Our 2013 recruit profile series "Bucks To The Future" rolls on today, and the wheel of fortune lands on Gareon Conley, one of the more intriguing recruiting stories of Urban Meyer's second class. Conley is a Massillon kid that committed to That Team Up North, but eventually came home to the good guys some nine months later.
His path to Columbus via Ann Arbor via Massillon was an interesting one, and when it was all said and done, particularly satisfying for the Scarlet and Gray. Let's take a look at how Conley went from recruit #15 on team #134 to one of the biggest ‘flips' in the Urban Meyer-Brady Hoke recruiting wars.
40 yd dash: 4.5, which is about 3.1 seconds faster than most everyone who reads this
If Gareon Conley's recruitment were presented as a court case, it would've seemed to be open and shut early on. Conley was offered by Northwestern and Michigan towards the end of his junior year, and by March of 2012 he was a Wolverine commit. To their credit, Brady Hoke and staff rolled in on Conley before he really blew up as a prospect, and they seemed to have him signed, sealed, and delivered before anyone else could really get going. His verbal to Michigan was a big blow to Buckeye recruitniks, and it looked like Brady Hoke had one of Massillon's best players headed north of the border. At the time, it seemed like he was solid Maize and Blue, and the chances of him going elsewhere were slim to none.
Over the summer of 2012 (and throughout his senior year), Conley really emerged as a top prospect and steadily moved up in the recruit rankings (he eventually became the #15 CB in the country, and #8 overall player in Ohio via 247sports.com composite rankings). He was still a firm Michigan commit over the summer and throughout most of Massillon's season, but as his stellar play on the field continued to improve, he garnered more notoriety from some big time FBS schools. Come October Conley was still firm to Michigan, but like most kids, he wanted to take official trips to other schools and enjoy the free trips and the recruiting process.
And really, who can blame him? A top recruit only gets to go through that process once, and they'll never get that kind of opportunity again, and it's the biggest decision of their life up to that point.
But that flies in the face of Brady Hoke's policy on recruits. Once a player commits to Michigan, the coaching staff does not want them taking any more official or unofficial visits, and will pull a scholarship offer if that recruit does decide to take trips to other campuses...campii...whatever. But Conley wanted to visit both Oregon and Ohio State, and when he informed the Michigan coaching staff of his desires, they told him he was no longer considered part of the Michigan recruiting class. But curiously*, a day later they made it known that they would make an exception for the 4 star athlete. Conley spoke to Scout.com recruiting analyst Bill Greene on Nov. 6th, and said:
I respect the Michigan coaches, and they have to do what they have to do, and I have to do the same... That's really all I want to say.
*Not really curious at all, because Brady Hoke
At that point, it was game on, and Urban Meyer and company pounced. Already holding an OSU offer, Conley took an unofficial visit to Ohio State for the weekend of The Game. Even after that unofficial, Conley was quoted on Nov. 26th as saying:
It wasn't really a visit, to me. All I did was go to the game, and then I left right after without talking to anyone from Ohio State. I consider myself 100% committed to Michigan, and I do not have any official visits planned to any other schools.
But a day later, Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison went to Massillon and met with Conley, and Conley told him he was decommitting from the Wolverines, and he also set up an official visit to Columbus. Mike Vrabel and Kerry Coombs recruited him hard over the next couple of weeks, and on his official visit to Columbus the weekend of December 7th, he became a Buckeye.
And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth up north. And the tears were delicious.
Although a lot of folks favor guys redshirting because they're an incoming freshman on a deep roster (and this certainly applies with Conley) I won't take that position on anyone because Urban Meyer's policy is to not redshirt unless it's an absolute medical necessity. When you come to Columbus, get ready to compete and be prepared to contribute from day one, and with Conley's skill and ability, that also most certainly applies. Bradley Roby has one CB job locked down, and while Conley has a lot of catching up to do with early enrollee Eli Apple, he has the ability to see the field right away. It would be a stretch at this point to proclaim Conley as a prospective starter in 2013, but not competing for the nickel or dime slot. He was also a skilled receiver in high school, and a kick or punt return specialist doesn't seem like something that would be too far-fetched, either.
Seriously, look at his highlights below. His natural athleticism just leaps out at you on both sides of the ball, and I can envision Tom Herman and Kerry Coombs entering the Octagon for a mano a mano face off for the chance to have him on either offense or defense. (Just as an aside, I'd put money on Coombs in a UFC match over everyone else on staff, save Vrabel and Fickell). He's admittedly raw, but when you consider he's only played football seriously since his sophomore year, I think it's very plausible that his raw ability will be tough to keep off the field for very long.
Highlight Jam Session:
Not the reaction Gareon Conley's Dad had when Gareon originally committed to MIchigan
One of These Things Is Blatantly False:
- It's always awesome to flip a Michigan commit to Ohio State
- Gareon's dad is a big Michigan fan, but supported whatever decision his son made.
- Gareon was selected to participate in the Under Armour All American Bowl
- Conley averaged 15 yards a reception as a senior.