This season, the Buckeyes will play three night games and a Michigan game at Ohio Stadium. Even so, we've been calling Friday Night Lights the Buckeyes' biggest recruiting event of the year. How could anything possibly be bigger than an Ohio State game under the lights, or the game itself?
To answer that question, we'll need a quick history lesson. Today we're looking back at the past two Friday Night Lights and the impact they had on Buckeye recruiting.
2012 FNL: The event
Ohio State held its inaugural Friday Night Lights in the summer of 2012. Urban Meyer had yet to coach a game at Ohio State, but excitement surrounding the program was through the roof. Former Buckeye greats Joey Galloway, Orlando Pace, LeCharles Bentley, Jim Lachey, Mike Doss, Craig Krenzel and Bobby Hoying served as counselors. Over 1,000 Buckeye fans showed up to watch 100-plus recruits play in the biggest stadium they'd even been to.
One of the major stories heading into FNL 2012 was how it would affect the 2014 quarterback battle. The Buckeyes had locked up 2013 signal-caller J.T. Barrett three months earlier, but a spot in the 2014 class was up in the air. Before FNL 2012 only DeShaun Watson had an offer, and he was committed to Clemson. Drew Barker, Caleb Henderson and Deshone Kizer were battling for an Ohio State offer, while Stephen Collier wasn't even on most fans' radar.
Even though none of the quarterbacks in attendance for FNL 2012 would earn Ohio State offers, it gave the Buckeye coaches a chance to evaluate them in a stadium setting.
Among non-quarterbacks, 2014 receiver and eventual Clemson commit Artavis Scott stole the show. Fellow '14 receiver Braxton Berrios made a strong impression, which contributed to the offer he earned at FNL 2013.
Buckeye fans also got their first look at Joey Bosa, who along with Billy Price excelled in one-on-ones. Other noteworthy players that worked out included Tyquan Lewis, Donovan Munger, Jamarco Jones and Shelton Gibson.
Besides all of the competing players, several of the Buckeyes' top targets were on hand to witness the event. The headliner was Raekwon McMillan, who spent plenty of one-on-one time with Meyer and came away impressed. Others who took in the atmosphere included Dante Booker, Clifton Garrett and Mason Cole.
2012 FNL: The Impact
Friday Night Lights 2012 was a huge success for Ohio State. The most immediate impact was the commitment of Timothy Gardner, who was offered that night and committed on the spot. In addition to Gardner, four other attendees would eventually become members of the 2013 class: Tyquan Lewis, Donovan Munger, Chris Worley and William Houston (preferred walk-on).
Looking back, the Buckeyes also made decent headway in 2014 recruiting. Eventual cornerstones of the "Dream 14" like Raekwon McMillan, Jamarco Jones and Dante Booker were all in attendance. While none of them would commit for another 10 months, Friday Night Lights exposed them to Ohio Stadium and helped the Buckeyes to eventually land them.
Friday Night Lights 2012 created buzz about the Buckeyes all throughout the recruiting world and contributed to eight eventual commitments. All in all, a solid inaugural event.
2013 FNL: The event
The 2013 Friday Night Lights event made improvements on the 2012 event. Eddie George, Mike Doss, Bobby Carpenter and Jim Lachey helped out, along with a handful of contemporary Buckeyes including Ryan Shazier.
One-on-one drills between receivers and defensive backs got most of the attention, highlighted by battles between Eric Glover-Williams and Damon Webb. This was the night Glover-Williams burst onto the scene as one of the top prospects in the 2015 class. Buckeye fans also got a good look at future commit Erick Smith and the already-committed Marcelys Jones. Braxton Berrios, who had an impressive performance for a second time, picked up an Ohio State offer that night.
As with 2012, the 2013 Friday Night Lights mostly showcased rising juniors. Jerome Baker, Brandon Wimbush, Kyonta Stallworth (Michigan State commit), Gabe Megginson (Illinois commit), James Daniels, Rob Dowdy, Adonis Thomas, Jamel Dean, CJ Conrad, Miles Boykin, Anthony McKee, Jordan Whitehead and the Dowell brothers highlighted a very deep and talented group of juniors that took part in Friday Night Lights last year.
In addition to all the great players participating in the drills, Ohio State once again had huge prospects watching and talking with the coaches, namely McMillan, Curtis Samuel and Marshon Lattimore.
2013 FNL: The impact
While Ohio State didn't pick up any commits on the night of last year's event, they positioned themselves well with their biggest targets. Eric Glover-Williams and Curtis Samuel both committed to Ohio State in August, shortly after Friday Night Lights.
So far, Ohio State has seen seven participants/spectators at Friday Night Lights 2013 become Buckeyes: Glover-Williams, Samuel, Raekwon McMillan, Marshon Lattimore, Erick Smith, Jamel Dean and Danny Clark.
Another important takeaway from last year's Friday Night Lights: Meyer went three-for-three on his VIPs (Samuel, McMillan and Lattimore).
13 attendees in the past two years have eventually signed with the Buckeyes, not counting any 2013 attendees who may commit for the 2015 class. That's a better average than any fall recruiting weekend to date, making Friday Night Lights the premier recruiting event for Ohio State.
Here are a few things to expect from this year's Friday Night Lights:
- At least one player will earn a scholarship offer. Timothy Gardner (2012) and Braxton Berrios (2013) were rising seniors that received scholarship offers at Ohio State's Friday Night Lights. Potential candidates: Lawrence Cager, Jake Pickard, Amir Ealey, multiple 2016 recruits.
- Meyer and Co. will make a big impression on their VIPs. At the past two FNLs, Ohio State set themselves up to land Raekwon McMillan, Dante Booker, Curtis Samuel and Marshon Lattimore. This year's VIPs: Torrance Gibson and Drew Richmond.
- Ohio State will have at least one more commitment within the next month. FNL really affects the recruits that attend and has resulted in commitments shortly after. Possible candidates: Jordan Whitehead, Luke Farrell, Jake Hausmann, Demario McCall.
Recent history has shown how valuable Friday Night Lights has been for Ohio State. Throw in the nation's top-ranked athlete, Torrance Gibson, taking it the atmosphere and it's even more worthwhile.
As a reminder, Jordan, Kyle, Patrick and myself will be in attendance – tweeting, shooting videos and conducting interviews. Also, if you haven't already, check out Jordan's primer, which includes an updated visitor list and Birm's offensive preview.