By Jeff Louderback
Wayne High School has carved out a tradition over the last two decades of supplying talent to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Robert Landers is preparing to begin his senior season for the Scarlet and Gray, and he was expected to be joined by fellow Wayne graduate L’Christian “Blue” Smith, but the wide receiver has left the program and will transfer.
Smith played sparingly as a freshman last season, but he took advantage of a new rule allowing players to play in as many as four games without losing a year of eligibility. A four-star recruit and the No. 126 overall prospect in the nation in the 247Sports Composite rankings, the 6-foot-4 Smith faced a crowded and talented position group that returns veterans K.J. Hill, Austin Mack and Binjimin Victor; and highly touted Chris Olave. Ohio State also welcomes five-star freshman Garrett Wilson, who is an early enrollee and expected to see immediate playing time.
As for Landers, when he opens the 2019 campaign, it will mark the 20th season in a row that a Wayne Warrior will be on the Ohio State roster.
Early in spring practice, Landers was spotted on crutches. First-year Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said that the Buckeyes medical staff is exercising caution as Landers deals with shoulder, back and knee ailments.
The 6-foot, 285-pound defensive tackle is one of nine returning starters on the Ohio State defense. Landers has 17.5 career tackles for loss and has been in the playing rotation for three consecutive seasons. The fifth-year senior, respected as one of the Buckeyes’ leaders, started nine games last season while dealing with a back injury.
Projected to be one of the team captains, Landers is one of Ohio State’s most inspiring veterans and is popular among teammates and coaches with his charismatic personality.
With Smith’s transfer, Ohio State’s current roster features six players from Dayton area high schools.
Landers is one. Walk-on tight end and Thurgood Marshall graduate Derrick Malone is also a fifth-year senior.
Miamisburg High School’s Josh Myers is a third-year sophomore who is projected to be Ohio State’s starting center. Piqua linebacker Ben Schmiesing, Mason defensive lineman Zaid Hamdan and Lebanon true freshman wide receiver Alec Koch are the other Miami Valley area Buckeyes on the 2019 roster.
Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington praised Schmiesing last week, and he was one of three linebackers to have the black stripe removed from his helmet, which signifies he is a full member of the Buckeyes.
The Ohio State University’s 2019 LiFESports Spring Game will kick off Saturday, April 13 at noon at Ohio Stadium. Parking is free.