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Ohio State Recruiting Question of the Day
There may not be a more influential remaining prospect on the 2021 recruiting big board than Emeka Egbuka, and Ohio State has been right there at the top of his list since his first visit to the school in March of last year.
“We’re just going to continue to build relationships and stuff,” Egbuka told Lettermen Row then. “Ohio State will be hard to top. I want to get back here really badly.”
He did get back about six months later when he returned for the Buckeyes game against Wisconsin late last October. That visit, like the first, was a good one for the Buckeyes and the 5-star receiver prospect from Steilacoom (Wash.) High School. But like the first one, it was made without his father accompanying him.
That is a big hurdle for Ohio State, and it’s becoming bigger after a spring visit was canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic without any idea of when future visits will be allowed to college campuses. A decision is expected to be made on Wednesday as to whether or not the current recruiting dead period is extended through June — and unfortunately it almost certainly will be. If that happens, Ohio State will have a major June recruiting weekend wiped out. And that is going to put a serious damper on the Buckeyes odds to land some of their biggest remaining fish, including Egbuka.
Simply put, the longer it takes for Egbuka and his family to get back to campus with the Buckeyes, the worse Ohio State’s odds are to land him — at least as long as that’s a requirement for him to make a decision.
Brian Hartline has done everything he can to impress upon Egbuka and his family why the program is the best one for him. The Ohio State commitments are all very close to Egbuka and working on the always important peer-to-peer aspect of his recruitment. He’s been to campus twice and knows the Buckeyes are holding a spot for him, and Egbuka knows he’s the top target at the position. There are many good reasons to think Ohio State is the team to beat and have been for a while, but the longer the wait at this point, the more other teams can exploit the areas that the Buckeyes lack.
That starts with distance from home and the loaded depth chart.
There are other big-time programs chasing the country’s top-ranked wideout. A handful of them are out west, including Stanford, USC, Washington and Oregon. Clemson, Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU and others are going to continue recruiting Egbuka as well, but that first group of schools is a lot closer to home and a lot easier to get to when the recruiting world reopens. No matter how good the relationship is with Hartline and Ohio State, the challenges get more daunting.
Stanford is the program that Lettermen Row continues to hear mentioned as the primary competition, but it’s unwise to completely discount the home state team in Seattle. It’s also hard to forget the tradition of USC or that there’s a really good product being built at Oregon, and those places are no doubt pointing to a depth chart that seems like an easier road to playing time.
But do they provide the best chance to develop as a wide receiver? There are a number of things to consider when any recruit is trying to sort out his best future. Ohio State will need to show that it can best develop him as a person, student and a football player — and then do enough to make his family feel confident of his choice.
If I was the one recruiting him, I’d probably focus on the story of Anthony Gonzalez, who played three seasons in Columbus before becoming a first-round NFL draft pick and then, after five NFL seasons, retired and went to Stanford to get an MBA and is now a United States congressman. That’s a pretty good path and a solid example of how you can achieve a multi-faceted dream, isn’t it?
Either way, Ohio State is going to have to continue to get creative with all recruits. And Emeka Egbuka remains at the top of the list.
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