The four-star defensive end had made his mind up.
Ohio State had been AJ Hoffler’s dream offer ever since the Georgia standout realized he was going to play college football someday. He knew the track record of OSU defensive line coach Larry Johnson and the success he’s had putting defensive linemen in the NFL over his coaching career. He knew the proud tradition OSU has. He was also excited about learning about OSU’s business school on the academics side.
So if Hoffler, who had been praying about receiving an offer from the Buckeyes the last few weeks, received his dream offer on his upcoming visit to Ohio State, he was going to accept it on the spot.
When he told his father that idea before the pair arrived in Columbus last weekend for a game visit, his father was less than thrilled. Only because he was determined his son should complete his due diligence in the recruiting process.
“I talked to my dad before the visit,” Hoffler told Eleven Warriors. “Before the visit, I thought if Ohio State offered me, I’d commit right when I got the offer. But he told me not to do that and keep my recruitment open and my options open.”
With his father by his side, Hoffler made it to Ohio Stadium to watch the Buckeyes earn a top-10 win by absolutely stomping Michigan State, 56-7.
“They played way better than I assumed because I thought Michigan State was better than that, but they dominated from the first snap to the end,” Hoffler said. “They impressed me a lot.”
Two weeks before his visit, Hoffler told Eleven Warriors he’d be paying attention to how coaches interact with players and if he could see himself in that setting for his college career one day. Ohio State met his expectations and then some.
“It was great, it was my best visit yet in my opinion. I loved it,” Hoffler said. “The hospitality they showed, everyone was acting like they wanted me to be there. This was before they offered me. They treated me like I was a five-star.
“I got there late because I had to get something from the store, and the coaches were all asking where I was and stuff. They really wanted me to be there. Coach Johnson saw me and waved to me, and I had a hoodie on so I didn’t even know he could know who I was. They all acted like they wanted me to be there.”
Seeing more than 100,000 fans in attendance and the general atmosphere of The Shoe didn’t hurt either.
“Walking into the stadium, I just thought I could imagine myself there,” Hoffler said. “I haven’t felt like that at any other school yet. I haven’t seen fans like that before.”
On Saturday, the moment Hoffler had dreamed of came. Hoffler was invited into the team’s locker room after the Buckeyes’ win to watch the team celebrate. Little did he know he’d soon be doing some celebrating of his own.
In the midst of the commotion, Johnson found Hoffler and his father and pulled the pair aside. Johnson advised Hoffler to call his mother because he was about to give the family news they were going to relish.
“They said they were going to offer me,” Hoffler said. “I didn’t know what to say. I cried a little bit, a tear or two, because that’s what I was working for. It was an emotional moment for me.”
WOOOWWW !!!!!!!— AJ Hoffler (@yungajh) November 20, 2021
Blessed beyond belief to receive my DREAM offer from THE Ohio State University!!!!!!!!!!!!! #gobucks @R2X_Rushmen1 @NickSebasOSU @markpantoni @Davis33Coach @Mhoward38 pic.twitter.com/S5qL5GTUgs
All the work Hoffler had put in had finally paid off. It’s not like the Woodward Academy (Atlanta, Georgia) standout was lacking for options, as he’s picked up more than 30 Division I scholarship offers so far. But this one meant the most to him. But his father’s advice was in the back of his mind.
So, for now, Hoffler will remain uncommitted. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a clear frontrunner for his services, though.
“They’re my No. 1 school as of now,” Hoffler said of Ohio State.
In the past, Hoffler had considered a commitment date of Aug. 9, 2022, his birthday. But it may come sooner than that. Hoffler is in the process of scheduling an official visit to Ohio State, which he believes he’ll take in either February or March.
“Depending on how it goes, I may commit then,” Hoffler said. “I’m not too sure, but as of now they’re my number one school. I can’t wait to get to know the coaches more and learn about the school.”
Hoffler also started building a relationship with fellow 2023 recruits on his visit. One 2023 OSU commit even went so far as to initiate contact with him first and convince him to join the Buckeyes.
“Earlier (Sunday), Sonny Styles texted me on Twitter and was trying to get me there,” Hoffler said.
Per 247Sports’ composite rankings, Hoffler is ranked as the 256th overall prospect and the 40th-best defensive lineman in the 2023 cycle. In 10 games for Atlanta’s Woodward Academy this season, Hoffler, who is being primarily recruited by the Buckeyes as a defensive end, has a team-high nine sacks, seven quarterback hurries and 44 tackles (four for loss).