The future stars of Ohio State football officially begin their Buckeye careers as standouts from all over the country put pens to their National Letters of Intent.
Followers of Buckeye recruiting — and fans of wide receivers who are really good at catching the football — have likely been familiar with Austin Mack for some time. Identified early on as one of Urban Meyer and Zach Smith's top pass-catching targets, the Fort Wayne, Indiana standout has seen his stock soar since the early summer months.
The Mack File
- Class 2016
- Position WR
- Size 6-2/205
- School Bishop Luers (Fort Wayne, IN)
- Composite ★★★★
- Rank 9 (WR)
The recruiting process for Mack began in the summer of 2013 before he even started a varsity game for Bishop Luers High School. After camping at Cincinnati, Michigan State, Ball State and Toledo, the soon-to-be sophomore earned his first offers from the University of Indiana and the University of Cincinnati. Having grown up a Hoosier basketball fan, getting that first offer from Indiana meant a lot, as he would then make multiple visits to nearby Bloomington.
The spring and summer of 2014 — following his sophomore season — is when Mack's recruitment really went into high gear. During his first season on varsity, he hauled in 57 passes for 805 yards and a trio of touchdowns. The strong sophomore showing was enough to attract coaches from some of the nation's premier programs to the halls of Bishop Luers. Kerry Coombs led the way for the Buckeyes and Brady Hoke also sent assistants to Fort Wayne.
Fast-forward to June and the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder saw what was probably the turning point in his recruitment. At Ohio State's one-day camp, Mack stood out amongst a large group of highly-talented prospects. He also had a chance to work one-on-one with Smith, the Buckeyes' wide receivers coach, as the two continued to build a solid relationship.
"It was unreal," he said. "He's a super down to earth guy. With him, you can have fun but he knows when it's time to get down to business and when it is, we hit it hard. It's all thumbs up with him, we have a really good relationship." ($)
Days later Mack was rewarded with the coveted Buckeye offer and Ohio State was quickly identified as one of his favorites. A source close to the Buckeyes had this to say about the newly-offered wideout:
"(Mack) came out and competed and earned it in camps," the source said. "He dominated at a June one-day and then again at Friday Night Lights. He established himself as that top guy by showing great talent, but also his competitive nature. He's an Alpha-Dog type."
My recorded 40 times at the Ohio State University ! pic.twitter.com/nY7rtGdYmh
— Austin Mack (@Austin_Mack10) June 8, 2014
The summer camp circuit would continue in Ann Arbor as the Wolverines followed suit in extending an offer — after which, the Big Ten foes would both be listed as top schools.
Mack stayed hot that summer as Notre Dame and Michigan State would also extend offers. His familiarity with Notre Dame football would help the Irish to instantly jump up toward the top of his list. A return visit to Columbus for July's Friday Night Lights and another trip to Ann Arbor would take place in July.
During the majority of the camp circuit, Mack was accompanied by friend and fellow four-star Auston Robertson. Rumblings of the two potentially being a package deal began to surface as the two Fort Wayne stars often discussed the possibility of playing together in college. Considering Robertson's connection with former running backs coach Stan Drayton — the Wayne high school standout is Drayton's nephew — Buckeye fans began to grow confident in landing the duo.
Mack's junior campaign was a special one. In fourteen games, he tallied 69 receptions for 1,062 yards and 15 touchdowns while adding another 241 yards rushing with four scores. During the season he continued to do his due diligence on the trail, taking trips to Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan State and others.
After making two September visits with Robertson in tow, most began to realize that the Buckeyes were there to stay, and quite possibly had gotten out in front in the recruitment. Mack spoke with Eleven Warriors about his experience at the Kent State game.
"It was real fun," Mack said of the trip to Ohio State. "I got there early and got to see the guys on the team and everything. I got to talk with Coach (Urban) Meyer pregame, and our conversation was basically about Auston (Roberston) because Ohio State is about to offer him. I spent all pregame on the sidelines, and that was cool. The fans were crazy, I didn't think they'd turn out like that for a game that was likely not going to be close."
The Buckeyes would ultimately land a pair of defensive ends in Jonathon Cooper and Terrell Hall. And with Nick Bosa looming, they elected to put defensive end recruiting on hold, allowing the Spartans to secure Robertson's commitment this past summer.
Commitment plans started to come together for the four-star as he announced his plan to commit at the R.A.S. Football Camp in Fort Wayne. Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, and Tennessee would later be identified as his final four schools.
After suffering a torn labrum during the latter part of his junior season, the wideout went six months without competing. Competition resumed this past spring, and the four-star showed little to no effects from the injury, earning an invite to Nike's The Opening in his first post-injury camp.
However, the biggest news of the summer would take place on June 7th in Fort Wayne. Due to a speaking obligation at the event, Meyer and Smith were permitted to attend as they made their way to the Hoosier State for the R.A.S Camp. They also had the privilege of witnessing their top wide receiver target officially make his pledge to the scarlet and gray.
Mack was the first pure wide receiver to join the 2016 class and, as we alluded to earlier, really saw his stock rise this summer as he rebounded from a surgery to repair the torn labrum. He had a strong showing at The Opening while helping to lead Team Lunar Beast as they captured the 7-on-7 title. During his senior year, he accounted for 2,100 yards and 24 touchdowns. At the time of his pledge, he was rated as the nation's 24th-ranked wide receiver. Today, he checks in at No. 10.
Ohio State was the first school that was really prestigious to have offered me. From the start it was more of a effort on my part to build the relationship with the coaches and once I proved myself in the eyes of coach Zach Smith and Urban Meyer, it was more about fun conversations and building the relationship. When I decided it was the right school? I silent committed in the winter last year. When I committed I was in Meyer's office with coach (Kerry) Coombs my family and my coach here in my city and when I said the words coach Meyer and Coombs jumped in the air and said "Boom!"
The Bishop Luers star signed his financial aid agreement with Ohio State in August and is all set to arrive in three weeks. He will be competing in the Army All-American Bowl and has been selected as a semifinalist for the Army All-American Player of the Year. The winner of the award will be announced on Friday, Jan. 8 — the day before the All-American game is to be played.
In Mack, Ohio State coaches see a true wide receiver who possesses great body control, above average speed, and the ability to go up and get the ball at its highest point.
Beyond the football field, they see a high-character individual who comes from an incredibly-supportive family. He's active in and around the Fort Wayne community and is also an exceptional student.
"He's the best in the country," one source close to the Buckeyes said about Mack. "His intangibles put him over the top."
Mack has been instrumental in the Buckeyes' recruiting efforts, traveling to Columbus for virtually every big recruiting weekend and developing relationships with other key targets. Binjimen Victor, Donnie Corley and Dwayne Haskins are just a few of the prospects that Mack has been in contact with fairly regularly.
With Michael Thomas almost assuredly bolting for the NFL, the opportunity for early playing time should be there in 2016. Enrolling early should only increase the likelihood of Mack seeing the field as a true freshman. I certainly wouldn't bet against him.