SAN ANTONIO -- While his buddies Jeffrey Okudah and Baron Browning signed autographs for a mob of young fans after the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Marvin Wilson was walking around on the Alamodome field and already bracing for the impact.
The No. 1 recruit in the state of Texas is now the only five-star recruit in the ESPN 300 who has yet to made a decision. Okudah, a fellow five-star talent and the No. 2 prospect in Texas, finally made his plan known on Saturday. He’s going to Ohio State. He’s hoping Wilson will, too.
Okudah and Browning leave for Columbus tomorrow. Wilson realizes they’re going to be recruiting him relentlessly from now until signing day.
“I don’t even want to see them after this game,” Wilson said with a laugh. “I’m about to go to my hotel room and lock the door. They’ll probably be beating it down. Probably need security. But they’re still my guys.”
Whether or not the massive defensive tackle joins the fold, Ohio State has already successfully conquered the state of Texas with its 2017 class. In Okudah, Browning and running back J.K. Dobbins, the Buckeyes have locked up three of the Lone Star State’s top seven recruits.
“They’ve established that pipeline,” Wilson said, “from Texas to Ohio.”
They certainly picked a good year to hit the state hard. Texas went through another losing season and coaching change. Texas A&M went through another late-season slide. TCU disappointed and Baylor stopped recruiting.
Ohio State swept in and swept away some of the state’s best. The Texas-to-Ohio pipeline got started in 2013 when Tom Herman signed J.T. Barrett, Dontre Wilson and Mike Mitchell. Now Herman is taking over Longhorns and trying to close up the border. Okudah said the elite recruits are leaving home for the Big Ten powerhouse because, for all the promises they’ve heard during recruiting, the Buckeyes back it up.
“It’s Ohio State’s plan,” Okudah said. “It’s a plan that works. It’s not a hypothetical plan. Their plan has actually proven that it works.”
He’d been planning to become a Buckeye for a while now. Florida State did make a late push, a strong enough one that Okudah admits he almost postponed and reconsidered his decision.
Browning was glad Okudah finally made it official Saturday during the Army Bowl. When people would ask who his roommates will be at Ohio State, he’d say Tate Martell, Shaun Wade and “one person I can’t say yet.”
“I’ve been knowing for a while,” Browning said.
Now they can set their sights on Wilson, the Houston Episcopal star. He played in the Under Armour All-America Game in Florida earlier this month, but still decided to check out the Army Bowl in support of his high school teammate Walker Little and those future Buckeyes. Okudah’s commitment was definitely no shock to him, either.
“Of course I’m happy for him,” Wilson said. “That’s my boy since sophomore year. I’m proud that he made the right decision he came to with Ohio State.”
When Wilson put out his final five a few weeks ago, he eliminated all the Texas schools from contention. He’s down to Ohio State, LSU, Florida State, Oklahoma and -- out of respect for ex-Texas coach Charlie Strong -- USF.
Wilson says, deep down, he still does not know where he’s going. He’s planning on many more family talks and a lot more prayer during these next three weeks before decision day. His friends, meanwhile, are feeling confident.
“Jeff’s commitment will help, to be honest,” Browning said. “I’m going to recruit him, but I ain’t going to pressure him. I wouldn’t want anybody pressuring me and my decision. I’m going to recruit slowly but surely.”
Now that he’s officially recruiting for Ohio State, Okudah is planning a bit more aggressive pursuit for Wilson. That locked hotel room? Not going to be a problem.
“We’re going to bother him, don’t worry,” Okudah promised. “We’ll get a key.”