Ohio State signee Dawand Jones is one of five Indiana offensive linemen who signed with Big Ten programs in the recruiting class of 2019.
Of the 18 2018 NFL players that went to Indiana high schools, eight of them are offensive linemen, and two more played both ways in high school and are now defensive linemen in the NFL.
Indiana has proven to be a more fruitful state for offensive line prospects in recent years, as five of the state's top-20 2019 prospects were offensive linemen, including signees for Wisconsin, Michigan State, Maryland, Iowa and Ohio State.
The Ohio State signee is No. 13 Indiana prospect Dawand Jones, who is known for his size, at 6-foot-8, 360 pounds. He has been baffled that top programs in the country have visited Indiana but don’t typically commit with offers or build true relationships.
“They tend to look us off for some reason, but we’re really talented,” Jones said. “We have a lot of linemen in the NFL, so when colleges don’t come back or even visit our state, it’s just disappointing. We just take that fuel and put it into our game.”
Jones finished his recruitment with offers from schools like Penn State, Michigan, Florida and Oregon, but all of those offers came after USC offered during the November before his signing.
Much of what had schools marveled by Jones was his athleticism for his size. He plays center in basketball, and while he is one of the biggest centers in the state, he still moves rather quickly and can play above the rim.
But for the linemen who don’t break the mold and have that same athleticism, it can be difficult to get looks from those same programs. Not that it hasn’t been done. James Hurst played at North Carolina and now plays for the Baltimore Ravens, and Zach Martin played for Notre Dame and now plays for the Dallas Cowboys. Notre Dame has been tapping into the in-state offensive line market for a while, though.
It’s the out-of-state, top program offers that Jones and his fellow Hoosiers continue to hope for in the future.
That’s why after Alabama visited Indiana last week and offered two Indiana offensive linemen, it was newsworthy to the state’s offensive line group.
Two Ohio State targets, 2020 No. 2 Indiana prospect Josh Fryar and 2021 No. 2 Indiana prospect Blake Fisher, both received offers from the Crimson Tide. Fryar was at Ohio State’s spring game April 13, and Fisher competed in The Opening Regionals in Massillon on March 31.
Jones has been in contact with both of the prospects, as most Indiana offensive linemen are, and he’s developed a relationship with Fisher primarily. He talks to other coaches, Ohio State’s staff in particular, about Fisher’s ability and provides advice to all of the Indiana offensive lineman.
“That’s my guy,” Fisher said. “He’ll definitely succeed over at Ohio State. We’ve talked and he’s trying to get me over there all the time. We’re all really close. We all know everybody. A lot of people sleep on Indiana, but we produce athletes out of Indiana.”
Jones certainly isn’t the first Indiana offensive lineman to sign to a top out-of-state program. Emil Ekiyor signed with Alabama in 2018, and Timothy Gardner signed with Ohio State in 2013. But with such a drought in big offensive line signings before 2019, Jones feels a responsibility to represent his home state.
“I tell them just work hard and their time will come,” Jones said. “Don’t rush the process. Mine wasn’t easy, but it feels great representing the 317. I’ve got my whole city on my shoulders.”