"Bucks to the Future" reaches the penultimate edition as we march on towards the bittersweet finale of looking at Ohio State's 2013 recruiting class. Chronologically in terms of the commitments, we've reached National Signing Day 2013.
At the time, the Buckeyes sat 24 strong, with the possibility of two more additions – but one almost certainly seemed like a given no. The day before NSD 2K13, it also became more apparent that ATH Taivon Jacobs would be staying near his young daughter and brother and signing with Maryland instead. But even long before the thoughts of punter verbal Johnny Townsend defecting for parts unknown, the conventional wisdom was that the Bucks would land one of their two eleventh hour remaining recruiting targets at best.
Enter the first of those two, Florida wide receiver James Clark.
40 time: 4.39 /travels back in time to 1955
High School: New Smyrna Beach High
When James Clark was first offered in the early part of 2013 – admittedly late in the recruiting process for a guy set to sign a little over a month later – Buckeye recruiting aficionados and super fans alike were skeptical about the underwhelming at face value 3-star evaluation some services had pegged him with. Was this kid really good enough for a loaded 2013 Buckeye class? Was he Plan D or E at the position given the timing? But just a few quick looks at his tape and it became painstakingly obvious why the Bucks had given him an official offer to play for them.
Though the Buckeyes were a bit late on the burner, he had the profile fitting of an elite caliber player for a program with the lofty aspirations of Urban Meyer's Ohio State: Florida, Miami, and Penn State offers, before late-ish in the process December offers from Nebraska and Auburn really raised his Q Score around the country. A little more than a week after getting the OSU offer, James Clark official visited Clemson, and started speculation that had the 247 Crystal Ball existed at the time, would've set off a firestorm of picks that would've projected him to the Tigers.
He'd keep things interesting by taking an official to Columbus the weekend that followed but would continue to hold his inclinations close to the vest (though virtually everyone assumed Clemson was the betting favorite). With some talk making the rounds that he'd run a 10.43 in the 100, Ohio State fans were really starting to warm to him as a prospect, though many thought the Tigers were the team to beat – and that's to say nothing of home state Florida who were also continuing to breathe down his neck.
Prior to Clark making it out to Central Ohio, Urban Meyer tried to up the ante by making a last second in-home visit in which the Buckeye head coach put it pretty much all on the table:
(The visit) went well," Clark said. "(Meyer) came in, delivered his message and was straightforward with me.
"He kind of just said that he believed that Ohio State was the best as far as having both the best educational opportunities and best football," Clark added. "He had a strong case for Ohio State."
But not long after, there was fear that a Corey Smith and/or Dontre Wilson commit would end the Bucks' chances to land Clark. After the Buckeyes landed the first, well those trepidations were assuaged. But what about Wilson? Clark decided that he'd silent commit to the school he wanted to end up at on the Sunday before signing day, so fortunately for those paranoid about the recruiting class makeup arithmetic, that one wouldn't even turnout to factor in. Wilson and Clark are similar speed wise but different enough with the ball in their hands to make each comfortable with the prospects of the other joining the class anyways.
So on National Signing Day, Wednesday morning, as faxes were flying in left and right making recruits whose verbals has been known commodities for many a months official, Clark appeared all set to announce for Clemson...until he didn't.
To the surprise of many, Clark announced just after 9:30 a.m. ET he'd be attending Ohio State, thus giving Urban Meyer, Tom Herman, and Zach Smith yet another weapon to add to an already loaded 2013 class. The rich gets richer, and in Clark, the Buckeyes continued to add blazing speed which can be leveraged in any number of ways.
It'd be easy to say "well, Clark's a freshman entering into a two-deep battle that's not only fairly immalleable, but he's coming in with a ton of other new guys," but that would be dismissing a skill set which screams potential situational contributor, even from day one. The great thing about having Urban Meyer steward your program is that the best players play pretty much period.
Clark, who's now entering week two as a college student and will have had a full summer under his belt by the time fall rolls around, could every bit take to the Buckeyes offense quickly. Gven the wants and desires of the offensive brain trust to not just supplement the existing talent with more speed but rotate warm bodies in and out to keep the opposing defense grasping for breathe, Clark could see the field early, even if just in set formations and/or plays.
Hypothetically though, say Clark doesn't quite have the offense down week one; it's not unrealistic to think, particularly in non-conference play, the opportunities he does get could lead to more burn further on down the road. He should also have every chance to compete for the chance to return kicks and/or punts at some point (he returned eight for six as a senior), though given the girth of talent at those positions as well, he might not actually have a reasonable shot at permanence there for another season or two.