Finding the right fit for your college football program isn't just about what happens on the field, but off it as well. Today, Ohio State added a key piece. How will that commitment impact the Buckeyes?
Ohio State landed a commitment from one of the top-rated prospects in the state when Toledo St. John's Jesuit four-star linebacker Dallas Gant pledged his services to the Buckeyes during a ceremony at his high school on Tuesday afternoon.
Let's take a look at what Gant — the fifth-rated outside linebacker in the Class of 2018 — brings to Columbus.
ON THE FIELD
Standing 6-foot-3, 225 pounds with the ability to run a sub-4.8-second 40-yard dash, Gant has an impressive combination of size and speed — and the potential to add more weight to his already imposing frame. He moves well from sideline to sideline, takes great angles toward the ball carrier and doesn't get caught up in the traffic along the way.
Some scouts view that as Gant shying away from contact, but he's actually among the most aggressive and physically mature linebackers in the country. He reads the quarterback's eyes well and makes plays in both the pass rush and in run support.
Gant must continue to refine his coverage skills if he hopes to develop into a three-down linebacker, but that's certainly something that can be improved by a bit of coaching. He's been compared to former Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan, and it'll be interesting to see if Gant eventually develops into the leader of the defense.
Gant was voted team captain as a junior and proceeded to lead the Titans with 56 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and one sack. He efforts earned him first-team all-district and third-team all-state honors.
IN THE CLASS
Gant becomes the 10th member — but first linebacker — of Ohio State's Supreme '18 recruiting class, joining five-star defensive tackle Taron Vincent, five-star quarterback Emory Jones, four-star running backs Jaelen Gill and Brian Snead, four-star offensive tackle Max Wray, four-star defensive end Brenton Cox, four-star safeties Josh Proctor and Jaiden Woodbey and four-star cornerback Sevyn Banks.
The Buckeyes are expected to sign anywhere between three to five linebackers in this year's class after bringing on only two in 2017. As such, Gant's pledge will have minimal effect on the staff's pursuit of linebacker prospects such as Virginia's Teradja Mitchell, Georgia's Michael Harris or California's Solomon Tuiliaupupu — all of whom would man the inside anyway.
In-state outside linebacker Christopher Oats would also still have a spot in the class if he eventually decides he wants to commit to Ohio State, though the same might not be said for someone like Lakota West's Xavier Peters. He still awaits a scholarship offer from the Buckeyes despite a recent rise in the recruiting rankings.
As for playing time, Gant could step into a situation where Ohio State is replacing all three starting linebackers next fall. With Christopher Worley set graduate and Jerome Baker and Dante Booker eligible for the NFL, Gant could potentially compete for playing time as a true freshman if he enrolls early next winter.
Ohio State was long considered the favorite for Gant, and he nearly committed to the Buckeyes following a visit for their double-overtime win over Michigan last November — his second trip to Columbus that month. But when defensive coordinator Luke Fickell was named the head coach at Cincinnati just a few weeks later, uncertainty began to creep into his mind.
Fickell was the one who offered Gant a scholarship during a one-day positional camp last June, and the two formed a strong bond in the meantime. His departure left a door open for Notre Dame, which had just hired a new defensive coordinator and linebackers coach who made Gant a priority.
Torn between the familiarity of Notre Dame's academic and religious values and Ohio State's home-state pull and on-field successes, it would eventually come down to his relationship with the coaches.
The Buckeyes replaced Fickell will long-time NFL assistant Bill Davis, and he had a lot of ground to make up in Gant's recruitment. The two initially met in February, at which time Gant said Davis' professional background outweighed any doubts he had about his lack of experience at the college level.
Their relationship has grown significantly in the months since, and it's almost as if Davis was the one recruiting Gant the entire time.