The Hurry Up: Breaking Down Blue’s Decision While Defensive End Target Shows Off Customized Cleats

The Hurry Up is your nightly dose of updates from the Ohio State football recruiting trail, keeping tabs on the latest from commits and targets from around the country.

YOU’RE MY BOY, BLUE

As you certainly know by now, Ohio State landed a commitment on Sunday morning from Huber Heights Wayne four-star wide receiver L’Christian “Blue” Smith. But one facet of his recruitment that won’t get enough attention is how close Kentucky actually came to landing his pledge.

The Wildcats have signed 36 players from the state of Ohio since Youngstown natives Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow arrived in Lexington following the 2012 season, more than any out-of-state program in that span. And though they’ve never directly competed with Ohio State for a prospect — until Smith — that number is surely the result of the Buckeyes’ national recruiting approach under head coach Urban Meyer.

“I love Urban Meyer, and I’m going to tell you why. He recruits nationally. And Ohio is [one of the highest] producing states in football. I have to tell him, ‘Thank you for not recruiting all those guys,’” Marrow said at Kentucky’s media day earlier this month. “If Jim Tressel was there, half of these kids you see out here from Ohio would be at Ohio State.”

It should come as no suprise then that Marrow and Smith’s teammate Alex Reigelsperger — a three-star defensive end who committed to Kentucky back in February — led the charge for the Wildcats. They tried to impress upon him the narrative that the Buckeyes didn’t view him as a priority and that a family-like atmosphere in Lexington outweighed the business-like feel in Columbus. It worked, too.

“The people down there. When I go down there, everyone in the facility — it doesn’t matter if they know me — they see me walking and they’re stopping whatever they’re doing to see how I’m doing, if I need anything,” Smith told Eleven Warriors this spring. “It just feels like another home down there. I go down there and I feel comfortable. I got a lot of family down there. [Former Wayne teammate] Tobias [Gilliam] is down there, Alex is committed now and coach Marrow, I talk to coach Marrow every day. He’s a super recruiter. He knows what he’s doing. It’s just the people pretty much, the community down there.”

So that and the non-stop chatter about the Ohio State staff supposedly wanting to play him at tight end only pushed Smith closer and closer to Big Blue Nation, and a number of 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions reflected that this spring. Even more were placed in favor of the Wildcats after he skipped the Buckeyes’ Spring Game in mid-April.

At that point in time, Kentucky — the first program to offer Smith a scholarship — looked primed to get its first real win in Ohio since Meyer’s arrival. But things took an abrupt turn when the Buckeyes’ coach invited Smith and his father, Lorenzo, to Columbus for a meeting that would put to bed the rumors surrounding what position he’d play at the next level.

Smith walked away with an understanding of where he sat on Ohio State’s list of priorities — of course, near the top — and Kentucky never stood a chance after that. The staff proved it on subsequent visits for a one-day camp in June and Friday Night Lights in July, and it only reaffirmed what was in the back of his mind all along… that Columbus was “the place to be.”

KICKS ON FIRE

With Blue in the fold, Ohio State now holds commitments from three of the Top 5 players in the state.

The two remaining are, of course, Fairfield five-star offensive tackle Jackson Carman and Cleveland Heights four-star defensive end Tyreke Smith, who took to Twitter ahead of the Tigers’ game on Saturday afternoon to show off his brand new cleats for this season.

You may recall the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Smith announced a Top 5 of Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State and USC after he arrived in Beaverton, Oregon, in late June for Nike Football’s The Opening Finals, though it’s been reported elsewhere this is a new list. The cleats — Nike Vapor Untouchable Pros, by the way — are just a cool way to commemorate his senior season.

There hasn’t been much to discuss when it comes to Smith in recent weeks, as he’s flown a bit under the radar since his trip to California to visit USC and spend time with family in late July. He hasn’t set an announcement date and doesn’t seem to favor one school over another, either.

So, you’re probably wondering, is that a cause for concern when it comes to Ohio State?

Not really. Smith, you have to remember, has only played one season of organized football. He’s continuing to perfect his craft in practice, and focusing on his senior season is just as important as figuring out which school he’ll attend. Smith will take official visits this fall, I’d assume to all five schools, and then make a decision on his future.

Meyer and defensive line coach Larry Johnson have made it clear Smith is a priority for them, and no matter what happens with five-star defensive end Micah Parsons and/or four-star Jayson Oweh, he has a spot waiting for him in the class. Now it’s just a matter of Smith taking the time to figure out where he wants to be.

I will say, though, don’t sleep on the Nittany Lions, as head coach James Franklin has made quite the impression on Smith’s family.

ACROSS THE BOARD

Following Blue’s decision, meanwhile, Ohio State now holds the top-ranked class in the country in the eyes of every major recruiting service: ESPN, Rivals, Scout and 247Sports. The Buckeyes sat third overall, according to Rivals, but jumped Miami and Penn State on Sunday.

There’s still more than five months until National Signing Day, but it’s looking more and more likely every day that Ohio State ends Alabama’s seven-year run atop the composite rankings.

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