Coachspeak: Dallas Gant is a player Ohio State fans quickly will grow to love
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State picked up a big commitment May 16 when Toledo (Ohio) St. John’s Jesuit 4-star linebacker Dallas Gant chose the Buckeyes over Notre Dame and Michigan.
Gant became the second Ohioan among Ohio State’s 10 commits in the Class of 2018, joining 4-star running back Jaelen Gill from Westerville South.
To learn more about Gant, Land of 10 spoke with former St. John’s Jesuit coach Doug Pearson, who coached Gant the first three years of his high school career.
Q: What traits of his stand out on the football field?
Pearson: His length and his ability to run are his two biggest attributes. Because of his length, he can do a variety of things, whether it’s coverage or rush or whatever. Obviously, he can run from sideline to sideline, so that’s huge at the high school level.
Q: From an off-the-field standpoint, is there anything he excels at?
Pearson: He’s almost a 4.0 student. He takes all honors and AP classes. He has a tremendous work ethic in the offseason, whether it’s lifting or training or running or agility work. Whatever it is, he goes 100 percent. And as important as athletics are to him, he treats his studies number one. He’s a very well-rounded young man who’s very passionate and really goes at it 100 percent.
Q: What did you think about him the first time you saw him on the field?
Pearson: The first time I saw him play, he was a seventh-grader at our school. He was about a foot taller than everyone else, and he was playing defensive tackle. His ability to shed blockers and run to the football and tackle at that age was something I hadn’t really seen. I knew right then he had a chance to be a very special guy, just because he got it. It came easy to him, and he really understood how things worked. He was very impressive as a middle school kid.
Q: Is there anything you’ve seen him improve in the past few years?
Pearson: I think he’s done a really good job as a leader of our defense. He was voted a captain by his peers last year, which as an underclassman doesn’t happen much at our place in all the years I’ve been here. One thing, he’s gotten a lot better with his blitz stuff, and he’s done a lot better job in coverage. He’s not stiff, so that helps. If we need him to, he can cover a slot receiver. Those are all areas in which he’s made improvements since his freshman year, when we started him on the varsity.”
Q: What showed you he was ready to play varsity as a freshman?
Pearson: I kind of started out slow with him. He just played special teams to start the season, and I increased his playing time as the season went on. After Week 6, it was just evident that he had to be on the field all the time. That’s how we did that. Even with how big he was, I was weary about playing a freshman because you’re putting a 14-year-old out there against 18-year-old guys. I just kind of made a progression with him, and after a while it was just time for him to be out there.”
Q: Is there a play he made that stands out in your memory as an example of what he can do?
Pearson: One of the biggest plays came last year. We were playing Mansfield, and they had a 10-7 lead over us in the first quarter. They had a big fourth-and-1 at about midfield, and they were going for it. We sent him, and he smacked their tailback about 3 yards deep in the backfield. We got the ball and scored on the next play to go up 14-10, and the rout was on. That single play helped turn the game around.
Q: What was it like watching him go through the recruiting process?
Pearson: I thought he handled the whole thing very, very well, and not many kids that age can do that. It started off with Kentucky offering him, and then Toledo offered that summer between his freshman and sophomore year. Things picked up with Michigan State and everything else as a sophomore. All these other schools started coming in. He really did a nice job. He doesn’t have a big head, and he’s the same guy as when he came in here. He’s just a wonderful young man.
Q: What do you think about his fit at Ohio State?
Pearson: I think he’s going to be a great player. He’s got a skill set that would allow him to play any of the three linebacker positions. He’s got tremendous length and could play SAM against a tight end. He’s got the instincts to play MIKE, and he’s athletic enough to play at WILL. He’s a great prospect and a great recruit for them because he’s going to provide instant depth by being able to play multiple spots. I also think he’ll be a special-teamer as a true freshman.
Q: Is there anything else Ohio State fans should know about him?
Pearson: He’s just a great kid who’s a great student with a great family. He was also a very good basketball player for us. He chose not to play this year, but he started as a sophomore. Some people claim when he was young his best sport was baseball, but he turned out to be a pretty darn good football player.