The top-ranked offensive tackle in college football’s 2018 recruiting class is from Fairfield, Ohio. That’s near Cincinnati, less than two hours from Columbus.
The player is Jackson Carman. And on the first day of the sport’s Early Signing Period, Carman stunned Ohio State by passing on the Buckeyes and signing with Clemson.
1. Ohio State almost never loses out on the best Ohio players.
Ohio State has become almost a sure-thing landing spot for the top-ranked players in the state. Since 2004, Ohio State had only missed out on the state’s No. 1 prospect three times: 2007 defensive end Ben Martin, 2010 linebacker Jordan Hicks, and 2016 offensive tackle Tommy Kraemer.
Other than that, OSU’s been the place for Ohio’s best talent. The Buckeyes have built their program on Ohio star power, including No. 1 players like Ted Ginn Jr., Beanie Wells, Mike Adams, and Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes recruit nationally, but they rely heavily on locking down the best players from their own backyard, like most programs.
Ohio has been a firewall for Ohio State, and it's very rare that the Buckeyes lose any prospect, let alone the best one in the state. And when they do, it's typically a parochial school kid to Notre Dame.
But to lose out on a kid they badly wanted, to Clemson, the school that's not only beaten them in bowl games (most recently in the College Football Playoff, in humiliating fashion), but in major recruiting battles as well? That stings even more.
2. Losing Carman means losing a potential instant contributor.
Big picture, Ohio State's 2018 recruiting class is still more than fine. As of this writing, Ohio State still had the No. 1 recruiting class in the country and should finish, at worst, in the top five. That’s certainly good enough for the Buckeyes to continue to compete for national titles. And that class includes the best center prospect in the country and another high four-star tackle .
But there's no way around it: This is a big loss, because offensive line depth is one of the weaker spots on this roster, and a big kid with the physical tools like Carman could step on to the two-deep right away.
3. Carman previously called out OSU’s coaching staff in public, then got into a Twitter fight with Kirk Herbstreit.
He thought Ohio State should bench QB J.T. Barrett for Dwayne Haskins:
Herbstreit, a Buckeye himself, did not like that:
Can someone get a memo to ALL RECRUITS of EVERY SCHOOL to please keep quiet and worry about their own teams. Not a good look for these guys. https://t.co/5NLH5PXBHV— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) September 12, 2017
And Carman didn’t like that Herbstreit didn’t like it:
Pretty sure I wouldn't have any problems in Dabo Swinney's or Clay Helton's locker room for my OPINION on OSU's qb issues. https://t.co/FMVwGpAJ2J— T H E J I A N T (@Jackthejiant) September 13, 2017
“And then he says he’s gonna go to Clemson or USC. Good, that would be a great decision for you. I think it’d be better for Urban Meyer to not have a guy like that on his roster.”
Well, Carman has now followed through on that threat. But it wasn’t because Meyer decided he wasn’t welcome at Ohio State.
4. Clemson apparently went negative to get Carman.
Dabo Swinney told Jackson Carman during his recruitment that Urban Meyer is on the back end of his career in terms of years left. “It wasn’t a major factor, but it was an underlying one,” Carman said.— Ari Wasserman (@AriWasserman) December 20, 2017
Meyer is 53. Swinney is 48. That’s not such a big age gap, and it doesn’t feel like Meyer’s on the verge of quitting any time soon.
It’s a technically accurate assessment, probably, given that Meyer has been coaching college football since 1985. I doubt he’s still coaching in 32 years, when he’ll be 85.
5. But Carman has liked Clemson for a long time.
He said in the spring 2017 he’d have probably already been committed to Clemson if Ohio State weren’t in Ohio. He liked Clemson’s new facilities. He liked what he said was a family atmosphere at Clemson. He gave off every signal of a player who had something pulling him one way even as the home team kept calling.
6. Carman is, by the way, extremely good.
He’s as close as you’ll find in any recruit to an impenetrable force. Carman’s footwork is smooth, and his body control is second to no prep lineman in recent years. He loves to talk about football and clearly thinks about the game on a higher plane than most.
7. He’s the third top-10 recruit in Clemson’s 2018 class.
He joins the Nos. 1 and 3 overall recruits in the country, in quarterback Trevor Lawrence and defensive end Xavier Thomas. Swinney is building a monster.