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 nation's top-rated running backs when Avon, Indiana, four-star Sampson James pledged his services to the Buckeyes on Monday afternoon during a two-day unofficial visit.
Let's take a closer look at what James – the second-best prospect from the Hoosier State – brings to Columbus.
ON THE FIELD
The 6-foot-1, 211-pound James was a relatively unknown commodity heading into his junior season, but then proceeded to carry the ball 243 times for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns to lead the Orioles to the state semifinals last season. He also caught 16 passes for 185 yards and two more scores, showing off his versatility despite most scouts viewing him solely as a north-south runner.
James has an explosive first step, which he honed while competing in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 4x100-meter relay last spring. He has excellent downfield vision and can change directions very quickly when being chased down by a defender, which are both great attributes for any running back.
Three of James' older brothers — Elijah Daniel (Auburn defensive end), Armonze James (Marshall linebacker) and Montez Robinson (Georgia defensive end) — each played FBS football. A fourth, Matthew James, is a freshman defensive tackle at FCS Indiana State, so it's clear football runs in his blood.
Like most high school running backs, James needs to improve his ability to recognize the hole quickly and hit it without hesitation. But thanks to his elite pass-blocking skills, he’s certainly one of the more complete backs in his recruiting class.
IN THE CLASS
James becomes just the third commitment in Ohio State's 2019 recruiting class, where he joins four-star offensive tackles Ryan Jacoby and Doug Nester. As for his specific position, James makes the Buckeyes' running back room — which is widely regarded as the nation's best — even better.
Though starting running back Mike Weber will almost assuredly leave for the NFL following his redshirt junior season, Ohio State will at the very least return freshman phenom J.K. Dobbins and incoming freshmen Jaelen Gill, Brian Snead and Master Teague III. That doesn't even account for Antonio Williams and Demario McCall, who both hope to make an impact this spring and solidify their chances for carries into the fall.
That means the position isn't a top priority for the staff this cycle, and James could potentially be the only running back in this recruiting class. Like head coach Urban Meyer said on National Signing Day, though, it's difficult to project the number of players at each position given the attrition the team will face following the season — be in through NFL departures or transfers.
If the Buckeyes look to take on another tailback, there are several that remain highly interested, including IMG Academy five-stars Noah Cain and Trey Sanders and Virignia four-star Devyn Ford.
The greater Indianapolis metropolitan area has been kind to Ohio State in recent years, as the Buckeyes have landed prospects like wide receiver Terry McLaurin and Pete Werner out of Cathedral in 2014 and 2017, respectively. And if the staff has any say, James won't be their last foray into the Hoosier State this cycle.
The Buckeyes are also considered the favorites to land Warren Central four-star wide receiver David Bell and have an offer out right now to West Lafayette four-star defensive end George Karlaftis — a Purdue commit. The staff also offered Carmel four-star sophomore defensive tackle Cole Brevard, and that relationship should blossom when he makes his first trip to campus this spring.