Land-Grant Holy Land is officially one year (and one day!) old – but we're just hitting our stride on continuing to introduce you to the incoming class of freshmen for the Ohio State football team. Next up is 247Composite rated 3-star OL/DL Timothy Gardner, a Lawrence Central in Indianapolis, Indiana product.
Gardner's path from lesser known central Indiana prospect to Ohio State Buckeye is a unique one, but not unlike many of the other guys making up OSU's 2013 class, high character and high upside epitomizes the player set to arrive on campus this summer for the Bucks. While he may not have the name recognition of an Evan Lisle to the more casual recruiting followers, Gardner has every chance to wind up another key component of a future Urban Meyer/Ed Warinner offensive line.
40 yd dash: Likely in the 5.0's, but still probably faster than you, armchair quarterback.
High School: Lawrence Central, Indianapolis, IN
You probably won't find too many recruiting stories like Tim Gardner's amongst power programs of Ohio State's cachet. Heading into his junior season, scouts were of the impression that Gardner was quick footed for his size, but packing on some extra "baby fat". Long before he'd began to turn himself into a college ready offensive lineman, Gardner wasn't getting OSU nor Michigan offers, but rather overtures from the likes of Indiana and Purdue. Toledo and Cincinnati were also in the mix (as later were Louisville).
Notre Dame had started to express some interest in the home state versatile high school lineman too, when June 22nd, something interesting happened. Not long before 5:00 p.m. EDT on a slow summer Friday, Gardner tweeted "I'm am official y committed to the Ohio State Buckeyes Football, let's start the movement 2013". Recruitniks were immediately thrown for a loss as though there were expectations the Buckeyes were looking to add an additional lineman to the class, there wasn't a lot of thought that Gardner was a high priority towards making that reality. It was known there'd been some contact between the two, but no one thought Gardner had a committable offer (and some openly questioned whether he even had an offer at all).
Adding fuel to the fire, Gardner's Twitter profile had been updated immediately after the tweet to reflect the following:
Not even 30 minutes later, however, Gardner would delete the tweet and immediately begin to backtrack that'd he'd pulled the trigger on a commitment to Ohio State:
2013 IN OL/DL Tim Gardner RT @Oct_s_veryown I'm am official y committed to the Ohio State Buckeyes Football, let's start the movement 2013— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) June 22, 2012
We immediately heard from a source at the time that Gardner didn't have a committable offer and recruiting analysts quickly confirmed as much. Hard to fault the young man for his ambition, however.
A few days later it'd surface that there was interest from the staff for him to come to their inaugural Friday Night Lights, the one night open camp that lets the OSU staff get a first hand look at what various prospects from the next several classes bring to the table.
Just over a month later he'd make good on the invitation. Making the less than brutal trek from Indianapolis to Columbus, Gardner participated at Friday Night Lights, where he not only caught the eye of the Ohio State coaching staff, but Buckeyes offensive line legend LeCharles Bentley as well, who worked closely with Gardner at the event.
The next afternoon, Gardner would once again make his pledge to Ohio State – this time for keeps, becoming the then 16th member of Meyer's second recruiting class in Columbus.
It came out quickly there after that not just Bentley but former OSU great Orlando Pace had also given an endorsement of the high school tackle. With that bit of high praise (and all Ed Warinner had needed to see first hand), the Buckeyes were finally equipped to help the young man make his dream come true, issuing out the committable offer which they gladly promptly accepted.
Revealed not longer after that, the trepidations about his conditioning were heard loud and clear prior to arriving in Columbus, and he arrived down from almost 340 pounds to ~320 at FNL.
"I've always liked them since I was a little kid," Gardner told the Indianapolis Star the day of his commitment. Gardner had wanted to go to the camp and make such an impression that he got a committable offer, and he accomplished exactly that.
"His goal was to go there and get an offer and I'm happy for him," Gardner's coach Jayson West also told the Star.
Many recruits come in with an almost sense of entitlement, but you won't find any more 180 than Gardner. How often (particularly at a place like Ohio State) do you see a kid literally work their way into an offer the long way? Gardner continued to improve his condition on through his final season as a high school student athlete. And it seems like the best is definitely yet to come:
Like many kids in Indiana, Gardner grew up thinking he would be a basketball player. But as he continued to grow physically, football became his No. 1 sport. After playing on the freshman team, he moved up to varsity and started on a team that reached the 5A state championship game two years ago.
But there is no comparison from the sophomore Gardner to the senior, Lawrence Central coach Jayson West said.
"Now he's the best lineman in the state of Indiana," West said. "He's the best I've seen in Indianapolis since I've been here. He just crushes people. I haven't seen anything like it. He's not a long-term guy, either. They want him to play next year and he has an NFL body right now. He's pretty special."
Given the high expectations from their linemen (and the fact of the matter that for all his promise, Gardner is still a bit understated of a prospect), you'd sort of instinctively think a player coming in like him would be subject to a probable redshirt. But this is far from a sure thing. Coaches have been telling Gardner to ready himself like he's going to play from day one, and while we certainly won't fully know what they have in him until he puts on the pads at Camp Meyer this summer, you have to think particularly given the lack of real tangible depth on the line, it's possible for Gardner to make a case for himself and quickly.
While Gardner played offensive tackle (and defensive too for that matter) at the high school level, it's almost a sure thing he winds up at guard at the next level. He's got the quick feet to thrive in an Urban Meyer/Ed Warinner coordinated line, plus he has the strength and natural ability to hold his own against Big Ten d-lines in a hurry. The biggest challenge for him will probably be adjusting to collegiate level pass protection, but all the tools are there.
Seeing as Gardner has already worked his way into an offer when there was none, it'd be foolish to write off his ability to work his way into year one playing time.
Highlight Jam Session: