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.
Ohio State hunting in the right places
States w/ highest % of HS football players recruited by a DI school:
4-8. (DC), MD, TN, SC, NC pic.twitter.com/N6wNkEQT57
— NCAA Research (@NCAAResearch) April 18, 2017
This handy map was tweeted out Tuesday morning by @NCAAResearch, which — you guessed it — is an account that posts research conducted by the NCAA. (Who knew?)
Anyway, the fine folks there have run the numbers on which states produce the highest numbers — per capita — of NCAA athletes. As one might expect, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana lead the way. Those states are all fertile recruiting grounds and don’t quite have the insane populations of California and Texas that drag down those states’ percentages.
A few different things jumped out at me when I glanced through the various states. First, numbers such as these pretty much verify Ohio State’s recruiting approach from an efficiency standpoint (as if the on-field results didn’t already do that). On last week’s Big Ten teleconference, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer discussed the Buckeyes’ recruiting territories outside of Ohio.
“We keep very close tabs on where we’ve had success,” he said. “The Northeast is one, and then you’ve got Florida and Georgia and Texas. You always like to take care of your 300- or 400-mile radius around you. But we’ve had great success in the state of Florida and state of Texas, so we’re going to continue that.”
Ohio State’s 2017 class, which on paper might be its best ever, checked off all those boxes. The Buckeyes took what they wanted out of Ohio and also in the Midwest radius with players from Indianapolis and Buffalo. The class included a ton of Texas and Florida prospects, as well as 1 Georgia native (though he transferred to a Florida high school). Ohio State also ventured to the West and plucked two kids from Las Vegas and another from California. Pretty much the only thing missing was the New York City/New Jersey area that Meyer has recently come to love.
This cycle, the Buckeyes are hitting those spots hard again, while also expanding into new territory. Here’s a list of 2018 commits so far:
- 5-star DT Taron Vincent (Bradenton, Fla.)
- 4-star QB Emory Jones (Franklin, Ga.)
- 4-star S Jaiden Woodbey (Bellflower, Calif.)
- 4-star ATH Jaelen Gill (Westerville, Ohio)
- 4-star OT Max Wray (Franklin, Tenn.)
- 4-star RB Brian Snead (Seffner, Fla.)
- 4-star S Josh Proctor (Owasso, Okla.)
That’s two Florida prospects and one from Georgia. The Buckeyes also reeled in a coveted prospect from the Columbus suburbs but also expanded to Tennessee (an underrated state according to the above map). Getting Proctor out of Oklahoma was nothing less than a shocker, but it shows the Buckeyes are at a level where they can choose their spots in less talent-rich areas and pick up a win every now and then.
A couple other observations related to Big Ten recruiting as a whole:
1. It’s not hard to see why Nebraska has to work so hard in recruiting. I was initially going to say “why Nebraska struggles so much,” but the Huskers are starting to have success despite their location; just look what they’re surrounded by. Between Nebraska and its six border states, none have a rate higher than 3.1 percent. That would be fine if they had the populations of Texas or California because the raw numbers would still be there, but those are some of the least-populous states in the country. It takes getting into California and Florida, and with unofficial visits becoming more and more common it’s not easy to get prospects to pay their way to Lincoln up to three or four times.
2. It’s no wonder Michigan and Michigan State rely on Ohio prospects to sustain their programs. Ohio not only has a bigger population than its northern neighbor but also produces NCAA-caliber players at twice the rate. I wasn’t a math major, but I’m pretty sure that means Ohio high schools have more than twice as many NCAA prospects as Michigan high schools. No wonder the Wolverines and Spartans can’t help but fly south to hunt for talent.
Jaelen Gill is healthy and ready to go
After sustaining a season-ending ankle injury in the second game of his junior season, Gill has spent the last half-year on the road to recovery.
He recently told Scout.com’s Bill Greene that he is finally 100 percent again. He clearly looked the part at the Nike’s The Opening Cleveland Regional earlier this month, putting together a good enough showing to earn an invitation to The Opening Finals in Oregon this summer.
Injury aside, it was also interesting that he told Greene he will likely play H-back at Ohio State. The role has previously featured Braxton Miller, Curtis Samuel and Jalin Marshall, and Gill is a similar type of dynamic athlete who can make things happen with the ball in his hands.
“I believe I will be playing the “H” position at Ohio State, and that all depends on how they feel I can best help the team win games,” he told Greene. “That seems to be where they want me right now, so that’s what I’m excited about playing.
“I’m going to try to go in as a freshman and be a contributor in any way I can. Committing to Ohio State was the best decision I could make, and I won’t be visiting any other school.”
Get to know Ohio State signee Jaylen Harris
My colleague Ben Axelrod and I are in the midst of traversing the country to visit all of Ohio State’s remaining 2017 signees before they enroll in June as part of our Next Generation series. We usually get two or three stories out of each visit, with one of those being an in-depth profile of the recruit.
On Tuesday afternoon, Ben posted his profile of WR Jaylen Harris. It’s a great look at a player that had an Ohio State offer for ages but didn’t commit until a few weeks before National Signing Day.
Here’s a small glimpse at Ben’s story, which details why Harris chose football instead of basketball, how he earned his Ohio State offer, how Meyer reacted when Harris committed, and what kind of talent he’ll bring to the Buckeyes:
A former NFL linebacker, Mac Stephens isn’t short on confidence when it comes to himself or his players. So when the Cleveland Heights coach accompanied Harris on a visit to Ohio State in June 2015, he wasn’t shy about letting Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer know who he should be looking at.
“He was pressuring them. He was in their ear the whole day. That’s one thing about Coach Mac, he stays in a coach’s ear,” said Harris. “He told them, ‘Go get the best DBs, the top DBs that are supposed to be at this camp, and Jaylen will go against them and show you what he’s capable of doing.’ Me and a couple of other receivers went inside with the top DBs and we worked them.”
Remembers Stephens, who has known Harris since his was 9 years old thanks to the Cleveland youth football circuit: “At that point, Coach Meyer walked over to me and said, ‘This kid is going to be special.’”
After the camp, the Buckeyes offered Harris a scholarship.
By the end of his high school career, Harris had received additional offers from Alabama, Georgia, Miami (Fla.) and Penn State. According to the 247Sports composite, he ranked as the No. 30 wideout and No. 184 overall player in the 2017 class.
You can also check out our entire Next Generation series here. We’ve done stories on 5-star DE Chase Young, 4-star OT Josh Myers, 4-star WR Jaylen Harris, 4-star OT Thayer Munford, 4-star LB Pete Werner, 3-star WR Ellijah Gardiner and 3-star K Blake Haubeil.