A few hours ago, Ohio State added another key piece to its 2018 recruiting class and brought another talented prospect in to Urban Meyer’s program. What will their latest verbal bring to Columbus on, and off, the field?
After being recruited by Ohio State and Urban Meyer for more than two years, 4-star prospect Jaelen Gill committed to the Buckeyes on Wednesday afternoon. What does the addition of 247Sports’ No. 32 overall player in the Class of 2018 mean for Ohio State?
As a football player
It sounds cliché, but the reality is that Gill can absolutely do it all on the football field. There are some athletes out there so naturally gifted that they’re capable of doing pretty much anything they want — and that is how you start trying to describe the Westerville South standout.
Gill is a solid 6 feet 1 and 185 pounds, and though he doesn’t look like a prototypical running back — he’s a bit taller and leaner than most — he has remarkable vision with the ball in his hands and an ability to get to top speed exceptionally quickly. It’s that combination of speed and sight that keeps him in the backfield for the Wildcats: he’s simply too good to not touch the ball most plays and it doesn’t matter how he gets it. He just needs to get it.
Though his speed is what stands out on film — he runs the 40-yard dash consistently in the 4.45-4.50 range — Gill isn’t just a speed burner. He’s aggressive with the football in his hands and has a no-quit attitude every time he touches that ball. That mindset may have contributed to the broken ankle that forced him to miss much of his junior season. He simply didn’t want to go down at the 1-yard line and score the next play, he had to drive and drive to try and score now.
“Jaelen is a guy who can make something out of nothing,” a former assistant coach at Westerville South shared with Land of 10. “His ability to change direction on a dime is unlike anything I have ever seen at the high school level. He probably has the best hands out of the backfield I have ever seen as well. His route running and ability to make people miss in open space is truly incredible.”
While he’s not likely a pure running back at Ohio State, Gill will provide the Buckeyes a home-run threat from all over the field each and every time he touches the football. Ohio State did not sign a slot receiver/H-back type of player in its 2017 class, so Gill’s importance is magnified. This is a player who was a must-have for the Buckeyes, not just because he’s from Ohio: it’s because he’s a special talent. Gill was one of just six sophomores selected to Nike’s prestigious combine event, The Opening, in the summer of 2016 and will likely make that trip again this July.
His role in the 2018 recruiting class
With Gill committed, Ohio State now has four players verballed in the class of 2018. But Gill is the first from Ohio and that’s an important piece of the puzzle as spring football rolls around and prospects from all over make their way to Columbus to see Ohio State’s campus. Having a player of Gill’s caliber, a hometown kid, nearby is huge as you welcome players to town and start to build a recruiting class. In 2017, Brendon White was a sort of “ambassador” anytime a top target was in the city and Gill can assume that role for 2018.
Gill is still the third-ranked all-purpose back according to the 247Sports.com composite ranking despite dropping last football season due to his injury. He joins 5-star QB Emory Jones (No. 24) and 4-star S Jaiden Woodbey (No. 30) as Buckeyes commitments inside of the nation’s top 32 players. RB Brian Snead checks in at No. 63, but he and Gill will provide a devastating 1-2 punch out of the backfield. Ohio State will likely look to add one more “pure” running back in the class, which is why Gill’s versatility is so necessary.
Ohio State struggled in the 2017 cycle to find worthwhile talent from inside of the Buckeye State’s borders and thus signed less Ohio-crafted players than any recruiting class in Ohio State history. So adding Gill to the mix is a welcomed start to what should be a bounce-back year for home-grown talent. He will now begin working with Jones, Woodbey and Snead to help the Buckeyes round up the best class they can.
The off-the-field, intangible-type stuff
Gill is the type of kid that attracts other kids, but he’s not in any way a talker. His natural talents and confidence lend to a certain expectation of cockiness, but that’s not really the way he is when you talk to him face-to-face. He’s humble and gracious while understanding that yes, he’s pretty special in a lot of ways. When he suffered his season-ending injury last fall, it not only changed what he expected, but impacted his teammates, as well.
“Jaelen’s injury was tough for everyone, especially him and his family,” the former coach shared. “He was poised for a breakout season. He gets along with everyone in the locker room and the team goes as Jaelen goes. Everyone on the roster looks up to him because of his ability and desire to win.”
If you really want to get a better feel for the person Gill is off the field, you need to consider the opportunities he’s passed up that other players wouldn’t have. You have to listen to how he spoke of his grandfather that passed away a year ago. The world of high school football isn’t what it used to be and for an All-American talent, having coaching changes that upset your ability to develop as a player can be career-limiting; Gill never wavered or considered leaving the place that’s helped make him.
“You also have to commend him for his loyalty,” the coach continued. “He will have had three different head coaches in four years of high school football and could have transferred at any point to one of the other two Westerville schools, yet he stayed at South to see it through. (Ohio State) is getting a superb athlete and a great kid.”