One of the most important recruiting visitors Ohio State hosted at Ohio Stadium on Saturday was Tennessee 2023 linebacker Arion Carter.
The Buckeyes would love to pair the fast-rising four-star prospect with Arvell Reese to complete their linebacker recruiting for the current cycle, and after Carter made an official visit to Columbus last weekend, OSU has given itself a chance to land the heavily sought-after defensive prospect.
“My visit was great,” Carter told Eleven Warriors. “It was just great seeing how everything was and how they operated things. The culture up there is really, really good. The bonds that are already high with their coaches got built on top of that with meeting them in person … I finally got up to The Shoe. The atmosphere was crazy, even for them to just play Indiana. It was filled up to the tip. It was a great experience overall.”
Four-star Tennessee linebacker Arion Carter (@ArionCarter) is on an official visit to Ohio State this weekend. Carter spent some time talking with defensive coordinator Jim Knowles during warmups. pic.twitter.com/DtqLLfcvX9— Garrick Hodge (@Garrick_Hodge) November 12, 2022
Saturday was the first time Carter had met Day in person, though the two had spoken over the phone several times beforehand.
“Talking with coach (Ryan) Day, in person, just sitting in his office and talking with him about me and how I fit in that program was really good,” Carter said. “He told me he liked me as a young man and an individual, and how my game is and how I’d be able to make an impact there and how the school would be able to make an impact on me while also building my brand as an athlete.”
Carter also met with Jim Knowles on his visit, but the pair had been building a relationship ever since the Buckeyes offered him in September. OSU’s new defensive coordinator stopped by Smyrna High School (Smyrna, Tennessee) earlier this fall to evaluate Carter in person and the pair communicate about three times per week.
“It's been great,” Carter said of his and Knowles’ relationship. “We’ve just been able to build a relationship over these past couple months. And really just diving in, getting to know each other, understanding him outside football also. He's a great coach and a really smart man and one of the best in the game. To come over to Ohio State and turn the program around defensively as far as being in the top 10 in the country, you know he knows what he's talking about. He’s a great coach, and when you have great athletes and put them together, it can be dangerous.”
Throughout Saturday’s game, Carter studied OSU linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, as Knowles envisions the Tennessee product playing a similar role in the coming years.
“He compared us two as far as how we see the game and how we’re students of the game,” Carter said of Knowles seeing him similarly to Eichenberg. “They see me as the Will. As a person who can blitz a lot, come off the edge, utilize my speed and cover the backs in space.”
As Carter stepped out of Ohio Stadium’s tunnel and onto the field to watch pregame warmups Saturday, the southern prospect was greeted by sub-40-degree temperatures and snow flurries.
“I knew it was gonna be cold,” Carter said. “But you never know how cold until you touch down there. I knew they had told me that it was gonna be pretty cold and a cold front was coming through, but it had been like 60 to 70 degrees the whole week. But I just came down. It was good to feel what that was like because that could be something I'll be playing in one day.”
Though his other top schools are in the South, Carter said potentially playing in cold weather will not be a detriment to OSU while making his decision.
“Weather doesn't really affect me,” Carter said. “You know, it’s football weather, you’ve got to play in all elements of the game.”
Carter has a connection on the Buckeyes, as he and freshman running back Dallan Hayden played on the same 7-on-7 team in Memphis. Hayden has played a big role in trying to recruit Carter to OSU, though he’s been respectful of the 6-foot-1, 210-pound linebacker’s decision process.
“He really doesn’t force it on me, he said if I want to go there I’m always welcome, but if I don’t he’ll support me either way,” Carter said. “But they’d love to have me up there. And well, he’s recruiting (me).”
In the days since Carter left Columbus following the win over Indiana, he was left with a lingering thought in the back of his head about his trip that was as special to him as it was to the various OSU fans that witnessed the moment in person.
“I would say Kam Babb,” Carter said of the thing that stood out the most to him while on his visit. “Catching that end zone pass after four ACL surgeries and everything he’s been through, the team being behind him and showing the brotherhood and caring about him, it says a lot for someone to come back from that. You have to have a strong support system there for him to come back and be strong-minded. It showed what kind of coaches he has behind him with coach Day. A lot of coaches might have put him off but they stood beside him. That was a big highlight, but also getting to know the players (on the team), that was a highlight too.”
While Carter will make his college decision in about a month, his recruitment is far from over. Carter will make official visits to Tennessee on Dec. 3 and Alabama on Dec. 10 and may try and fit in two more visits. While it was widely reported Carter planned to take a visit to Michigan this weekend, Carter said he does not currently have any trip to Michigan scheduled. He’ll likely visit Auburn this Saturday instead.
There may be no prospect in the 2023 class that has had a faster rise than Carter, as he didn’t receive his first Power Five offer until late August. Then a flurry of offers came in from plenty of premier programs including OSU, Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Michigan State, LSU, Ole Miss, Oregon, USC and more. Carter had been committed to Memphis since July, but he began looking elsewhere after his flurry of big-time offers. He officially decommitted from the Tigers on Wednesday.
“It’s a blessing, I thank God for it every single day,” Carter said of his rise as a recruit. “A year ago, I didn’t have any offers, I didn’t have any scholarships that I could call mine. But over these past couple of months, God has changed my life forever. I thank him for that and my coaches and family. All the work I put into the offseason to get to this point has paid off and I can’t be thankful enough for it.”
In 10 games for Smyrna High School (Smyrna, Tennessee) this season, Carter racked up 84 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. As a running back, he rushed for 1,030 yards and 19 touchdowns.
“I would say my speed and versatility,” Carter said of his best on-field attributes. “Being able to go out in space and cover backs and make up field tackles and chase down people. I’m able to run sideline to sideline, read where the running back is going, especially with the background of me playing running back my whole life.”
This next month will be critical for Carter as he tries to find his future collegiate team. He said he’ll be focusing on each school’s defensive system, the potential for early playing time, each school’s pre-med program and what the overall culture is like.
After his Ohio State visit, the Buckeyes will be in his recruitment until the end, as Carter expects to make a commitment on Dec. 15 and enroll early at his school of choice.
“They're definitely up there and made a really good impression,” Carter said regarding where Ohio State stands with him at the moment. “They're definitely up there. As far as having a good impression being my first official visit, they set the standard.”