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Buckeyes finding uncharted talent in wild, wild west

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Ohio State landed Arizona's fourth-ranked prospect in 2020 and have been a contender for many more. (Lathan Ransom/Courtesy)

Recruiting Question of the Day

Buckeyes finding uncharted talent in wild, wild west

Have a question about Ohio State recruiting? This is the place for you, five days a week. Submit your questions on Twitter or on the Lettermen Row forums. Check-in daily to see what’s on the mind of Buckeyes fans all over the country. Today’s question asks whether the Buckeyes are in a position to make recruiting inside of Arizona a regular thing or if this year’s attention to the Grand Canyon State was just an aberration. 

Ohio State Recruiting Question of the Day

As someone who lived in Arizona for a while, first, let me say congratulations on moving to one of the finest places in the world. I still hold the 602 area code that leads off my phone number dear.

Anyway, yes, it does seem like there’s been a bit more of a push by the Buckeyes to recruit Arizona this recruiting cycle. And I think that there are a few good reasons for that, but I’ll start by saying it’s an area that Urban Meyer tried to push into a few years ago and almost broke through in a big way.

There were once significant efforts to land former 5-star wide receiver Christian Kirk and big-time talents like quarterback Kyle Allen and his teammate, tight end Mark Andrews. Kirk and Allen ended up at Texas A&M, and Andrews went to Oklahoma, but the Buckeyes were squarely in the mix for that trio and have stayed active in the desert ever since. Now, with Jack Miller and Lathan Ransom committed, Ohio State is on track to sign its first Grand Canyon State stars since 1995.

So the question is why is there an opening for success that wasn’t there before?

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Jack Miller and his family had a pretty good idea he’d leave Arizona for college. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

First, Mark Pantoni and the Buckeyes recruiting department deserve a hat-tip, because for years Ohio State has systematically recruited areas that are full of talent but lack in big-time Division I powers absorbing it all. When Georgia was mediocre, the Buckeyes went to work in the Peach State. When Florida, Florida State and Miami weren’t their best, they recruited Florida harder than before. The same can be said for the St. Louis area, the East Coast and anywhere else there might be talent and struggling programs. Arizona and Arizona State are big schools without much of a presence on the recruiting trail — although Herm Edwards is changing that for the Sun Devils. And for years it’s kind of been expected that Arizona’s best prep talents leave the state for college.

Whether it’s been USC, Oklahoma, Washington or more recently Texas, the best of the best aren’t staying home in Arizona. There’s no reason that the Buckeyes shouldn’t try to take advantage of that, because the cachet Ohio State has nationally is more noticeable than ever before.

Arizona is a state with a booming population, and as American demographics continue to shift from the Midwest to Southern and Southwestern regions of the country, the need to recruit those areas has to become a major priority for colleges if they want to remain competitive. Teams simply can’t win national championships recruiting only in Ohio or the Midwest anymore, even if it is made clear that is the most important place to start a class.

Will Arizona continue to be a place the Buckeyes recruit? Sure, of course. I don’t, however, think they will be as connected to the area in most years. The 2020 cycle had a natural early conduit when Miller committed with more than a year-and-a-half before he could sign. That opens doors and grows interest from peers and rivals, and it also gives the Buckeyes a chance to see other worthwhile talents when they’ve been in town to visit Miller.

When they went see Kelee Ringo at Saguaro High School, they can’t help but notice 2021 prospects like Quintin Somerville and Bram Walden. And that’s how the relationships are built and maintained. Consistency is so vital for recruiting an area of the country that isn’t a typical stomping ground, and that’s the challenge for Ryan Day and Mike Yurcich, who handles recruiting in that region for the Buckeyes.

To compete nationally, Ohio State has to recruit nationally. That’s why you’re seeing the emphasis on Arizona, California, Washington, Nevada and Utah in the last few years, and why it should be expected to see the Buckeyes working every nook and cranny on the recruiting trail.

The best way to stay on top of all that recruiting #stuff? Subscribe to Lettermen Row’s Recruiting with Birm newsletter. 

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Birm

Birm is Lettermen Row's Director of Recruiting and the site's primary Ohio State sports photographer. A Toledo, Ohio native, Jeremy has been in similar roles for elevenwarriors.com and Landof10.com and has been covering the Buckeyes for seven years.

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