Ohio State and Clemson aren't traditional rivals on the recruiting circuit, but they may be in for an intense duel in this upcoming cycle.
Although the state of Georgia hasn't exported a ton of elite quarterback prospects over the past few years, North Georgia's Gainesville High School has been the exception to the rule.
In 2010, the Hall County school sent Blake Sims to Alabama, and now Sims' successor is primed to be the next Red Elephant quarterback to sign with a BCS program.
DeShaun Watson is arguably the best overall player in the Peach State's 2014 class. The 6'3", 200-pound quarterback threw for 50 touchdown passes and ran for another 24 while leading Gainesville to its first ever state title. Moreover, Watson has set state records for career passing yards, all-purpose touchdowns and passing touchdowns.
He's easily the most-heralded quarterback to come out of the state since Westlake High School (Atlanta) product Cam Newton in 2007, and he's drawn comparisons to both Newton and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick from high school coaches.
Watson committed to Clemson back in February of 2012, but his decision won't be final until he signs his official letter of intent with the Tigers. Watson has said that he'd like to graduate high school early (via 247Sports), so he can enroll in college in January 2014, and if he maintains that position, then he'll have to make his choice sooner than the rest of his fellow class of 2014 prospects.
Ohio State, Florida State, Auburn, Tennessee, LSU, Oregon and USC (if they offer) will all likely be in play for Watson if he decides to de-commit from Clemson, but the Buckeyes sound like Watson's second choice behind Clemson right now (via 247Sports):
Ohio State is the next school for me. It is just the way he coaches and the way he prepares his team. They are always competing for a National Championship or some big championship. I have always been a big Urban Meyer fan and I always wanted to play for him when he was at Florida. That was my dream school.
Ohio State makes a lot of sense for Watson, as his style of play looks like a perfect fit for Urban Meyer's system. Moreover, Urban Meyer has really made a concerted effort to get top talent from the state of Georgia during his short time in Columbus. He brought in Trey Johnson from Lawrenceville's Central Gwinnett High School in the 2013 class, and he's already working hard to land stud Liberty County LB Raekwon McMillan for 2014.
It seems that Meyer's strategy is to bring SEC-caliber athletes to the Big Ten, and Watson certainly fits that bill.
The Buckeyes are keyed in on Watson, as they have yet to offer another quarterback a spot in the 2014 class. Although Ohio State landed J.T Barrett in 2013, Watson would probably get the opportunity to compete for the Buckeyes' starting quarterback job as a freshman if he decided to sign with Ohio State.
Despite the great opportunities available at Ohio State, Clemson obviously remains the leader for Watson, and there's good reason for that.
Clemson got in with Watson early, and Dabo Swinney looks like he's building something special in Upstate South Carolina. In addition, Watson could probably compete for a starting job as a freshman at Clemson just like he could at Ohio State.
Interestingly enough, the Buckeyes and Tigers are also competing against each other for McMillan and wide receiver prospect Demare Kitt out of Tyrone, Georgia. McMillan spoke highly of both programs in this recent interview.
Since DeShaun Watson is such a special prospect at the quarterback position, players like McMillan and Kitt are likely to pay attention to his final decision.
“I would say the odds of me and him playing together on the next level are 85 percent,” Kitt said of Watson (via 247Sports). "We talk about a lot of stuff, but when it comes to recruiting, yeah, we talk about that too. We are going to set up some official visits together.”
Urban Meyer knows that dynamic well from his days at Florida, when Brandon Spikes promised to commit to whatever school Tim Tebow went to.
It's looking like it will end up being a battle between Ohio State and Clemson for Watson, and whichever program prevails could set itself up to ultimately land McMillan and Kitt as well.
With Urban Meyer placing an emphasis on recruiting the South, expect more non-traditional recruiting rivalries like this one to continue to emerge over the next few years.