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JUCO lineman with Ohio roots discusses Ohio State visit
Jacob Gamble has not taken a traditional path to Division I college football recruiting, but the 6-foot-7, 320-pound standout has done more than enough to place himself on the FBS radar. Gamble hails from Doylestown (Ohio) Chippewa and finds himself at Ventura College in California, one of the best junior college football programs in the country.
Gamble graduated from high school in 2015 before spending time in the working world, but he couldn’t stay away from football. He recently completed his freshman season at Ventura, playing eight games. The work Gamble has put on tape has drawn offers from Akron and UAB, with Power 5 interest coming from Ohio State, Pitt and Louisville.
Last Thursday, Gamble spent part of his time home in Ohio checking out Ohio State’s facilities and program. The Buckeyes were impressed with his frame and his film and have stayed in touch with Gamble.
“It was amazing, such a great experience,” Gamble told Land of 10. “We walked through the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and looked at everything they had there, then went over to the stadium and went up in the press box and onto the field. Speaking with Coach Urban Meyer and Coach Greg Studrawa was a real eye opener on what I have to do to get to the level that Ohio State plays at. But overall I had a great time there.”
Gamble still awaits his first Power 5 offer, but with the trio of schools mentioned above showing interest, he doesn’t seem to be far off. Meyer and his assistant coaches want to continue evaluating Gamble, but he’ll have several chances to earn a Buckeyes offer.
“Coach Meyer said to get good grades and hit the weight room every day to get real strong, and by the end of fall I could be getting a call saying ‘Come play for the Buckeyes.’ I will be attending one of the camps they have this June as long as it doesn’t interfere with my school,” Gamble said.
Expect Gamble’s interest to continue picking up as college coaches hit the road for the spring evaluation period beginning April 15 and running through the end of May. He’ll graduate at the end of the fall semester and enroll at the program of his choice in spring 2019, with three years to use two seasons of eligibility. That means a program could redshirt Gamble if necessary.
Ohio State’s brand remains strong in Pittsburgh
Although he’s been the Cincinnati Bearcats coach for more than a year, Luke Fickell still tends to generates fond memories in the Ohio State Buckeyes community. Fickell has spent the vast majority of the last 25 years at Ohio State as a player or coach, capturing a national championship with the Buckeyes in 2014 and piling up plenty of other accolades.
It hardly defined his legacy in Columbus, but one of Fickell’s most valuable traits at Ohio State was his ability as a recruiter. In particular, the former linebackers coach and defensive coordinator helped the Buckeyes break into Pittsburgh. He landed eventual All-America safety Malik Hooker, the crown jewel in a long list of recruits from Western Pennsylvania secured by Fickell.
Since Fickell’s departure, Ohio State has turned to new linebackers coach Billy Davis to function as its primary recruiter in the Pittsburgh area. Davis landed Marcus Hooker from New Castle (Pa.) in the 2018 cycle and has continued his strong efforts for 2019.
Ohio State is in the mix for three offered prospects in Western Pennsylvania — 2019 cornerback MJ Devonshire, 2019 tackle Andrew Kristofic and 2021 athlete Derrick Davis Jr. — and has impressed several other recruits in the region. Davis credits his early recruiting success to his background and familiarity with Pittsburgh as a former resident.
“I coached for the Steelers back in Coach [Bill] Cowher’s first three years, so I lived there. I know the area, I know some of the people there that were still high school coaches when I was there,” Davis said. “So I know it and I love the area, that’s good football in that region. I love going to Pittsburgh.”
It’s not easy for Ohio State to waltz in and steal top recruits from the area. In recent years, Notre Dame, Penn State and Pitt have won recruiting battles over the Buckeyes for some of the best players in Western Pennsylvania, but Davis is focused on spreading Ohio State’s brand and becoming the dominant recruiting powerhouse there.
“You’ve got Pitt right in the heart of it and Penn State’s close, but I think we’re pretty strong in there. Of course, we’ve got the Hooker family, and with the success they’ve had you know we’re excited about Marcus,” Davis said. “I think it’s going to be a good area for us and I hope I can some pull talent for us out of there.”
It’s still too early to rate Davis’ performance in recruiting Pittsburgh, but the early results look good. It’s no longer an area that can compete with major recruiting metropolises such as Atlanta, Miami or Houston, but the region still has its own unique wealth of talent. Ohio State breaking into Western Pennsylvania would be a positive development for the Buckeyes.
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