If you're looking at it from a per-prospect basis, Ohio State just signed the highest-rated recruiting class in college football history. The Buckeyes received commitments from 21 players from nine different states, all of which are considered among the most talented at their respective positions.
But if there's one thing the class lacked, it was homegrown prospects.
“Fifty percent is kind of the mark that I've been trying to — I keep it right in front of me, and I stare at it to make sure that we're doing right," head coach Urban Meyer said on National Signing Day.
As each year passes, however, Ohio State's recruiting classes continue to have less local and more national flavor.
“[That's] not enough Ohio,” director of player personnel Mark Pantoni said. “That's something we want our percentage to be much higher on. There's too much talent in this state. But at the same time, we're also searching for the best players in the country.
“We always have to keep reminding ourselves Ohio kids are our first priority,” he continued. “They will be. Sometimes we probably over evaluate them because those are the kids we get to camp so many times. We know all about [them] versus a kid out of state. Trust me, we place so much emphasis on the state of Ohio and we're going to continue to and do our best to get the best players out of the state of Ohio.”
Granted, Ohio State landed six of the Top 10 in-state prospects during a year in which the overall talent was down, and you're not going to take a three-star from Toledo when you can take a five-star from Maryland. But his point still stands — Ohio State can't become so national it forgets about or overlooks the talent in its own back yard.
Luckily for the staff, Ohio is overflowing with elite talent in 2018, and a number of the state's top prospects are among the best players at the position. So which ones will Ohio State land?
- Fairfield five-star offensive tackle Jackson Carman
The crown jewel of Ohio, Carman is also the top-rated offensive tackle in the class. He is one of the most sought-after prospects in the country and would fill a major void at Ohio State. Carman will let the process play out for a while, but it will be a major shock if he ends up anywhere but Columbus.
- Westerville South four-star all-purpose back Jaelen Gill
Set to announce his college decision on Wednesday afternoon, Gill will likely be the first in-state domino to fall. He's one of the most dynamic prospects in the country and can play running back, H-Back and maybe even cornerback. It would be a major upset if he chooses anywhere other than Ohio State, though UCLA is one to watch.
- Huber Heights Wayne four-star athlete L'Christian "Blue" Smith
Before Ohio State can put the full-court press on Smith, the four-star athlete must first decide if he wants to play football or basketball in college. If he picks football, the question then becomes whether he'll play wide receiver or tight end. But either way, the Buckeyes will be tough to beat.
- Toledo St. John's Jesuit four-star outside linebacker Dallas Gant
Ohio State will have to hold off Notre Dame for the top-rated linebacker in the state, and Bill Davis has done a great job in forging a relationship with Gant in his two-plus months on the job. He's in no hurry to make a decision and said the staff isn't pressuring him, but Gant is not someone the staff can afford to let leave the state.
- Dayton Dunbar four-star wide receiver Joseph "JoJo" Scates
Scates committed to Michigan State in January over a handful of smaller Big Ten and MAC offers. The Spartans don't often allow committed prospects to visit elsewhere, though, so I expect him to reopen his recruitment sooner rather than later now that schools like Alabama — and maybe Ohio State — have come calling.
- Springfield four-star tight end Leonard Taylor
Depending on who you ask, Taylor — a one-time Michigan commit — is best suited at either tight end or defensive tackle. Ohio State is considered the favorite, but the staff is still trying to figure out where he fits into the class and, therefore, a decision isn't expected anytime soon.
- Cleveland Heights four-star defensive end Tyreke Smith
Smith first broke onto the scene during last summer's camp circuit, as he had not played organized football since the seventh grade. Now that he has a full year under his belt, schools ranging from Florida State to USC and everywhere in between have offered, though it will likely come down to Ohio State and Penn State.
- Pickerington Central four-star athlete Xavier Henderson
Henderson has been to Ohio State a number of times for camps and unofficial visits, and an offer seemed close during his junior campaign. It never came, so he committed to Michigan State last September. I'm not certain Henderson would change his mind even if the Buckeyes do come calling in the near future, though.
- Pickerington Central four-star tight end Trenton Gillison
Gillison committed to Michigan State last month, but it's no secret he covets an offer from Ohio State. You have to wonder whether the staff's hesitancy to offer in-state prospects will come back to bite them when the inevitably pull the trigger, but there's a good chance Gillison would flip his pledge as a result.
- Cincinnati Winton Woods four-star outside linebacker Christopher Oats
Oats is all but certain to end up in Columbus, but said he's intrigued by both Michigan State and Oklahoma. He plans to make a decision on his future this offseason, which bodes well for the Buckeyes.
- West Chester Lakota West four-star outside linebacker Xavier Peters
Peters wasn't even ranked by various recruiting services last month, but now holds offers from programs such as Cincinnati, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State, Pittsburgh, UCLA and Virginia Tech. Ohio State is close to offering, and when it does, Peters will certainly be on commitment watch.
- Fairfiled four-star defensive end Malik Vann
Schools such as Alabama and Florida State have extended an offer to Vann within the last month, so Ohio State is in a bit of a bind at the moment. The didn't plan to offer him this early in the process, but will soon have to at the risk of Vann thinking they're not interested.
- Maria Stein Marion Local four-star offensive tackle John Dirksen
Dirksen, like Massillon Washington's Thayer Munford last cycle, is a name to pay attention to down the road in case Carman chooses to play his college ball elsewhere or if the staff wants to stock up on offensive tackles. He holds offers from Michigan State and Notre Dame, though, so the staff may not be able to wait as long in offering.
- Cincinnati LaSalle three-star tight end Josh Whyle
Ohio State will likely sign two tight ends this cycle, with New York's Jeremy Ruckert presumed to be one. With the Buckeyes also chasing Texas' Mustapha Muhammad and Nevada's Brevin Jordan, Whyle must hope the staff lands only one of the three to have a shot at joining the class.
- Portsmouth East three-star offensive guard Blaine Scott
Scott recently listed Arkansas, Cincinnati, Duke, Illinois, Iowa State, Louisville, Miami, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ole Miss, Oregon and Rutgers in his Top 13, but said an offer from Ohio State would be a game-changer. Scott will announce his decision on May 5, however, and one is unlikely to be extended before that.
- Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller three-star defensive tackle Aeneas Hawkins
Hawkins has more than 30 offers and will likely find himself higher on this list later in the process. He's repeatedly said Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State are among the schools recruiting him the hardest, and I'd be surprised if he didn't end up in Columbus.
- Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller three-star tight end Brenden Bates
Though he's a Big Ten-caliber prospect, Bates is in the same situation as the above-mentioned Whyle. He's likely to end up at Cincinnati, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Louisville, Maryland, Minnesota or Pittsburgh, however.
- Lakewood St. Edward three-star safety Michael Dowell
Though he's camped at Ohio State on numerous occasions, Dowell is almost certain to end up at Michigan State like his older brothers Andrew and David. Neither earned an offer from the Buckeyes, though, so that could certainly change the younger Dowell's recruitment down the road.
- Dayton Dunbar three-star inside linebacker Antwuan Johnson
Johnson, a former Michigan commit, hasn't been on campus since last year's Junior Day. It seems Ohio State will chase out-of-state inside linebackers Teradja Mitchell and Solomon Tuliapupu before circling back to Johnson later in the process. He may be committed to Cincinnati, Kentucky or West Virginia by that point, though.
- Xenia three-star wide receiver Meechi Harris
Harris has flown a bit under the radar, but visited Ohio State for the first time for Junior Day last month. He's in a somewhat awkward predicament considering the Buckeyes lead with a number of higher-rated, out-of-state wideouts, but he could earn an offer at a camp this summer.
- Huber Heights Wayne three-star athlete Alex Reigelsperger
Reigelsperger was a regular visitor at games last season, but there are too many other defensive lineman ahead of him on the pecking order. He has a ton of interest in Ohio State, but committed to Kentucky this past weekend and said he'll do his best to bring the aforementioned L'Christian Smith with him.
- Dayton Dunbar three-star running back Tavion Thomas
Thomas burst onto the recruiting scene and has earned offers from Alabama, Arizona State, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State and Oregon, among others, within the last two weeks. He won't stay a three-star prospect for long, and is likely to join the class if the staff wants three running backs.
- Mansfield three-star athlete Jornell Manns
Manns hasn't had much contact with Ohio State, but it should be expected after the Buckeyes just signed six defensive backs in this year's class. He' s certainly a big-time talent, holding offers from programs such as Kentucky, Minnesota, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin, however.
- Avon three-star offensive tackle Jimmy McKenna
Like Dirksen above, McKenna would need Ohio State to strike out with every other offensive tackle on its board to get an offer. He's most likely to end up at Kentucky, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Purdue or West Virginia, though a strong camp season could put him squarely on the Buckeyes' radar.
- Columbus St. Francis De Sales three-star outside linebacker Brian Asamoah
Asamoah was on track to get an offer from Ohio State, as he has built a great relationship with former defensive coordinator Luke Fickell. When Fickell left for Cincinnati and subsequently offered Asamoah, the Bearcats surged into the lead. Of course the Buckeyes can still offer if he attends a camp this summer, but Asamoah is set to announce his decision in April.