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 this afternoon from a prospect that will have some lofty expectations to live up to when New Castle, Pennsylvania, three-star cornerback Marcus Hooker — the younger brother of former All-American safety and first-round pick Malik Hooker — committed to the Buckeyes less than 24 hours after he earned an offer from the staff.
Let's take a look at what Hooker — the No. 587 prospect overall in the Class of 2018 — brings to Columbus.
ON THE FIELD
The 6-foot, 180-pound Hooker is a very physical, instinctual football player — and comparisons to his older brother will undoubtedly follow him around through the end of his playing career.
"He's a play maker on both sides of the football," New Castle head coach Joe Cowart told Eleven Warriors. "Highly instinctual — and a lot like his brother when the ball is in the air. He's just always around the ball.
"They're different animals, though," he continued. "Their sizes are different. [Marcus] is a little more compact and a little more physical than his brother was. He doesn't do the high-end athletic marvels that his brother did, but he has some of those same athletic traits. Really long arms, huge hands and uncommon feet, quickness and instincts."
Hooker played both sides of the ball at New Castle, as he recorded 380 yards and six touchdowns receiving and 806 yards and 13 touchdowns rushing while playing an H-Back role for the Hurricanes last season. He added 44 tackles, two forced fumbles, one sack and one interception on defense to help the the team to the district championship game at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field.
"He's our leader," Cowart said. "Certainly a fantastic football player. A really polished football player. He had a great playoff run for us. We really piggybacked off him throughout the course of the season and into the playoffs. We play in a good league — Western Pennsylvania is known for really good football — and he's been, since ninth grade, one of the best players in our league, if not the best."
Hooker will be a four-year starter for New Castle, which is something not even his older brother — a unanimous All-American and first-round NFL Draft pick — can lay claim to.
"I think Marcus, as far as the football IQ, the dynamic nature and the polish of playing the sport, is going to be more ready to play football upon arrival at Ohio State," Cowart said.
IN THE CLASS
Hooker becomes the 16th member of Ohio State's Supreme '18 recruiting class, joining Florida four-star cornerback Sevyn Banks at the position. It's widely assumed he'll follow in Malik's footsteps and transition to safety, though, so — no, before you ask — it does not affect the staff's pursuit of Texas five-star cornerback Anthony Cook.
Hooker's pledge also does not have an impact on commitments from Oklahoma four-star Josh Proctor or California four-star Jaiden Woodbey, who on Wednesday afternoon said he was shutting down his recruitment for good. Given the number of departures for the NFL that have occurred in the secondary in recent seasons, it's important for the staff to continue to bring in several defensive backs each cycle.
Such turnover could very well happen again in 2018, as projected starting safeties Damon Webb and Erick Smith are set to graduate in the spring. With their backups relatively untested, save for sophomore Jordan Fuller, Hooker could potentially push for playing time early. But — much like his brother — it's far more likely he'll contribute on special teams before making an impact later on in his career.
Fair or not, there's no doubt Hooker will be compared to his older brother throughout the entirety of his career. But it's important to remember Ohio State didn't simply offer him because of his brother's recent and lengthy contributions to the program.
“These guys don't swing and miss,” Cowart said. “To get an offer from Ohio State, they've done their due diligence. They know what they're doing. If they're going to offer a kid, they think he can play for them and have a future playing football for a long time after his time in Columbus.
“Ohio State has been in our building at New Castle just as much as Pitt and Penn State,” he continued. “They want to do a true evaluation. They weren't looking at it as, 'Hey. This is Malik's younger brother.' Let's look at Marcus Hooker and see if he can be a football player for us. That was the decision they came down upon, and we're certainly thrilled about the opportunity for him to go there.”
Head coach Urban Meyer has passed on legacies in the past, including Stanford offensive tackle Nick (Jeff) Davidson and Michigan linebacker Mike McCray II, so Hooker was going to have to earn his way into the fold.
Most recruiting analysts expected Hooker's recruitment to follow a path all too familiar for lower-rated prospects, though — one in which he attends several camps, maintains a relationship with the staff with hopes that the Buckeyes miss out on a four- or five-star prospect and then lands an offer late in the process.
But when he returned to campus for Friday Night Lights, things were a bit different. Under the watchful eye of defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and assistant coordinator Kerry Coombs, Hooker exuded a newfound confidence in one-on-one drills throughout the evening and the same playmaking ability as seemingly every defensive back currently on the roster.
No matter to whom he was related, Hooker had to prove he was worthy of an offer. He did just that on Friday, and now he's a Buckeye.