The Dynamics of Kentucky Wildcats Football Recruiting in Ohio

Seth Werkheiser

The times, they are a-changin'. Yes, indeedy! According to several sources, Mikel Horton, Thaddeus Snodgrass and Dorean Hendrix are claiming that anywhere from ten to fifteen Ohio players they know want to commit to Kentucky. Of those, seven or eight already have offers. With the Darryl Long and Tyrell Dubose commitments, we now have five recruits from Ohio who can influence other Ohio kids now and in the future. Kentucky has Crossed the River in a big way.

Can Kentucky be successful in the SEC with Ohio players mixed in with Florida, Georgia and a few Kentucky players? I don't know. We've not even played a game under the current coaching staff. I know we've had some really good Ohio players in the past, but we've never had a large number from the Buckeye State.

When Kentucky signs a 4 star player out of Ohio, it means another team (or teams) that recruit in Ohio lose out, and it isn't Ohio State, although we did "steal" Snodgrass -- some say from Michigan State and others say from Michigan. Some might think we stole him from Bo Pelini and Nebraska. Let's look at a list of schools whose rosters reflect an emphasis on Ohio players.

I checked the 2013 Spring rosters of the schools that recruit Ohio. You can tell by counting the number of Ohio players on the roster how hard they recruit the state. This took me a lot of time and is one reason why I've not posted much or made comments in the last week. Before I list the school who recruit Ohio hard, I can tell you that I eliminated Nebraska. There are only two or three from Ohio on their Spring roster. So much for Nebraska fans claiming to "own" Ohio. That became the past when Vince Marrow left for Kentucky. I did not include MAC schools because they don't sign 4 or 5 star players except in rare instances.

Here's the list of FBS (Div I) schools who recruit hard in Ohio (in no particular order). Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh. I added Louisville and Kentucky to the list because both are making efforts there. All but four are Big Ten schools. All of the schools except Illinois have a common border to the State of Ohio.

I looked at all of the Big Ten schools and found that Purdue, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Penn State have very few Ohio players. It appears they don't recruit Ohio much. Is that in deference to Ohio State? Make no mistake, Ohio State "owns" Ohio with the exception of two regions: Greater Cincinnati and the Youngstown area. Ohio State and Notre Dame do seem to have a lock on the top players from Cincinnati's Archbisop Moeller. Here's the Division and Region maps for Ohio football from the OHSAA. Ohio State has used the Columbus and Cleveland areas as their primary in-state pipeline and then they pick and choose in the Toledo and Akron areas.

Today, I want to show you the changing dynamic of Ohio State recruiting and how it presents opportunity for Kentucky at the best possible time. The Ohio State 2013 Spring roster shows 60 players (71%) from Ohio out of the total 84 players on the team. Nine of those (11% of the roster) are from the Cincinnati area. I didn't count the number from the Youngstown area because that particular area doesn't produce as much talent as Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, Columbus or Toledo.

The talent that Youngstown and its surrounds does produce, however, is as good as anywhere. Ohio State gets the pick of the litter throughout Ohio. That could be changing, however, due to the SEC's string of BCS Championships and the NFL Draft. The make-up of the remaining roster comes from Pennsylvania (4), Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts and Georgia (3 each), Illinois and Texas (2 each) and one each from California, North Carolina, New Jersey and Washington.

Jim Tressel, during his tenure (2001-2011), recruited nationally, but the bulk of his signees were from Ohio. He resigned in May, 2011. The 2011 recruiting class was his because they all signed in February. Urban Meyer has signed the 2012 and 2013 classes. Tressel's last class was ranked #11 in the Rivals team rankings and included one 5 star, nine 4 stars and twelve 3 stars. He signed 13 players from Ohio, 2 from Illinois, 3 from Florida, 1 from Virginia (the 5 star), and 1 each from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Georgia.

If anyone thinks Urban Meyer has lost his luster, Meyer's 2012 class was ranked #4 in the Rivals team rankings and included two 5 stars, fourteen 4 stars, and nine 3 stars. His two 5 stars were DE Noah Spence from Pennsylvania and DE Adolphus Washington from Cincinnati who flirted with UK. Meyer signed thirteen from Ohio, two from Virginia and Massachusetts, one each from North Carolina, Colorado, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

The 2013 class was ranked #2 by Rivals and included two 5 stars (DB Vonn Bell from Georgia and LB Mike Mitchell from Texas), sixteen 4 stars and six 3 stars. tOSU signed ten players from Ohio, three from Texas, two from Florida and Georgia, and one each from Mississippi (JUCO), New Jersey, California, Missouri, Indiana, South Carolina, and North Carolina. This is just a hint of Urban Meyer's recruiting strategy.

If you look at tOSU's 2014 commitments for this year, you can't see the change in strategy. Five of the seven commitments are from Ohio. To see the change in strategy, you have to look at the Ohio State Big Board.

You don't see very many Ohio players, do you? The remaining Ohio players are WR Derek Kief and Marshon Lattimore. Both also have UK offers. What this should tell us is that OSU has already signed the bulk of the Ohio players they are/were after. OSU lost Thaddeus Snodgrass to UK and Kief and Lattimore are giving UK serious consideration although Rivals can't bring themselves to admit it. Marcelys Jones contacted UK back in February to express interest. He has an apparent fascination with playing in the SEC. You can bet that Vince Marrow had something to do with that. Could Kentucky actually hurt Ohio State's recruiting in the future?

UK and OSU are also going head to head outside of Ohio, something that UK fans should appreciate. That is a big change from the past. Kentucky seemed to shy away from trying to compete with the big dawgs that lay on the porch. Can Stoops and Marrow turn Ohio into a Kentucky pipeline? Did any UK fan foresee the possibility of an Ohio pipeline before Stoops and Company arrived?

We'll find out in February how well we can compete with Ohio State, but I don't think the real competition with the Buckeyes is in Ohio when you consider how many offers UK has made there and Ohio State's emphasis on recruiting the best of the best on a national basis under Urban Meyer.

Next up - UK versus Northwestern, Michigan State and Michigan in the battle for Ohio players.

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