Don't overreact to expected linebacker recruiting losses

Jeremy Birminghamover 1 year
Aritcle written by:Jeremy BirminghamJeremy Birmingham


Al Washington by Birm-Lettermen Row
Al Washington helped turn the Ohio State linebackers around last year. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Have a question about Ohio State recruiting? This is the place for you, five days a week. Submit your questions on Twitter or on the Lettermen Row forums. Check-in daily to see what’s on the mind of Buckeyes fans all over the country. Today, we’re once again examining the linebacker position in 2021 and how the Buckeyes are approaching it.

Ohio State Recruiting Question of the Day

I’ll answer this one backward, because I think it’s important to be clear there’s absolutely zero reason for the Buckeyes to be worried about Al Washington as a recruiter based on any metric at all — but certainly not the one being used here.

Reid Carrico is the No. 2-ranked inside linebacker prospect in the country in the 2021 class, and he’s committed to Ohio State. Yes, Carrico is from Ohio. Because of that, some will suggest that getting a commitment from him was expected, easy or not a significant win because he’s a local kid. That argument is hogwash. It’s hard to recruit top 100-ranked kids no matter where they live.

In the last cycle Washington was instrumental in recruiting Cody Simon, No. 4 at his position, from New Jersey. He played a big role in securing California star Kourt Williams, who was ranked as the No. 12 outside linebacker. Maybe based on this sky-high standard that would appear low, but Williams isn’t really a traditional linebacker prospect — he’s playing safety for Ohio State, after all — and his ranking reflects that. Washington also was a major part of the identification and evaluation of Mitchell Melton from Maryland, another player who was among the 25 best in the entire country at his position.

And in the current class to this point, Washington is ranked as the country’s No. 12 recruiter by the assistant coach ratings. He’s been involved in the commitment not just of Jack Sawyer, Reid Carrico and Jaylen Johnson, but he was also very important for Ohio State in keeping the relationship with TreVeyon Henderson alive until Tony Alford and Ryan Day could get involved.

TreVeyon Henderson-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Al Washington played a major role as Ohio State landed 5-star running back TreVeyon Henderson. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Quite simply, the notion that Washington is becoming some kind of liability because he has not landed a commitment from Ohio State’s top remaining linebacker targets Barrett Carter or Smael Mondon is ludicrous.

Carter may be from Chicago, but he lives in Georgia. Convincing him to leave the south for Ohio State, where he’s visited only once because coronavirus-related recruiting shutdowns cost him a springtime trip to Columbus, was never likely. As the uncertainty around the current pandemic continues to influence kids into earlier-than-expected decisions, it feels like a safe bet that Barrett Carter will commit to Clemson or Georgia sooner rather than later. Smael Mondon, who tweeted some vagueries about his own decision, is almost definitely going to pick the Bulldogs in the near future as well.

Those types of prospects almost always stay in the south, as Ohio kids usually stay in Ohio. So people should celebrate the expected wins as vigorously as some lament the expected losses. No matter how hot Ohio State is on the recruiting trail, it may be wise to temper expectations a bit. The Buckeyes are recruiting against the best programs in the country, and in most cases they are at a disadvantage because of geography. That edge for other programs is going to be exploited more than ever with the current condition of things.

There’s been two guys at the top of the list for Ohio State for a while now, and Washington has focused on them. The Buckeyes could have probably landed a commitment from top-ranked linebacker Terrence Lewis had they offered, but they didn’t — and there’s no regret in Columbus about that.

So where do the Buckeyes go if Barrett Carter and Smael Mondon end up elsewhere? That remains to be seen.

The widespread confusion that’s been brought on by the coronavirus means there’s no way to know when or how Washington and the rest of the Ohio State coaching staff will evaluate other options. There’s been some good conversation between LSU commitment Raesjon Davis and the Buckeyes, but it’ll take a pretty special effort by Washington and company to flip him from the defending national champions.

There are unknowns in play that can’t be ignored. It’s put Ohio State and Al Washington in a weird spot, but there’s absolutely no reason to worry about the second-year linebackers coach or his chops on the recruiting trail.

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