Signed, sealed, and delivered
If you follow Ohio State recruiting and were near the internet at all yesterday, you know how nerve-racking things got concerning the status of the No. 1 player nationally, Jeremiah Smith. Easily the tensest signing of the day, the Buckeyes had to wait on pins and needles late into the night to receive his National Letter of Intent, but eventually the team landed the top player in the cycle, which made the dramatics of it all more than worth it.
The background, Smith was set up for a 12 noon ET signing ceremony at his high school with several of his Chaminade-Madonna teammates. Ryan Day — who had a press conference scheduled for the same time — gave his real-time reaction (although he almost certainly knew ahead of time) to the news that Smith had stuck to his commitment.
According to some, it came down to the last few minutes before the ceremony, thanks to the antics of Miami pitching its best NIL deal. Smith went as far as to say that he had two hats in his backpack with Miami joining the Buckeyes, but in the end, he opted to stick with Ohio State because of the team’s track record of developing wide receivers and, of course, position coach Brian Hartline.
After Smith’s ceremony, and the one in Buford, Georgia for Eddrick Houston (more on him later), it looked like Ohio State’s class was officially locked in, with the paperwork in hand for everyone in the class that they were expecting... except it wasn’t. Hours passed and the Ohio State social media accounts had yet to officially announce Smith as is Buckeyes, so naturally, rumors began to swirl.
Whether it was his potential flip to Miami, or even Florida and Florida State, seemingly every narrative was out there while the Buckeyes awaited his LOI. Outlets such as 247Sports and analyst Andrew Ivins added zero insight to help calm down Buckeye fans. The recruiting analyst said that he was informed that “this could be a roller coaster down the stretch.”
This led Buckeye fans, who have been conditioned to expect the worst recently, to assume that the delay was because Smith was considering backing out of his commitment, despite reiterating it just a few hours before. However, just after 10 p.m. ET, @OhioStateFootball confirmed the everything was signed, sealed, and delivered, officially making the No. 1 player in the country a Buckeye.
Jeremiah Smith – Fresh off a Senior campaign that saw him rewrite record books in South Florida and culminated with a State Championship, JJ and his elite skillset land in Columbus looking to add to the legacy of elite Buckeye Wide receivers of the past. Welcome to THE… pic.twitter.com/F9I6Dx3wy1— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) December 21, 2023
Reports last night indicated that the delay was not so much about a potential flip, but rather than Smith and his family were making sure that before the Letter of Intent was submitted that they had all of the NIL details in place. While this might ruffle the feathers of college football traditionalists, given all of the stories that we have heard about NIL promises not being kept (especially at Miami), this is smart.
Now that he is officially in, you can’t overstate how much Smith means to this 2024 haul overall. Getting Smith locked in was not easy with folks from all over the CFB world in his ear, but the Buckeyes and their NIL resources came out on top late and gave every Ohio State coach, staffer, and fan a solid night’s rest. The Buckeyes officially have the top player in the nation in the fold, and we are all looking forward to welcoming him to Columbus as an early enrollee on Jan. 7. This one is finally over!
The signing that saved the class
In addition to the Smith signing, there was one other major member of the class that had Ohio State on the ropes up until the final hour. Five-star defensive end Eddrick Houston committed to the Buckeyes in August and was about as easy of a recruitment as it gets thereafter... until it wasn’t. This past weekend, the situation started to get uneasy for OSU and it appears to have been because of negative recruiting from other schools, trying to undermine Houston’s confidence as to who his position coach would be.
Alabama and Clemson were both able to get Houston on campus in the past week, putting his pledge to the Buckeyes in serious danger; something that has already happened in multiple ways for an elite defensive line commit in the 2024 class. Putting doubts in Eddrick’s mind of Larry Johnson’s status with the program and talking about the portal and how many guys were leaving due to poor culture, Alabama was throwing anything at the wall hoping it would stick and, down the stretch, the feeling that Houston would flip to the Crimson Tide was pretty strong.
Just before he signed, the Director of Recruiting for 247Sports flipped his crystal ball for the five-star talent from Ohio State to Alabama, but Bill Kurelic of Bucknuts.com kept his with the Buckeyes. Once again, during Day’s presser, he took a phone call and left the room, but came back looking thrilled with the news he must have been given. That news of course was that Houston was staying with his Ohio State commitment and giving the Buckeyes his signature in the coming moments.
In reality, Eddrick staying with the Buckeyes made the day. You can certainly imagine what it would look like if Houston had flipped to Alabama, leaving Ohio State with only one single defensive lineman in the class. A major win for Johnson, this goes to show that though his stock has decreased a bit over the years, LJ still can go and get some of the best talent the country can offer, and the reminder couldn’t have come at a better time.
Eddrick Houston – A giant from the Peach state, he looks to make even bigger waves rushing the passer and ruining the days of offensive lineman in the Scarlet and gray. He only has one mode, and its GO. Welcome to THE Brotherhood Eddrick.— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) December 20, 2023
#2THE4THE x @HoustonEddrick0 pic.twitter.com/PXFBMpXCqL
One negative coming out of yesterday was the loss, four-star receiver Jeremiah McClellan flipped to Oregon. Committed to Ohio State since the summer, McClellan was betting on himself and wanted to go against the best in the country during his college career, which is why he originally selected the Buckeyes.
At the end of his recruitment though, it was Oregon that stayed in the mix and gave him reason to believe that he was just another guy for Ohio State, but was “the” guy for the Ducks. That sentiment swayed McClellan away from the Buckeyes and their 2024 class as early Wednesday morning, the staff was made aware that he was headed elsewhere.
Fortunately, Mylan Graham and Jeremiah Smith help soften the blow as those two WRs are higher-ranked players and will certainly help add major talent to an already loaded position group. The Buckeyes wanted McClellan in this class, make no mistake about it, but if there’s one area on this roster that can take a loss it’s at receiver.