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 earned a commitment from 2021 Massillon wide receiver Jayden Ballard on Friday afternoon. Ballard chose the Buckeyes despite having offers from Notre Dame, Michigan State and others.
Ballard is rated as the No. 22 wide receiver in the 2021 class and the No. 5 prospect coming out of Ohio.
Let's take a look at how his commitment bolsters Ohio State's recruiting class of 2021.
On The Field
Ballard is as smooth and as natural as high school wide receivers come. He runs a 4.45-second 40-yard dash and moves efficiently and effortlessly. He has a long stride in open space and runs some of the cleanest routes in the country.
At 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, Ballard is taught to get hands-on and is rarely jammed at the line because of his length and agility. His ability to find open space in the defense makes him dangerous as well, and that’s before the ball is thrown. There isn’t a wide receiver in the state that has the ability to position himself and high-point a jump ball. He might be one of the best in the country at that skill too.
Talk to me nice !! pic.twitter.com/h71pxjQzG0— JB (@J_Ball21) June 5, 2019
Ballard has yet to have a maximized role in the Massillon offense. He caught just 36 passes for 851 yards – an average of 26.3 yards per catch – and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2018. The potential is there for Ballard to have a season with video game-type numbers, though, which is what Massillon might be looking at come this fall.
Ballard can do it all at the wide receiver position, but what might be the biggest knock on him is his stature. Weighing 170 pounds rarely gets the job done in the Big Ten. To remain healthy, he will need to add weight, but with two more years of high school ball remaining, it isn’t out of the question.
In The Class
Ohio State quarterback commit Kyle McCord has his first wide receiver in Ballard, who is the third commitment of the 2021 class. Rated as the No. 125 overall prospect in the class, Ballard will surely break the top-100 with a good season in 2019, which would give Ohio State three top-100 commitments in the class.
McCord and 2020 Ohio State quarterback commit Jack Miller both have arms that lend themselves to throwing deep jump balls, and Ballard is one of the best at going up and getting those passes. He will likely be playing when Miller is set to be the starting quarterback.
If Ballard wanted to be a part of the Ohio State wide receiving corps, he needed to pull the trigger quickly. With the talent that Ohio State is bringing in at the position – Garrett Wilson in 2019, Julian Fleming and Gee Scott Jr. in 2020 – 2021 wideouts will need to rush to fill the few spots the Buckeyes will be trying to fill in the class.
Marvin Harrison Jr. has already stated that Ohio State is leading for him, and Clemson is fairly far behind, while Beaux Collins named Ohio State and Clemson in his top two and Pickerington standout Lorenzo Styles rises up charts. That’s not even mentioning Gavin Blackwell, Dekel Crowdus and Agiye Hall.
Brian Hartline will have his choice of the best wide receivers in the country, and he’s just made his first.
Ballard’s commitment moves Ohio State to No. 3 in the nation for its 2021 class.
Off The Field
This commitment was a big one for Brian Hartline. Hartline likes Ballard as more than a player, but also as a person and the two connect on a level rarely seen from a wide receivers coach and a sophomore in high school.
That connection could be because Ballard has a similar build and style as Hartline had when he was playing. The way that Ballard and Hartline work together is seamless, and they look like they’re having fun, even if they’re working hard.
Ballard has the majority of the fundamentals down pat already, but what he and Hartline have clearly been working on are the extremely technical details of the position, like hip movement and flexibility and finishing the top of a route.
Like Hartline, Ballard is an underrated receiver, even though he is already rated as the No. 125 player in the country. Ballard will rise on those charts, and Hartline will have something to do with that. This is just the beginning for Ballard’s breakout season and soon-to-be decorated high school career.