Cornerback Jeff Okudah was a junior in high school in Grand Prairie, Texas, when Ohio State debuted its all-black uniforms. It was for a prime-time game against Penn State in 2015.
Fifteen months passed before Okudah committed to the Buckeyes, for a variety of reasons, but the threads had gotten his attention when he caught a glimpse of them from home 1,000 miles away.
“It was something that I wanted to wear,” Okudah said recently.
Rather than the traditional scarlet-and-gray uniforms, Ohio State brought back its all-black look Saturday night against Michigan State. It was the third time the team had worn them; the other was in a win over Nebraska last season.
The game against the Spartans was a matchup between ranked teams and was, like the 2015 Penn State game, at night at Ohio Stadium. Fans were encouraged to join the players in wearing black.
The school promoted the effort in the days before kickoff via social media. LeBron James tweeted in support earlier in the week.
The push coincided with a big recruiting weekend. Several high-profile recruits from the class of 2020 were in attendance, including safety Lejond Cavazos, receiver Julian Fleming and offensive tackle Paris Johnson. They roamed the sideline before kickoff.
Most night games for the Buckeyes feature a larger number of visiting recruits. That has usually been because the matchup has a higher profile, but in addition, the later kickoff time allows extra travel time for players from outside the state.
One of Saturday's visiting recruits was quarterback C.J. Stroud, who is from Rancho Cucamonga, California, and played in his high school football team’s game Friday night before flying in. He would have had less time to make a noon kickoff.
When Okudah took his official visit to Ohio State during his senior season of high school in 2016, it was on Thanksgiving weekend when the Buckeyes played Michigan. The team did not wear its all-black uniforms, but did sport a black helmet atop the traditional scarlet jersey and gray pants.
Okudah thought the varying alternate uniforms were appealing for most recruits.
“I would definitely say that uniforms matter to a recruit,” Okudah said. “With this day and age, social media and all that, having different uniforms brings more of an allure to different recruits.”
The Buckeyes incorporated other alternate uniforms in previous seasons. They wore an all-gray version, with black helmets, for a game against Penn State in 2017, a 39-38 come-from-behind win.
Before Urban Meyer’s coaching tenure, most alternate uniforms had been in the school’s primary scarlet color rather than black or gray.