By BOB WIENEKE Tribune Staff Writer
4:46 PM EDT, May 30, 2011
For years the saying was that Jim Tressel had built a fence around the state of Ohio, meaning if the Ohio State football coach wanted an Ohio player, the Ohio State football coach got that Ohio player.
The gate, however, may have opened Monday when Tressel resigned under pressure.
"This," CBS College Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said, "could give Notre Dame the opportunity they were looking for."
Granted, the man who will take over for Tressel – Luke Fickell – is considered the Buckeyes’ best recruiter, but Fickell has two things working against him.
First is the possibility that the program could be facing NCAA sanctions down the road as the result of the tattoo parlor scandal that ultimately drove Tressel to resign.
Second, Fickell has been named interim head coach for the 2011 season, and that label could affect recruits when it comes to stability.
Add in that it’s considered a great year in Ohio talent-wise, particularly with defensive players, and you’ve got an opportunity for the Irish.
The list of players that both schools are recruiting is impressive.
The top target could be Lakewood offensive tackle Kyle Kalis, who has committed to the Buckeyes.
"I would imagine Notre Dame goes after him in a split second," Lemming said.
According to Lemming, a number of players are leaning toward Ohio State. They include DE/OLB Adolphus Washington (Cincinnati), DE Se’von Pittman (Canton), DE Tom Strobel (Mentor) and DE Ifeadi Odenigbo (Centerville). Also throw into that list defensive ends Greg McMullen and LaTroy Lewis, both of Akron.
"The Buckeyes were leading with almost everybody," Lemming said.
What Notre Dame has working for it is that a good chunk of second-year coach Brian Kelly’s staff coached at Cincinnati.
"It should help a lot," Lemming said. "This staff recruited the state of Ohio heavily. If they do the job right, they should be able to land a lot of blue-chippers out of Ohio."
The two Irish coaches charged with recruiting the state are running backs coach Tim Hinton and offensive line coach Ed Warinner. In addition to coaching at Cincinnati, Hinton also was a longtime high school coach in Ohio.
"If I was Notre Dame I’d put a third guy in there," Lemming said. "It’s an important state and it’s a loaded state. They can make hay there."
Two years ago, Kelly’s staff signed four players from Ohio, and two more from the Cincinnati area who played in Kentucky. Last year’s group included four Ohio players. And of the nine players who have given verbal commitments for the 2012 group, one – offensive lineman Taylor Decker of Vandalia – is from the Buckeye state. Decker, however, was not offered by OSU.
"It’s a rare time when Notre Dame could beat Ohio State head-to-head," Lemming said. "Now, they may be able to finally do it."
Staff writer Bob Wieneke:
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