Clemson’s coaching staff is familiar with several of Ohio State’s players from the recruiting process, including defensive lineman Michael Hill, who the Buckeyes signed out of Clemson’s back yard.
Hill, from Pendleton, received his first offer from Clemson but chose to go to Ohio State, the school he rooted for growing up. Hill’s relationship with Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer and the opportunity to play for his favorite team proved to be too much for the Tigers to overcome.
“I just never thought they would ever offer me, and I just fell in love with them as a kid,” Hill said of Ohio State. “Once they finally offered me, I took a visit here and coach Meyer was the coach. He recruited me hard. I fell in love with the players on the team. I fell in love with the culture of the team and they won me over.”
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney remembers recruiting Hill without having much success, despite Pendleton High and Death Valley being minutes apart.
“He’s five miles away, and just never really could get much interest in Clemson. It was crazy,” Swinney said. “(Meyer) didn’t know where Pendleton was, but he comes all the way to Pendleton to get Michael.”
Hill has 19 tackles, including three tackles for loss, entering Saturday’s game and said signing with the Buckeyes worked out great.
“People usually stay in state I guess, but I just did what I felt was right,” he said. “I love this university. I’m about to graduate next semester. I’m about to get a degree and everything, so I think it’s going great.”
In addition to Hill, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables heavily recruited Raekwon McMillan, Jalyn Holmes and Tyquan Lewis, three key contributors to Ohio State’s defense.
McMillan leads the Buckeyes in tackles with 87, Lewis leads the team in tackles for loss with 10 and Holmes is tied for second on the team in tackles for loss with 8.5.
Lewis, a North Carolina native, considered the Tigers.
“I was very close to going there. Clemson was close to home. My mom, she liked it a lot. The pitches were almost the same,” he said. “It was a great place to visit. It’s a great place down South.”
Some Clemson players also got to know Ohio State players during the recruiting process, including Tigers star Deshaun Watson, who formed a bond with McMillan. Both players are from Georgia.
“We’re real cool. We got recruited heavily together, came out the same year. Every time I visited Clemson he was always there, kind of built a cool little relationship,” McMillan said. “Toward the end I tried to recruit him to Ohio State, but you know that wasn’t happening. As fellow college athletes we keep in touch and check up on each other every now and then.”