Ohio’s top-ranked 2018 prospect has two very successful college football programs at the top of his list. That’s just part of what will make the decision Jackson Carman has to make incredibly difficult.
Of course, for most Buckeyes fans, the decision between the Buckeyes and the Clemson Tigers should be easy, but this is a decision for one man: Carman.
Each school presents a unique opportunity for the country’s top-ranked offensive tackle. Both the Buckeyes and the Tigers are winners, with great coaches, tons of recent success and administrations that are more than happy to pour money into the football programs. We often hear that something is a “can’t lose” proposition, and that might truly be the case for the 6-foot-6, 330-pound Fairfield, Ohio standout.
Six or seven months remain until a decision from Carman is expected, and a lot can change in his recruitment in that time. That said, this feels like a two-team race until the end. Today, we’re going to try to break down the battle to see who has the best case to land him.
Ohio State will enter the 2018 season — Carman’s first in college — looking to replace Jamarco Jones for sure. The Buckeyes also could need to replace Isaiah Prince if the right tackle were to surprise some people and opt for the NFL after his junior season. If Prince returns in 2018, it will be him and Branden Bowen penciled in as starters at tackle. Bowen, a 2015 signee, would be in his redshirt junior season and likely depart following 2018. The Buckeyes should return two starters at guard in 2018 but signed only one tackle, Thayer Munford, in 2017.
What about the Tigers?
Junior-to-be Mitch Hyatt likely will leave Death Valley after the upcoming season, but he was backed up by two freshmen in 2016, Sean Pollard (seven starts in 2016) and Tremayne Anchrum, who shared Clemson’s Rookie of the Year honors. Three other freshmen linemen who could play tackle (Chandler Reeves, Noah Green and Zach Giella) are also on the roster. That group will be joined by 2017 signees Noah DeHond and Blake Vinson this summer.
Bottom line? There’s plenty of opportunity for early playing time at tackle in Columbus. However, Clemson can make the same claim. Neither situation is going to scare away a competitor like Carman.
This area of the decision is going to get a bit of an incomplete in regards to Ohio State because while the Buckeyes have been pumping out offensive linemen for the NFL, Greg Studrawa has been their offensive line coach for only a little more than a year. The majority of the recent NFL success from the Buckeyes was developed by Ed Warinner. “Stud,” however, has had a long career (27 years) at the collegiate level, including seven years at LSU (2007-14), where he produced NFL draft picks such as Herman Johnson and converted defensive lineman Joseph Barksdale while leading a number of others to All-SEC status.
In his one season at Ohio State, Studrawa’s group anchored the Big Ten’s best rushing attack.
Robbie Caldwell is Clemson’s offensive line coach, a position he has led 29 of the 30 years he’s been a Division 1 coach (he was Vanderbilt’s interim head coach in 2010, leading the Commodores to a 2-10 record). Since joining Clemson in 2011, the Tigers have had 33 players drafted by the NFL but just one — Brandon Thomas, third round in 2014 — has been an offensive lineman. That’s bound to change since Hyatt is a likely first-round pick and as Clemson’s recruiting profile continues its ascension into the upper crust.
Will better players mean more NFL opportunities? Of course it will, but it seems fairly clear that to this point Caldwell hasn’t been that successful in developing players for the next level.
This is an interesting piece of the puzzle because though Carman lives in Ohio, he’s actually from South Carolina. He told Land of 10 a few weeks back that if Ohio State weren’t in Ohio, he’d likely already be committed to the Buckeyes because they have everything he’s looking for.
“It’s not like I don’t like Ohio State,” Carman said. “I feel like if Ohio State wasn’t in Ohio, I’d already be committed there. They can’t fight that.”
Clemson, remarkably, might be in a better position than Ohio State in this area. Can the Buckeyes give him other reasons to stay home?
Comfort and relationships
This is what it always comes down to, and this is the one area, one would think, where Ohio State holds a substantial advantage over Clemson. The Buckeyes have had Carman on campus a dozen times in the last year, whether it be for camps or junior days or a game or a bowl practice or just a private meeting during an open contact period. That should translate to a big lead over a school he’s been to just one time, but that doesn’t seem to be the case publicly.
One Clemson trip in March was all it took for Carman to pronounce the Tigers his recruitment’s “leader,” and while he’s backed off that, now calling Ohio State and Clemson “1A and 1B,” that’s concerning for the Buckeyes. His family seemingly isn’t doing much in the way of trying to sway his decision, but they reportedly prefer Ohio State.
Carman is going to make at least one more trip to Clemson, and probably two. He’ll be back in Columbus at least that many times, and likely double the amount. Will that eventually be too much for Clemson to overcome?
We’re not going to find out for a few more months, so buckle up, Ohio State fans.