Dozens of college coaches were in the Miami Valley this week checking out players at high schools across the region during combines hosted by both current and soon-to-be former members of the GWOC.
Among those coaches was Kevin Wilson, who aside from being Ohio State’s offensive coordinator recruits the area for the Scarlet and Gray.
Wilson was spotted at all three high schools we visited Monday — Springfield, Northmont and Trotwood-Madison — before having to catch a plane to recruit out of state.
Did he see any future Buckeyes before he left?
History indicates it is likely, though perhaps not so much as it used to be.
Ohio State has signed 57 scholarship players from the Dayton/Middletown/Springfield area since 1988, the year John Cooper became head coach of the Buckeyes.
(We picked that year because Cooper is credited with expanding the recruiting to a more national scope.)
Ohio State has signed at least one player from the area in 25 of the last 31 recruiting classes, starting with Centerville quarterback Kirk Herbstreit, Patterson linebacker Derrick Foster, Alter linebacker Joe Metzger, Urbana running back Patrick Rogan and Middletown offensive lineman Paul Sherrick in Cooper’s first class.
Ultimately Cooper had at least one area player in 11 of the 13 classes he brought to Columbus, though he never again signed more than three in one year.
If he didn’t know when he arrived from Arizona State, Cooper soon learned what Wilson and the rest of the Ohio State staff know still to be true — recruiting Ohio is sometimes easier said than done for the state’s flagship school.
“I think there’s a decent chance, not always, but a decent chance the local guys would like Buckeyes,” Wilson said during an interview at Ohio State in March.
That’s both a good thing and a bad thing for OSU.
If an Ohio prospect is more likely to jump on the chance to be a Buckeye, the coaches feel the need to be more careful about how soon one is extended.
“I think sometimes we like to be a little bit more thorough and make sure he’s the right kind of kid and the right kind of fit because I think if you’re from Ohio and you come here and you’re not successful, that’s really not a good thing,” Wilson said.
That is particularly true when the player comes from a high school they are hopeful of recruiting again in the future, which is more likely to be the case in Ohio than elsewhere.
“Sometimes it would be better to say we didn’t want you than to bring someone in who would not be a good fit,” Wilson said. “He didn’t fit as a person or didn’t fit as a player. Not every player works out. That happens sometimes anyway.”
Of course, where a head coach trains his focus and devotes resources makes a difference in the final outcomes, too.
After Cooper averaged just under two area recruits per cycle (1.9), Jim Tressel stepped up the Buckeyes’ efforts throughout Ohio, including in this corner of the state.
Tressel had Centerville kicker Mike Nugent and Chaminade Julienne receiver Angelo Chattams in his first Ohio State recruiting class and went on to sign 25 area players.
Tressel averaged 2.27 area players per year, including at least one in 10 of his 11 cycles.
When Tressel was replaced by Urban Meyer, a greater emphasis on national recruiting returned, and that predictably had a trickle-down effect on this part of the state.
While signing seven national top 10 classes in as many tries, Meyer averaged one local player per year, including four in the first two.
Butler offensive lineman Taylor Decker was among the players to commit to Ohio State after Meyer took over recruiting efforts for the 2012 class in late November, and Trotwood-Madison defensive back Cam Burrows and Middletown receiver Jalin Marshall were among the early commitments in a star-studded 2013 group that later added Centerville offensive lineman Evan Lisle.
Since 2014, Ohio State has signed only three area players — Robert Landers and L’Christian “Blue” Smith of Wayne and Josh Myers of Miamisburg — but the 2020 class has at least three candidates at this point in time.
Fairfield running back Jutahn McClain, Trotwood-Madison defensive back Sammy Anderson and Northmont defensive end Jaiden Cameron all have multiple Power 5 conference offers, and all visited Ohio State during spring practice.
McClain is the only one with an Ohio State offer so far, but that could change.
“Sometimes when you’re an out-of-state school and you don’t go into (a particular school) all the time you can be a little bit more aggressive,” Wilson said. “You can offer a guy and then never call him again. But if I walked into one of the premier schools in Dayton, and there are a lot of schools there that have produced great Buckeyes, and I said we’d like to offer this kid a scholarship and then a few months later I said no we don’t want him, that’s difficult.
“Sometimes it takes time. We really try to do our due diligence. We want the best players. We want the best Ohio players but want to make sure. Sometimes if you don’t make sure, you’ll upset a kid, upset a parent, upset a coach, when you’re really just trying to do a thorough job.”
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