COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State’s class of 2017 has much more of a presence in the West than in previous years, and it all started with Arvada (Colo.) Pomona four-star offensive tackle Jake Moretti.
Moretti, the No. 12 offensive tackle and No. 78 overall prospect in the class of 2017, committed to the Buckeyes on July 4, 2015, not long after he completed his sophomore year of high school. His junior year performance justified the Buckeyes’ faith in him, but he won’t get a chance to follow up on that success. Moretti tore his ACL at an Ohio State camp in June, ending his high school career.
Pomona coach Jay Madden spoke to Land of 10 about what Ohio State fans can expect when Moretti arrives in January 2017 as an early enrollee.
Q: What are the traits that allow him to excel on the football field?
Madden: “His work ethic is not comparable to anyone I’ve ever coached. He is committed to being the best player he can possibly be. He’s also the most competitive kid you’ll ever find. He does not like to lose – at anything. When the ball is snapped, it’s his desire to destroy the guy in front of him. He plays every play that way. When he was young, we used to have to take him out a bit because he was so dang tired from playing so hard. Even though he was in great shape, he would play so hard that he’d wear himself out. He eventually learned how to channel that better, but he’s got a work ethic and drive that are hard to replace. And then he’s got the natural gifts. He’s got the best hips and the best ability to finish a block of any kid I’ve ever seen.”
Q: When did you realize he’d be a high-level recruit and a player of this caliber?
Madden: “June, before his freshman year, I knew he was going to be a Power Five, Division I football player. When he was a freshman, we had three Division I offensive linemen on our varsity, and he was every bit as good as each one of them as a 230-pound freshman. He just had something that you can’t teach.
“We were up at a full-contact camp and brought him up to do a pass rush against everybody and he didn’t lose the entire morning. That was as a soon-to-be ninth grader. It really was incredible. It was at a Colorado State football camp, and their coaches were ready to offer him right there because they’d never seen that before in their lives. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime player. I’ve been a head coach for 22 years and he’s the best offensive lineman I’ve ever seen in Colorado.”
Q: In what ways has he improved throughout his career?
Madden: “He’s been to camps around the nation and he’s done a good job of taking pieces from every place he’s been. He’s also such a great team player that he’s always making the guys around him better. Especially as a junior, that was a big thing he did. He held all 22 starters on our team accountable to work just as hard as he does, and it made us a great football team.”
Q: How would you describe his personality?
Madden: “He’s hard to describe because he’s so unique. He’s a 4.4 (out of 5.0 grade-point average) student taking the hardest classes he can take. Even though he knows he probably wants to be a football player or football coach someday, he’s still taking the hardest classes he can find, which should tell you something about his character. He’s the same age as my daughter and they’re great friends, and he’s just a guy you can always count on. Off the field, he’s quiet and mild, but, on the field, he’s as mean as they come.”
Q: How has he handled the season-ending injury?
Madden: “I’m sure he has his moments where he’s really, really down, but he’s not the kind of kid who wants to feel sorry for himself. He knows how lucky he has it, and he knows how great his future is, so he’s trying not to dwell on it even though I know it’s tearing him up inside. He’s at practice every day and at all the games and he’s always around the team. He’s coaching up the tackles who had to take his spot.
“It’s tough, though. He was going to win the highest awards in our state as a senior. He would have won the Freddie Steinmark Award, which is given to the best athlete and student in the state. He would have won that going away, easily. He would have been the first one from our school, too, which was going to be cool. We also have the Gold Helmet Award that’s similar, and he would have won that, too. That’s kind of been hard for me and him, just that he’s not going to be able to do those things.”
Q: Is there a play or a performance in a game that stands out to you as an example of his ability?
Madden: “I’d say it was in the state championship game last year when he was a junior. Obviously, he was dominant as an offensive lineman, but he was also playing nose guard. They ran a slip screen to the sideline and he made the tackle before the guy got to the line of scrimmage. That shows you the kind of athletic ability, as well as the effort and desire that he has, on every play. He’s chasing down screens 30 yards sideways and getting guys before they gain a yard. That was pretty impressive.”