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The Curious Case of Jaiden Woodbey
By Ben van Ooyen
Will Jaiden Woodbey stay Scarlet and Gray?

This story may sound familiar, and it might even parallel a recruitment (or two) that you watched take place last year. Four-star California safety Jaiden Woodbey surprised many when he committed to the Buckeyes over offers from local schools USC and UCLA back in February. Even though he has been steadfast in his commitment to Ohio State, there have been many who still believe that he will end up elsewhere. Don’t count me as one of them.

The relationship between the Buckeyes and Jaiden Woodbey goes back to June 16, 2016 when Ohio State made their offer official. He tried many times to make a visit to Columbus, but circumstances wouldn’t allow it until January, when he finally made the trip with his mother. Since that trip, he has been to Columbus twice more -- once in March and once for the Spring Game.

That's three trips to Columbus out of their own pockets in a little over three months. I am not sure many high school kids and their families can afford to travel three times from California to Ohio in the span of a few months and it not mean anything. The fact that Woodbey did this and brought both of his parents (separate times) shows that he wanted to follow up his decision with a few visits to make sure that he made the right choice.

His recruitment aligned pretty closely with high school teammate Wyatt Davis, who committed to the Buckeyes in the class of 2017. Davis visited the Ohio State over the summer and a few days later committed to the Buckeyes. Woodbey followed the same pattern, making his visit and following up a few weeks later with a commitment. There have been a lot of other similarities with their recruitments as well. There was a ton of speculation that Davis would eventually flip his commitment from OSU to either USC or Washington, although Davis maintained during his entire recruitment that he was “solid” in his commitment to the Buckeyes.

The same story has now engulfed Woodbey as he still has months to go before he can sign his letter of intent. The speculation on if he will remain a part of the Buckeye recruiting class of 2018 has already started. It actually started right when he committed, as many thought that he made a hasty decision.  Woodbey has been steadfast in his commitment, tweeting out many times his intention of playing college football for the Buckeyes. However he seems to have only a few believers. After his visit in March, he told reporters that "all of the doubt" about his decision went away. His dad came on that visit, so now both of his parents have been to Columbus to see where their son is headed.

About a week ago, two crystal ball projections came in for Woodbey to Oklahoma, which only made for more conjecture. When Woodbey released his top six schools back in January before his Ohio State visit, the Sooners made the cut along with Washington, Washington State, USC and Nebraska. He then narrowed the list a few days later to only include the Buckeyes, USC, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

While the recruitment of Woodbey seems similar to that of his high school teammate, it actually reminds me more of the recruitment of a current member of the team. Remember Shaun Wade? His recruitment was a roller coaster of "will he or won't he." Eventually he put all the speculation to rest by "re-committing" to the Buckeyes before signing day.

Wade had been committed to the Ohio State for over a year, committing back in January of 2015. However, it was constantly mentioned that he would eventually flip to Alabama. Despite multiple visits to other schools over the ensuing two years, Wade ended up signing and enrolling early at Ohio State. If you remember, Wade was also vocal in that he was "100% committed to the Buckeyes," even though he took trips to other schools after his commitment.

While the coaching staff at OSU was probably not too keen on Wade taking the visits, they knew that they still needed to work to recruit him. I assume Wade was up front about his intentions with the coaching staff, and that they were somewhat okay with him taking those trips. I can only assume that Woodbey and the Ohio State coaching staff are in constant contact, with Woodbey telling them he is "All Buckeye".

Since the speculation on Woodbey has hit a new high, we have seen the Buckeyes put out a few offers to other 2018 safeties. The coaching staff did an amazing job of recruiting defensive backs in the class of 2017, and while losing Woodbey would sting, Ohio State would ultimately be just fine. They also have a commitment from 4-star Josh Proctor out of Oklahoma, which Woodbey was key in landing, as he was there during Proctor's unofficial visit.

While we have a long way to go until December or February (depending on when Woodbey decides to sign), the Buckeyes are again in a prime position to land one of the premier athletes in the country in 2018. Although it might resemble the saga of Shaun Wade last year, recruiting aficionados know that this is the new normal in recruiting. Nothing is binding until the signature hits the letter of intent. Even though Oklahoma and possibly USC will continue to recruit Woodbey hard until he has to sign that paper, I still believe his heart and desire to compete will lead him to Columbus next year.

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