Midwest-based prospects have been coming off the board in quick succession this off-season. Here is a look at five commitments that were the most surprising.
After seeing Tatum at a Rivals camp during his sophomore year, it was surprising he was without any offers at that point. He would wait another six months before that first offer came through, but among those very first offers last October was one from the home-state Oklahoma Sooners. Tatum grew up a Sooner fan in Oklahoma City and made several visits to Norman during the course of his recruitment.
So, when it was time for Tatum to announce his commitment last month, his choice was… Texas!?! Even in the days leading up to the announcement, Oklahoma was the expected choice, but Tatum stunned the recruiting world by picking the Sooners’ Big 12 rivals.
With Vann and five-star offensive tackle Jackson Carman in the same class at Fairfield High, recruiting started early for both players as college coaches were making the school a regular stop as soon as their sophomore years ended. Vann racked up an early offer list that included Louisville, Maryland, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and West Virginia. Before his junior season had started, Vann had already listed Michigan State and Notre Dame as favorites at different times.
When he made his commitment last month, however, Vann chose to stay at home and play for the Cincinnati Bearcats, giving first-year head coach Luke Fickell a huge recruiting win over national programs early in his tenure.
While the choice of Ohio State was a minor surprise for Proctor, the timing of that commitment is what really generated the most shock. Proctor’s decision seemed to come out of the blue, with recruiting fans’ attention focused on other prospects who had signaled intentions to commit and nothing coming from Proctor’s camp that suggested a decision was near for him.
Going into the heart of Big 12 territory and grabbing one of the Sooner State’s top prospects was an impressive win for Ohio State, though they had been putting in the work since he visited Columbus last summer and received an offer. That it happened in a stretch when the Oklahoma Sooners lost several big recruiting battles was particularly stinging for the home-state team.
Few prospects saw their stock rise as quickly as Ford did this past winter. He came into the month of January with one offer – from FCS program Southern Illinois, and two months later had a collection of 20 scholarship offers, including ones from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Iowa, Louisville, Oklahoma and Pittsburgh. With options aplenty, Ford started to hit the road and check out some of the schools that had offered. He admitted that a trip to Illinois in early March made him want to end the recruiting process right there and play for the home-state team, but his parents encouraged him to go on. His next visit would go to Arkansas and a day after leaving Fayetteville, Ford committed to the Razorbacks, surprising maybe even himself.
This commitment back in April did not generate as much attention as some of Minnesota’s other off-season commits, but it may have been the best example of P.J. Fleck’s recruiting prowess. The Gophers went into the heart of Ohio and secured a prospect who was coveted by numerous other Power Five programs, including Big Ten brethren Penn State and Wisconsin. Being able to win a battle like Manns in the most heavily-recruited Midwest state six months after arriving in Minneapolis is awfully impressive and suggests there are few recruiting barriers that Fleck cannot break down, especially if he starts winning.