Better Know a Buckeye: Darius Slade

By Vico on July 17, 2014 at 11:00a
Darius Slade
15 Comments

The 23rd and final installment of this year's Better Know a Buckeye series profiles Darius Slade, a defensive line prospect from Montclair, New Jersey. Slade's addition to this class came on National Signing Day and was the result of several factors that Ohio State fans may not have anticipated just four weeks before he committed. I will discuss this story below, also mentioning his previous verbal pledges to Nebraska and Michigan State.

This profile proceeds in the usual fashion after discussing his recruitment and commitment. I discuss strengths and areas for improvement for a project I suspect is quite raw and is the ultimate Larry Johnson project. I project a redshirt for him in 2014 before concluding with film and miscellaneous things about Darius Slade that I think you may find interesting.

Height: 6-3
Weight: 237
High School: Montclair High School; Montclair, NJ

His Recruitment

Slade acquired various offers through 2013, spanning his junior and senior year of high school. The offers came after a junior season in which Slade had 46 tackles and 13.5 sacks for a Montclair team that went undefeated en route to a state championship. Slade's recruitment was mostly regional (i.e. Atlantic). The first offer I discerned was from Massachusetts. Others followed from Boston College, Connecticut, Pitt, Rutgers, and West Virginia. Michigan State offered at the end of the May though Slade said his favorite by the end of June was Rutgers.

Slade moved little on his recruitment through the summer and early fall. However, official visits were scheduled for Michigan State (October 12), West Virginia (November 9), Penn State (November 24), and Nebraska (November 29). After seeing all four schools and, ostensibly, taking all his official visits he could take, Slade announced he would have a decision ready two weeks after the Nebraska visit. Bo Pelini and John Papuchis visited Slade at his home in New Jersey to make a last pitch before he announced a decision.

Pelini and Papuchis had the right words prepared for that visit since a commitment to Nebraska followed. His comments on the decision focused on his belief in Bo Pelini and what he is doing in Lincoln.

"From the outside looking in, most people think coach Bo is not a great guy or not a great coach, but when you get a chance to meet him and talk to the players, they all have great things to say about him," Slade said. "He's a great coach. He cares about his players and has their back 100 percent. He's just done some great things for the players since he's been there. When I got that chance to sit down and talk to him, he's a good guy. I know he'll do great things here for a long time."

Sometime after these comments, Slade's belief may have wavered or he questioned whether he wanted to be that far from home for college. Slade wondered if his commitment to Nebraska was premature. He decommitted from Nebraska on January 16 of this year.

The reason behind the decommitment from Nebraska may have been Ohio State and, in particular, Larry Johnson. Just a day after Larry Johnson finalized a deal to replace Mike Vrabel as defensive line coach, Ohio State extended a scholarship offer to Darius Slade.

Though it was Urban Meyer that arrived at Slade's high school and informed him of the offer in person, this may have been Johnson extending an offer to coach him at a new school for both. Slade has admired Larry Johnson since Johnson coached his cousin, Jared Odrick, at Penn State. It is any wonder why Slade was not a strong Penn State lean through his recruitment. He did have an offer and visited at the end of November. It is likely Slade wanted to do something on his own. It is also why he dropped Rutgers from consideration despite having another cousin, Julian Pinnix-Odrick, play for the Scarlet Knights.

If it was Ohio State that may have pushed Slade to decommit from Nebraska, it was Michigan State that was the immediate beneficiary. Slade pledged to Michigan State a day after his decommitment from Nebraska. He cited Michigan State as "family since day one". Michigan State was, in fact, one of Slade's earliest offers.

While Michigan State was eager to accept Slade's commitment at the time, Malik McDowell was the bigger prize for Dantonio. Ohio State fans may remember this saga from a few months ago. McDowell, a five-star defensive end from Detroit, was privately a Michigan State lean though his parents wanted him to leave the state for college. The other two options were Ohio State and Florida State. If distance was a reason for McDowell wanting Michigan State, Ohio State may have been a great compromise between McDowell and his parents. 

Long story short: Darius Slade's commitment approaching National Signing Day was becoming intertwined with Malik McDowell's signing day decision. It was likely that Slade would become a consolation prize for either Michigan State or Ohio State, whichever McDowell did not select on February 5.

His Commitment 

This is exactly how Slade's story unfolded on National Signing Day. McDowell, to his parents' chagrin, selected Michigan State. Slade had actually called Michigan State's coaches the night before and said he wanted explore other options (i.e. Ohio State). Michigan State's coaches, perhaps secure of their position with McDowell, cautioned that he may not have a scholarship offer waiting for him after National Signing Day.

Slade wanted to take an official visit first before committing to Ohio State site unseen. He decided against it and faxed a letter of intent to Ohio State on National Signing Day anyway, becoming Ohio State's final recruit in the "Dream 14" recruiting class.

He told Eleven Warriors how this process developed from his perspective.

"I talked to them [Michigan State] Tuesday and let them know I didn’t know if I was going to be signing with them or taking a look elsewhere, because I wanted to visit Ohio State before I decided," he said. "I had built a strong relationship with Michigan State's staff, but they weren’t real understanding when I told them I wanted to visit Ohio State, and they told me that if I didn't sign with them that I might not have a scholarship if I waited. They were upset understandably because they wanted me at Michigan State, but they knew it was a serious thing for me and I was not jumping from place to place. I had the chance to be a part of a great opportunity and I needed to take a look."

[...]

"I know it's 'weird,' but I know what I am getting myself into," Slade said of his choice. "(I didn't choose Ohio State) solely because of (Johnson), Ohio State has a great program and they compete for a national title every year. They have a great staff as a whole and they are not too far from home, either. There were a lot of reasons for the decision. They have a lot great players and it’s a great program."

Two weeks later, Slade took his official visit to Ohio State, the final one allocated to him by the NCAA. 

Where He Excels

Slade was advertised by recruiting servies at 6-5 and is listed by Ohio State at 6-3. He plays like he is 6-7. He plays "big".

Projected as a strongside defensive end, Slade is capable as both as a pass-rusher and run-stopper. He plays with strong hands capable of neutralizing blockers. However, his pass-rushing bona fides are what made him high priority for Ohio State, Michigan State, and Nebraska. Slade's outside pass rush is what led him to accumulate almost 40 sacks in his final two years at Montclair. He loves to go outside but can shoot gaps inside.

The interest in Slade, and from Larry Johnson in particular, focuses more on how great Slade can be in a few years versus what he is capable of doing now.

Must Work On

Slade is a raw prospect who knows how to be explosive without truly knowing important parts of the game he is playing. The term "upside" is used more for Slade than perhaps anyone else in his recruiting class.

The areas for improvement are multiple and entail the usual things I have mentioned for other prospects. Slade plays too high off the snap. He can overcommit himself to a lane and remove himself from a play. 

All told, Slade could become an all-conference performer when he builds on great athleticism and an innate ability to hand-fight at the line of scrimmage with knowledge of important fundamentals for the game. This makes him a noteworthy Larry Johnson project for the first year of Johnson's Ohio State tenure.

Redshirt?

I think this is a clear yes. Slade was projected by Michigan State and Nebraska fans as a redshirt when he was committed to their respective programs. He projects as a first-year redshirt at Ohio State as well.

Highlights

Miscellany

  • 11W Community Interview.
  • Played in the Semper Fi All-American Bowl.
  • He had an outstanding senior season to complement the interest in him from Michigan State and Nebraska. He finished 2013 with 23.5 sacks and 63 tackles. The season ended in another undefeated state championship campaign.
15 Comments

Comments

nfischer's picture

Once LJ fine tunes this machine, I'm imagining another sack machine stocked for our future.

ISURVIVEDCOOPER's picture

Urban's drive to build defensive depth has been inspiring and hopefully, we start to see these talents bloom into the dominating defenses we are accustomed to from the Pagac days.  Bring on this season already!

"I don't apologize for anything.  When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

gobucks96's picture

Love the fact that even with attrition he can have time to develop if required..

BuddhaBuck's picture

Great back-end (prospective) replacement for Jamal Marcus....

Don't text while driving.

Zimmy07's picture

I wonder if he's still successful at shooting the gaps despite playing too high off the snap because he's really fast / powerful or because he's going against mismatched talent in the O-line or both.  Normally if you go in high into the gaps it's easier to get knocked off balance.

EwanJobi's picture

One of the best names ever.

+3 HS
spqr2008's picture

If he's a starter in the future, we need to make his nickname "Deathstroke".

Gametime's picture

You damn right...

...I too dream in color and in rhyme
So I guess I'm one of a kind in a full house
Cause whenever I open my heart, my soul or my mouth
A touch of God rains out...

Klytus21's picture

Also one of my favorite bands...

NJBuck

-1 HS
Fly Patterns's picture

Would be terrific to see him become a serious contributor in a couple years. And it would further validate for Larry Johnson his ability to develop players.

+1 HS
CGroverL's picture

He seems very strong, quick, and sees very well (probably because he does play at 6'7" rather than his actual height of 6'3") which keeps him alive on many plays as long as he has good balance and keeps his feet well. I don't know if I see him as a future sack monster, but I could see him leading the team in TFLs in a few years. He seemed to dwarf his competitors as he really does play at around 6'7". Another possibility is being the replacement of Adolphus Washington...if Coach Johnson can teach him to start and drive lower in the Buckeyes' 4-3 package as he has plenty of room for growth and what seems to be long arms that could really make inside running holes stuffed up. The best inside run stuffers are not always 350 pounds, and this guy seems to be able to win fights with any offensive lineman with training from Coach Johnson...he is an enigma of sorts, too. I think he will fit great for the DL no matter where he lines up on the DL as he is really the only player of this type that the DL was missing. Too bad (and good) that a redshirt is probably in the future.

"I hope they're last in everything"

Thanks, Urb!

whiskeyjuice's picture

I can't wait to see more of the payoff from Meyer's recent recruiting classes!! All these highly talented athletes competing with each other and driving competition will hopefully catch the nations attention.. 

"You'll find out that nothing that comes easy is worth a dime. As a matter of fact, I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face." -- Wayne Woodrow Hayes

VintonCountyBuck's picture

I can almost hear TBDBITL playing Slade's version of Cum On Feel The Noise, every time this kid makes a big play.

“Right now, Michigan is not at the pinnacle of college football, and that’s all Urban Meyer cares about...He’s been there and knows what it takes to get there.” 

+1 HS
Buckeyeneer's picture

Best name on the team! It sounds like an 80s action hero.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

+1 HS
Shangheyed's picture

Indeed I always think of Snake Bliskin escape from New York when I hear his name... I know I need medication, luckily its what weekends are for!

+1 HS