COLUMBUS, Ohio — In a typical Ohio State recruiting class, Shaun Wade would be the undisputed star.
The 17th-ranked player in the 2017 class, Wade arrives at Ohio State as one of the nation’s top prospects and possesses the potential to crack the Buckeyes’ starting lineup by the first game of his college career.
In his first five recruiting classes at Ohio State, Urban Meyer successfully recruited six 5-star prospects. Committing on Jan. 12, 2015, Wade became the seventh.
Yet despite being one of the top cornerback prospects in the entire country, Wade isn’t even the highest-ranked player at his position in the Buckeyes’ 2017 class. That title belongs to 5-star prospect Jeffrey Okudah, the nation’s No. 1 corner.
Suffice to say, there isn’t much that’s standard when it comes to Ohio State’s 2017 recruiting class.
But while Wade isn’t necessarily the headliner of the Buckeyes’ 2017 haul, rather one of a few, the early enrollee remains arguably the most important piece of the most highly-touted class in Ohio State history.
Committing to the Buckeyes two years ago, it was Wade who first started the run of what would wind up being five 5-star prospects who would eventually sign with Ohio State’s second-ranked class.
“I think I did,” Wade said on National Signing Day when asked if he put the Buckeyes on track for their historic recruiting haul.
Only that’s not necessarily what made winning his recruitment so important to Meyer and his staff.
A native of Jacksonville, Fla., Wade hails from a recruiting territory Meyer is plenty familiar with thanks to his time at Florida. So when the 6-foot-1, 185-pound corner committed to Ohio State following his sophomore season at Trinity Christian High School, Meyer knew not to hold his breath.
With Florida, Georgia and Alabama each nearby, the northern Florida area has a history of producing drawn-out recruitments.
“Traditionally, players in that area will change schools about seven times,” Meyer noted. “I can’t be more proud that he stuck with his commitment with a lot of pressure in that part of the country.”
That’s not to say it was always easy. Although Wade committed to the Buckeyes on the same day they played for the first College Football Playoff championship, his commitment to Ohio State always appeared subject to change.
It didn’t help that Wade’s favorite part of the recruiting process was the free trips and traveling across the country. And as Ohio State clinched a second appearance in the College Football Playoff with a win over Michigan this past November, Wade was more than 600 miles away, taking in Alabama’s Iron Bowl victory over Auburn.
Looking back on the trip to Tuscaloosa now — as well as official visits to Notre Dame and Virginia Tech— Wade insists he took it to just confirm what he already believed.
“When I took the visits, I was just making sure it was the right place,” he said. “Just seeing that O-State was the right place and God thought it was the right place. But I’m here now and I’m a Buckeye.”
Nevertheless, Wade felt compelled to publicly reaffirm his commitment to Ohio State just weeks before arriving in Columbus.
— shaun wade (@shaunwade2017) December 12, 2016
Wade’s post even elicited a “boom” from Kerry Coombs — a move typically reserved for the Buckeyes landing a previously uncommitted prospect. But it was tough to blame the Ohio State cornerbacks coach from straying from his protocol. It’s not every day you confirm you’ll be coaching the USA Today Defensive Player of the Year nearly two years after he had already committed.
“That’s unusual to hang on to them that long,” Meyer admitted of Wade’s lengthy recruitment.
With the Sunshine State product now signed, sealed and delivered, Wade is already taking part in winter conditioning in preparation for the upcoming spring practice.
“I’m just working hard with all the corners,” Wade said. “Just working hard and learning different things. We’ve got a lot of corners here and we’re going to compete.”
The expectation is Wade will battle it out with Okudah and incoming JUCO transfer Kendall Sheffield — another former 5-star prospect — for the right to star opposite junior Denzel Ward.
Admittedly, it’s rare of a true freshman to crack the Buckeyes starting lineup.
Then again, very little has been commonplace when it comes to Ohio State’s 2017 class — including Wade’s recruitment.