COLUMBUS — Ohio State has signed 25 players from Florida high schools and the IMG Academy in the last decade. But the Buckeyes have only signed one true Florida native in the last three recruiting cycles.
If the hints being provided by the upcoming summer recruiting period are real, that could change in a big way in the Class of 2023.
A quick look at the names in that class reveals a number of very early, very important Ohio State targets emerging. A number of them will make their initial visits with the Buckeyes in June, including the country’s No. 1-ranked sophomore running back, Richard Young. His coach, James Chaney, believes it’s different when kids in Florida land an Ohio State offer.
“Ohio State is a big-time program,” Chaney told Lettermen Row. “And it carries major respect in Florida. It’s like Alabama, Clemson and LSU. It’s a top one-percent type of offer.”
The Buckeyes brand has changed a lot over the last ten years, and it’s more national than ever. Because of that, Ohio State has found more recruiting success in places like Texas, Arizona and California. Still, to build a roster that can annually compete against schools like Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, there has to be success in Florida.
The Sunshine State has always been talent-rich, of course. Throughout much of the last decade, Florida, Florida State and Miami were mired by mediocrity. Big-time national programs like Ohio State and others have consistently reaped the rewards from that.
No cycle in recent memory has the potential for as much Florida flavor as the Class of 2023. The current top-20 prospects from Florida in the 247Sports.com composite rankings show a number of kids who’ve already become high-priorities for the Buckeyes.
The second-ranked player in Florida, Brandon Inniss, is the country’s top-ranked receiver. He has an Ohio State offer and has quickly developed a strong relationship with Brian Hartline. So, too, has newly-offered wideout Carnell Tate, Florida’s No. 10-ranked prospect. Tony Alford has led the way in the Buckeyes efforts to land 5-star tailback Richard Young (No. 5), 5-star linebacker Malik Bryant (N0. 4) 5-star athlete Treyaun Webb (No. 7) and 4-star offensive linemen Payton Kirkland (No. 15) and TJ Shanahan (No. 18). It’s Larry Johnson leading the charge for defensive linemen Derrick LeBlanc (No. 11) and John Walker (No. 14), and Ohio State secondary coach Matt Barnes is working hard on No. 8-ranked safety Joenel Aguero.
Ryan Day and Mickey Marotti, the long-time strength and conditioning coach at Ohio State, have had their hands in the mix as well.
It’s a team effort for the Buckeyes, made necessary by Covid-19. The pandemic has forced new forms of communication. That has allowed them to do less regional recruiting and allowed them recruit their guys.
“Philosophically in recruiting, we’re very much position specific,” Ryan Day said Friday. “Because of the way things have been the last year and a half, it’s been been a lot more efficient for us to be position specific. When you’re on the road traveling, and you go down to see a defensive back in Florida, you need to go recruit the area a little bit. Go see the coaches and kind of cultivate the area.
“When you’re not traveling, it’s a lot easier and more efficient to just do more position recruiting. Because in the end, these players want to know who they’re being coached by. The position coach, the strength coach and the head coach all have to be involved in that.”
Each of those guys will be heavily involved when June rolls around. That’s going to keep Ohio State involved with a number of these big-time prospects into the fall and beyond.
Staying strong in Florida and landing a handful of these players is one great way for the Buckeyes to continue their remarkable recruiting run of the last few years.