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 Midwest's top prospects on Friday evening when Fort Wayne, Indiana, three-star athlete Craig Young pledged his services to the Buckeyes just three days after an impressive camp performance.
Let's take a closer look at what Young – the No. 685 prospect overall in the Class of 2019 – brings to Columbus.
ON THE FIELD
The 6-foot-4, 212-pound Young is an athlete in every sense of the word.
He caught 29 catches for 367 yards and four touchdowns; rushed for 255 yards and two scores; and recorded 27 tackles, three interceptions, 2.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks on defense to lead the Generals to the sectional round of the state playoffs last season. He also averaged 17.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists on the hardwood to help Wayne to the state basketball semifinals and finished third at the state track championships with a 10.58-second 100-meter dash.
But if you ask Young’s personal trainer and 7-on-7 coach, it’s his attitude off the field that is his most redeeming quality.
“The biggest strength that Craig has is his high level of humility,” AWP Sports director of athlete development Dre Muhammad told Eleven Warriors. “He’s one of the most humble players I’ve ever seen, outside of [Ohio State wide receiver and fellow Fort Wayne native] Austin Mack. Craig and Austin are very similar in their humility and wanting to grow and learn.
"Two, he has the desire to see the people around him get better. He knows that he has all this ability, but he desires for the people around him to be even more successful. He takes pride in that. And the third thing with Craig, he’s as grateful as they come. He’s respectful, he cares and he doesn’t take anything for granted.”
On the field, Young is arguably one of the most athletic players Muhammad has ever worked with. That includes Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith, Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert and the aforementioned Mack.
“We’re all aware of how explosive and athletic he is. He’s a rangy guy,” Muhammad said. “I think he can play any position as long as he stays focused on one of them. His versatility is what really separates him. Jaylon and Craig are just two rare athletes in that respect.”
Young has spent most of his high school career with the thought that he was going to play wide receiver at the next level, so his ranking reflect his abilities at that position.
“Wide receiver takes a lot longer to develop than an instinctual position or reactionary position,” Muhammad said. “In my humble opinion, Craig is the best player in the country on defense. He’s more natural [at that position]. If he were to focus on it, he’d be the No. 1 player in the country.”
The Buckeyes may be the only program recruiting Young for the defensive side of the ball, so there will be a bit of a learning curve and a physical transformation that’s needed over the next few years as he transitions to either linebacker or defensive end. Everything else should come naturally.
IN THE CLASS
Young becomes the 11th member of Ohio State’s Dynasty ’19 recruiting class, joining Georgia four-star Steele Chambers and New Jersey four-star “Rocket” Ronnie Hickman as commitments with the athlete designation — though they’re set to play running back and safety, respectively, at the next level.
On the other hand, the Buckeyes will have some work to do when it comes to figuring out where Young fits into the equation. And that will certainly impact the numbers at defensive end or linebacker moving forward.
The Buckeyes already hold commitments at both positions from Lexington four-star outside linebacker Cade Stover and Mentor four-star defensive end Noah Potter — both of whom also worked out at Tuesday’s camp. The former could also develop into a defensive end if he continues to mature physically.
I don’t think the staff will label Young one way or another until he gets on campus, as the earliest. Doing so might impact the staff’s pursuit of a number of targets at each position, particularly linebacker. The Buckeyes remain among the top schools for Florida four-star Rian Davis, Michigan four-star Lance Dixon and Tennessee four-star Kane Patterson, and Young’s commitment as a linebacker could very well influence their feelings toward the program.
Defensive end is a little more cut-and-dried, however. Olentangy Orange five-star Zach Harrison is Ohio State’s top target, regardless of position, and he’s not concerned when it comes to competition he may face in college. The staff isn’t seriously considering any other players at the position at this point in time.
All that said, a combination of Harrison, Potter, Stover and Young along the defensive front seven would be a massive haul for the Buckeyes.
Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: A seemingly positionless prospect shows up at Ohio State’s one-day camp in order to prove his worth to the staff and commits shortly thereafter.
That’s because Young’s path to becoming a Buckeye is somewhat reminiscent of former linebacker Darron Lee, who played quarterback, wide receiver, defensive back and kick returner and was a track star at New Albany. He landed a scholarship following not one, but two impressive camp performances in the Summer of 2012.
Much like Young, Lee didn’t seem to have a place in Ohio State’s 2013 recruiting class. The Buckeyes already held a commitment from quarterback J.T. Barrett and defensive backs Eli Apple, Cam Burrow and Jayme Thompson. Throw in do-it-all athlete Jalin Marshall, and it was hard to see how Lee fit into the staff’s plans.
Ohio State was initially recruiting Young as a wide receiver, but the staff has several other prospects ahead of him on the priority chart — even though the Buckeyes are looking to add four more wideouts to complement five-star Garrett Wilson this cycle. They briefly looked at him at tight end, as well, but the position isn’t one of significant need.
Lee’s versatility, size and overall athleticism — as well as his determination and willingness to learn — made him a perfect candidate to be developed at a position he’d never played. And the similarities for Young are striking.