The 22nd installment of this year's Better Know a Buckeye series profiles Robert Landers, a defensive line prospect from Huber Heights Wayne. Landers, previously a West Virginia verbal commitment, came to Ohio State fans' attention late in the recruiting process. His offer from Ohio State came on December 12th of last year during an official visit. He committed four days later.
- Size: 6-1/290
- Position: DL
- School: Wayne (Dayton, OH)
- 247 Composite: ★★★
- National Ranking: 476
- Position Ranking: 29 (DT)
- State Ranking: 25
While casual Ohio State fans may not have known of Landers before he committed, those who follow Ohio high school football knew him well. Landers joins Joe Burrow as the two prospects in this class who were playing the best football of their classmates down the stretch. Landers was a marquee player on a Wayne team that suffered just one regular season loss (to Centerville) before falling short in the state title game to Alex Stump's St. Edward squad.
I discuss Landers' brief recruitment below before offering a scouting report of Landers. I close with a projection about a possible redshirt year in 2015 for Landers and a highlight film for the reader to watch at the end of this feature.
Not much was said of Robert Landers' recruitment through 2013 or 2014. Much of this was Landers' doing. He did not attend off-season camps and scouting combines that may have earned him greater attention.
While casual fans may assume the high school highlight reel and film evaluation are what determine an offer, the summer camp circuit may be much more important these days. The reasons for this are multiple. For big-time programs like Ohio State, summer camps allow coaches to directly monitor prospects, how they perform against other top-flight talent the program attracts, and how they respond to their style of coaching. The development of these camps give leverage to coaching staffs and lessen their burden in searching for talent and evaluating film from prospects across the state and country.
Attendance at these off-season camps has an additional effect on scouting services who send writers and talent evaluators of their own to observe the events. Scouting services talk up the talent they observe; this creates additional "buzz" for a prospect hoping to attract more offers. When done right, a college football prospect can use a good performance at one camp (e.g. a camp on campus) as leverage over other programs for more interest and, ideally, scholarship offers.
These camps are beneficial for all parties but can be cost-prohibitive. Landers' decision to not attend these camps reduced his scholarship offer to just Ball State, Bowling Green, and Toledo before West Virginia, to its credit, were diligent enough to notice him. West Virginia's coaches invited Landers to Morgantown for its homecoming game against Kansas on October 4. Landers received his offer on that visit and committed on the spot.
If Landers was content to look ahead to his collegiate career at WVU, his story may have ended there and this feature would be written instead by a West Virginia sports blogger for another audience. However, Landers' senior season was one of the more prolific individual efforts in the entire state. Landers was the defensive centerpiece of a Wayne team that had just one regular season loss before falling to St. Edward in the championship game in Ohio Stadium.
It was the type of closing stretch to a senior season that invites hyperbole. Elder's coaching staff remarked that Landers "singlehandedly destroyed them" in their regional quarterfinals game. One recruiting analyst, echoing similar statements made elsewhere on Landers' performance against St. Edward's, said his first half was arguably the best he'd ever seen of a high school defensive tackle.
By time West Virginia seemed to have an absolute steal of a prospect, Ohio State was looking for defensive tackle help in its recruiting class. Neville Gallimore, thought to be an Ohio State lean, was gravitating toward Oklahoma. Terry Beckner, Jr. was still deciding among Florida State, Missouri, and Ohio State before selecting Missouri on signing day. Amid this, Ohio State's coaching staff invited Landers to campus for an official visit and extended a scholarship offer.
Landers, a lifelong Ohio State fan, wrestled with the prospect of going back on a commitment, but did not need much time to decide after that.
Four days later, Robert Landers flipped his commitment from West Virginia to Ohio State as the 23rd member of Ohio State's 2015 recruiting class.
For Landers, it was a case of getting an offer too good to pass up, notwithstanding his previous commitment to West Virginia.
"Ohio State has always been my dream school, no matter what," Landers told Eleven Warriors. "Growing up watching the Buckeyes from Troy Smith to Terrelle Pryor to even when I was a lot younger, watching Beanie Wells, Maurice Clarett. All those guys — I was always a Buckeye."
WHERE HE EXCELS
Should the reader want to jump to the end of this feature to see Landers' senior-year film for herself, this would be understandable. It is difficult to parlay how exceptional Landers' first-step and burst are. The first play on that highlight features an unblocked Landers blowing up a tight zone option from the pistol, effectively turning a run play into a sack of both the tailback and the quarterback.
Landers' lateral agility and strength are also superlatives. Though effectively unblocked in the first play on that film, Landers was subject to several double teams. Landers has the ability to take on double teams, sometimes even pushing the pocket as well.
Finally, for a rather raw prospect, Landers' swim move is already quite polished. It complements his proverbial "high motor" well.
MUST WORK ON
Explosion and burst are nice. The disrupted plays that follow are eye-opening. However, gap discipline is important as well. For all his burst, Landers will sometimes outrun the play and lose sight of where the ball is. Look at that fumble recovery for a touchdown against St. Edward in the state championship game. St. Edward effectively blocked Landers by optioning him. Landers was in the right place at the right time, but not necessarily for the right reason.
Landers will always be "short" for the position. He was listed by recruiting services at 6-2. Ohio State lists him at 6-1. The reader can infer what Landers' height may actually be. That said, playing low is more important than height. Several defensive tackles have had great careers while playing at 6-1 or below. Aaron Donald is the latest name to come to mind. While his lack of height is not debilitating, it does not make him the most effective tackler against bigger running backs.
Ohio State needs defensive tackle help this season and lost Michael Bennett to the NFL. Further, Ohio State's two-deep at defensive tackle is a source of consternation for the coaching staff. While Landers may have a great fall camp, I think a redshirt is more likely.