Continued from page 1

“Michigan, man,” said Doug Plank, a former Ohio State and NFL defensive back now working for NCSA, a recruiting firm that connects athletes and their families with schools. “They are back in the recruiting business in Ohio.”

For 10 years, Tressel owned the state. He made it a priority to keep Ohio’s best playing in their backyard. However, his departure has created a huge opening for Hoke, the Wolverines’ first-year coach who laid the foundation for recruiting in his home state when he was a Michigan assistant and obviously sees it as a priority.

Hoke has already landed several Ohio stars, and is making a hard push for Cincinnati Taft’s Adolphus Washington, a defensive end considered by many to be the biggest prize in the Buckeye state.

“There’s no doubt he’s going after Ohio kids,” Strobel said, “and I think he’s going to be able to get a few.”

Not long after Tressel stepped down, Kyle Kalis, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound junior offensive lineman from St. Edward High outside Cleveland decided he was moving on, too. He called interim Ohio State coach Luke Fickell intent on telling him he was de-committing from the Buckeyes.

Kalis, though, was persuaded to stay following a 45-minute conversation by Fickell, who may find himself having future talks with waffling recruits.

Fickell’s not concerned about the torrents of negativity directed at the Buckeyes. He’s going to continue promoting his alma mater’s finest qualities.

“It’s about something so much greater than just one situation, one player or one coach,” Fickell said during his introductory news conference this week. “We’ve recruited that for the last 10 years and we truly believe that Ohio State will continue to attract the best student-athletes around the country. We’re looking for a few good men and ones that can stand up and understand what Ohio State is all about.”

During recent on-campus visits with recruits and their families, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald has noticed an increase in questions about the school’s values, discipline, accountability and internal expectations _ all queries he believes are a direct result of Ohio State’s situation.

The Buckeyes’ issues may allow the Wildcats to recruit players they otherwise would have passed up or had no chance of signing.

“As a staff, we talked about kids that are interested in Ohio State that are high-academic kids (who) may now open up the recruiting a little bit more in the state of Ohio,” Fitzgerald said. “Maybe, (Ohio State) might lose a few battles with a school and a school fills up, then we might win a few battles because of just the numbers game. I think it’s way too early to tell, but I think you can at least hypothesize on what might happen.”

Wanting kids is one thing, getting them is another.

Just because Ohio State’s reputation has taken a pounding and more hard knocks could be coming, recruiting experts agree there will be a large group of players who will remain loyal to the scarlet and gray much the way Alabama-born players stuck by the Crimson Tide and California kids stayed true to USC during tumultuous times at those schools.

“Ohio State has a huge stranglehold over the elite players in the state,” said Allen Wallace, publisher of SuperPrep Magazine. “Most of the kids who grew up in Ohio want to be a Buckeye, and 90 percent of those kids don’t care what’s going on right now down there. I don’t think they’re worried about what happens there in the future because it’s something that will go away _ and it will.

“A lot of those kids will look at it and say, ‘Ohio State needs me now more than ever.’ And Ohio State will be able to tell kids, ‘We really need you’.”

Story Continues →