COLUMBUS, Ohio — It wasn’t enough for Ohio State to land 5-star tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere, who instantly became the centerpiece of the class. The Buckeyes also embarrassed their rival in the process.
Petit-Frere’s recruitment remained wide open from the outset and throughout, but perhaps no school put as much extraneous effort into trying to land Petit-Frere as Michigan did. The Wolverines were the first school to offer a scholarship to Petit-Frere, doing so in October 2015 during his sophomore season. Ohio State and Florida offered in February 2016, with Alabama doing so in June 2016 and Notre Dame in January 2017.
The Wolverines also got one of the two official visits he took during the season, hosting him for Ohio State’s 31-20 win in the regular-season finale. And while Michigan certainly had no control over where it ended up in bowl season, coach Jim Harbaugh took advantage of his team’s Outback Bowl bid. Teams are allowed to choose their practice location for bowl games, and Harbaugh selected Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep … Petit-Frere’s high school. It wasn’t a new tactic for Harbaugh, either, as Michigan did the same thing in 2015 by hosting practices at Eddie McDoom’s high school in Orlando.
Because late December is a dead period for recruiting, Michigan coaches weren’t allowed to have any in-person contact with Petit-Frere, but that didn’t preclude him from attending practices.
“It was pretty exciting for him just to see how everything works with the coaches and the players. They work tremendously hard and with great tempo,” Berkeley Prep coach Dominick Ciao told Land of 10. “It’s just a thrill of a lifetime to have an opportunity to have a school on your campus and watch practice.”
Six weeks later, Petit-Frere committed to Ohio State. The Buckeyes were involved in his recruitment for a significant time, hosting him for one-day camp visits in each of the last two summers. But Michigan had an advantage in being Petit-Frere’s first scholarship offer and spending a week at his high school, and Ohio State still was able to turn up the heat during the final month of the recruiting cycle and seal the win with an official visit on the last weekend before National Signing Day.