Before I get into the gist of my article, I want to wish former Ohio State running back and current member of the Philadelphia Eagles, Trey Sermon, the very best of luck this weekend in Super Bowl LVII. Sermon is the only former Buckeye who is participating in The Super Bowl, and is unlikely to be an active participant, but would earn a Super Bowl ring if the Eagles defeat the Chiefs.
In my estimation, one of Michael Keaton’s more underrated performances in the last few years is in the 2016 movie “The Founder”. Keaton plays the role of Ray Kroc, the man who created McDonald’s franchises and eventually forced out the actual McDonald brothers from their business. One of the better lines in the movie is uttered by Dick McDonald, played by the actor Nick Offerman, saying, “There’s a wolf in the hen house. We let him in...”.
At this point, you are thinking, “Minnich, what does this have to do with Ohio State football?!?” Let me explain my analogy.
In last week’s article, I defined three goals I have for Ohio State as they work diligently on assembling their 2024 recruiting class. Presently, the Buckeyes sits with three verbal commitments.
Ohio State football has always been built upon the talented players from the great state of Ohio. While Ohio has suffered population losses over the years to other states down south, the reality is Ohio is blessed with exceptional high school programs all throughout the state, with players capable of playing for many NCAA Division 1 programs.
I referenced this in last week’s article, and will merely reiterate it again — perhaps in today’s NIL landscape, Ohio State would do better by focusing more heavily upon Ohio talent, versus trying to recruit talent from all around the country. Former OSU head coach Jim Tressel had rosters loaded with Ohio talent, and perhaps Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day will adopt a similar approach. Day was recently quoted as saying, “I also think that, you know, it matters to have guys from the state of Ohio now more than ever...”
Below are three schools to be wary of for 2024 Ohio recruiting. As you will read, all three have ties to the Buckeye State, and all have or will be trying to poach talented Ohioans to their respective programs.
Think of some of the better players from Ohio who have chosen to take their talents to “That Team Up North” throughout the years — John Kolesar, Ricky Powers, Desmond Howard, Charles Woodson.
One of Jim Tressel’s strengths from 2001-2011 was essentially keeping Michigan from Ohio’s top talent. Yes, Tressel did lose a few (Prescott Burgess, Shawn Crable, Mario Manningham), but he kept the Wolverines at bay for most of the time.
I bring this up as Michigan signed four Ohio players in their 2023 recruiting class. None had Ohio State offers, but it is a sign that the Wolverines are trying to reestablish a presence in Ohio that had been blocked. Even though the 2024 recruiting class will not be signed for 10 months, a few of the top players in the state of Ohio are being forecast to wind up with the Wolverines. Four of the top 15, to be exact.
So here’s to hoping that Ohio State tries to get back to the Wolverines not having a prime seat at the table for Ohio’s top talent.
2. Notre Dame
This school has pretty much always been a constant in trying to get Ohio talent, considering the abundance of Catholic high schools throughout the state of Ohio. Remembering that Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman is a former Ohio State linebacker who has strong ties to the Ohio high school coaching community from his days as an assistant at Cincinnati (more on that momentarily), it should not be surprising that the Fighting Irish will do their best to try to get some of Ohio’s better players to come to South Bend, Indiana.
Notre Dame signed two players from Ohio, and DE Brenan Vernon held an Ohio State offer. At first glance in 2024, Notre Dame is projected to sign one of the top-15 players from the state of Ohio.
Just because I have Wisconsin third on this list does not mean that I do not consider them to be a threat to land top Ohio talent. New Wisconsin head coach Luke Fickell arrived too late in the 2023 recruiting cycle to make a big splash, but Fickell will likely be drawing on his extensive high school relationships that he cultivated while as an Ohio State assistant under Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer, and even more so as the head coach of Cincinnati.
Fickell gained a positive reputation for identifying the so-called “diamonds in the rough” prospects, such as former Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee, and developing them into premier players. Just because Fickell’s address is Madison, Wisconsin, does not mean that he has lost that talent, and it will not be surprising to see Fickell try to capitalize upon Ohio players who may feel overlooked or neglected by the Ohio State coaching staff.
Ohio State associate athletic director/general manager of player personnel Mark Pantoni has been quoted as saying that Ohio State will be “trying to sign as many Ohio kids as possible.” It may be a necessity to keep the lurking wolves from entering into the proverbial hen house of Ohio talent.