Stay in touch or be left out because Ohio State recruiting is a 24-hour, seven-day-per-week obsession. What’s the latest news as the Buckeyes build for the future? Get that and more Sunday through Thursday on Lettermen Row. Sunday night’s edition examines the reports that Texas is now chasing Ohio State commitment Jaxon Smith-Njigba and the challenges facing the Buckeyes leading up to signing day.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba being courted by Texas?
For anybody new to college football recruiting, consider this a warning: After a pretty calm summer for Ohio State, we’re now on the verge of Silly Season. That means we’re going to see rumors about recruits and their plans, thoughts and visit on a weekly basis.
That has already begun for Rockwall (Texas) wideout Jaxon Smith-Njigba. After being committed to Ohio State without incident or even a hint of concern since early last November, now he is seeing his name being linked to Texas as a possible flip candidate.
Why? Because of this tweet that has set people’s hair on fire.
Spoke to 4 ⭐️ WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba last night who has been making some noise this week on Texas boards.
He tells me he has been in contact with Texas but it is nothing serious. He remains “solid” on Ohio State. pic.twitter.com/YOq3qdG9rR
— Nick Harris (@NickHarrisTV) August 16, 2019
Texas, apparently, has decided to begin reaching out to the 6-foot-1, 190-pound in recent months. And since Smith-Njigba spoke to a Texas TV station and answered a question honestly, people are now beginning to buzz.
Never mind the fact that the contact with Texas is undefined and vague, of course. Smith-Njigba has been on the record with Lettermen Row and confidently stated that he believes he’s found the “perfect” fit for him in Columbus.
I’ve spoken to sources both at Ohio State and with the Smith-Njigba family, and each immediately and vehemently denied that there’s any concern about these Texas rumblings.
So does that mean they should be dismissed out-of-hand? No, of course not. Does it matter that Smith-Njigba doesn’t even list a Texas offer on his 247Sports.com profile? No, it doesn’t, because the Longhorns may have offered him in the course of the last year and because of his commitment, the eighth-ranked player in Texas likely didn’t report it.
But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to worry about. It’s Silly Season, remember?
What can Ohio State do about the rumors?
See, this is where things kind of get tricky.
As stated, the vibe out of Columbus right now isn’t one of concern. If the Ohio State coaching staff puts too much stock into the hullaballoo or give it life by hounding Smith-Njigba or his family to shut it down publicly, it could create a sense of distrust between the two sides. If that happened, the folks at Texas, Oklahoma and Notre Dame would love to exploit it.
Now what comes next is true not just for Smith-Njigba, but for Julian Fleming, Gee Scott, Mookie Cooper, Lathan Ranson, Kourt Williams, Jack Miller, Paris Johnson and so on.
The best thing Ohio State can do to keep things on track is to recruit each of these young men the way they have for the last year: Personally. Brian Hartline’s ability as a recruiter is well-documented, but what makes him truly effective is that his relationship with his future wide receivers goes well beyond promises of playing time or the chance to suit up for 100,000 people every week.
Hartline’s relationship with Smith-Nijgba, Fleming and Scott is beyond football at this point. There’s a well-established, solidly-built foundation of trust. That connection is what Ohio State has to continue to build on. Focusing on the rumors around Smith-Njigba — or the ones that will almost certainly percolate around the rest of the Buckeyes top-ranked 2020 recruits — is the wrong decision.
Focus on relationships. That’s what wins in recruiting and that is what will ultimately help the Buckeyes and the families when silly season ratchets up a notch as signing day in December draws near.
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