The development of a relationship led Reynoldsburg High School senior Elijah Ratliff to accept a scholarship offer to play football for Kent State.
Ratliff, who was one of numerous players from central Ohio to commit to Football Bowl Subdivision, Football Championship Subdivision or Division II programs on Feb. 7, originally had committed to Marshall.
Among the factors in the 6-foot-3, 270-pound defensive lineman’s decision to de-commit was that Marshall encouraged him to become a "blueshirt" recruit. A blueshirt athlete is on scholarship at the start of freshman practice but doesn't take an official recruiting visit and can't play his first year. Blueshirts count against the following year's recruiting numbers for the school.
"I like Kent because of the new coaches and how they treated me as a recruit," Ratliff said. "I also like the academic side of Kent State, and I really like the thought of being able to turn a program around."
Ratliff is one of 29 players from the area to sign with FBS programs during the early signing period held Dec. 20-22 or in the February signing period.
That number includes 2017 DeSales graduate Derrius Mullins, who originally committed to Indiana but enrolled at Toledo in August 2017 and now will be on scholarship for the Rockets.
There are five athletes from the area who committed to military programs, with Hilliard Davidson's Sam Backenstoe choosing Army, Westerville North's Alek Downs, Dublin Coffman's Kaleb Holcomb and Westerville South's Antonio Smith selecting Air Force and Gahanna's David Miller committing to Navy.
"It really felt like home, and the coaching staff was really interested in me and very excited to know when I committed," Miller said. "Navy was my first Division I offer. ... (FBS is) the best football you can play at any level, and I've been dreaming of doing that since I was a kid."
Miller was part of one of the area's top wide receiver tandems along with teammate Jerome Buckner, who was one of four players from central Ohio to sign with Ohio University.
Although he didn't announce that he had committed to play for the Bobcats until mid-January, Buckner settled on the school in time to sign during the December period.
"The early signing period can be a blessing and a curse, but I'm not a big fan of it," Buckner said. "Those three days was sort of a panic period for some of the smaller (Division I) schools to try to lock in their prospects, but it can open up opportunities for athletes. OU was a school that believed in me from the start of the recruiting process and kept the same interest throughout the process."
Below is a look at players from the ThisWeek coverage area who have signed with FBS programs:
*Brian Asamoah, DeSales -- In addition to rushing for 957 yards last fall, the 6-1, 215-pound Asamoah made second-team all-district at linebacker and chose Oklahoma from a group of 30 offers that also included Michigan and Penn State.
*Sam Backenstoe, Hilliard Davidson -- An offensive lineman on his way to Army, the 6-2, 270-pound Backenstoe was first-team all-district each of the past two seasons and first-team all-state as a junior.
*Joe Boggs, Reynoldsburg -- The 6-4, 285-pound Boggs made first-team all-district last fall and projects as an offensive tackle after signing with Ball State. Last season, he helped the Raiders go 7-3, missing the playoffs by one spot.
*Jerome Buckner, Gahanna -- After spending his first three seasons at Columbus Academy, the 5-9, 185-pound wide receiver will play for Ohio after having 66 catches for 842 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
*Brandon Derrow, DeSales -- At 6-4 and 231 pounds, Derrow projects as a strong-side defensive end at Colorado State. He made first-team all-district on defense last season while also starting on the offensive line.
*Alek Downs, Westerville North -- Although the Warriors finished 2-8 last fall, the 6-2, 235-pound middle linebacker made first-team all-district and garnered heavy interest from FCS programs before eventually choosing Air Force.
*Jaelen Gill, Westerville South -- At 6-1, 182 pounds with exceptional speed, Gill was considered a five-star recruit and figures to be an all-purpose running back or H-back at Ohio State. He rushed for more than 1,800 yards as a sophomore and scored 13 touchdowns last fall.
*Patrick Gilliland, Hartley -- Size is what stands out the most for the 6-6, 315-pound offensive lineman, who was first-team all-district last season after helping the Hawks win state titles as a sophomore and junior.
*Trenton Gillison, Pickerington Central -- Called the player with the best hands on the Division I state championship team by coach Jay Sharrett, the 6-6, 245-pound Gillison will get a chance to shine as a tight end at Michigan State.
*Xavier Henderson, Pickerington Central -- Also a Michigan State recruit, the 6-2, 195-pound defensive back was the Division I district Defensive Player of the Year each of the past two seasons. He also was state co-Player of the Year last fall.
*Kaleb Holcomb, Dublin Coffman -- The 6-3, 253-pound Holcomb was second-team all-district at tight end and helped the Shamrocks go 8-3 last fall, but could end up as a defensive end at Air Force.
*Bryce Houston, Olentangy Orange -- An Ohio recruit, the 6-0, 220-pound linebacker was named OCC-Buckeye co-Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-district last season after recording 56 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss.
*James Lachey, Grandview -- The 6-4, 235-pound defensive lineman and Bowling Green signee was named Division VI district Defensive Player of the Year last season after recording 80 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He also produced more than 1,000 all-purpose yards on offense while seeing time at tight end, running back and quarterback.
*David Miller, Gahanna -- A 5-11, 165-pound wide receiver on his way to Navy, Miller had 53 receptions for 723 yards and seven touchdowns and made second-team all-district last season. He also was the Lions' No. 2 quarterback and a contributor at defensive back.
*Alex Morgan, Pickerington Central -- Along with Gillison, Morgan gave the Tigers a pair of Division I recruits at tight end. The 6-5, 245-pound Morgan will play for Toledo after making second-team all-district last season.
*Isaiah Mullens, Harvest Prep -- A first-team all-district defensive lineman, the 6-6, 260-pound Mullens is heading to Wisconsin after recording 46 tackles and five tackles for loss last season. He also had 20 receptions at tight end.
*Derrius Mullins, DeSales -- A 6-5, 300-pound defensive tackle who originally received offers from various FBS programs, the 2017 DeSales graduate is heading to Toledo.
*Tyler Potts, Pickerington North -- The 5-11, 177-pound Potts joins Boggs as a Ball State recruit after recording four interceptions and making first-team all-district at defensive back last season.
*Elijah Ratliff, Reynoldsburg -- With 90 tackles and 14 tackles for loss last fall, Ratliff made first-team all-district at defensive tackle. A three-year starter on defense who's on his way to Kent State, he also saw action at offensive guard.
*Thomas Rush, Marysville -- A first-team all-district selection last fall, the 6-3, 209-pound Rush projects as an outside linebacker at Minnesota. He also was the Monarchs' leading rusher each of the past two seasons.
*Jacob Slade, Olentangy -- The 6-4, 270-pound Slade was first-team all-district on the offensive line and had 54 tackles and two sacks as a defensive lineman last fall. He was one of six central Ohio players to sign with Michigan State.
*Zach Slade, Olentangy -- The twin brother of Jacob Slade, the 6-4, 240-pounder also will play for Michigan State after having 53 tackles and five sacks and making first-team all-district as a defensive lineman last season.
*Antonio Smith, Westerville South -- Expected to be a strong-side defensive end, the 6-4, 213-pound Smith chose Air Force among a list of offers that also included Bowling Green and Ohio.
*Kory Taylor, Hilliard Bradley -- After missing nearly all of his junior season with an injury, the 6-5, 210-pound wide receiver had 55 catches and was second-team all-district last season. He signed with Purdue.
*Ty Van Fossen, DeSales -- The 6-2, 210-pound Van Fossen had 95 tackles and 16 tackles for loss at linebacker last season. He signed with Cincinnati, where he'll play for former DeSales standout and Bearcats coach Luke Fickell.
*Edward Warinner, Olentangy Liberty -- Injuries limited this 6-1, 225-pound linebacker the past two seasons, but the son of Michigan assistant Ed Warinner still made second-team all-district last season and signed with Michigan State.
*Alex Williams, Pickerington North -- Drama unfolded just before the early signing period when this 6-6, 250-pound defensive lineman, who made first-team all-district last season, changed his commitment from West Virginia to Ohio State.
*Jeremiah Wood, Pickerington Central -- In the days leading up to the February signing period, this 6-1, 210-pound defensive back chose Ohio from a list of a dozen programs. Wood also was one of Central's top running backs.
@UlreyThisWeekAt a glance
Below are area football players who have announced their college commitments to FBS, FCS and Division II programs:
FBS -- Brian Asamoah (DeSales) Oklahoma; Sam Backenstoe (Hilliard Davidson) Army; Jeslord Boateng (Dublin Coffman) Michigan State; Joe Boggs (Reynoldsburg) Ball State; Jerome Buckner (Gahanna) Ohio; Brandon Derrow (DeSales) Colorado State; Alek Downs (Westerville North) Air Force; Jaelen Gill (Westerville South) Ohio State; Patrick Gilliland (Hartley) Ohio; Trenton Gillison (Pickerington Central) Michigan State; Xavier Henderson (Pickerington Central) Michigan State; Kaleb Holcomb (Coffman) Air Force; Bryce Houston (Olentangy Orange) Ohio; James Lachey (Grandview) Bowling Green; David Miller (Gahanna) Navy; Alex Morgan (Pickerington Central) Toledo; Isaiah Mullens (Harvest Prep) Wisconsin; Derrius Mullins (DeSales) Toledo; Tyler Potts (Pickerington North) Ball State; Elijah Ratliff (Reynoldsburg) Kent State; Thomas Rush (Marysville) Minnesota; Jacob Slade (Olentangy) Michigan State; Zach Slade (Olentangy) Michigan State; Antonio Smith (Westerville South) Air Force; Kory Taylor (Hilliard Bradley) Purdue; Ty Van Fossen (DeSales) Cincinnati; Edward Warinner (Olentangy Liberty) Michigan State; Alex Williams (Pickerington North) Ohio State; Jeremiah Wood (Pickerington Central) Ohio
FCS -- Jeriel Adarquah-Yiadom (Westerville South) Davidson; Galen Cox (Worthington Christian) Butler; Cullen Krombach (DeSales) Dayton; Griffin Hoak (Coffman) Youngstown State; Dante Landolfi (Upper Arlington) Columbia; Herman Moultrie (Columbus Academy) Georgetown; Zaire Porter (Marion-Franklin) Eastern Kentucky; Kyle Simmonds (Watterson) Saint Francis; Allen Smith (Westerville Central) Brown; Trevor Thompson (Canal Winchester) Saint Francis; Jimmy Weirick (Pickerington North) Wofford
DIVISION II -- Ethan Amaya (Hartley) Ohio Dominican; Daevon Anderson (Bradley) Grand Valley State; Jalen Bankston (Pickerington North) Urbana; Christian Black (Newark) Findlay; Alexander Blackmon (Hartley) Walsh; Trent Bott (Westland) Findlay; Cameren Carlisle (Gahanna) Findlay; Quenton Carlton Jr. (Westerville South) California (Pa.); Tyrik Carter (Pickerington North) Tiffin; Nick Cone (Hartley) Ashland; Logan Cook (New Albany) Ashland; Luke Crabtree (Coffman) Ashland; Chad Douglas (Independence) Ohio Dominican; Devin Dukes (Grove City) Findlay; Nick Giardina (Pickerington North) Ohio Dominican; Jacob Hamilton (Grove City) Hillsdale; Jonathan Harrington (Gahanna) Tiffin; Isaiah Healy (Westerville Central) Ohio Dominican; Marlyn Hill (Pickerington North) Walsh; Jeremiah Jackson (Mifflin) Findlay; Holden Jones (Watterson) Walsh; Jacob Jones (Dublin Scioto) Findlay; Kevin Laming (Watterson) Ashland; Trey Madison (Pickerington Central) Ashland; Michael McLemore (Westerville South) Findlay; Jalen Mitchell (Pickerington Central) Tiffin; Kendall Nesbitt (Whitehall) Ashland; Caleb Pierce (Big Walnut) Tiffin; Travon Pittman (Marion-Franklin) Walsh; Gavin Posey (Utica) Ashland; Jayden Rodgers (Orange) Grand Valley State; Tyler Ronk (Big Walnut) Tiffin; Ibrahim Sesay (Whetstone) West Virginia State; Steven Shamhart (Marysville) Urbana; Devin Snyder (Pickerington North) Ashland; Josh Stewart (Bradley) West Virginia Wesleyan; Todd Toney (Delaware) Tiffin; Jametrius Yarbrough (New Albany) Malone