The heart of Texas, at least in regards to the 2017 college football recruiting cycle, leaped north to Ohio State this year with three of the top six prospects from the Lone Star State committing to the Buckeyes and starting school in January.
“We knew that this would be the best place for us, and we weren’t scared to make the jump from Texas to Ohio,” running back J.K. Dobbins, of La Grange, said Wednesday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
As of mid-afternoon, five members of OSU’s 2017 class were from Texas, including the nation’s top-ranked cornerback prospect Jeffrey Okudah of South Grand Prairie and top linebacker Baron Browning of Kennedale, who like Dobbins already are enrolled.
The other two Texans were junior-college transfer Kendall Sheffield from Missouri City by way of Alabama, where he signed as a five-star prospect in 2015, and three-star receiver Elijah Gardiner of Kemp.
Also, Ohio State was still in play for defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, considered the No. 2 overall prospect in the country, from Episcopal High School in Bellaire, Texas. Wilson planned to make his choice known among Louisiana State, Florida State, OSU or Oklahoma later in the afternoon.
Browning had a straightforward answer when asked about the Tex-odus.
“I’d say probably the reason everybody is leaving Texas is because everybody wants to be great,” Browning said. “They’re going to where they feel like they can grow the most.”
It probably helped that there was turmoil in the past year at three of the major schools in Texas.
The University of Texas went through a coaching change from Charley Strong to Tom Herman, Baylor dealt with off-field scandals and Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin had to fight for his job in the latter stages of last season.
Okudah, though, had been leaning OSU’s way for quite a while, he said, and he credited the Buckeyes’ coaching staff for that.
“They were pretty close to my family, they did a really good job of recruiting everyone around me,” Okudah said. “That just kind of made my decision more comfortable.
“I knew in my head I wanted to come compete with the best players in the country, that iron sharpens iron. So from the start that always caught my eye.”