- Marc Pendleton Staff Writer
L’Christian “Blue” Smith long ago decided he would buck a popular trend and not graduate early. Instead, he would play basketball as a senior at Wayne High School.
Having already committed to Ohio State University for football, telling that to the Buckeyes’ coaching staff took over-the-middle courage.
“They weren’t really mad and they knew I like playing basketball,” Smith said during Wednesday’s debut of the new early signing period for NCAA Division I football programs. “They just said make sure you’re ready in June, because it’s going to be something serious.”
NATIONAL SIGNING DAY
Smith joined Wayne teammates Alex Reigelsperger (Minnesota) and Antwuan Johnson (Bowling Green) in signing at the school before a cafeteria full of well-wishers.
Similar signing ceremonies took place at a dozen more area high schools, including Marion Local for defensive lineman John Dirksen (Notre Dame), Belmont for defensive back Jadon Rucker-Furlow (Miami), Xenia for receiver Meechi Harris (Cincinnati) and Sidney for running back Isaiah Bowser (Northwestern) and defensive lineman Devan Rogers (Toledo).
This new football-only signing period lasts through Friday. The traditional football national signing day for all collegiate levels and other sports is Feb. 7 and lasts one week. The early basketball and other sports signing period was in November.
Wednesday also was noteworthy for who didn’t follow up by forwarding binding letters of intent: Dunbar teammates Tavion Thomas and Joseph Scates, Springfield QB/defensive end Leonard Tayor and receiver Caleb Johnson and Trotwood-Madison celebrated running back Ra’veion Hargrove.
Franklin’s Ryan Montgomery will sign with Cincinnati at 5:45 p.m. Friday prior to a boys basketball game against visiting Eaton.
Thomas was an outstanding running back/linebacker at Dunbar who rushed for more than 3,000 yards the last two seasons. He committed to Oklahoma prior to his senior season, but that was when Bob Stoops was the Sooners’ coach. Former OU assistant Lincoln Riley succeeded Stoops last June.
Scates, a big-play receiver, has multiple offers and previously listed Alabama and Louisville among his final choices.
Taylor previously de-committed from Michigan and is said to be favoring Kentucky, where he recently visited, and Oklahoma. He reportedly also plans to visit Louisville and Pitt in January. Syracuse also is in the mix. Taylor is destined to play on the defensive line in college.
Caleb Johnson, like Scates a standout receiver, transferred from Trotwood to Springfield as a senior. He’s entertaining offers from Mid-American Conference programs.
Hargrove is among the area’s most productive running backs ever. Listed at a generous 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, he surpassed 7,000 yards rushing and 100 touchdowns in his Rams’ career. He set an all-time area, single-season rushing record of 3,039 yards as a sophomore — hence, his Twitter handle 3K-Ray — and was Ohio’s Mr. Football runner-up as a senior. Trotwood (15-0) won a Division III state championship earlier this month.
Hargrove de-committed from Bowling Green this past midseason and intends to sign in February. Michigan State is the program to which he’s been most linked.
Smith, a 6-foot-5, 215-pounder, is regarded among the state’s top prospects at any position. He’s been a four-year fixture in Wayne’s lineup with 165 career catches for 3,208 yards and 38 touchdowns. In football, he played on the 2014-15 teams that lost in D-I state title games. Also heavily recruited in basketball, he was a top sub on Wayne’s 2015 D-I basketball state title team.
He’s at least the eighth Wayne grad who will have played football at OSU and first since defensive lineman Robert Landers (2015 graduate). Other Wayne alums to have played at OSU were Braxton Miller (2011), Donnie Evege (2007), Marcus Freeman (2004), Will Allen (2000), John Hollins (2000) and Arnie Jones (1971).
Last year OSU signed Miamisburg offensive lineman Josh Myers.
Reigelsperger, a three-year starter at defensive end, is the only one of the Warriors trio who will graduate early and play spring ball. Like Smith, Johnson also is a member of Wayne’s unbeaten basketball team (6-0).
“They picked great universities to go to that will suit their games and how they will impact their programs,” Wayne coach Jay Minton said. “I always tell the guys go where it best suits you. Don’t let the outside persuade you where to go. Blue made a great decision. How could you not want to go play for (OSU coach) Urban Meyer?”