Buckeyes, Herman Struck It Big In Texas

Texas is not a traditional recruiting stronghold for the Ohio State football team, but the Buckeyes did grab three prospects from the Lone Star State in their 2013 class. BuckeyeSports.com looks at how offensive coordinator Tom Herman led the historic charge.

Ohio State's new coaching staff is attempting to make the Lone Star State into the Four-Star State.

The Buckeyes signed three recruits from Texas on Wednesday's National Signing Day, all of which are ranked four stars or above in the Scout recruiting rankings.

That total equals exactly how many scholarship freshmen from the state that Jim Tressel brought in during his 10-year tenure as the Buckeyes' head coach.

In other words, it's clear that Urban Meyer's coaching staff has no problem with the thought of messing with Texas.

"It's not challenging when you go 12-0, Urban Meyer is your head coach and you're wearing the Block ‘O' on your shirt," Ohio State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said after the Buckeyes signed Wichita Falls quarterback J.T. Barrett, DeSoto running back Dontre Wilson and Plano linebacker Mike Mitchell.

Herman's boast wasn't exactly bluster – that's not his style – but an honest assessment of the situation, as Ohio State has the tradition, the coaching staff and the momentum to get in the door with just about any prospect in the country at the moment.

For example, the Buckeyes were able to win National Signing Day battles with five-star safety Vonn Bell – who hails from the Tennessee/Georgia border – and four-star wideout James Clark of Florida. And next year's class already has a commitment from highly rated Michigan prospect Damon Webb.

But the Buckeyes have done well in Georgia and Florida in recent years, and Michigan prospects have made their way south for years to don Scarlet and Gray. On the flip side, Ohio State's history in Texas is checkered.

Wide receiver David Boston (1996-98), a native of Humble and the school's all-time leader with 191 catches, is perhaps the most noted Buckeye from Texas, a list that also includes former quarterback Rod Gerald (1975-78) of Dallas and tight end Rickey Dudley (1994-95) from Henderson.

The more recent history also includes some notable names, but it is rather sparse. Ashton Youboty was recruited out of Houston, having played at Klein High School, and became a key member of the 2004 and '05 teams before moving on to the NFL.

J.B. Shugarts was a five-star prospect out of Klein, as well, who became a multiyear starter, and no one will question the Buckeyes' last-ditch recruitment of quarterback Kenny Guiton out of Houston Eisenhower given the comeback vs. Purdue he engineered this year.

Tressel also added Anthony Schlegel of University Park Highland Park in time for the 2004 season. Schlegel began his career at Air Force, started two years at OSU after transferring and is now on the strength and conditioning staff.

That's the entire list of Buckeyes from the Lone Star State over the past few years, though, something Meyer seemed aware of when talking Wednesday.

"Tom Herman did an excellent job down in Texas, an area that traditionally has not been strong for Ohio State," Meyer said. "I wish I could claim I had more experience in Texas. I've been there quite a bit, but Tom set the wheels in motion, and we pulled three excellent players out of an excellent football state with Mike Mitchell, J.T., and Dontre."

All of them are highly rated within the state, as well. Mitchell, who ranks No. 28 in Scout's overall Top 100 and earned a five-star ranking, is the No. 5 player in the state, while Wilson checks in ninth and Barrett 22nd.

That the Buckeyes could come in and pick up such highly rated players in a competitive area is surprising, but Herman said the team chose its battles. Barrett was interested early and gave a commitment in April before enrolling early, while Ohio State was in on Mitchell when he blew up on the national scene at summer combines before giving a pledge at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January.

Wilson was the most interesting story, as the running back/wideout was committed to Oregon for much of the process until Chip Kelly left the Ducks in January to take over the Philadelphia Eagles. Ohio State always stayed in touch, though, and found itself in good position when the Kelly news broke.

"I think the biggest thing in the state of Texas – and any out-of-state recruiting area – is, to say we're going to go into the state of Texas and beat Texas A&M and Texas and Oklahoma on any kid that we want, that's not going to happen," Herman said. "You have to find and identify the kids that fit your needs and then have that reciprocated interesting in you.

"You continue to recruit those guys and let the chips fall where they may at the end, and whatever that young man decides for him is the best is what he decides."

Herman began his career on staff as a graduate assistant at Texas before stints at Sam Houston State, Texas State and Rice, so his contacts in the Lone Star State are no joke. In fact, Meyer said, that's one of the reasons he tabbed the bright young coach to be his offensive mentor.

"That was all part of the deal," Meyer said. "I knew very well Tom had a background in Texas and I knew he's a good recruiter because I did the homework before we hired him. Very good recruiter."

On Wednesday, there was no doubting that very fact, and the drumbeat could continue in 2014. Scout lists six four-star or higher players from Texas as having interest in Ohio State and 11 overall.

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