Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.
Out-of-state recruiting is becoming more important in today’s world of college football. We are seeing schools march deep into enemy territory and pull top prospects away from home with more regularity.
This week we examine five of the biggest talent-producing states – Florida, California, Georgia, Texas and Ohio – to analyze which schools have done the best job raiding them since 2012.
We start with Ohio.
Ohio State has kept the majority of the top talent at home with 36 four-or five-star signees from in-state since 2012. In fact many of the players “stolen” didn’t have Ohio State offers in the first place.
But with that as a backdrop, here’s a breakdown of the out-of-state programs that have landed the most players with rankings of four-stars or higher from Ohio since 2012.
Note: None of these lists include JUCO or Prep School prospects and focuses on four-and five-star prospects
While it is home to their bitter rival, the Wolverines have become very comfortable recruiting in Ohio, landing 13 different four- and five-stars since 2012. However, the majority of their recruiting success in the state over the last six years came in 2012 and 2013 when they added 10 of those commitments, including Kyle Kalis, Taco Charlton, Jake Butt and Ben Gedeon. Over the last four recruiting classes the Wolverines have only pulled in three additional four- or five-star recruits, with James Hudson being the most recent in the 2017 recruiting class. Michigan has always had a national recruiting approach, but under Jim Harbaugh that has become even more pronounced. With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how often the Wolverines dive into Ohio in the coming years.
Farrell’s Take: Michigan is killing it under Harbaugh, especially in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic over the last couple of recruiting years, so Ohio isn’t as much of a focus. That being said, you know Harbaugh would love to steal big-time Ohio State targets from Ohio if he can, and he continues to work on those players.
The Wildcats have pulled in several impressive recruiting classes under coach Mark Stoops since 2012, with one major factor being their success in Ohio. This was especially true with the classes of 2014 and 2017 when Kentucky pulled in eight top-level recruits from the Buckeye State. The Wildcats have landed 10 different four-stars since 2012 overall. Their focus on Ohio was especially prevalent with the class of 2017 when three of their four four-star signees hailed from the state. The additions of JaVonte Richardson, Tyrell Ajian and Lynn Bowden in February continued to firmly entrench the Wildcats in the state. The main man in Ohio for Kentucky is assistant coach Vince Marrow.
Farrell’s Take: Marrow is the key here and was hired away from Nebraska in a stroke of genius by Stoops. Since then Kentucky has become a major player in Ohio and had gone head-to-head with numerous big-time programs for talent in the state including the Buckeyes. I don’t see the Kentucky success in Ohio, at least for many of those four-stars the Buckeyes don’t covet, stopping anytime soon.
3. MICHIGAN STATE
While Michigan gets more recruiting publicity in Ohio, mainly because of its rivalry with the Buckeyes, the Spartans have also found plenty of success recruiting the state. After picking up only one four- or five-star recruit from Ohio between 2012 and 2014, the Spartans have ratcheted up their efforts in the state with six additions between 2015 and 2017. This included four-star running back Larry Scott in 2015 and then four-star tight end Matt Dotson in 2017. Also of note, the Spartans already have two four-star commitments from Ohio in the class of 2018; teammates Trenton Gillison and Xavier Henderson of Pickerington Central. They are tied with Notre Dame with seven four-stars since 2012 from Ohio but get the nod here at No. 3 because of their 2018 success so far.
Farrell’s Take: The Spartans are off to a great start in 2018 despite an awful season and will continue to try to lure prospects out of Ohio, the biggest talent-producing state within driving distance of Michigan. They can strike gold at times as they did with Scott, and the talent is deep enough in Ohio for the Spartans to really help their roster year in and year out with key additions. I think they do a good job in Ohio but get overlooked a bit because of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry and all the attention paid to Harbaugh and Urban Meyer.
4. NOTRE DAME
The Fighting Irish have long hit Ohio for their recruiting needs, especially the elite non-public programs such as St. Ignatius in Cleveland, St. Edward in Lakewood and Central Catholic in Toledo. The Irish have also reached into Ohio to grab two of their recent starting quarterbacks, Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer. It is also worth noting that after grabbing two elite offensive linemen in 2016, Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame was shut out in the state in 2017 and have yet to pick up a four- or five-star commit for 2018. Is this a trend worth keeping an eye on? However, Notre Dame is recruiting off the charts nationally in 2018 so far, so perhaps Ohio isn’t as big of a focus. The Irish have landed seven different four-star recruits from Ohio since 2012.
Farrell’s Take: The Catholic schools in Ohio will always have prospects interested in Notre Dame, and the Irish will continue to recruit the state, but with their agreement with the ACC it became clear that Notre Dame wanted to hit the Southeast heavier (as do all schools). The 2018 class is off to a great start and Ohio hasn’t been one of the big hits, but for ND’s future landing elite prospects from Georgia and other places in the Southeast such as Derrik Allen is more important.
Another program that seems to be turning up its recruiting efforts in Ohio in recent years is Pittsburgh, which added only one four- or five-star commit from the state between 2012 to 2015 but has landed five in the last three classes. This is worth noting since the Panthers don’t regularly reel in as many four- and five-stars overall as others, such as Michigan and Notre Dame, on this list. It is still too early to know if players such as Ruben Flowers and Darrin Hall, both former four-stars, will end up panning out with the Panthers, but it does show that they plan on focusing more of their recruiting efforts in the Buckeye State. They have landed five different four-stars from Ohio since 2012.
Farrell’s Take: Pitt is sneaky in Ohio and does a really good job getting in there and luring some talent. Does it win battles with Ohio State or even Michigan for them? Not often, but that doesn’t matter much. Ohio is still an important recruiting area for Pitt, and with Penn State’s increased recruiting status having success in Big Ten country is important for the Panthers.
OTHERS OF NOTE
Farrell’s Take: Oregon is the odd one here, as it is expected that West Virginia, Northwestern and Wisconsin would play a role in Ohio. Those three programs need to have even more success in the state to take the next step, although Wisconsin has been pretty darn good on the field without all those four- and five-stars.