It's only appropriate we continue our series focusing on the future of Ohio State football the week we profile the forthcoming Buckeyes o-line in general. But even as March Madness begins to permeate throughout the collective focus of even the less than most basketball-focused sports fans of central Ohio, it's hard not to keep one eye on what's to come football-wise.
We've previously looked at everything from defensive linemen to quarterbacks-turned-wide receivers, but now, in the latest edition of Bucks to the Future, we profile one of the impact big uglies to be. Evan Lisle isn't completely your ordinary high-profile offensive lineman, but depending on who you listen to, the not-out-of-the-realm-of-possibilities low-to-mid-high-ceiling of another Mike Adams (on the field, Mr. Cynicism) isn't exactly a bad thing.
Bench press: 285
High School: Centerville High School-Centerville, OH
Offensive linemen seldom steal the headlines the way signal callers nor pivot/slot receivers do, but that doesn't often mean that in the grand scheme of things, they aren't just as important as the person releasing or catching the ball. Evan Lisle was a player who, going into his junior year certainly had interest in Ohio State, but there was some serious debate amongst the ranks whether the Ohio State staff should reciprocate with mutual interest.
Lisle had long been an Ohio State fan, going back to his younger days in the Centerville/Dayton metro area. Even prior to his entry into a mutually beneficial relationship with the university, Lisle had ties beyond mere fandom with the Ohio State football program; Lisle had been workout partners with former Centerville teammate and Ohio State defensive lineman Michael Bennett.
Going into the Herbstreit Classic in the fall of 2011, Lisle was considered a nice prospect, and though he'd been shown BCS school interest, the likes of Ohio State knocking at his door seemed some ways away. Rivals.com's Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt listed Lisle as one of his "rising juniors" ($) but admitted he was far from a finished product and needed to improve in pass protection.
A few months later, though nothing was on the table just quite yet, Lisle took a visit to Ohio State. Even in a lost season, it seemed by all accounts that Lisle enjoyed his trip and unofficially listed the Buckeyes, Notre Dame, and Northwestern as schools he'd consider himself to have serious interest in. A little more than a week after his visit to Columbus, now-Tennessee coach Butch Jones offered Lisle to the University of Cincinnati, his first offer going into the home stretch of his junior year on the field.
In the two months that followed, Boston College Miami, Illinois, Kentucky, and West Virginia would join the Bearcats in making their formal interest in the offensive lineman known to him. Buckeye recruiting aficionados were also beginning to get worried when in the end of the fall Lisle spoke about his desire to visit Ann Arbor and see what Michigan had to offer, and then more increasingly so when Michigan offered in early February 2012.
Despite the flirtation with That Team Up North (and a bevy of high-profile offers, including the likes of then-defending national champs Alabama), Ohio State continued to move slowly with their potential courtship of the big man. Though his athleticism spoke for itself, worries about his development and ability to evolve at the rate necessary to have an impact earlier in his collegiate career in pass protection likely gave the staff a small bit of pause in their sculpting of their 2013 class.
While he and his family both remained staunch Ohio State partisans, their patience was finally rewarded February 22 when Lisle was offered by Urban Meyer and his primary recruiter, Tim Hinton. It didn't take Lisle too particularly long to ruminate on the implications, as not even a week later, the Buckeyes could count him amongst their verbal pledges for the '13 class:
Not even a month after giving his word to Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes' staff, Lisle would start to crack the top 100 of many of the major recruiting services' evaluations of the 2013 talent pool. Thought there was still some question marks about where he fit (if he was a pure tackle, or more of a guard type), Lisle's natural ability told the Buckeyes' staff all they needed to know. On his commitment, Lisle added:
"I felt like it was the right time," said Lisle, who plans to major in business. "My family and I talked about it and we love Ohio State. We loved the facilities, we love the coaches and the academics. ... That's another thing. As I get older (a degree from Ohio State is) going to set me up for later in life. That's one of the main reasons I chose Ohio State."
The summer before Lisle's senior year was a relatively quiet one. To the peace of mind of many a hardcore recruitnik of an OSU bent, Lisle never wavered, and instead focused on not just getting himself better for the fall season to come, but also for his future career with the Buckeyes.
Lisle's senior season was a resounding success from an individual standpoint. The class of 2013-er would be honored as a First Team USA Today High School All-American. He'd also improved his frame considerably prior to being able to benefit from Mick Marotti's tutelage, adding on good pounds and working towards getting his frame college football ready. After completing his high school eligibility, Lisle called it a career by playing in the 2013 US Army All-American Game.
On National Signing Day 2013, Lisle faxed in his National Letter of Intent, officially laying the ground work for his future as an impact offensive lineman for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
With four of the five starting offensive line positions spoken for, pending a summer for the ages, it's rather unlikely Evan Lisle will be able to crack the starting rotation from day one. While his skill set is such that his raw physical attributes might not make it entirely impossible, with Taylor Decker and others champing at the bit (and with the advantage of longer time in the program), it might be more realistic for Lisle (and his most hardcore devotees) to taper their expectations to involved top backup.
While Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, and Marcus Hall have the left tackle, left guard, and right guard spots locked down, respectively, where Ohio State could use perhaps the biggest help is spelling those guys and providing good depth. Darryl Baldwin, Antonio Underwood, and Chase Farris should all have their chance to say their peace about those openings as well, but adding someone of Lisle's football acumen to the mix is far from a bad thing.
Though Lisle was singled out during Urban Meyer's NSD '13 press conference as one of the most improved in the class from the time they verbally committed to when they officially signed, he'll have to improve significantly and in a hurry if he wants to do anything more than provide valuable garbage minutes during his inaugural year on campus. A redshirt isn't completely unthinkable, but giving his raw skills and Meyer's track record of never shying away from letting the best play regardless of class, it seems likely that during the Buffalo, Florida A&M, and maybe even a few Big Ten games (depending of course on his progression) that Lisle could work his way into the staff being unable to leave him on the sidelines.
Highlight Jam Session:
One of These Things is Blatantly False:
- Evan was the third Buckeye to fax in his NLOI on National Signing Day 2013.
- Evan Lisle is on Twitter with the username, @richielisle
- Lisle has great lateral quickness and at one point was thought a candidate to potentially play on the defensive line as well.
- Lisle's father Steve both graduated from and wrestled for the United States Military Academy.
- Lisle didn't get into football until much later in life.