Recruiting is key. It is the lifeblood of college football, after all. If programs don’t recruit, then they obviously don’t have a roster, and if they do not recruit well then they won’t have any talent on the roster. And under the leadership of head coach Ryan Day, the Buckeyes have recruited very well thus giving them a very talented roster.
To build that talented roster the Buckeyes have had more than their fair share of recruiting wins over just about every college football program in the country. As a result, in our weekly ‘The Game Before The Game’ article, we’ll look back at the Buckeyes’ recruiting wins (and losses) against the team they are taking the field against that week. Along with Ohio natives that each opponent has on their roster.
Starting off our ‘The Game Before The Game’ series will be the Minnesota Golden Gophers. And while P.J. Fleck has recruited well in Minneapolis, the Buckeyes have been golden when it comes to recruiting against the Gophers.
We had to dig fairly deep and enlist some help from people in the know about the Minnesota program to pinpoint any direct wins the Buckeyes had over Gophers recently, but there are a few. The first and biggest win the Buckeyes have over P.J. Fleck and company is likely Cameron Martinez. The redshirt freshman defensive back was a priority target at wide receiver for Minnesota in the 2020 class and he even took an official visit to Minneapolis. Fleck also conducted an in-home visit with the Muskegon native after Jeff Hafley left Ohio State to become the head coach at Boston College. In the end, though, the opportunity to play in Columbus and be coached by Kerry Coombs as a defensive back was just too much to pass up for Martinez.
Aside from Martinez, the Buckeyes have not gone ‘head to head’ against Minnesota all that much on the recruiting trail. In the 2017 class, the Gophers made a run at Ohio State offensive line Thayer Munford with his Massillon Washington teammate Malcolm Robinson committed. Nevertheless, the Gophers could not pull off the coup and five years later Munford was just awarded the Block “O” jersey for his senior season in Columbus. Finally, Minnesota loved current Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njgba and the family liked what the Golden Gophers had to offer but playing at Ohio State was once again too much to turn down.
This will be a quick and easy read because there aren’t any losses for the Buckeyes at the hands of the Golden Gopher on the recruiting trail. That is obviously not to say that Minnesota does not have talent on their roster, because they are a quality team, it is just to say both programs recruit different levels of players at the moment.
In all, Minnesota has nine Ohio-born prospects on their roster this season, with six of them being underclassmen, so don’t expect any of them to have a big impact on Thursday’s game. Although, if you hear the name Miles Fleming (defensive back, Bishop Hartley) defensively for the Gophers do not be surprised. Folks in Minneapolis are high on the central Ohio product.
As for the upperclassmen, two of them are second on the depth chart in Thomas Rush (defensive line, Marysville High School) and Austin Beier (offensive line, Toledo St. John’s Jesuit). Rush could see some playing time against the Buckeyes but don’t expect to see Beier. The last Ohioan is a transfer in Matthew Trickett (kicker, Cleveland St. Ignatius) from Kent State who should be the starting placekicker for the Gophers this fall, you’ll likely see him.
As many Ohio State and college football fans would imagine the Buckeyes typically get their guy if Minnesota is their main counterpart. The two programs are just on two separate levels.
When it comes to the Gophers’ efforts to recruit the state of Ohio, they have done well the last couple of classes in the Buckeye state. However, don’t expect many — if any — of those guys to make an impact in this game.