Recruiting Changes With Road Spring Game

For much of the past decade, the annual Scarlet and Gray Game has served as the premier Ohio State recruiting event of the spring practice season, but that option is unavailable to the football program this year with the game being staged in Cincinnati. As a result, the Buckeyes have adjusted their strategy all spring, and today is a big day on campus.

In most years, next weekend would be the perfect time to showcase the Ohio State program.

As long as the weather was good, a near full house would be descending on Ohio Stadium to provide one of the usual massive crowds to support the Buckeyes during the annual spring game.

Invited to Columbus along with the throngs of fans would be some of the best high school recruits in the nation, many of whom have been bowled over during the past decade as Buckeye Nation has shown its dedication by making the Scarlet and Gray Game an event unto itself.

Of course, that won't be happening in 2013. Because of a much-needed renovation to replace the concrete coverings in Ohio Stadium's seating bowl, this year's April 13 spring game has been moved to Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium.

While there will still be recruits and even some 2013 signees at the home of the Cincinnati Bengals when the Scarlet takes on the Gray – Ohio State cleared that with the NCAA – the Horseshoe atmosphere won't quite be duplicated in the 66,319-seat venue on the banks of the Ohio River.

Somewhat in its place, this weekend serves as a replacement. With the gridiron program celebrating Student Appreciation Day today, thousands of students and their parents will be overrunning the Woody Hayes Athletic Center field for an open practice, and the list of recruits on campus for the event is strong.

The weekend has already resulted in one commitment from 2014 Cincinnati Moeller athlete Sam Hubbard, and more could be on the way.

According to new writer Derek Young, the list includes such high-profile 2014 names as Demarre Kitt, Dante Booker, Sam Mustipher, Lonnie Johnson and others, as well as 2015 recruits Jayru Campbell and more. (Click here for more from Young and others on this weekend's visits.)

"It will be a big day," Ohio State tight ends/fullbacks coach Tim Hinton, who also works as the recruiting coordinator, said. "We certainly will have, we hope, a very good group of young men here to see why Ohio State is very special and why it's a real great opportunity for us to have a Student Appreciation Day.

"To see hopefully 10,000 students running around and all the stuff we have going on, it's a cool day. It's a really cool thing. We want all the recruits we can to see the atmosphere Ohio State can generate."

That has been true throughout the entire spring, as Hinton said Ohio State has been active in getting recruits to visit campus with there being no grand stage like an on-campus spring game at the end to wow the prep players.

"We probably have done more right now than we have in the past," Hinton said. "You notice every day if you're out there, there's a lot of guys that are here on visits. It's a mad rush every day we have practice, I guarantee you that. That will continue from now until July as far as all kinds of weekends and all kinds of kids coming through this place. The beauty of it is you have to have them here on the right days and do a good job when they're here."

The Ohio State staff isn't viewing the on-the-road version of the spring game as a negative, though. On the other hand, it allows the university to show off its football program and its overall message in Cincinnati, which is a unique place in many ways in the state.

From the hometown University of Cincinnati to a number of other nearby schools like Xavier, Miami (Ohio), Kentucky and Louisville, the Queen City isn't tinted as deeply scarlet and gray as Columbus and Cleveland when it comes to the state's major population centers.

That has extended to the recruiting realm, as well. Ohio State has pulled in its fair share of Cincinnati area recruits over the years – players like DeVier Posey of La Salle High School and Tyler Moeller of Colerain immediately come to mind, among others – but the program is always looking for ways to strengthen its brand in the southwest corner of the state.

Two coaches on staff, including Hinton, have helped lead that charge. Hinton coached at UC from 2004-09 before moving on to Notre Dame – another school that is big in Cincinnati because of its Catholic ties – while cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs is a Queen City legend as a high school coach who has also worked as a Bearcat assistant.

The spring game could help continue the development between the OSU program and the tri-state area.

"As you know, there is a really strong Catholic football league down there and some other programs have recruited well and hard," Hinton said. "Any time you can expose the scarlet and gray, it is a positive thing. That's what we're trying to do – gain that exposure – we had to go somewhere, it was a great place to go and I know the Cincinnati people will be really excited to have us down there."

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