COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jaelen Gill, a future five-star running back of Westerville (Ohio) South, earned his Ohio State offer the summer after his freshman year.
“We would have liked one sooner,” his father, Rodney Gill, told cleveland.com.
“Yeah,” Rodney said, now half-joking. “Like when Marcus got one.”
The person to which Rodney was referring was Marcus Williamson, a four-star cornerback and Ohio State commit who transferred from Westerville South to powerhouse IMG in Bradenton, Fla. The thing Rodney failed to mention is that Williamson is a 2017 prospect, a year older than his son.
But you have to understand Rodney’s sentiment. It’s been clear since Gill got an offer from Pittsburgh in eighth grade that he was going to be a recruiting phenomenon, but why did it take so long for Ohio State to join the offers party?
Because it’s harder for Ohio prospects to earn an Ohio State offer.
You see Urban Meyer and his staff firing off scholarship offers to young players all over the country, but it’s rare for those same types of offers to go out to Ohio prospects. There’s a reason for that strategy.
“Sometimes you have to offer a guy early (who is) out of state to get in the game,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “I leave more up to the position coaches who understand that area. If you want to get in the game, sometimes you have to do that. I won’t say it’s positive or negative.
“But in-state you’ve just gotta be very cautious. Because when that offer goes out, you can’t pull it. You’re in it. Out of state, if you offer a guy, and he has a bunch of other offers, than you can just kind of move on. In Ohio, you have to be very careful.”
That Gill got one before his sophomore season was actually quite the compliment considering how Ohio State approaches in-state offers.
Some things to consider:
• Ohio State has taken a national approach to recruiting, that isn’t new. Though it starts in Ohio and then expands to other states, the reality is that Meyer is only going to take in between eight and 10 Ohio prospects in every class. That’s typically less than half of the entire class.
• That explains why Ohio State doesn’t offer a ton of younger Ohio players. Most players in the state have grown up Ohio State fans just waiting for that Buckeyes offer, and, a lot of times, they commit soon after receiving one. If Ohio State were to offer those prospects early, their classes would fill up sooner and take away the freedom needed to pursue elite prospects from all over the country.
“You’re probably more judicious as a coaching staff with Ohio players,” Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said. “I think that’s a very fair assessment.
“I think we’re appropriate in our tempo with Ohio kids. I think your assessment is accurate, and I think it’s been proven that we are going to take the eight-to-10 best players out of the state of Ohio every year. Those are kids who are going to develop and play for us and be difference makers. As time goes on, there are those next tier of Ohio kids who get first consideration.”
• What Coombs means by that next tier of Ohio players are the fringe ones who typically get offers in their senior years, which is a lot later than most Ohio State-caliber players get them. Those are the Darron Lee-like prospects, or, for a more recent example, Malik Harrison of Columbus Walnut Ridge, who signed with the Buckeyes in the 2016 class.
• Ohio State has 13 commitments in the 2017 class, and as the current roster stands now, the Buckeyes only have room for six in that group. That means there likely won’t be room for those second-tier guys in this year’s class.
Of those 13 commitments, six are from Ohio. One of them is five-star offensive tackle Josh Myers of Miamisburg, Ohio, who, like Gill, earned an offer after his freshman season.
• Waiting to offer Ohio prospects is something other programs have recognized and are trying to attack. While Ohio State is waiting on in-state prospects, other programs are swooping into Ohio and offering early, hoping to beat Meyer’s program to the punch.
“Some schools come in and offer, I can name off seven schools that offer probably 100 players in our state,” Meyer said. “We can’t offer 100 players in our state. They’ll come back and say, ‘Why did we not offer this guy?’ We certainly think he’s a fine player, we’re just a little slower to offer.”
Need an example of that? How about Michigan’s relationship with tight end Leonard Taylor of Springfield, Ohio? Taylor earned an early offer from the Wolverines and has since committed to Jim Harbaugh. Michigan beat Ohio State to the punch in that scenario.
But Ohio State has been so good in Ohio for so long that it has proven it can make up for lost time, and that’s how they’ll continue to do it. Taylor has since earned an Ohio State offer and has visited multiple times, so now we’ll see if Meyer can flip back the Ohio prospect he doesn’t want to leave the state.
• There’s no correlation between when an offer goes out and how bad Ohio State wants a prospect. If Ohio State offered two players at the same position, don’t rank the higher priority by when the offer goes out.
“I think the mistake people make there are that you want one more than the other, and that’s not necessarily true,” Coombs said. “You rank them, you certainly do rank them, but there’s a lot that goes into who is going to end playing in the Shoe on Saturday afternoon that isn’t necessarily based on how many stars they have or their location. All of that goes into play when you’re trying to assess that.
“A lot of times guys will say, ‘They want him more because they offered him first,’ but that’s not necessarily true. It’s a function of the process, the geography of where different people are.”