This was the offer he’d been waiting for.
Three-star 2023 defensive tackle Will Smith Jr., the son of the late former Ohio State legendary defensive end Will Smith, couldn’t even put into words what receiving an offer from his hometown Buckeyes would mean to him in October. On Friday, he got to find out.
With the start of the recruiting contact period Friday, both Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and defensive line coach Larry Johnson visited Smith Jr. at Dublin Coffman High School. After the visit, Smith Jr. received a call from Johnson, telling him he’d be receiving an offer to play for his hometown Buckeyes.
“It meant so much to get this offer,” Smith Jr. told Eleven Warriors Friday. “I’m still letting it sink in. It’s surreal.”
Extremely excited and grateful to receive an offer from THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY!!! @OhioStateFB Thank you!! @R2X_Rushmen1 @CoachJimKnowles @markpantoni #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/0VsoPZXf55— Will Smith (@iwillsmithjr) January 14, 2022
Smith Jr. visited OSU numerous times last summer, then took two game visits to Ohio State this fall, one on Oct. 9 against Maryland and another on Nov. 13 against Purdue. He has been going to Ohio State games since he was little, but attending as a recruit was a totally different story.
“It’s just a whole different vibe,” Smith Jr. told Eleven Warriors in October. “Because you get to actually see and picture yourself playing for these people. You have to like picture being coached by these coaches that you meet.”
Johnson told Smith Jr. they needed him to bulk up from his current frame at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds. Smith Jr. is now listed at 260 pounds and is coming off a strong junior season for Dublin Coffman, so Johnson and OSU felt comfortable enough to make the offer.
“The weight came on pretty quick with lifting and changing my eating,” Smith Jr. said.
Following near-complete turnover on Ohio State’s defensive coaching staff, Johnson is one of the few remaining coaches on staff that has a relationship with Smith Jr. But the defensive tackle was excited to meet with Knowles Friday.
“I have talked briefly with coach Knowles,” Smith Jr. said. “I’m excited to get to know him more.”
Of course, having good genes probably didn’t hurt his case for receiving an Ohio State offer. Buckeye fans need no introduction to Smith’s father, the late Will Smith: a former Ohio State team captain and four-year letterwinner who finished his collegiate career with 167 total tackles, 46.5 tackles for loss and 23 sacks before being selected by the Saints with the 18th pick of the first round of the NFL draft in 2004. Smith helped lead the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2002 and was an All-American and the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2003.
“When I was younger, I think I was just like used to it and I never really understood how big a deal it was until I started getting older,” Smith Jr. said of his father’s legacy in October. “Then I really started realizing how big of a deal it was. I just think it’s awesome to be related to him.”
Smith Jr. now has 11 Division I offers including West Virginia, Northwestern, Illinois, Georgia Tech and Toledo. It would be an understatement to say that Ohio State is the odds-on favorite to land Smith Jr. at this point, with two 247Sports Crystal Balls already placed in OSU’s favor on Friday.
That said, Smith Jr. will make a decision when the time is right for him.
“Obviously I’m really interested in OSU and excited,” Smith Jr. told Eleven Warriors Friday. “I’m still learning more about other schools and taking some junior day visits. So still considering it all right now … Right now I am taking my time (before committing). I don’t want to wait too long but also don’t want to rush.”
Frye to visit Alinen
As mentioned above, Ohio State coaches are hitting the road with the lifting of the dead period, and the entire coaching staff started in Ohio on Friday.
All 11 coaches recruiting the great state of OHIO today!— Mark Pantoni (@markpantoni) January 14, 2022
On Monday, newly hired offensive line coach Justin Frye will head to Connecticut to see four-star 2023 offensive lineman Olaus Alinen, according to 247Sports. While former OSU offensive line coach Greg Studrawa initially made the offer to Alinen in December, Frye and Alinen spoke for the first time Thursday evening.
“It was good,” Alinen told 247Sports. “I liked him, seems like a straightforward honest guy who is all about building relationships and developing players. He was talking about how he's excited to be at Ohio State and start building a relationship with me. He was also talking about his recruiting philosophy and then we chatted a bit about my background.”
Alinen, a Finland native who has 35 Division I offers to this point, is ranked as the 125th-best prospect and the 12th-best tackle in the 2023 class, per 247Sports’ composite rankings.
Jones takes playful jab at Tom Allen
Ohio State right tackle Dawand Jones has always been proud of his Indiana roots if you pay attention to his Twitter page. On Thursday, Dawand posed an amusing question to his followers.
Worst Indiana HS Mascot Name?— Dawand Jones (@dawandj79) January 13, 2022
One of Ohio State’s offensive line targets for 2023, Trevor Lauck, responded in kind. Indiana coach Tom Allen “liked” Lauck’s answer to Jones, leading Jones to send off a one-liner.
Coach Allen I see you liking you not getting em https://t.co/JVrTkauA9N— Dawand Jones (@dawandj79) January 14, 2022
Lauck, who is also from Indianapolis like Jones, received an Ohio State offer in December after a couple of game visits, and told Eleven Warriors he visited with Jones after the Michigan State game on Nov. 20.