Viewing Ohio From The Outside

This week, takes a look at out-of-state recruiting at Ohio State. In Part Two, we examine the different challenges involved with bringing out-of-state kids to OSU – and get their thoughts on it.

To an Ohioan, it might seem like Ohio State football is everywhere. The most minute exploits of the team – good or bad – are scrutinized and reprinted in every newspaper within the state and on most television stations.

It's no wonder, then, that OSU coaches are forced to take a different approach when trying to land out-of-state prep prospects.

"Ohio State is such a well-covered program within the state of Ohio, whether it's in Cleveland or Columbus or Cincinnati the media does a tremendous job of covering us so the kids naturally have a lot of insights and coverage," OSU recruiting coordinator John Peterson said. "The key is getting them here. That's the number one thing when we talk about kids, whether it's in state or out of state."

Like other major teams across the country, the Buckeyes begin to express their interest in a prospect by sending him letters in the mail and sending e-mails and text messages. The messages include information on the university, the tradition and the program itself.

But nothing has quite the impact of having the kid take a visit to campus, whether it be on an official visit or an unofficial one. Once there, the OSU coaching staff lets many of the best things the campus has to offer do most of the talking.

While a landmark such as Ohio Stadium aids in recruiting, the need to have cutting-edge technology also has led to the multi-million dollar expansion of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center that has added several thousand more square feet to the building. It now stands as one of the most impressive such buildings in the nation.

"There's no question that on the surface it can catch your eye and give kids a wow factor," Peterson said of the expansion. "Expectations at Ohio State are first-class, and when you expect so much out of young men then we ought to put them in a first-class facility. We've always had that here and always will."

Sometimes, simply being targeted by the Buckeyes is enough to convince an out-of-state athlete to come to Columbus.

"They took a chance on me coming all the way from New Jersey and not even being recruited that heavily and they offered a scholarship," said Malcolm Jenkins, a junior starting cornerback for the Buckeyes. "It made me feel like they actually wanted me to be here."

The number of out-of-state recruits each year has generally risen with each recruiting class under head coach Jim Tressel. The 2003 recruiting class is the anomaly – just two of the 15 members of that class came from out of state, and only one of those Ohioans remains for his fifth year: offensive lineman Kirk Barton, a graduate of Massillon Perry.

After one-fourth of the 2002 recruiting class come from out of state, that number dipped to 13 percent in 2003 then increased to 37.5 percent (9 of 24) in 2004, 38.9 percent (7 of 18) in 2005, an even half (10 of 20) in 2006. OSU's most recent class 33.3 percent (5 of 15) was composed of out-of-staters.

Of course, it's not easy to actually see out-of-state prep stars in person. The proliferation of Internet recruiting Web sites along with the increased ease of DVD recording has helped coaches better evaluate talent.

Though tape can't give the coaches the whole picture, it is still the best way to help coaches decide on a player. Some players send their own tapes on their own to the OSU coaching staff, while others send tape after receiving interest from the Buckeyes.

"The bottom line is we want to see kids produce on tape," Peterson said. "The quality of tape is very good nowadays, whether it's a DVD or whatever it is. We want to see guys on tape producing as football players."

From there, Tressel said there are several factors they weigh after evaluating the tape.

"A lot of it really comes down to what league you want to play in, what's my opportunity to play, how soon do you think I can get in the game and what's my academic major?" he said. "A lot of kids think they know what they want to be, and making sure you have their academic programming becomes important."

In any given recruiting class, the Buckeyes aim to get "8-10 in-state players," Peterson said, and then fill out the rest of their roster with out-of-state talent. For the class of 2008, the Buckeyes have 11 verbal commitments. Seven of them are Ohioans.

Provided those are the right players that the coaches will fit in at OSU, that's all the coaches hope for.

"We believe in the product of an Ohio State education first, and then all the people that make up the program. It takes a special kid who says ‘You know what? That's what I want to do.' "

Buckeye Sports Top Stories