You Down With OCC? OSU Is

Ohio is a high school football power, but that strength is often thought to lie in the northeast and southwest portions of the state. Some Ohio State stars from central Ohio relish the chance to prove the area's doubters wrong.

Everyone knows that in Ohio football is king, and with Columbus the capital city of the Buckeye State it would follow that central Ohio is the pinnacle of gridiron action.

At the college level that is certainly the case as Ohio State football is the dominant program in the state (and in the nation for now). At the high school level, however, most look towards northeast and southwest Ohio for the sports best players. One current Buckeye thinks that is shortsighted.

“I don’t think central Ohio guys get the love they deserve sometimes,” linebacker Joshua Perry said. “It’s a little biased, but whatever.”

As Ohio State’s 2014 leading tackler said, he has a vested interest in the topic. Perry attended Olentangy High School about 15 miles from Ohio State’s campus and is one of those underappreciated central Ohio guys he was talking about. Perry wasn’t exactly ignored in high school. Scout rated him the No. 108 player in the 2012 class, but as central Ohio’s highest rated played he was still just ninth in the state.

Though the Buckeyes have their share of players from the Cleveland and Cincinnati areas, since adding Perry the Buckeyes have continued to stock up on central Ohio players, underappreciated or not. Joining the Olentangy product in the linebacker room last season was Darron Lee, a four-star product out of New Albany. Lee has outperformed expectations as he was not one of the top 300 players in the 2013 class but was 23rd nationally in tackles-for-loss last season and was a freshman all-American.

Joining that pair this spring after enrolling early was Nick Conner, the Dublin Scioto linebacker who, like Perry and Lee, played in the Ohio Capital Conference in high school. It was the middle linebacker who prompted Perry’s comments about the area’s prospects being underappreciated.

“I feel like he didn’t get a ton of credit because he was one of those guys that although he performed well at some of the camps and stuff, he really wanted to come to Ohio State so he didn’t get a whole bunch of attention form the recruiting media,” Perry said after Conner starred in the spring game. “I also have a little bias about Central Ohio guys not getting the (publicity) they deserve, but that’s a different story. Nick’s going to be a great player here.”

Perry and Lee will start alongside one another once again this fall and while Georgia native Raekwon McMillan is the unquestioned starter at middle linebacker, Lee said he would welcome an all OCC linebacker trio in practice.

“We haven’t yet,” Lee said. “That would be pretty cool, I won’t even lie.”

While Luke Fickell has stocked his linebacker room with underappreciated central Ohio guys, that’s hardly the only position group where former OCC stars are making an impact at Ohio State.

Nick Vannett was a part-time starter at tight end last season and will be in that role full time as a senior in 2015. The Westerville Central grad said he isn’t shy about pulling for other residents of the 614.

“We look at it as we get to play football in our backyard,” he said. “We grew up in this area, and we’ve had some great guys step up like Joshua Perry and Darron Lee. Whenever we see each other, we always represent OCC, so we kind of have our own little fraternity. We pull for each other because we’re from the central Ohio area.”

While the state’s high school football power may not be centralized, players from the heart of the state continue to make an impact for the Buckeyes. Underrated or not.

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