Alabama's, Ohio State's rosters demonstrate new reality of recruiting
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Even though he’s from the Buckeye State, University of Alabama junior center Ryan Kelly was never much of an Ohio State fan.
Being Catholic he was more of a Notre Dame guy, but when it came time to make a decision about where to play college football some of the schools he chose Alabama over included Florida, Florida State and nearby Kentucky.
So even though he considers himself a Cincinnati guy, as Kelly grew up just north of the city in West Chester and attended Lakota West High School, he’s still been getting text message from home like, “Always been your fan until this week.”
“I’ve got a couple of buddies that go to Ohio State and I know some people there,” he said. “It’s a big week for everyone from Ohio.”
While a coach having a tie to a school 600 miles away isn’t that unusual —after all Nick Saban was the Buckeyes’ defensive backs coach in 1980-81 — it’s becoming less unusual for the players as well.
Alabama actually has five players from Ohio: Kelly, senior linebacker Trey DePriest, true freshman wide receiver Derek Kief, and walk-ons Jerrod Bierbower and Brandon Moore.
Granted, the Buckeyes don’t have anyone from Alabama, or where the Sugar Bowl will be played on Jan. 1 (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), Louisiana —where the Crimson Tide has strong ties — it nevertheless demonstrates the new reality of recruiting.
Borders mean a lot less nowadays.
“Everything is so global now,” Saba said. “There is so much more exposure than there used to be. It used to be local exposure. Like when I grew up, the only team I knew anything about was West Virginia, because that’s where I grew up. That’s who I saw on TV. Things weren’t global like they are now in terms of seeing Oregon play just as much as you see Alabama play. I think young people see it that way, too.”
Just a glimpse as last year’s signing class reflects that as the Crimson Tide landed recruits from 15 states: Alabama (8), Louisiana (4), Georgia (2), Florida (2), Arkansas (1), California (1), Colorado (1), Iowa (1), Minnesota (1), North Carolina (1), Ohio (1), Oklahoma (1), South Carolina (1), Texas (1) and Virginia (1).
The Class of 2015 is shaping up to be the same way with verbal commitments from California, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Washington DC, Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi in addition to the usual infusion of top in-state talent.
“There are still a lot of so-called home-grown guys who want to go to school close to home, but there are also guys out there who have different goals and aspirations for what they want to do and I think those guys are all over the country,” Saban added. “The key thing in recruiting is to find out who those guys are, because those are the only guys who you are going to have a chance for and you’d better focus your energies there rather than somebody who grew up wanting to go to a certain school because that’s where they are from and they have a tie there and that’s probably what’s going to end up happening.
“Those guys exist all over the country, I don’t care if it’s Ohio, Texas, Alabama, Florida. It’s a little bit just evaluating who you are recruiting and what their goals and aspirations are. Otherwise you’re going to end up spinning your wheels quite a bit.”
Ohio State has plenty of players from around the country as well, along with a punter from Australia, Cameron Johnston.
Even though he didn’t land him, sophomore defensive back Von Bell was someone Saban recruited in Georgia, as was sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa in Florida.
Bell, a five-star prospect in 2013, even said when signing with the Buckeyes: “We’re gong to try to beat ’Bama at national championships and try to get that crystal ball. We’re going to complete that mission.”
Little did he know that those words would almost certainly be posted in every Crimson Tide locker at some point before the national semifinal, while Ohio State has plenty of insight into the Crimson Tide.
Not only did Chad Lindsay, an offensive lineman who started four games at center last season, transfer to Ohio State after reportedly visiting Michigan, Cal, Oklahoma and Louisville (he’s since given up football, and according to Urban Meyer is “finishing up his schooling”), but DePriest has maintained his hometown ties.
“Funny thing about Trey is he grew up around Braxton Miller, who was the quarterback before (getting hurt prior to) the start of the season,” senior safety Nick Perry said. “This game is going to mean a lot for him and so we’re kind of playing for him and playing for some of the guys on the team who are from Ohio.
“You can tell he really wants this game.”