Ohio State's 2015 recruiting class took a bit of an unexpected twist yesterday afternoon when four-star LB Sh'mar Kilby-Lane elected to commit to in-state Florida State over the Buckeyes. Kilby-Lane had long been considered almost a sure thing to end up donning the scarlet and gray, and though higher profile linebacker targets like Justin Hilliard and Jerome Baker remain very much still in play, Mark Pantoni, Urban Meyer, and company may have no choice but to move on to plan B for a third linebacker in the class.
Some have speculated that Dublin Scioto linebacker Nick Conner may be the beneficiary in this particular instance. Though the Columbus metro area native has been high on the Bucks for some time, the feeling hasn't entirely been mutual. As things currently stand, he's still yet to receive an offer from Ohio State. With Michigan State and Kentucky set to potentially benefit if the Buckeyes decided to go in a different direction, it may finally be time for the staff to offer "one of their own".
But speaking of Ohioans, even including Conner as a potential member of next February's recruiting class, the Bucks could well be looking at one of the thinnest number of state of Ohio members of a recruiting class in recent memory.
We all know Urban Meyer and company emphasize a broader-net-casting approach than the previous regime, and while much has been written ad nauseam about the various effectiveness of both ideologies (spoiler alert: both are successful in their own rights), it's still interesting to watch the 2015 recruiting process transpire as potentially a year in which we could see a near record low number of local players join the football team.
So what's the reasoning behind that? And how does 2015 potentially stack up to other recent Buckeye recruiting classes?
The "cause" is relatively straight forward. Recruitniks far and wide have classified the talent in Ohio's 2015 class as not what it's been in some other years. While "weak" probably isn't the appropriate adjective, more shallow than usual likely fits the build.
Though some may feel as though Ohio State is losing their way by potentially bringing in a class that could be more than 70% out-of-state talent, the Buckeyes wouldn't be where they were if their coaches acquiesced to taking a less-stout-than-usual group solely in the interest of serving their local constituencies.
So what have previous Ohio State recruiting classes looked like in terms of Ohioan representation? Because getting the makeup of all recruiting classes in school history would be a beyond herculean task, let's at least look at what's readily available and try to draw conclusions from that sample accordingly. Here's the past decade and change:
The trend down fits what we know about how the current coaching staff approaches things, and needing to push the envelope to 15 during Meyer's three-month-window inaugural class makes sense given the realities of having to put something together with a somewhat competitive disadvantage in terms of time.
But what might this staff be looking at in terms of Ohioans taken for the current recruiting class? It's beyond unscientific, but given that Ohio State has roughly 17-19 spots still open, let's take a look at some of the players the experts of the 247Sports Crystal Ball peg as Buckeye leans currently.
For this exercise's purposes, let's peg any Buckeye target with greater than a 50% prediction rate as a member of the 2015 class. Where we are now, that would have the following in-state targets as Buckeyes:
- Justin Hilliard, five-star LB, St. Xavier (Cincinnati)
- Jerome Baker, four-star ATH, Benedictine (Cleveland)
- Dre'Mont Jones, four-star DE, St. Ignatius (Cleveland)
- James Daniels, three-star C, Warren G Harding (Warren)
- Rashod Berry, three-star DE, Lorain Digital (Lorain)
- Liam McCullough, two-star LS, Worthington Kilbourne (Columbus)
Things have been awfully quiet on the McCullough front for sometime, but even still, with he and the first four on this list, a minimum of five seems like a safe bet. I'm not sure all the signs point to Berry being a fit for the "Elite '15" or not, but swapping him out for one more (or two) in-state kids probably isn't an unfair assumption.
Even being liberal with our predictions, something in the six to maybe eight or nine range seems to be what we're looking at, which at best would tie last year's class, 2010 and 2008, and could very conceivably wind up being less the lowest such total in the recent modern era.
Even with all the frustrations about Meyer not having the ability to capitalize on a first undefeated regular season and then not sealing the deal in the wake of a second, this new era of Buckeye football falls far more in line with the frankly unrealistic expectations of some of the most passionate corners of their base. The aggressive offensive approach and willingness to mix things up from a coaching personnel standpoint goes hand in hand with a more aggressive, national approach to recruiting. In seasons where the state of Ohio can't in full meet the Buckeyes' needs, a more thorough emphasis on what's "outside the walls" will more than position OSU for continued long term high level success.