The state of Ohio provides college football with some of the sport’s most talented stars. An oasis once laid claim almost exclusively by the Big Ten, Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow have flipped the script in the Buckeye State.
The Youngstown natives arrived in Lexington at the perfect time. Following Urban Meyer’s first season in Columbus, Ohio State shifted its priorities from the home state to recruit nationally. Fast forward to today and the Buckeyes still recruit all across the country, but Ryan Day has refocused the program’s attention closer to home, prompting The Athletic’s Bill Landis to assess the state of football recruiting in Ohio.
Landis spoke with nine individuals anonymously from across Ohio, each with varying levels of involvement in high school football. A trainer from Toledo, where Marrow played collegiately and got his start in coaching, believes UK is successful because of the connections the Big Dog has created over the years and the draw of the SEC.
“Vince Marrow used to coach up here, and he does a great job. Life is about relationships, and he has a lot of relationships throughout the state. They offer kids very early, and when you get an SEC offer, kids want to jump on that. They know that. Kids might look past a Cincinnati or Michigan to have an opportunity to play against Alabama. You might get smoked, but it’s an opportunity to compete against some of the best.”
Proximity certainly plays a part in UK’s recruiting success in Ohio. Kentucky’s two commitments from the state in the 2022 class are from Cincinnati, a 90-minute drive from Lexington. One football coach from Youngstown believes UK’s recruiting success isn’t just about location, location, location.
“Vince Marrow handles Ohio, and he just knows the fabric of the state, especially in Northeastern Ohio. One of the things they’ve done is they’ve recruited some kids who, I’ll use the term borderline, that maybe another school is hedging on. Kentucky goes headfirst, says,’“Hey, we want you here and you’re gonna be a big part of what we’re doing.’ Those kids can go to Kentucky and end up having good careers. Look at Benny Snell from Columbus.”
Lynn Bowden is an even better example of this phenomenon. Ohio State was never completely sold on the star athlete from Youngstown until the homestretch of his recruitment. By then, it was too late to change Bowden’s mind, securing a commitment from an explosive playmaker that dramatically altered the trajectory of Stoops’ tenure in Lexington.
That wasn’t all the coaches had to say about Kentucky’s recruiting efforts in Ohio. You can read more of that here while enjoying some jabs at Jim Harbaugh, Miami and more.