It's well known that Ohio has some of the best high school football programs in the country, but Ohio State has never been limited to recruiting only in their backyard. Over the past few years, the Buckeyes have secured multiple prospects from Pennsylvania, Illinois, Virginia, Georgia, and the critical state of Florida. Since 2006, the Buckeyes have even secured commitments from far flung South Carolina, Minnesota and Massachusetts. This year's recruiting class brings in multiple top prospects from a talent-rich state that Ohio State hasn't had much luck with recently though.
The 2013 class currently has 3 members from the Lone State state. Five star linebacker Mike Mitchell, four star QB J.T Barrett and recent four star and ex-Oregon commit RB/ATH Dontre Wilson. This athletes aren't projected to just be special teams filler or depth recruits. According to the 247Sports composite rankings, Mitchell is the 58th best prospect nationally and the 8th in Texas. Wilson is thought to be the 9th best and Barrett checks in as the 17th best prospect in Texas. That is a pretty elite haul for a cold-weather university roughly 1,000 miles away.
How long has it been since the Buckeyes hit pay dirt in Texas? Their last commit from the state was fan favorite Ken Guiton, a 3 star out of Houston. 5 star lineman J.B Shugarts was a 2008 commit, and that's it, since 2005. This year's recruiting class has just as many recruits from Texas as Tressel snagged in his entire 11 year career (3).
So what's changed this year? Certainly the Meyer regime has been adamant about going to where the players are, from Massachusetts to Maryland to Florida, but it helps to have some Texas ties on staff. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman has extensive ties to the Lone Star State. Herman started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Texas, then coached wide receivers at Sam Houston State before his successful stints as offensive coordinator for Texas State and Rice.
Herman's extensive coaching experience at multiple Texas universities would give him time to develop relationships with many high school coaches. Claude Mathis, the head coach of Dontre Wilson's De Soto High School, is the all-time leading rusher (career, season and single game) in Texas State history. It's probable that the two coaches have previously met and had a relationship.
Ohio State's administration also understands the importance of continuing to find talent outside of the midwest. The Buckeyes have scheduled home and homes with both Texas and TCU in the coming years, matchups that not only make sense football wise, but will give Ohio State another opportunity to market themselves to high schoolers in Texas. With the Longhorns undergoing a bit of a lull (for their standards) and the uncertainty of how Texas Tech, Baylor and TCU will adjust to new situations in the Big 12, this may be the perfect time for Ohio State to establish some sort of pipeline from the state.
Why hasn't this happened sooner? There are lots of possibilities. Given the importance that the Tressel-era put on securing Ohio and western PA, going outside of the midwest (with the exception of a few FL/GA trips) may not have been seen as a priority. With so many other D1 universities in Texas, plus SEC schools, securing interest over hometown loyalties might have been a tough sell, especially with a staff that never had the reputation of being dynamite recruiters.
Plus, Columbus is cold and a 1,000 miles away. Can't really discount that.
There is no indication that this will necessarily be a trend, as Ohio State didn't secure a Texan in 2011, and as as potential head coach himself, Herman is probably not going to be on Ohio State's staff forever. The important takeaway for Buckeye fans is that Meyer and company have demonstrated they are are willing and able to secure talent anywhere, from the shadow of the Horseshoe in Metro Columbus, to Georgia, Texas, and beyond.
And if that means a new Glenville opens up outside of Dallas, well, even better. Ohio State has always been able to recruit nationally, but one of the strengths in this year's class has come from Texas, a talent-rich state that has until recently eluded the Buckeyes.