Conley carefully weighing Ohio State, Michigan
Gareon Conley (21) of Massillon Washington is a top cornerback, but he excelled on both sides of the ball this past season.
These have been important days for Ohio State recruiting. While other teams are starting to prepare for a bowl game, the Buckeyes have no such “distraction.” Coaches have been flying around the country, courting players to bolster what already is a highly ranked recruiting class.
Coveted linebacker Mike Mitchell and offensive lineman David Dawson are among the group of players taking their official visits to Ohio State. So is Gareon Conley, and and his case is quite intriguing.
Conley is a four-star cornerback/receiver from Massillon Washington High School. He originally committed to Michigan but had a change of heart. Wolverines coach Brady Hoke had established a policy that if a player committed to Michigan, his scholarship offer would be revoked if he took a visit elsewhere.
It’s a hardball practice, but not one unfamiliar to Ohio State. When running back Bri’onte Dunn, who had committed to Ohio State’s 2011 class, considered taking a visit to Michigan, coach Urban Meyer delivered an ultimatum: You re-commit to becoming a Buckeye now, or you won’t be one in the future. Dunn decided not to go to Ann Arbor.
Hoke has relented in the case of Conley (and possibly Dawson, another prior Michigan commitment).
Conley is scheduled to visit Michigan next week. Massillon Washington coach Jason Hall is as interested as anyone in seeing how it plays out. Hall is a Columbus native, but he said he’s not trying to sway Conley’s decision.
“In the Massillon community, there’s a pretty big Michigan following and Ohio State following,” Hall said. “It’s interesting when you talk to people in Massillon what side of the war they support.
“I want to support Gareon. I want him to go someplace that’s a good fit academically, socially and with football.”
Conley spent last week at the Ohio state football championships in Canton and was a Buckeyes guest for the game against the Wolverines on Nov. 24.
Hall said one reason that Michigan hasn’t revoked Conley’s scholarship offer is that he was candid with Hoke about his reasons.
“He talked to Michigan one-on-one and told them, ‘I’ve only been to a couple of places and have seen only one college football game. I need to look at all these options,’ ” Hall said. “To his credit, a lot of kids wouldn’t have done that.”
Hall said that’s a reflection of Conley’s character.
“There are no hidden doors with this kid,” he said. “What you see is what you get. Somebody’s going to get a very special player.”
Hall said Conley didn’t play football as a freshman and played mostly at receiver as a sophomore. He was needed on defense as a junior, so he played mostly at cornerback last year.
“This year, he was off the charts on both sides of the ball,” Hall said.
Conley caught more than 40 passes and averaged almost 22 yards per reception.
“Very early on, Michigan was on him and nobody else was,” ESPN college football analyst Tom Luginbill said. “The word that was out there that Ohio State loved him and wanted to offer him, but they weren’t going to offer unless he would commit to them.”
It wouldn’t have looked good, Luginbill said, for Ohio State to pursue an in-state kid and be spurned for Michigan. When the Buckeyes got to the point they believed they had a legitimate shot at Conley, they jumped.
Hall believes Conley can’t go wrong regardless of which school he picks.
“I think it’s great that he’s looking at all his options and getting to really know both schools on a personal level before he makes that decision,” Hall said. “What a great opportunity for him.”