Tight end prospect Jake Ballard of Springboro (Oh.) High School was among the 20 players to sign a letter of intent today to play their college football at Ohio State.
Ballard (6-6, 255) made a verbal commitment in June, and now the wait is over and he is officially a Buckeye.
"It's hard to believe," Ballard said. "I'm real excited about next year. I just want to get up there right now."
Ballard said though that even though it is now official, there isn't much that feels different than when he committed.
"I knew six months ago that I was coming to Ohio State," he said. "Nothing much has changed; I just know now that I'm officially heading there and nothing's going to change about that."
Ballard arrives in Buckeye gear
January is a month when many recruits are battling the stress of trying to make a final decision, something that Ballard did not have to go through. He was happy to have made his decision long ago.
"If I still didn't know up to this day, if I wasn't figuring it out until this last week, I wouldn't know what to think," Ballard said. "It'd just be a lot of stress and I'm glad I figured it out a long time ago."
For the most part, things quieted down for Ballard after he made his decision, even though some schools still continued to inquire about him immediately after his verbal commitment.
"A little bit," Ballard said. "Not so much. About the first two months after I committed, I would say I was getting stuff, but after all the coaches started calling my high school football coach and asking him if I had committed to Ohio State, they knew it was a pretty firm commitment and that nothing can pull me away from it."
Ballard is known as a versatile player who could play tight end, offensive line or defensive line. He won Division II All-Ohio honors as a defensive lineman, and some have speculated he might eventually slide down to the offensive line. But Ballard only has his sights set now on tight end.
"They said there's no doubt I'm going to get my shot at tight end," Ballard said. "They're not even thinking about me at offensive line because they have a ton of offensive linemen. They didn't want to bring me in for something they didn't need, and they think I can contribute early as soon as I'm ready for it."
Ballard, with family and coaches
What is Ballard most looking forward to about coming up to Ohio State?
"I guess working hard and being around the players, and just having a good time," he said.
Ballard already knows several players on the football team as well as from his recruiting class. He discussed some of the players he's had a chance to meet and spend time with.
"When I was up there, I hung out with Alex Boone and Rory Nicol, and they're real good guys," he said. "And James Laurinaitis - they all seem to be real nice guys. I get along with them real well, and Jon Skinner, and I hung out with Tyler Moeller when I was up there; he's a real good kid. I've had Kurt Coleman come over. I know Ross (Homan); we haven't hung out a lot, but I talk to him sometimes. All of them seem like awesome kids. And also, I was on Robby Schoenhoft's AAU team a couple years ago, so we're really good friends, too."
Ballard feels that with the talent coming in along with the existing collection of players at Ohio State, a national championship run could be in the cards over the next couple of years.
"Oh, yeah," he said. "Everybody's saying they lose a bunch of people on defense, but the defense at Ohio State always reloads. You can't replace A.J. Hawk or Bobby Carpenter, but you can do your best to try and fill those positions, and I think they will. Then with everybody on offense that's returning, and you've got receivers like they have. No one's going to think about a tight end going over the middle like Marcel Frost or Rory Nicol."
Ballard won't be taking much time off between now and arriving at Ohio State. Unlike many prospects, Ballard will be a three-sport participant this year before making the full transition to football.
"After basketball season, I plan on running track to get faster, and I'm still going to be lifting all the time," he said. "Then after school, I'm going to play in the North-South game in June, and I'm going to try to make it to Ohio State as much as I can to work out with the team."
In addition to being a first-team All-Ohio pick in Division II by The Associated Press, Ballard was an ONN/Ohio High All-Ohio pick as well. He holds a 3.4 GPA and scored a 23 on the ACT.
Ballard signs on the dotted line