Ohio State wants to focus on recruiting Ohio. That’s what Urban Meyer – and his right-hand man, Mark Pantoni – said last week.
“(There was) not enough Ohio,” Pantoni said. “That’s something we want our percentage to be much higher on. There’s too much talent in this state. But at the same time, we’re also searching for the best players in the country.
“We always have to keep reminding ourselves Ohio kids are our first priority. They will be.”
We choose to believe them.
In that vein, we’re taking a little time to spotlight the best offensive players in the Buckeyes home state for the 2018 class. While we’re sure the Ohio State coaching staff doesn’t need our reminder, we don’t mind the chance to bring some deserved attention to some big-time prospects. We’re using the 247Sports.com composite rankings to look at the state’s biggest targets.
Here are some names to watch through the spring and summer, and all the way through signing day 2018.
Jackson Carman • Offensive Tackle • National Rank: 8 • Ohio Offensive Rank: 1
This first name is one that you should all be pretty familiar with. Jackson Carman is the country’s top-ranked offensive tackle, and at 6-foot-6 and 290-pounds, the Fairfield junior is a pain-dealing, dream-stealing destroyer of men along the defensive line.
Ohio State has offered Carman, and he’s been to campus nearly a dozen times in the last two years. If he doesn’t end up playing for the Buckeyes and chooses one of his other 40 offers, it would be a major, major upset.
Let’s call him Ohio signee No. 1 on the offense.
Jaelen Gill • Running Back • National Rank: 31 • Ohio Offensive Rank: 2
The first in-state prospect in the class of 2018 to be offered by Ohio State, Buckeyes fans have been reading and hearing about Westerville South’s Jaelen Gill for three years now. Why? Because he’s one of the most electric offensive players in the country when he has the ball in his hands, and at 6-foot-1 and almost 190 pounds, he’s got the size and speed and versatility to be offered by anyone, anywhere.
Gill suffered a broken ankle early in his junior season and missed the majority of the year while he recovered. Though he says he’ll be making a college decision later in the process and has been very active in seeing other schools – most notably Tennessee and UCLA – Gill playing his college ball outside of Columbus would be a shock to everyone.
He’s Ohio signee No. 2 on the offense.
L’Christian ‘Blue’ Smith • Wide Receiver • National Rank: 101 • Ohio Offensive Rank: 3
One of the state’s most intriguing prospects is Huber Heights Wayne’s Blue Smith. He’s one of the country’s best two-sports prospects, excelling on the hardwood as well as the gridiron, and he’s gone back and forth in recent months about whether or not he’ll focus on just one in college. If he wants to play both sports at the next level, it’s unlikely he ends up at Ohio State, though the Buckeyes have offered him.
The bigger question about Smith? What position will he play. He stands 6 feet 6 inches, weighs more than 200 pounds right now and says he won’t listen to/look at schools that consider him a tight end potentially in college. I think a lot of schools are considering him a tight end and that it may be in Smith’s best interest to watch the career path of players such as Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham to see what his best path the NFL could be.
Will be a Buckeye? I think so, but there are some questions to answer.
Joseph ‘JoJo’ Scates • Wide Receiver • National Rank: 155 • Ohio Offensive Rank: 4
The highest-ranked Ohio prospect to have already issued a commitment for 2018 is Joseph Scates out of Dayton Dunbar. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound wideout picked Michigan State in mid-January after waiting for an Ohio State offer for a few months.
The recruitment of Scates feels – to me anyway – a bit like the recruitment of 2017 Wisconsin signee Danny Davis. Ohio State has been interested in seeing Scates in person before it’d consider a scholarship offer. Like most Ohio talents, the Buckeyes are not going to offer quickly, and I think that may have put Scates “off” a bit. Now he’s committed to Michigan State. He can play, but will he be interested in playing for the Buckeyes?
Trenton Gillison • Tight End • National Rank: 219 • Ohio Offensive Rank: 5
Ohio State is likely to take two tight ends in the 2018 class and there’s been no doubt that New York’s Jeremy Ruckert is at the top of their list. Knowing that, it’s not surprising that Pickerington’s Trenton Gillison felt he was “wanted” more by Michigan State, where he committed on Jan. 29.
Gillison’s case is the perfect example of today’s changing recruiting world: If you don’t offer as early as another program, even if it’s for a player in your own backyard, you can lose him. Could the Buckeyes get him back if they make Gillison a priority? I think so.
Brenden Bates • Tight End • National Rank: 220 • Ohio Offensive Rank: 6
There’s a lot to like about Cincinnati Moeller’s Brendon Bates, but there is also a lot about him that remains a mystery. He’s the third tight end in three years from Moeller to earn FBS opportunities, following in the footsteps of 2016 Ohio State signee Jake Hausmann and 2017 Michigan State signee Matt Dotson.
With seven scholarship offers, Bates hasn’t really taken off yet on the recruiting trail. But the potential for him to be a big-time prospect is there. He stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 214 pounds, so the frame is there to put on good weight and get to the 240-pound range that Hausmann checked in at.
We’ll continue to look at the best players in Ohio throughout the week here on Land of 10, including a deeper look at state’s offensive line prospects and the defensive side of the ball.