Matt Jones was introduced to the Ohio State-Erasmus Hall bond early on.
He was only in eighth grade when he met Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and several of the powerhouse program’s other coaches on their visit to the Brooklyn high school. They were there recruiting Curtis Samuel, who would become a Buckeye star and an NFL draft pick in April.
“One day,” the Ohio State coaches told him, “we’ll see what you have.”
By his junior year, Jones held a scholarship offer, and the five-star offensive lineman recently verbally committed to Meyer’s program, continuing the recent trend of E-Hall stars heading to Columbus.
“It’s strange,” said Brian Dohn, a recruiting analyst with Scout.com. “When you’re thinking of New York City football, you’re not thinking of a pipeline to Ohio State. It’s different.”
Different, yes. But it has been beneficial for both parties. Samuel, as Ohio State’s top playmaker a year ago, helped the Buckeyes reach the College Football Playoff and then was selected by the Panthers.
Fellow Brooklyn native and Erasmus Hall alum Jahsen Wint was a solid special teams performer for Ohio State last year and will start training camp as a second-team safety this summer. And now there is Jones, a massively built 6-foot-4, 315-pound lineman, who has been nominated for both the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and Under Armour All-America Game. Jones said hearing Samuel rave about Ohio State firsthand interested him even more.
“He can make a big impact, because he’s really good,” Dohn said. “Ohio State is taking kids that they think are elite athletically, and elite as a player. With the turnover they have, they don’t have the luxury of waiting for many kids to develop over a few years.
“He’s powerful and strong. He’s got good feet. He’ll have to learn some technique, but what offensive lineman [prospect] doesn’t?”
The relationship makes sense. Erasmus Hall players saw how Samuel flourished there, and how well he was treated, and want to be the next Brooklyn kid to go there. Erasmus coach Danny Landberg has forged a bond with Meyer and members of his coaching staff. He can speak to the staff whenever he has a question or needs advice. And when one of the Erasmus Hall players is having issues, they have no problem asking him for help.
“Keeping me involved with our kids at that level is important,” Landberg said. “It’s a nice touch by them to involve us in [our kids’] growth.”
Landberg makes it clear to his players, though, that he wants them going to the school they feel best suits them. Jones, after all, visited Penn State before committing to Ohio State. Another prospect, junior three-star receiver Aron Cruickshank, has an Ohio State offer, but is unlikely to go there.
But Samuel’s success — and Ohio State’s consistency as a national power — makes it appealing. When the Brooklyn school has a highly regraded prospect like Jones, the Buckeyes are going to be involved.
“They will always have a legitimate shot,” Dohn said.
St. John’s hosted four-star shooting guard Luther Muhammad of Hudson Catholic, one of its top junior targets, on an official visit Friday and Saturday. The Johnnies also hosted four-star sophomore forward Qudus Wahab from Virginia on Friday for an unofficial visit.
Seton Hall offered junior guard Anthony Nelson from Harlem on Wednesday during his visit. Nelson, who attends South Kent Prep (Conn.), also visited Monmouth on Wednesday.
St. Raymond junior guard Omar Silverio took an unofficial visit to UMass on Wednesday.