Ohio State in the thick of things with Hart

South Carolina blue-chip OL Leon Hart has two big official visits coming up, but right now, OSU is very much in the race.

The lure of an early playing opportunity along the offensive line has to make Ohio State a priority for any of the remaining blue-chip offensive linemen, and such is the case for Leon Hart of Spring Valley High School in Columbia, SC.

With national signing day less than one month away now, Hart still has Ohio State and Auburn on equal footing with a visit to Georgia and Auburn in the offing.

Hart started at right tackle for the East Squad in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 3.

"It was a good experience to come down there for a whole week and get a chance to meet a lot of new guys and play with some of the top players in the nation," Hart said. "I enjoyed it, I think I played a good game."

Among all the talented players in the game, Hart said one in particular stood out that he competed against.

"The defensive end that I was going against, Tim Jamison," he said. "He was real quick and he was probably the best pass rusher that I went against. But like I said, I think I had a good game and I think I got my job done."

Recruiting obviously came up in conversation between the players.

"There are two guys named Marcus Freeman and Ted Ginn that are both going to Ohio State, and I met them on my visit and they know I like Ohio State," Hart said. "They were just preaching Ohio State to me."

Hart gave Ohio State a 10 out of 10 on his visit there but shortly after that he said Auburn was his leader.

"Yes I (gave them a 10)," he said. "I would say Ohio State and Auburn are probably dead even right now. It's probably going to come down to a gut feeling. Until I make that visit, they're a 50/50 split."

Ohio State left a very favorable impression with him on his visit there.

"I really liked the whole atmosphere when I went to Ohio State and just seeing how I fit in with the players, the coaches and the whole campus," Hart said. "That's somewhere where I can see myself playing."

Hart attended an Auburn game but didn't get to one at Ohio Stadium.

"When I went to the Alabama-Auburn game, that really impressed me because that was the first time going to Auburn for a game and I got a chance to see the game atmosphere," Hart said. "I never did have a chance to go to an Ohio State game."

He's met Jim Tressel and Tommy Tubberville and the offensive line coaches at the respective schools.

"I got a chance to know both of them well, Coach (Hugh) Nall from Auburn and Coach Bollman from Ohio State," said Hart about the line coaches. "They're both are really good offensive line coaches."

And is distance a factor?

"I thought about it for a little while," Hart said, "but I think I'm going to go wherever I feel comfortable."

Ted Ginn obviously would be a great teammate to have down the road?

"Yes it would," Hart said. "He's a real good athlete and a good football player."

Kyle Mitchum is another lineman that played in the game that is considering Ohio State.

"He played guard right beside me," Hart said. "I had a chance to meet him and we became friends over the weekend. He let me know that one of the schools that I was interested in as he was, was Ohio State. So yes I did, I got a chance to meet him and talk to him."

A chance for an opportunity to play early is an important issue to Hart.

"At Ohio State and Auburn there is a good opportunity to come in and work hard and contribute early," Hart said. "Auburn needed offensive linemen last year and their coach told me they had to play a walk on, and Ohio State is losing four senior offensive linemen. Rob Sims played left tackle and the center played last year."

Hart was hosted by Sims on that big Dec. 5 recruiting weekend.

"I still have a real good feeling about Ohio State," he said. "I still feel the same way as when I left there."

Auburn will be his last visit on Jan. 16 and then he'll decide. But first he'll visit Georgia Jan. 9.

"Georgia is still a player but I would say that Ohio State and Auburn are ahead," he said. "As a third school behind them, Georgia would be one of them."

And he mentioned that although there is some pressure to stay in state and attend the University of South Carolina, it seems as though he's all but eliminated the Gamecocks.

"Yes, them and Virginia I don't plan on taking visits to," he said.

As a final message to Ohio State fans that are still hopeful of landing a top-notch lineman like Hart, he said: "Well, I guess that they can know that I'm really strongly considering Ohio State."

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