Better Know a Buckeye: Jaelen Gill is the Country's No. 2 All-Purpose Back Who Will Factor into Ohio State's H-Back Rotation in the Future

By Vico on February 19, 2018 at 2:45 pm
Jaelen Gill at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl

We continue the Better Know a Buckeye series with its second installment in 2018. Here, we profile Jaelen Gill, an all-purpose running back prospect from Westerville.

Jaelen Gill

  • Size: 6-1/182
  • Position: RB
  • Hometown: Westerville, OH
  • School: Westerville South
  • 247 Composite: ★★★★
  • National Ranking: 30
  • Position Ranking: 2 (APB)
  • State Ranking: 2 (OH)
  • The Opening Finals
  • U.S. Army All-American

Gill's path to Ohio State was never seriously in question; recruiting insiders unanimously crystal-balled him to Ohio State for the duration of his recruitment. It just took a while to get there as Gill, whose recruitment accelerated after a Best of the Midwest combine as a sophomore, decided to take his recruitment late into his junior year. He committed to Ohio State through a video he released to YouTube.

I retell this story below, discussing his recruitment and the reasons for his commitment. Thereafter, I provide a scouting report for a running back that's more of an H-back. I conclude with a projection that Gill is a likely redshirt candidate in 2018 before closing with some highlight film for the reader to watch at the end of the feature.


Jaelen Gill's recruitment resembles a typical case of a blue-chip prospect from the Buckeye State that eventually signs with Ohio State. His offer sheet started small as offers came first from the likes of Kentucky and the in-state MAC schools. However, he was always on Ohio State's radar and he always wanted to play for Ohio State. Gill just took his time before making that decision.

Gill camped at Ohio State after his freshman year and even earned scholarship offers from Kentucky and Pittsburgh early into his sophomore year. However, his performance at the 2015 Best of the Midwest combine may have been what took his recruitment to another level. 

Gill, who participated on a bum ankle, nevertheless ran a 4.5 and impressed everyone so much that the event organizer would've given Gill, an all-purpose back by trade, receiver MVP honors if it were his discretion.

Big offers followed shortly thereafter from Penn State and Tennessee. The biggest came when Gill took an unofficial visit to Ohio State on June 3, 2015. He left with a scholarship offer. In a follow-up interview with the Plain Dealer, Gill expressed excitement about the offer but reiterated he was not ruling out any other opportunity that may come his way.

Gill's recruitment spanned the next two years, accruing offers from programs all over the country. Ohio State's two biggest regional rivals on the recruiting trail, Michigan and Notre Dame, each extended scholarship offers in the year after Ohio State extended its offer.

However, it's the two Los Angeles schools, UCLA and USC, that stand out at this time. Gill had communicated he wanted to stay close to home but was open to travel. The Bruins and the Trojans each made their case to get Gill to come to Los Angeles for college football.

Gill communicated some openness to travel despite earlier statements that he wanted to stay close to his Westerville home. However, he was still on track for a junior-year commitment that finally came on the first of March last year.


Jaelen Gill committed to Ohio State on March 1, 2017 as the second member of what would become its full 2018 recruiting class. It came in the form of a commitment video that suggests Gill chose Ohio State primarily over UCLA. At least, UCLA was ostensibly to what he pledged before removing his UCLA shirt for a black Ohio State shirt.

The commitment to Ohio State was hardly a surprise. Insiders had unanimously predicted he was en route to Ohio State notwithstanding passing interest in schools like UCLA and USC. Gill privately knew this as well. He even mentioned that he told his grandfather of his eventual decision before his grandfather passed away in 2016.

"He meant the world to me, and if you know how close I was with him, when he passed, it hurt me and I was down for a really long time. In my last moments with him, I told him where I was going to school."

He added more about the commitment in an interview with Scout. Namely, he enjoyed his recruitment from Tony Alford, always aspired to play for Ohio State, and couldn't pass up the opportunity to play that close to his Westerville home.


Jaelen Gill is nominally a running back and that was his primary position in high school. In all likelihood, Gill is an H-back in Ohio State's offense. That's his surest path to the field in a recruiting class with two other running backs (Brian Snead, Master Teague).

Watch his highlight film and it's obvious that this prospect listed at running back isn't your typical running back. His strides are short and choppy, which is good for the position he'll ultimately play for the Buckeyes.

He's an exceptional route-runner for that position. There's no shortage of combine footage of game footage of him juking a defender outside the route to free himself for an easy catch. Further, his hand-eye coordination is exceptional for a player that was primarily a running back in high school. He shows far more comfort with his hands away from his body, high-pointing footballs for difficult catches.


Gill had a tumultuous high school career, lost most of his junior year to an injury and went through three head coaches in four years at Westerville South. As a result, he could be much further along than he is right now and it's one such reason why he went from a five-star to a four-star by time the finals rankings for his class came out. That much is not his fault but it means he could be further along his development than he is.


All things considered, there's not much of a path for Gill to the field in 2018. Parris Campbell is a senior and K.J. Hill is a fixture on the depth chart. Add in the other concerns of Gill's stunted development, transition to full-time receiver, and his recovery from his junior-year injury and a redshirt seems a certainty in 2018.

Gill still has the potential to ultimately thrive for Ohio State but fans should expect to see that promise in 2019.


Here are senior-year highlights of Gill.

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