Ohio State football finding recruiting success in Texas

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra

The Ohio State football team has struck oil in its recruiting efforts in Texas.

The recent commitments from quarterback Quinn Ewers and wide receiver Caleb Burton, a pair of high school juniors, put the Buckeyes on a path to sign top-five prospects from the state in four consecutive recruiting classes.

Ewers is the highest-ranked quarterback prospect in the country in class of 2022, as well as the top-ranked recruit from Texas, while Burton is fourth overall in the state, according to 247Sports’ composite of the major recruiting rankings.

For a program based outside the South, Ohio State's winning streak is largely unrivaled in the modern era.

“As far as recruiting the top-end guys, I think what Ohio State’s been doing in the most recent four- or five-year span is pretty unprecedented,” said Greg Powers, who covers recruiting for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. “They've been able to come after not only recruits in Texas, they've been able to zero in on the elite recruits in Texas.”

Receiver Caleb Burton (5) of Del Valle High School is the latest five-star football recruit from Texas to commit to play at Ohio State. Since 2017, in fact, the Buckeyes have landed more five-star recruits out of the Lone Star State than the University of Texas.

When Urban Meyer took over as coach of Ohio State in 2012, he turned the Buckeyes into a national recruiting juggernaut, stretching their base of talent.

Under Ryan Day, the trend has continued in Texas, taking advantage of one of the most fertile recruiting bases in the country.

Ohio State recruiting:Who is Quinn Ewers, the Texas quarterback who just committed to Ohio State?

The Buckeyes have not signed more than a couple of Texas recruits in their most recent classes, but their success is owed to precision — identifying and landing one of the top recruits in each cycle.

The commitments of Burton and Ewers follow Donovan Jackson, an offensive lineman from suburban Houston who is the state's second-ranked prospect in the class of 2021 and is eligible to sign during the early signing period this month.

Other recent OSU signees from Texas include decorated receiver recruits Jaxon Smith-Njigba (class of 2020) and Garrett Wilson (2019).

“It’s not like they're signing four or five (Texans) in every class,” Powers said. “They're picking the guys they want, and then they're coming down and getting them. That's really impressive to do because there is a limited amount of these high, five-star type of talents across the country and they're able to pinpoint a state that’s 750 to 850 miles away from home and come after the No. 1 player in that state and get them consistently.

“It’s consistent. It’s not like you can look at one year and say, ‘Oh well, that was just a random one-off.’ You're talking about four years in a row.”

Before the recent four-year run, beginning with Wilson’s addition to the class of 2019, there were signs that Ohio State could land the top prospects from the state.

The Buckeyes signed a trio of top Texas talent in 2017, including running back J.K. Dobbins, linebacker Baron Browning and cornerback Jeff Okudah.

All of them found success in the program. Dobbins became the program's first-ever 2,000-yard rusher last season, and Okudah turned into a consensus All-American before he was taken third overall in the NFL draft. Browning has been the Buckeyes’ second-leading tackler this fall in his first season as a full-time starter.

J.T. Barrett, the record-setting quarterback for the Buckeyes, was also from Texas. All of them showed a pathway to Ohio State.

The Buckeyes have benefited from underachievement by the Texas Longhorns, the state’s premier program that is in its fourth season led by Tom Herman, a former Ohio State offensive coordinator.

Ohio State quarterbacks:With Quinn Ewers' commitment, Ohio State quarterback room will be loaded

The Longhorns did not sign a top-five prospect from the state in their last two recruiting classes and have only one committed in the 2021 and ’22 classes. Before Ewers committed to the Buckeyes on Nov. 19, he had been previously committed to Texas.

Many of the state’s premier prospects have ended up at Texas A&M, while others have ended up at out-of-state schools such as Alabama, Oklahoma and Louisiana State.

But all of those programs are well inside the Texas geographic footprint compared with Ohio State.

The reasons vary for each of the prospects in their commitments, but the Buckeyes’ status as annual College Football Playoff contenders has provided an edge at a time when much of the focus of the sport is centered on the four-team postseason.

“I think that success carries over nationwide, not only in the state of Texas,” Powers said.

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman

Lone Star talent 

A look at some of the top recent Ohio State recruits from Texas   

Class of 2022

Caleb Burton, receiver: Five-star recruit from Del Valle High School, just outside of Austin, who committed last week. He missed his junior season because of injury, but had moved up recruiting boards during a breakout sophomore campaign.  

• Quinn Ewers, quarterback: The top-ranked quarterback in the class, from Carroll H.S. in Southlake, has drawn comparisons to Clemson star Trevor Lawrence, who was the nation’s No. 1 passing prospect in his class in 2018. Carroll is a premier program in Southlake, a suburb in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex. 

2021

• Donovan Jackson, offensive line: Houston-area player committed in January, 11 days after the Buckeyes appeared in the College Football Playoff semifinals against Clemson, and is considered by 247Sports to be the best overall prospect in Texas in his class, though is ranked lower by ESPN and Rivals. Expected to play guard for OSU.   

2020  

• Jaxon Smith-Njigba, receiver: His prolific career at Rockwall ended with more than 5,000 receiving yards, and he was the 6A player of the year last fall in Texas. He has been the most productive of OSU’s four blue-chip receivers signed last winter, with six catches for 17 yards, including a highlight-reel grab against Nebraska in which he tiptoed along the back line of the end zone.  

2019

• Garrett Wilson, receiver: Stayed committed and signed with Ohio State in the immediate aftermath of the transition from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day, giving the Buckeyes one of their best playmakers in recent memory. After an impressive debut as a freshman, began this season with four straight games of 100 or more receiving yards, one game shy of matching a school record set by Cris Carter more than three decades ago.

2018

• Matthew Baldwin, quarterback: Late commitment in the class spent one season with the Buckeyes before transferring to Texas Christian soon after the arrival of Justin Fields. 

2017

• Baron Browning, linebacker: Has thrived as a senior as a full-time starter at inside linebacker this fall.

• J.K. Dobbins, running back: The Buckeyes’ top RB for three seasons rushed for 4,459 yards over three seasons before leaving for the NFL.

• Elijah Gardiner, receiver: Reserve has not appeared in a game this season for the Buckeyes. 

• Jeff Okudah, cornerback: The No. 2 overall prospect from Texas in his class, he developed into a consensus All-American and finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back by his junior season.

• Kendall Sheffield, cornerback: Originally enrolled at Alabama, then transferred to Blinn College in Brenham, Texas, before coming to Ohio State.    

2014 

• Demetrius Knox, offensive line: Started 20 games at right guard for the Buckeyes over his final two seasons in 2017 and ’18, developing as a former blue-chip recruit who was the 15th overall prospect in Texas in his class.  

2013 

• J.T. Barrett, quarterback: Set a variety of school records over his career and became the first three-time captain in the program’s history.  

• Mike Mitchell, linebacker: Transferred after one season with the Buckeyes, leaving for Texas Tech. 

• Dontre Wilson, running back: Converted to receiver by the end of his career at Ohio State.