Texas became a popular state for recruiting for Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer this year, with five players making the long journey to Columbus from the Lone Star State. The 2017 recruiting class is a testament to Meyer’s ability to reach far across the nation.
This season, Jeffrey Okudah, Baron Browning, J.K. Dobbins, Kendall Sheffield and Elijah Gardiner all came to OSU as part of 21 new players for the Scarlet and Gray.
The Texas to Ohio pipeline started for Meyer and company back in 2013, when the newest OSU football players from the state were Dontre Wilson, Mike Mitchell and J.T. Barrett. While all three players were former four-star recruits, each has traveled a much different path in college.
Wilson, a once highly touted player who had the speed and hands to play both wide receiver and running back, suffered a foot injury that kept him out of contention for an extended period of time. His career with the Buckeyes is now over, and never really lived up to the hype that surrounded his initial signing.
Mitchell never panned out with the Buckeyes, transferring to Texas Tech before winding up with Southeastern University, which is a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics program. Barrett, who is returning for his redshirt senior season, is poised to break nearly every OSU passing record in the books.
In 2014, OSU snagged now-redshirt sophomore guard Demetrius Knox from Texas before no commitments from the state of Texas for the next two years. Then, everything clicked.
Meyer’s success in Texas might have been a product of a staff full of quality recruiters as well as the team’s accomplishments. Appearances in the College Football Playoff two out of three years since its inception seems like an enticing factor for any incoming freshman.
For Browning, it was all about the opportunities presented by a program like OSU.
“I would say probably the reason everyone is leaving Texas is because everybody wanna be great, so they’re going to where they feel like they can grow the most,” he said on National Signing Day.
However, Okudah said the tight-knit bond between the group was the key that led to the success in Texas for OSU.
“The coaches, they had come out and recruit us, they did a pretty good job,” he said. “They might of got a little bit lucky, because we were all pretty close before so when they got one of us,I would go tell Baron, ‘Did you hear this? Did you hear that?’ and he would say, ‘Yeah.’ It made it easy for us to be comfortable so far from home.”
All incoming players from Texas agreed Columbus is a city where they can grow both on and off the field, and where the dreams of winning a national championship and one day playing in the NFL are all very real possibilities.
The Texas natives and the rest of the Buckeyes will get a chance to show off their skills on April 15 in the Spring Game. With multiple starting spots open on either side of the ball, any one of the five could find their way into the starting lineup.
On top of that, there seemed to be one more thing they all could agree on — a longing for Whataburger.
“I haven’t had (Whataburger) in a long time,” Dobbins said “So I’m kind of missing it.”