COLUMBUS – Some people at Ohio State find it amusing to try to cover up every “M” on campus the week of the Michigan game, but an “M” that was never placed might actually affect the outcome of Saturday’s OSU-Michigan game.
If Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley had stuck with his first decision during the recruiting process, he would be wearing Michigan’s maize and blue and undoubtedly would have earned a letter or two by now.
The junior from Massillon says it was youthful impatience that led him to make a commitment to Michigan in March 2012.
“That was really my first big offer. I really didn’t play football in high school. I was a basketball player, so once there was a Big Ten school that came across I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to jump on it because I probably won’t get anything better.’ Then more schools started coming and I wanted to explore my options,” Conley said earlier this week.
That exploration caused problems between Conley and Michigan, where coach Brady Hoke had a policy of pulling scholarship offers if a recruit visited another school.
Exactly where Ohio State’s increased interest in Conley intersected his disillusionment with Michigan is a little hazy.
But Ohio State was interested in him, he was interested in Ohio State and he decommitted from the Wolverines soon after went to the 2012 Ohio State-Michigan game in Ohio Stadium on an unofficial visit. He verbally committed to OSU nine days after that visit and signed in February 2013.
Conley was ranked the No. 9 cornerback nationally by ESPN.com and No. 17 by 247sports.com in the 2013 recruiting class.
“We thought highly of him and I remember he played his tail off his senior year,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “I went and watched him practice basketball and that’s when I was like, ‘This is a crazy athlete.’ ”
Conley is in his second year as a starter and has three interceptions this season. He was honorable mention All-Big Ten last season and was the only returning starter in the defensive backfield for the Buckeyes this season.
He is regarded as a potential NFL draft pick. But right now his focus is on taking on two good Michigan receivers, Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson.
The fact he could have been their teammate won’t be a factor, though. “I only went up there one time. I didn’t really talk to a lot of people. So it’s not that much different,” he said.
He’s happy where he is. Asked how he felt about changing his mind in 2013, Conley called it “a magnificent decision.”