To a certain subset of sports fans, the anticipation for offseason free agency or its collegiate cousin, the recruiting period, is a blend of infinite possibility and “please, let us get someone good” fear.
And when your squad lands that prize recruit or plum free agent, fear yields to jubilation and plenty of boasting on social media about how your team is going to dominate on its way to a championship.
That jubilation has come to Columbus, Ohio, as top receiver and fourth-ranked overall recruit Julian Fleming has chosen to take his talents to Ohio State University after he graduates high school in 2020, according to ESPN.
Final destination…… 4’s out ✌🏽 pic.twitter.com/bX3qjQEA8R
— 🃏0J4🃏 (@julian_040) May 31, 2019
“It was just the at-home feeling and their players. [Ohio State] puts their players first and all my visits there, I had countless hours with all the players, so I really got the college vibe right away.”
The other schools Fleming was seriously considering — Penn State and Clemson — and his final decision to attend Ohio State speak to the dilemma between playing on a championship-caliber squad that has delivered results in recent years versus staying closer to home and trying to bring glory to familiar territory.
Fleming is from Catawissa, Pennsylvania, a tiny town of about 1,500 people. It’s a roughly three-hour drive from Philadelphia, and a four-hour drive from Pittsburgh.
He is the second five-star recruit to commit to Ohio State this year, after offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. signed on to protect quarterback Justin Fields, who transferred in from Georgia after his freshman season with the Bulldogs in 2018.
When Fleming takes the field, he’ll join a stacked receiving corps that includes the No. 2, 9 and 15 wideouts in the 2019 class — Garrett Wilson, Ronnie Hickman and Jameson Williams, respectively.
With quarterback Dwayne Haskins now plying his trade in the pros after the Washington Redskins made him the 15th pick in the 2019 NFL draft, it looks like Ohio State is wasting no time reloading its stellar passing game.
Fleming said he was also attracted to the off-the-field programs that Ohio State offers to prepare players not only for the NFL, but for a successful life off the field.
Specifically, the “Brand U” personal-marketing program led by Buckeyes art director Samuel Silverman got Fleming’s attention.
“The Brand U thing was really cool, and I like their real-life Wednesdays where they have speakers come in weekly,” Fleming told ESPN.
“Also, their internship program, they have one of the widest ones being able to send their players worldwide. Just to be able to get opportunities outside of football, so those are two things that stood out to me outside of football.”
Fleming is realistic about what it will take to secure his spot on a loaded roster.
“I’m definitely going to try [to earn playing time] right away because they’ll only have a couple solidified spots,” Fleming said. “They lost three receivers this year; they’ll probably lose one or two next year. I’m hoping to go make an immediate impact, that’s always the goal, but if anything [else] happens, I’m just going to try to work my way up.”
All the same, there’s nothing more exciting for fans than knowing they landed the best possible talent for their school, and Fleming comes in with a massive amount of hype as a top-five overall recruit.
But Fleming turned down Clemson and Alabama, and he may end up seeing both schools as enemies if Ohio State makes it to the College Football Playoff.
Whether he can help his team break the stranglehold on the championship that those two schools have maintained for the past few years remains to be seen.
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