Stacy Gage consulted fellow Florida native and top running back recruit Richard Young before going through his private workout with Tony Alford at Ohio State camp last week.
The IMG Academy product and No. 2 running back in the class of 2024 was hoping to get a feel for what it would be like to receive detailed instruction from the Buckeye coaching staff on the field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
“He said, ‘It’s gonna be brutal.’ I believed him,” Gage said.
The workout didn’t fail to live up to those expectations. Gage, the No. 37 overall prospect in the cycle, got a proper taste for what life might be like as a scarlet and gray running back under Alford’s tutelage. But given Gage’s status as a high-priority recruit for the Buckeyes, it’s no surprise that he already has years of history with the Ohio State running backs coach.
“It felt great. Just being coached by one of my coaches that’s been talking to me since my eighth-grade summer, so just putting that work in made me feel good, feel like a Buckeye again. … Me and Coach Alford talk almost every week,” Gage said. “He tells me I fit great into the program, I’d be a good Buckeye running back. He says I fit the program and I could be a Buckeye.”
Alford’s intangibles on and off the field as a coach, leader and potential mentor are attractive to Gage, who said he has heard just as many good things about Alford from other people as he’s seen firsthand for himself.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Alford's produced NFL draft picks at the running back position with the likes of J.K. Dobbins and Trey Sermon, and there’s little doubt TreVeyon Henderson will be added to that list in a couple years’ time.
“I really do love his coaching style. It’s not even just me getting his relationship, it’s just the things everybody else says about him,” Gage said. “They say he’s a great guy, great person, great father and everything. Just being coached by him and everybody talking about him, it makes me feel good.”
As for the quality of running back regularly produced at Ohio State, Gage said he hopes to outdo the recent standout Buckeyes in Alford’s stable at the next level.
“With all the good running backs coming out of this program, Coach Alford coaching them, I always thought, ‘I could be one of those guys.’ Or probably even be better,” Gage said.
And what does Alford like about Gage? Well, pretty much what every other coach around the country does, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound back said after his workout.
“I just really want to get to the next level and I feel like this could be the program to do that.”– Stacy Gage
“All coaches say they love my mentality. I always come with the dog mentality, I always think I’m better than the next guy,” Gage said. “So every coach that thinks I can fit into their program, that’s what every coach will say. I feel like I can fit into any program.”
But Alford’s not the only one recruiting Gage to join the Buckeye program. No. 1 overall 2024 prospect Dylan Railoa, already an Ohio State commit at the quarterback position, had a chance to see Gage in person as the two appeared at the same camp session in Columbus last week.
But make no mistake, it was far from the first time Raiola had communicated with the Floridian.
“I always want to build a program and make sure the team is good before I come. Dylan, he’s really recruiting me. He almost texts me almost every day,” Gage said. “He texted me before I landed here. With him being here, that’s a good thing. … Right after this I’m gonna go link up with him, talk a little ball with him, see what he thinks about it and I’m gonna share my thoughts with him too.”
Another positive sign for Gage’s chances to come to Ohio State is the recent commitment of his IMG Academy teammate Carnell Tate, a five-star wideout in the 2023 class. Gage already has plenty of experience running roughshod over opposing defenses alongside Tate at the high school level, and the thought of teaming up again in college is enticing as well.
“It really stood out, because I already knew he was gonna come here, he always talked about it. With him being here, that’s a plus, too,” Gage said. “Just playing with him at IMG, (it’s a) one-two punch. You can throw the ball, you can run it. With him being here, we could do the same thing we do at IMG.”
Gage already has one crystal ball prediction pegging him as a future Oklahoma Sooner, but there’s still plenty of time remaining in his recruitment. Gage said he plans to return to Columbus in July, and that his only timeline on a commitment is that he wants to make a decision before the start of his senior year.
An NFL career trajectory is what Gage is hoping to get out of his collegiate development most of all. Considering Ohio State’s track record in that department, Gage said he could envision a future for himself with the Buckeyes.
“Really I’m just looking for getting to the next level. Being coached by great coaches and being around great players and winning a national title,” Gage said. “I just really want to get to the next level and I feel like this could be the program to do that.”