Recruiting never stops, and if you take a day off, you fall behind. Join us every night for a daily recap of Ohio State recruiting news, insight on what’s happening behind the scenes, and for a glimpse at what’s coming next. On Tuesday, Land of 10 visited Toledo St. John’s Jesuit High School to talk with Dallas Gant, Ohio’s top-ranked linebacker prospect in the 2018 class as he narrows in on a decision.
Ohio State, Notre Dame remain the primary options
Though linebacker Dallas Gant is quick to point out Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State all remain viable and real options, there’s no doubt from talking to people at St. John’s High School that the primary players in Gant’s recruitment are, and have been, Ohio State and Notre Dame for a while. Though he was close to committing to Ohio State in November following the Buckeyes double-overtime win over Michigan, Gant held off. The coaching changes at Ohio State and Notre Dame shortly thereafter have impacted the last six months of his recruitment as much as anything else.
“The past defensive coaches at Notre Dame,” Gant told Land of 10. “I was recruited by them, but not as hard as they have with [defensive coordinator] Coach [Mike] Elko and [linebackers] Coach Clark Lea. They’ve been telling me about their new defense, what they ran at Wake Forest and how it’s effective. Since they took over, Notre Dame’s recruitment of me has really gone up, their interest.”
While the Irish were positively impacted by the transition, the loss of Luke Fickell at Ohio State meant a reset of sorts was necessary for Gant and new linebackers coach Billy Davis. That process has gone well and the nation’s No. 1-ranked outside linebacker (per 247Sports.com) said he feels at home with Davis.
“I knew when Coach Fickell left it wouldn’t be too big of a deal. It’s just something different. You know the guy and then he goes, but that’s good for him. He got a better job [head coach at Cincinnati], and I’m happy for him,” he said. “I know that [Buckeyes head coach Urban] Meyer knows how to replace coaches with people who are as good, if not better. I’ve been creating a new relationship with Billy Davis, and that’s really growing. We talk a lot and are creating a good relationship.”
The hullabaloo about recent visits to Columbus and South Bend for spring games
After an early April visit to Michigan, Gant had a choice to make about the weekend of April 15. Would he return to Ann Arbor to see the Wolverines again, a team that had just recently offered him, or head south to Columbus for what was likely to be his final visit to Ohio State? He decided to go to Ohio Stadium and take in the spring game, a move that seemed to end any dalliance between him and Michigan.
“I love Jim Harbaugh. He’s weird, but it’s good. I really like him. I think he’s one of my two favorite coaches,” Gant said laughing. “With Michigan waiting a long time – and I’m glad they came because it’s a great school. I’ve been up there one time and it’s a great school – but they came in late. I didn’t get a chance to see them when all those other schools were around. It’s just a little different in a way.”
Though he didn’t completely dismiss a possible return to Ann Arbor before his May 16 announcement, Gant hinted that the last two trips, to Ohio State and Notre Dame, would be the end of his visits before a choice is made. Some believed that his Buckeyes visit was a lukewarm experience based on his post-visit – after a nap in the car on the way home – reaction. Don’t read much into that, Gant said.
“I had a good time. I got to see the spring game and talk to recruits,” he said of the Ohio State trip. “I got to talk to all the coaches, just not for a whole lot of time. They’ve got what, 50 some recruits there? They don’t have that much time to talk to each of us. I had a good time. It was a good experience.”
Gant told Land of 10 that Meyer has, in essence, stopped trying to “recruit” him. Instead, he’s just laying the cards on the table.
“He knows what to say, obviously, because he’s a great recruiter, but when we talk, he doesn’t even try to recruit me anymore,” Gant said. “He’s straight up. He’s like ‘Dude, I’ve recruited you for how long? You know what we do here. It’s a great place; we make champions. I don’t need to tell you all the reasons to come here anymore.’ He’s just being straight up. It’s really cool.”
As for Notre Dame, Gant had another good trip. That’s the norm for any prospect when he’s at a school he’s interested in.
“Notre Dame has always been pretty high on my list,” he said. “I wanted to get down there one more time before I make a decision. I got to talk to all the coaches for a little bit of time and watch the spring game, which was pretty cool. I got some time talking to the recruits as well.”
Does it matter that he’s from Ohio, and why buy an expensive new jacket at Notre Dame?
Gant grew up in Toledo, close to the Michigan border, in a town that is pretty evenly split – loyalty wise – between Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame. He himself actually grew up rooting for Michigan State.
But he’s from Ohio. He knows that kids from Ohio who go to Ohio State and succeed can become legends in the Buckeye State. That matters, but he’s not allowing that ideal to cloud a decision that has to be made for himself. He said he talks with Ohio State commit and fellow Ohio resident Jaelen Gill, and he knows that Gill is working to recruit him for the Buckeyes. Still he said he, Gill and 5-star lineman Jackson Carman – another Ohioan – each has a decision to make that is uniquely his own.
“It’s different for everyone and it really is a personal choice, if someone wants to go here or go there,” Gant said of being recruited as one piece of an “Ohio” contingent by the Buckeyes. “After I commit, I’ll turn into a recruiter definitely for the school I pick, but guys like me and Jackson and Jaelen, we don’t talk about the ‘Ohio’ thing that much. Everyone has to make the decision best for them.”
What Gant knows right now is that he thinks he’s made a college decision. He told the media at Nike’s regional camp for The Opening that he’s got an idea of his decision, but wanted to see other school “just to make sure.” On trips along the recruiting trail, he’s collected a nifty assortment of garb with each team’s colors and logos. In South Bend last weekend, he made another big purchase – a $100 Under Armour jacket in kelly green adorned with an interlocking N and D. Would you buy a jacket of a school you weren’t going to three weeks before making a college decision? Again, don’t read too much into it.
“It was cold out,” Gant said joking. “The jacket was on sale and my mom told me she’d buy it for me. I own a lot of jackets and shirts. All different schools. I’ll probably still wear some of them after I commit, during workouts or something because no one cares. I’ll give some away, maybe sell some. They’re nice jackets!”
Varying degrees and what comes next
Notre Dame has, for the last few years, pitched something very specific to recruits: choosing Notre Dame is a 40-year decision, not a four-year one. That approach is A.) honest and B.) effective, especially in the past when the Irish were able to sell the strength of their degree compared to schools like Ohio State, which used to have the reputation as a football factory as opposed to an institution that cared about the student portion of its “student-athletes.”
Meyer and the Buckeyes have worked tirelessly over the last six years to amend that perception and, for the most part, that effort is paying off. The gap is closing, thanks in part to programs such as Ohio State’s wildly successful “Real Life Wednesdays.” That is resonating with Gant.
“For me, I know it’s different,” he said. “If you go to apply for a job and you have an Ohio State guy and a Notre Dame guy, most places will take the guy with the Notre Dame degree. There’s a little advantage for Notre Dame, but stuff that Ohio State does like ‘Real life Wednesdays’ helps level that out. I know they have things to help you get in front of the right people. I don’t think it really matters in the end, because it’s not as big a difference as people think.”
So with visits likely finished and three weeks before his birthday – the day he intends to announce his college decision – what does Gant need to do to be completely solid in his choice? Ohio State’s Davis and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa were at his school to see him on Monday. Notre Dame was expected to visit him early Wednesday. Both schools undoubtedly will return once more in the spring evaluation period. Gant just wants it over to allow him to focus on his senior season.
“I really wanted to make my decision before my senior year because I wanted to focus on leading my team,” he said. “Until I decide, I’m going to relax a bit. I’ll look at the places I’ve been and the times I’ve had. I’m just going to think about the coaches, talk to people here and there, and pray upon it. I’ve got to think about family and friends, all that stuff.”