In the weeks leading up to Ohio State’s first recruiting camp, Ohio cornerback Jermaine Mathews was undecided whether or not he wanted to camp in Columbus on June 1.
He had already picked up close to 35 offers and was nearing the end of his recruitment with a commitment date for July 4. But Ohio State was the team the Winton Woods cornerback grew up rooting for, and the Buckeyes had yet to offer the 6-foot, 170-pound prospect.
Mathews didn’t want to go through his recruitment with any regrets. So he showed up Wednesday ready to work and earn his OSU offer.
“A lot of other people kept hitting me up asking if I was going to camp and I turned a lot of people down,” Mathews said. “Then I talked to (OSU cornerbacks coach Tim) Walton again, and he just convinced me to come out. I came out and did my best.
“I think the decision to just come to camp worked out so good. I’m just happy I made that decision because otherwise it could have been a what-if.”
Mathews worked out with the Buckeyes on Wednesday and put on a clinic. He ran a 4.35-second 40-yard dash and locked down nearly every receiver he went up against in one-on-ones. Mathews is rated as a three-star recruit and the 505th-best prospect nationally in 247Sports’ composite rankings, but if what he showed Wednesday was any indication, he may be severely underrated.
“I feel like I belong,” Mathews said about potentially playing at the Big Ten level. “I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be. I feel like I'm good enough, I'm as good as anybody in the country is in my opinion. So I feel like there's really no pressure.”
In one-on-one drills – or winner-loser matchups as Ohio State likes to dub them – Mathews had his own small personal cheering section made up of current Ohio State players and other friends in attendance. Having that support during one of the biggest workouts of his life made Mathews feel at home.
“It was crazy,” Mathews said of his support group, which included Winton Woods alum Miyan Williams. “You just feel good when they’re all cheering for you. I showed my ability to cover and my foot speed (in drills). I think a lot of people don’t know how fast I really am. So running good today, this just shows people.”
Addressing reporters before meeting with Ohio State’s coaching staff, Mathews said he felt he had performed well enough to earn an offer from the Buckeyes. Ryan Day agreed, pulling Mathews into his office later that afternoon and extending him an OSU offer personally.
“It felt really good,” Mathews told Eleven Warriors after receiving his offer. “It’s really hard to explain because it’s something you’ve been waiting on for so long. And then when it happened, it’s just like, wow. (Day) said I earned it.”
There’s no doubt his Ohio State offer changes his recruitment. Before getting the news, Mathews was asked how much a potential dream offer from OSU would change his recruitment. He smirked and answered: “A lot. That’s all I’ll say right now.”
After the offer was presented, Mathews told Eleven Warriors he’s now unsure whether he’ll stick to his July 4 commitment date or push back his decision.
“As of right now, I don’t really know, I can’t really give you an answer for that,” Mathews said.
Mathews wants to take another visit to Ohio State before committing, though.
“Just growing up in Ohio, everybody wants to go to Ohio State,” Mathews said. “Everybody just dreams of playing for Ohio State and getting recruited by them. And now, my dream is coming true.”
Mathews’ interest in Ohio State is stronger than just sentimental ties. He is impressed with the Buckeyes’ developmental track record for previous cornerbacks and has built a strong relationship with Walton.
“I like coach Walton a lot,” Mathews said. “He’s upfront, and he’s going to tell it like it is. When he first got here, he introduced himself to us and he came to one of our basketball games. Then I came up here again in March, talked to him again and watched him coach. So we’ve kept building our relationship. I know he knows what he’s talking about.”
Cincinnati, Kentucky and Pittsburgh are also serious contenders for Mathews, among a few others. He was also offered by Oklahoma the same day OSU gave its offer.
The Buckeyes currently have one cornerback commitment in the 2023 class, four-star Florida prospect Dijon Johnson. OSU wants to take three cornerbacks in the current cycle, so two spots remain. Mathews now looks like one of the strongest candidates to take one of those two remaining spots, along with Kayin Lee, Christian Gray, Daniel Harris, Calvin Simpson-Hunt and Sharif Denson.
“It’s really just them being one of the hometown schools,” Mathews said is the most appealing thing about potentially playing for OSU. “You grow up watching them all your life and everybody just loves Ohio State, so it’s surreal to me.”