When you sign the country’s second-ranked recruiting class like Ohio State did Wednesday, there are bound to be players who get overlooked by fans and recruiting analysts.
Not everyone is a 5-star, you know?
But that doesn’t mean these other recruits are not one heck of a player. In a recruiting class that featured 11 of 21 signees ranked among the country’s top 70 prospects and five 5-star talents, it’s easy to forget players who didn’t move the national dial or who never trended on Twitter.
We here at Land of 10 aren’t going to let you forget them. No, we’re going to remind you today why you should be thrilled about four less-heralded Ohio State signees.
Defensive back • Amir Riep • Cincinnati Colerain • National Rank: 183
2016 was an interesting year for Amir Riep. He started the calendar year as a relative unknown on the recruiting trail. However, for a span of two months – late January through March – he may have been one of the hottest prospects in the entire country. After the Buckeyes offered the 6-foot, 185-pound defensive back on Jan. 31, he added 24 offers in a six-week span. He ended his recruitment with almost 50 scholarship offers, including Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame and Michigan State.
Riep was not active on the recruiting combine circuit, choosing instead to focus on visiting colleges during the spring and that certainly allowed other prospects to move ahead of him in national rankings. He committed to the Buckeyes on July 23 – his birthday – and never visited any other schools. He’s not a regular, or at least over-the-top, social media user and doesn’t go out of his way to seek attention.
He’s the only Ohio State defensive back signee who will not be on campus with the Buckeyes this spring, and I think that he’s being “forgotten” a bit because of it.
This kid can play and Buckeyes fans should be very excited about him.
Defensive back • Marcus Williamson • IMG Academy • National Rank: 195
If you were creating a recipe for “overlooking” a player, the recruitment of Marcus Williamson is what it would look like.
Ohio State offered the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Williamson when he was a sophomore at Westerville South High School, just outside of Columbus. The decision to offer him that early meant that the assumption was he’d be a Buckeye, and likely in short order. An early offer from the Buckeyes inside the state of Ohio means you’re a marked man: other schools don’t really try to recruit you. Because of that, Williamson finished with only 11 (public) scholarship offers because he committed to the Buckeyes in April of 2015 and never looked back or around, even after he transferred to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. for his senior season.
Williamson has been forgotten because 5-star cornerbacks Shaun Wade and Jeffrey Okudah drew so much attention, and he’s aware of it.
— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) January 28, 2017
“I found a place that fit me and I stuck with it,” he told Land of 10 in December. “Maybe committing so early kind of let people forget about me a bit. But that’s fine. I’m just ready to finally move onto the next chapter. All that recruiting attention was never really for me.”
Defensive tackle • Jerron Cage • Cincinnati Winton Woods • National Rank: 236
In most recruiting cycles, landing Ohio’s second-ranked defensive tackle and the country’s 14th-best at the position would elicit a bit more celebration, but in a class like the Buckeyes’, Jerron Cage has definitely been overlooked by many.
The younger brother of Notre Dame junior defensive tackle Daniel Cage, Jerron was not overlooked by the Buckeyes. Ohio State offered the 6-foot-2, 275-pound lineman during a summer camp on campus in June 2015. He committed five days later and told Land of 10 that until he committed he’d hardly heard from any other schools.
“When I committed my sophomore year,” Cage said. “I was ambushed by coaches. Michigan, Oregon, Alabama, Clemson — all those coaches reached out to me. So I had to think about, ‘Was this the right choice?’”
If he ever truly wavered, it was never reflected in his recruitment and, because of that, Cage avoided a lot of the dramatics that usually catch fans’ attention. There were discussions about a Notre Dame official visit, but it never happened, and he signed with the Buckeyes with little fanfare.
— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) February 1, 2017
Ultimately, if there’s one “reason” Cage has been overlooked, it’s probably because he’s from Ohio and that he’s not Marvin Wilson. Ohio State fans were holding out hope for much of the recruiting cycle that another defensive tackle would join the class and, in many ways, that may have made Cage – and fellow 4-star prospect Haskell Garrett – seem replaceable. The Buckeyes coaching staff never thought so.
Linebacker • Pete Werner • Indianapolis • National Rank: 273
Pete Werner is an NFL legacy from one of the Midwest’s best high school football programs (Indianapolis Cathedral) and has an NFL frame (6 feet 3, 220 pounds) as a high school senior. He is Indiana’s second-ranked prospect and a former Notre Dame commitment that Urban Meyer and Luke Fickell wanted very badly in the Buckeyes 2017 recruiting class.
“(He was) committed to another program,” Meyer said of Werner’s recruitment during a National Signing Day press conference. “But we just kept hanging in there, hanging in there, because Luke Fickell loved him and so did I. We loved him. And then the tide started to change a little bit and we got him.”
Werner visited Ohio State for the Buckeyes’ home game against Michigan in late November – without announcing it – and de-committed from Notre Dame a day later. The country’s 14th-ranked inside linebacker – who played safety, wide receiver and a host of other positions in high school – made an official visit to Columbus ten days later. Unfortunately for Werner, at least attention-wise, he committed 10 days after 5-star linebacker Baron Browning and seemed to be just a “nice” player when compared to the huge expectations Browning has.
— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) February 1, 2017
This is my personal pick for the “sleeper” of the class. Werner is a player whom Ohio State coaches are very excited about. Fans should be, too.