By convincing Jordan Hancock to decommit from Clemson and become a Buckeye instead, Ohio State accomplished a rare feat.
When Hancock decided to reopen his recruitment last week, he became just the fourth recruit in the last six years to decommit from Clemson after previously making a public pledge to the Tigers.
One of those decommitments, Shaq Smith, still ultimately ended up signing with the Tigers’ recruiting class of 2016. Korey Foreman, the No. 1 overall prospect in the recruiting class of 2021, is still considering the Tigers despite decommitting in April due to Dabo Swinney’s rule prohibiting commits from visiting other schools. The other decommitment, 2017 running back Cordarrian Richardson, took a winding path by flipping to Maryland on National Signing Day, signing with UCF one day later and then transferring to Texas A&M one year later.
Since Clemson’s breakthrough as a perennial championship contender in 2015, commitments to the Tigers have almost always resulted in signings with the Tigers. Swinney and his staff have been selective about who they offer and strict about expecting their commitments to be “all in,” but that strategy has worked, as the Tigers have consistently signed highly ranked recruiting classes and made the College Football Playoff five years in a row, winning two national titles in the last four seasons.
Given that, it would have been easy to assume Hancock’s recruitment was a done deal when he committed to Clemson in March. It would have been even easier to assume that after his close friend and North Gwinnett High School teammate Barrett Carter committed to Clemson in May, given that they had talked about pairing up to play together in college.
But Ohio State never gave up on recruiting Hancock, and its persistence paid off, as he ultimately couldn’t shake the feeling that he should become a Buckeye, finalizing that decision when he announced his commitment to Ohio State on Sunday.
“Clemson’s a great school. I wish them nothing but the best, but I knew where I wanted to go in my heart,” Hancock said in an interview with Rivals’ Chad Simmons on Sunday. “Ohio State’s been the school for me since they offered me last fall … This decision is different for me, because this time I followed my heart.”
While Hancock initially chose the Tigers after visiting Clemson in March and in part due to a desire to stay close to home – at the time, his mother was undergoing radiation treatments for cancer, which she has since completed – he had been interested in Ohio State since Jeff Hafley began recruiting him last year, and that interest never went away as Kerry Coombs, Ryan Day and the rest of the Buckeyes’ staff continued recruiting him this year.
how can you be a DB & not come to ohio state?— jordan hancock (@jordanhancock_7) July 20, 2020
Ohio State would have been thrilled to land Hancock, the No. 77 overall prospect and No. 6 cornerback in the recruiting class of 2021, under any circumstances. But stealing a commitment away from Clemson, who has increasingly emerged as the Buckeyes’ top rival on the recruiting trail, led to an even bigger celebration than usual from Ohio State’s other 2021 commits when they received word last Tuesday that Hancock was joining them in the class.
UHH OHH....— TreVeyon Henderson (@TreVeyonH4) July 15, 2020
— Kyle McCord (@kylemccord16) July 15, 2020
Clemson certainly has all the bragging rights over Ohio State when it comes to on-field matchups between the two teams, with a 4-0 record that includes three wins in the last seven years, and the Tigers have won their share of recruiting battles with the Buckeyes, too.
Perhaps most notably, Clemson stole one of the nation’s top offensive tackles from Ohio State’s own backyard when it signed Jackson Carman, the state of Ohio’s top prospect in the class of 2018. The Tigers landed a flip of their own from Ohio State in the 2019 cycle when linebacker Kane Patterson decommitted from the Buckeyes and signed with the Tigers. No. 1 overall prospect Bryan Bresee, defensive backs Fred Davis II and RJ Mickens and defensive tackle Tre Williams were among Clemson’s 2020 signees who were also pursued by Ohio State, while Carter and wide receivers Beaux Collins and Troy Stellato are among those still committed to the Tigers’ class of 2021 who the Buckeyes also targeted.
Ohio State has been the dominant team on the recruiting trail for the 2021 cycle, though, and Hancock isn’t the only prospect the Buckeyes have landed over Clemson en route to building a massive lead for the No. 1 class in the country. The Buckeyes’ other top cornerback in their class of 2021, Jakailin Johnson, was also heavily recruited by Clemson, while running back TreVeyon Henderson, wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. and linebacker Reid Carrico drew significant interest from the Tigers as well (though Henderson was initially recruited as a defensive back).
Those are the kinds of wins – all top-100 prospects nationally – that Ohio State needs to be earning over Clemson on the recruiting trail to give itself a better chance to beat the Tigers in future meetings on the field.
And even though the Buckeyes are now back up to 19 commitments for the class of 2021, they’re not done battling Clemson for some of the nation’s top prospects just yet. Most notably, both programs remain in the race for two of the top 12 overall recruits in the class: wide receiver Emeka Egbuka and offensive tackle Tristan Leigh, who both remain uncommitted.
Happy to announce my official campaign to recruit @emeka_egbuka and @Leigh71Tristan to The Ohio State University!— Ben Christman (@BenChristman70) July 20, 2020
I ask that you please tweet out #MekaToColumbus and #TristanToColumbus to help out my campaign!
Could you imagine how many points this offense would rack up? pic.twitter.com/9VqmbYoMXy
Naturally, Hancock’s flip to Ohio State has led to speculation that Carter – who was one of Ohio State’s top linebacker targets in the class – could also be back in play for the Buckeyes, though indications so far are that Carter remains solid in his pledge to Clemson.
go to sleep baby bro.— barrett carter (@bcsznn) July 20, 2020
Regardless of how those battles play out, Ohio State is well-positioned to finish with the top-ranked recruiting class in the 2021 cycle, and Clemson – currently ninth in 247Sports’ class rankings for 2021 – will need to make up some major ground to get back into the race, even with the third-highest average rating per prospect in the class.
With both teams targeting top prospects from all over the country, the recruiting battles between Ohio State and Clemson aren’t likely to slow down anytime soon, and whether the Buckeyes can continue winning those battles like they did with Hancock will go a long way toward determining whether they can get back over the hump and win national championships going forward.