The 2017 recruiting class for Ohio State is absolutely loaded with the bluest of blue-chip prospects, many of whom have been committed to Ohio State for months. But don’t sleep on a few of those more under-the-radar guys who joined the class later on in the process. They may end up contributing just as much, after all.
After the surprise decommitment of Tyjon Lindsey, who ended up with Nebraska, the Buckeyes had another opening for a wide receiver. After looking around, they found Elijah Gardiner, who flipped from Missouri to the Buckeyes on Monday, and today, makes it official. He’ll be joining the Scarlet and Gray.
Gardiner’s recruiting profile doesn’t pop off the page like many of the others in this class. He’s a consensus three-star recruit, (0.8352, per the 247Sports Composite), and didn’t have a robust offer sheet (think Houston and Texas Southern), but that changed late in his process.
The Buckeyes had to fend off a hard charge from Tom Herman and Texas in order to land him, so they weren’t the only big name program that saw possible elite potential in Gardiner. And there is one number that does pop off the page: six-foot-five. Plus, his high school coach says that “athletically, he’s off the charts.”
Gardiner will give Ohio State yet another big body to beef up a wideout corps that is transitioning away from smaller hybrid types that struggled a bit last season. He’s joined by four-star Trevon Grimes, four-star Jaylen Harris, and four-star Brendon White in Ohio State’s #Zone6 room.
Gardiner gives the Buckeyes another raw wide receiver with plenty of size. Though his height makes him a candidate for downfield and red-zone opportunities, Gardiner also showed nimble feet and elusiveness in the open field that is more reminiscent of a slot receiver. He’s a special athlete that has a ton of upside in the Ohio State offense.
Gardiner was his high school’s featured playmaker on offense and he was often utilized in the run game. It’s not often that a 6’5 receiver can look natural running the football between the tackles, but Gardiner is an exception. He combines his shiftiness with breakaway speed that highlights his absurdly long strides. Gardiner did show a tendency to catch the ball with his body, but this is a trait that can be worked out with higher-level coaching.
While Gardiner’s film didn’t necessarily show a jump-ball receiver who can make a difference from day one, he’s the type of athlete that could one day be that type of game-changing receiver. A candidate to redshirt, Gardiner has demonstrated that he’s not afraid of contact and he could find his way onto the field sooner rather than later with that attitude. — Ian Hartitz