There is much speculation amongst fans (the players have even openly talked about it amongst themselves) that the trio of Booker, Clifton Garrett and Raekwon McMillan will commit to form an amazing group of LBs for the Buckeyes in 2014. That would be quite the recruiting accomplishment for Ohio State, but regardless of who joins him, Booker looks like he is heading to Columbus.
Joe L- Booker looked like the #1 player in the state until Lattimore showed up on the scene recently. As an outside backer he has great size and always finds the ball carrier. He could eventually end up in the stand up DE position if he keeps growing. At a position of need Booker sure fits the bill. His dad played at Auburn but look for him to be a Buckeye!
Jimmy Byrne - 6’4″ 275 lbs
OL, Cleveland (OH) St. Ignatius
Jimmy Byrne is the top in-state offensive lineman in the 2014 class. He has a top three of Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan so it will be a classic Midwest recruiting battle.
He is on record saying that he has always wanted to be a Buckeye and would like to make a decision before his senior season.
I would be surprised if he doesn’t end up being a Buckeye.
Joe L- Byrne was Meyer’s first 2014 offer which tells you how Urban feels about him. He has been talking about Michigan, Notre Dame, and MSU but he should be all Buckeye!
Thaddeus Snodgrass – 6’1″ 184 lbs
WR, Springfield (OH) HS
Thaddeus Snodgrass earned on offer at camp this summer and was one of the premiere receivers in attendance at Friday Night Lights. He looks like the top receiver in the state and says that Ohio State’s coaching staff is like a family to him. He has a top three of Ohio State, Michigan State and Notre Dame but the Buckeyes are clearly the team to beat.
Joe L- Snodgrass has been doing and saying all the right things this summer. He was impressive at FNL and proved that he is one of the best players in the state. However, I think Meyer will pursue some OOS receivers before we see Snodgrass become a part of the class.
[Jim's note: for what it's worth, I disagree with Joe on this. Snodgrass has proven multiple times at camp that he stacks up against the best players in the country (just like the other in-state players with early offers) which is why Ohio State extended an offer in the first place. Meyer and company are reportedly pursuing Snodgrass very aggressively.]
Darius West – 5’11″ 190 lbs
DB, Lima (OH) Central Catholic
Darius West proved at Friday Night Lights that he is one of the best DBs in the state of Ohio- and one of the fastest by winning the DB sprint.
He combines good size with with a nose for the football, but like many of the players on the radar, his eventual offer from the Buckeyes will either be earned (on the field or at camps in the future) or will depend on what happens with some national targets (D’Andre Payne, Edward Paris, Parrker Westphal, Jabrill Peppers, Nick Watkins, Tony Brown, Quincy Wilson).
Clearly there are many national prospects on the radar right now and it may take a bit for West to find his spot on the board.
Joe L- I really like what West brings to the table. He has speed to burn to go along with good size. He should see an offer in the near future and I think he will be a Buckeye when he receives that offer. I see him as a big time safety at the college level.
[Jim's note: safety would make a lot of sense for West considering almost all of the national players I listed are primarily being evaluated as CBs (although many likely have the versatility to play anywhere in the secondary). The number of true safeties on the board is significantly less which seems like an opportunity for West to find a spot in the class.]
Kyle Trout – 6’6″ 280 lbs
OL, Lancaster (OH) HS
Kyle Trout is another top in-state offensive lineman but he has yet to receive an offer from the Buckeyes. That doesn’t mean there isn’t mutual interest here and there has been plenty of communication on both sides.
Once again, I think this recruitment depends a lot on some of the out-of-state players with offers right now (Jamarco Jones, Demetrius Knox, Damian Prince, Orlando Brown Jr., K.C. McDermott). That said, Trout will have every opportunity to earn an offer Darron Lee style before signing day.
Interesting side note: there is a close family member of Kyle’s currently providing updates in his BuckeyePlanet thread (linked above) which provides great insight into the recruiting process.
Joe L- Trout is probably the #2 lineman in state at this point. He performed well at camp over the summer, including at Friday Night Lights. He would love to be a Buckeye and if he gets that offer I don’t think there is any doubt where he will end up!
DeShone Kizer – 6’4″ 205 lbs
QB, Toledo (OH) Central Catholic
DeShone Kizer is the top in-state QB in the 2014 class right now. He camped at OSU multiple times over the summer including at Friday Night Lights. He clearly has plenty of interest in the Buckeyes but Michigan and Michigan State are also near the top of his list (he doesn’t hold offers from any of those schools at this point).
Davonte James – 6’3″ 220 lbs
LB, Springfield (OH) HS
Davonte James is a top LB prospect who is overshadowed somewhat by the other players already on the board for Ohio State.
He has great size and impressive highlights, but he is currently up against some extremely strong competition for a spot in the class from the already offered players.
Joe L- If not for Booker and out of state guys like McMillan and Garrett, Davonte James would probably already have an OSU offer. Unfortunately, he might be a numbers casualty that gets away due to limited scholarships.
Ashton Jackson – 5’10″ 182 lbs
RB, Dayton (OH) Trotwood-Madison
Ashton Jackson is a top RB in Ohio who looks like he would fit into Ohio State’s offense well. He won the RB sprint at Friday Night Lights so he clearly has speed to burn. Like many of the other players on the radar, he will have to prove he is at the level of the offered national players or wait for the top of the recruiting board to thin out a little bit before he gets an offer.
Joe L- Jackson has lots of speed and caught the staff’s eye at FNL. Being from Trotwood, there will be plenty of opportunities for him to prove that he deserves an offer. With five offers out to national RBs right now, he may have to be patient before earning one himself.
Dareian Watkins – 6’2″ 192 lbs
ATH, Galion (OH) HS
Dareian Watkins is a great story and a kid that you root for no matter where he goes to school. Unfortunately for his chances at attending Ohio State, he doesn’t fit into a clearly defined position right now for the Buckeyes.
My guess is that his best chance at becoming a part of the class would be in the Stoneburner/Hernandez “really big but versatile WR/TE” role. Watkins will likely have to wait and continue working hard if he wants to earn a Buckeye offer, but as I said, you should root for him no matter where he goes.
Joe L- Watkins definitely fits the mold of an athlete. He would love to be a Buckeye and there is a good chance of that happening if he is offered. If you get a chance to read about his childhood (linked above) you will be rooting for him to receive a Buckeye offer.
Mikel Horton – 6’1″ 230 lbs
RB, West Chester (OH) Lakota West
Mikel Horton is a big back with a top four of (in order): Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Cincinnati. Similarly to the quarterbacks, it looks like the staff will take their time evaluating in-state RBs this year before offering, but Horton is clearly one of the top backs in Ohio.
Based on the system run at West Chester, Horton may have to camp at Ohio State to prove that he has the versatility Meyer is looking for from his backs.
Marcelys Jones – 6’4″ 325 lbs.
OL, Cleveland (OH) Glenville
Marcelys Jones is a huge offensive lineman from Glenville that likely projects on the interior player at Ohio State. I’m not sure how well he fits the lineman mold that Ohio State is targeting these days and he may have to prove that he can put in the work to lose some weight like 2013 OL prospect Tim Gardner did.
Joe L- Jones is a huge kid right now and will need to show he has the ability to move quickly to play under Urban.