Ohio State kicker commit Jake Seibert lost all of his connections to Ohio State in January, except for Drue Chrisman. That was all he needed to become the next kicker for the Buckeyes.
There was a point in Jake Seibert’s recruitment when he lost all connection to Ohio State.
Seibert had been in talks with the Buckeye staff dating back to Taver Johnson’s time on staff. The two had developed a good relationship, and Seibert was feeling positive about his chances at playing for his home-state’s school. Then it was announced in early-January that Johnson would not be returning to the Ohio State staff.
Once Johnson left Columbus for his job with the Oakland Raiders, Seibert’s connection to Ohio State was effectively eliminated.
Now, just six months later, Seibert is committed to be Ohio State’s kicker from the 2020 class, and the No. 2 kicker in the nation has only one goal in mind before he hits campus in Columbus.
“I’m hoping to be better than Mike Nugent was,” Seibert told Eleven Warriors. “I want to be the best kicker to ever come through Ohio State.”
Only a year ago, the Cincinnati kicker wasn’t thinking about kicking collegiately yet. He was working with a local specialists trainer – the same trainer that still works with Ohio State punter Drue Chrisman from time to time – trying to be the best kicker he could be for La Salle High School.
Then, he attended a small-scale camp ran by former Cincinnati kicker Andrew Gantz, who was entering his graduate transfer year at Northern Illinois in late-spring 2018. Seibert won the camp, and soon after, Gantz became his new trainer.
After winning a free Chris Sailer Camp admission, Seibert traveled to Las Vegas and competed well there too. But it was the next camp – the national TOP 12 Chris Sailer Camp in Los Angeles – where Seibert realized exactly how good he was.
Out of 45 kickers and punters at the camp, he was one of few 2020 prospects to be invited. When the time came for Sailer, a former All-American punter at UCLA and one of the top specialist evaluators in the nation, to name a top-12, Seibert was included. He was the only 2020 recruit to make the cut. He also made the cut last week in Los Angeles at the same camp for 2019 and owns a five-star rating on ChrisSailerKicking.com.
“Not really,” Seibert said when asked if he considered where his ceiling might be as a kicker during those camps. “I’m nowhere near as strong as I could possibly get. I know the Ohio State strength program will get me much bigger than I am. I can get so much stronger and so much more flexible.”
The crescendo bled into his junior year at La Salle, where a high school staff is fairly reluctant to rely on the leg of a 16-year-old kicker, particularly with the offense that La Salle regularly outfits. But Seibert hit six of his six field goal attempts, his longest from 47 yards out. He also hit 23-of-24 extra-point attempts and put 29-of-37 kickoffs into the back of the endzone. The longest field goal he’d hit in practice at this point was from 68 yards away.
While all of this was happening around Seibert, he was developing a connection with Taver Johnson.
“Ohio State has just been my dream school forever,” Seibert said. “I felt like I was finally starting to connect with Ohio State, and suddenly, he left.”
Not sure where to go, who to contact or if anyone on staff would even recognize him, Seibert reached out to Chrisman, who graduated from La Salle after Seibert’s freshman year. The two had trained together just one time but rarely talked in those days.
Seibert said the only reason he was able to reach Chrisman was because they were both from La Salle, but Chrisman relayed Seibert to new special teams coordinator Matt Barnes. It was Barnes’ willingness to hear out a Cincinnati kicker he’d never talked to that eventually led to a rekindled relationship between Seibert and the program.
“When I first reached out to him, I was actually really surprised with how quickly he responded to me,” Seibert said. “I knew that I would have to show him how I could kick too. He had never recruited me. I was really surprised with how open he was to instantly recruit me.”
Kicking in front of coaches wasn’t anything new to Seibert and isn’t anything new to any specialist who wants to be recruited by colleges. Seibert had kicked privately for schools like Arizona, Louisville, William & Mary and others.
Even though he had been sending tape to Barnes, the Buckeye specialists coordinator wanted to see him kick live, so he traveled down to Cincinnati to attend a La Salle combine, where Seibert was scheduled to kick after his teammates finished the typical combine work. Thirty schools watched Seibert, including UCLA, Indiana and others.
But Seibert had always been partial to Ohio State, even when his top-three were UCLA, Michigan State and Ohio State. Location was crucial to him. He didn’t want his grandfather traveling more than four hours to East Lansing and certainly not take a flight to Los Angeles to see him play.
The emergence of Barnes on the Buckeye staff and the quick relationship he developed with Seibert was comforting and important to the kicker, who was feeling more confident than ever in his feelings toward Ohio State.
“He’s a very personable guy. He’s very honest,” Seibert said about Barnes. “He was willing to open up to me over the phone without even meeting me for the first time. He’s a cool dude. Just talking to Drue, he was saying Coach Barnes has a good relationship with all the specialists, and that was something they didn’t have in the years previous.”
Seibert eventually felt comfortable enough to pull the trigger on his commitment to Ohio State on June 4, just two weeks after receiving his offer May 20, and since then, his relationship with the Ohio State staff and Chrisman has blossomed.
A little longer than a month a month ago, just before the 2019 recruiting dead period began, Seibert was in Columbus on an unofficial visit with his parents. He’d met with the coaching staff and then, afterwards, met with Chrisman too.
When Seibert’s parents were ready to leave, Seibert was not, so Chrisman invited him to stay the night at his place.
“I got to hang out with him, get to know him a little more,” Seibert said. “He kind of just gave me tips on what I would need to be doing to be good at Ohio State, what it takes to be an Ohio State player.”
Commits to Ohio State at 6pm...— Andrew Gantz (@Agantz16) June 5, 2019
Shows up to train at 6:30pm...
Hits a 63 yard Field Goal...
Greatness isnt for the lazy ones!!
To be the best... Train with the best! @seibert_jake @OhioStateFB @Chris_Sailer #TeamSailer #StriveForGreatness pic.twitter.com/QdDlFRnU5g
Now that Seibert is committed to Ohio State and has been for nearly two months, the ongoing question regarding his recruitment is whether he will take a grayshirt year in 2020, meaning he wouldn’t be given a scholarship or be active on the roster for his freshman year. He would need to pay his own way through one semester.
The benefits for Ohio State would be that it would have one open scholarship for the Class of 2020 while still keeping Seibert on campus and committed to its program until Blake Haubeil has finished out his scholarship at the position.
With that scholarship, Ohio State could afford to wait out some prospects whose recruitments will last longer than others and stay beneath the scholarship cap. At this point, Seibert said he doesn’t know whether he will grayshirt or not, and it will likely remain that way until later in the cycle.
“The way it was defined is kind of complicated,” Seibert said.
Until then, though, Seibert is focused on preparing to kick for Ohio State whenever the opportunity arrives.
“I’m most excited about playing in front of 100,000 fans every game. I don’t think anything can beat that,” Seibert said. “For me, it’s just all mental. Any kicker that goes to Ohio State is going to be able to kick a 60-yard field goal because they’re going to bring in the best guys. It’s just how you take it out onto the field.”