How important was an appearance at Friday Night Lights for Brendan Ferns? Enough to cut a family vacation in Florida short. The 2016 linebacker flew back to Ohio and then immediately drove from his St. Clairesville home to Columbus for the mega recruiting event.
Chris Ash gets the blame for spoiling fun in the sun.
“Coach Ash has been on my dad to come here,” Ferns said, with a smile. “It’s only an hour and a half away, so it's not really out of my way that much. Just a quick trip.”
Quick enough that he’ll be making an academic visit for petroleum engineering on Tuesday, making Ferns’ Friday Night Light stop and dash back from Florida all the more intriguing. He wasn’t a participant, opting instead to hang out on the field with some 200 high school players and hob nob with the Buckeye coaches.
Ferns holds offers from Ohio State, Oklahoma, Michigan State and Penn State, among others, with the Buckeyes and Sooners thought to be the front-runners for his services. His brother, Michael, will be a true freshman at Michigan in the fall. Brendan admitted it will have little impact on his decision.
“We don’t even talk recruiting. We don’t talk football. We’re just brothers,” he said. “[Michael] said, ‘It’s your choice, you have to do what you want.’”
An Ohio State commitment would thrust Ferns to the forefront of the 2016 class, and he would remain there as a headliner. Offensive lineman Tyler Gerald (Portsmouth) and athlete George Hill (Hubbard) are the only members of the class. Even though National Signing Day, 2016 is 18 months away, the class is expected to grow in the near future.
For Ferns, present day means a switch from outside linebacker to middle for his senior season. It became a possibility when Michael, a middle linebacker, was injured last season. Needing to clog the heart of the field, St. Clariesville coaches decided to move Brendan into a new role.
It’s a change he’s embraced and feels it’s only strengthened his abilities as a defender. Ferns becomes more well-rounded and creates options once he goes to college. If the Buckeyes are his choice, the versatility could prove to be an asset as they load up on linebackers of all shapes and sizes.
“It’s helped because I’ve gotten to see both sides,” Ferns said. “Everybody really likes my instincts at middle linebacker. They get to see the speed at outside linebacker, but then the instincts of a middle linebacker.”
The specifics of a college position have not yet been discussed, according to Ferns. It’s likely coaches will want to see how he adapts at middle linebacker before coming to conclusions about where to play him for four years.
Ferns has a built-in connection with the Ohio State coaching staff due to his brother’s recruitment. It led to Brendan and Luke Fickell forming a bond. He and Ash have been the lead recruiters.
“We’ve known [Fickell] for a while, and Mike actually really liked Coach Fickell,” Ferns said.
The relationship with Urban Meyer is in the beginning stages, but Ferns was all smiles talking about his interactions with the person prospects deemed one of the most intimidating presences on the recruiting trail. Ferns spoke of a similar feeling when talking to the national championship-winning coach who demands near perfection – and often gets it.
“It’s kind of like talking to a celebrity, it’s not every day you talk to a celebrity,” Ferns said. “He’s a down to earth guy. Once you start talking to him and you get to know him, it becomes easier and easier.”
It’s also easier when Meyer asks you to “join the crew.” That was his message Friday, Ferns said. The Ohio State head coach has another year and a half to add the hulking 6-foot-2, 222-pound linebacker to the Buckeyes’ 2016 class.
The Intimidator – or The Closer – usually gets what he wants.