Urban Meyer on Matt Bockhorst: ‘If we didn’t offer, we made a mistake’

Clemson guard Matt Bockhorst

Ohio State just signed six offensive linemen in its 2020 recruiting class. That’s an unusually high number for a program to bring in during a single year, but it was badly needed for the Buckeyes.

The reason for that traces back to the end of Ed Warinner’s tenure in Columbus. The Buckeyes missed out on several high-profile recruiting targets in the 2017 and 2018 classes, the last class for Warinner and the first for current offensive line coach Greg Studrawa. That left them perilously thin along the line in 2018, and led to the arrival of grad transfer Jonah Jackson in 2019.

You’re undoubtedly aware of the story of Jackson Carman, a 5-star tackle prospect from Fairfield, Ohio, who spurned the Buckeyes to sign with Clemson in 2018.

But the Tigers also scored the commitment of another highly-ranked lineman from southwest Ohio, who OSU would definitely love to have right now.

Matt Bockhorst was a 4-star guard from Cincinnati’s St. Xavier High School in the recruiting class of 2017. He held offers from programs like Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State in addition to Clemson.

He visited Ohio State a number of times, but never earned an offer.

“I spent some time, went to camp there a couple years and things never really progressed,” Bockhorst said. “It was disappointing, but at the same time, it’s one of those things that you’ve got to find the right place for you. And that’s a mutual thing. When you’re an in-state guy, that’s sometimes a harder pill to swallow, but it led me to a place like Clemson and I certainly don’t regret that.”

While Bockhorst doesn’t have any regrets about the way things played out, some at Ohio State do.

The Buckeyes signed three offensive linemen that year, all of whom are now starters: Josh Myers, Wyatt Davis, and Thayer Munford. But Bockhorst is turning into “the one that got away.”

“He’s an animal. Tough guy that runs around. Great respect for him as player. If we didn’t offer, we made a mistake,” said former OSU head coach Urban Meyer on Thursday.

Bockhorst missed his senior season with an ACL tear, which may have played a role in Ohio State’s decision at the time. But Bockhorst did have at least one strong advocate inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

OSU senior linebacker Justin Hilliard knew all about Bockhorst during the recruiting process. That’s because they were high school teammates at St. Xavier a few years earlier.

“He came in as a freshman when I was a junior,” said Hilliard this week. “He was one of the hardest-playing guys. He was one of those guys that always had a motor, fun to play with. He’s one of my very good friends.”

Hilliard tried, unsuccessfully, to lobby the OSU coaching staff to offer Bockhorst a scholarship.

“Coach Warinner was the coach at the time, and I was in his ear all the time about Matt,” Hilliard said.

It’s not a guarantee that Bockhorst would have been a Buckeye, even with an offer. His dad played college football at Cincinnati, and he grew up rooting for the Bearcats, not the Buckeyes.

“Having an offer obviously would have been great, but I don’t know if it would have been my number one or that I would have committed there, but it’s nice to have options,” he said.

The option he picked has worked out quite well for him. He won a national championship ring last season, and has played in all 13 games for the Tigers this season, including one start. When senior LG John Simpson graduates after this season, Bockhorst is the favorite to take over the starting job.

“Matt Bockhorst is already a great player, but, man, when John Simpson gets out of here, he’s going to step in and fill that void pretty quickly,” said Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. “That’s a strong comment because John Simpson is an all-American player, but Bock is a great player in his own right.”

But before Bockhorst takes over that starting job full-time, he’ll get a chance to face his home-state school Saturday night in the Fiesta Bowl.

“I never received an offer from them, and not that I’m bitter, but I’d like to showcase my ability and really just help us win,” Bockhorst said. “I have great pride in being a Clemson Tiger and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I say that with all sincerity. But at the same time, there’s still some bragging rights, especially to a lot of my friends from high school back home who maybe if they don’t go to Ohio State are still Buckeyes fans. It’s a good, healthy competition, but there are bragging rights on the line for sure.”