If you take a particularly circuitous route from Columbus, Ohio, to Tallahassee, Fla., you could be convinced that Virginia Beach, Va., positioned nicely along the Eastern seaboard, is somewhat of an ideal stopping point. It’s almost halfway between Ohio State and Florida State, from a time perspective, at least. (We’re not here to talk about the shortest distance between points and a straight line and all that jazz, OK?) Maybe that’s why the two programs have so regularly found the Commonwealth as the battleground in what is becoming one of the nation’s least-talked about but most interesting recruiting rivalries.
Over the last handful of years, since the arrival of Urban Meyer at Ohio State and the rise of Jimbo Fisher at Florida State, these two programs have gone head-to-head more often than you’d think for a number of the country’s best players. Virginia – the home of 4-star prospect Teradja Mitchell, who said he will announce his decision between the Buckeyes and Seminoles on June 2 – serves as the centerpiece of their tussles.
Let’s fire up the time machine and look back at the battles that have taken place between Ohio State and Florida State over the past few years.
The recruiting cycle that led to the 2014 signing class is where it really began.
2014: Ohio State pulls off a (Jalyn) Holmes invasion
Florida State was the expected favorite to sign Norfolk (Lake Taylor) defensive end Jalyn Holmes, and everyone knew it.
Then Holmes made an early summer visit to Ohio State with his family and everything changed. The longtime Seminoles lean committed to the Buckeyes before he left campus and never looked back. Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith, whose recruiting territory includes Virginia, got some help from new Buckeyes defensive line coach Larry Johnson to win this one.
The Seminoles still managed to beat the Buckeyes a few times. Defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi, ranked by most NFL draft analysts as a top-5 defensive tackle for 2018, picked Florida State over Ohio State, as did JUCO offensive tackle Chad Mavety, the country’s second-best junior college offensive lineman. Florida State also landed Houston tight end Mavin Saunders, who held an Ohio State offer, as well as Maryland offensive tackle Brock Ruble, who took a summer 2013 visit to Columbus.
2015: Matthew Burrell to the Buckeyes, but Seminoles again score in Virginia
Ohio State and Florida State went head-to-head a number of times in the 2015 class, and Virginia was a battleground state again. Ohio State, led by Smith, landed offensive guard Matthew Burrell over the Seminoles, but Fisher’s staff moved forward.
Florida State signed 5-star defensive end Josh Sweat from Virginia, who made an official visit to Ohio in September 2014. The Seminoles also nabbed two in-state 4-star players in running back Jacques Patrick and linebacker Sh’Mar Kilby-Lane. The latter was a player, similar to Holmes in 2014, who was expected to go the other way, but the Hallandale product never blinked after issuing his verbal to the Seminoles in June 2014.
2016: Nick Bosa really did consider Florida State
There was no doubt in Ohio State circles that 5-star defensive end Nick Bosa was Buckeyes bound, but if there was one other school he actually considered, it was Florida State. Despite that big win for the Buckeyes, the Seminoles won the majority of the battles, and the fight started in Virginia. Ohio State also was able to land Florida 4-star wide receiver Binjimen Victor, although he never was truly involved with the Seminoles.
Cornerback Levonta Taylor, the country’s top-ranked corner and a 5-star prospect, was very high on Ohio State’s list, but he truly never looked anywhere but Florida State. A second cornerback, Kissimmee’s Carlos Becker, was down to the Buckeyes and Seminoles, but he opted to remain at home.
Linebacker Dontavious Jackson of Houston had an Ohio State offer but chose Florida State. That helped set the stage for one of the toughest losses the Buckeyes would suffer in the 2017 class.
2017: Honey. Fried. Chicken.
It was a back-and-forth affair in 2017.
As with Bosa in 2016, if there was one team that could’ve stopped Ohio State from landing 5-star cornerback Jeffrey Okudah, it was Florida State. That didn’t happen, but the Seminoles had a number of successes. Cam Akers, a 5-star running back and top target of the Buckeyes, chose the Seminoles, as did tight end Alexander Marshall from Maine and Virginia Beach running back Khalan Laborn, another 5-star tailback.
Ohio State didn’t chase Laborn or Marshall too hard, but the Buckeyes did go all in on 5-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson. Ohio State recruiters thought their need at defensive tackle, combined with Wilson’s friendships with Buckeyes signees Baron Browning, J.K. Dobbins and Okudah – all fellow Texans – could overcome the influence Seminoles assistant coach Tim Brewster had gained in Houston. They were wrong. Wilson chose Florida State on signing day, citing delicious honey-fried chicken as one reason he chose to attend school in Tallahassee.
2018: Taron Vincent gives Buckeyes early lead
The Buckeyes got some revenge for the Wilson signing when they landed a commitment in April from 5-star defensive tackle Taron Vincent. Though he’s a Maryland native, Vincent plays his high school football at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., which has turned into a feeder school for Florida State over the last few years.
Vincent’s recruitment likely won’t be the only battle between the two moving forward. Florida State continues to aggressively recruit Ohio State’s 5-star quarterback commit, Emory Jones, and Seminoles coaches are optimistic that they’ll get him on campus and turn the dial in their direction. The two also will compete for players such as offensive tackle Jackson Carman, 5-star defensive end Micah Parsons, 5-star cornerback Anthony Cook and 4-star offensive tackle William Barnes.
For Ohio State to use its recruiting momentum and finally pass Alabama as the country’s top class in 2018, it will have to hold off the charging Florida State.