With 31 players on Georgia’s roster who received scholarship offers from Ohio State out of high school, there will be plenty of players on the opposing sideline of Saturday’s Peach Bowl that Ryan Day and the Buckeyes once envisioned playing for them.
Five particular Georgia players who gave serious consideration to Ohio State as recruits were Jaheim Singletary, Kendall Milton, MJ Sherman, Earnest Greene and Christen Miller. Singletary was actually committed to Ohio State before ultimately flipping to the Bulldogs, while the other four all had the Buckeyes among their final four (or fewer) schools.
Milton, who is listed as a co-starter at running back after running for a career-high 113 yards in the SEC Championship Game, is the only one of those Bulldogs who is likely to play a substantial role in the Peach Bowl. Sherman has played only 42 defensive snaps this season as a backup edge rusher, per Pro Football Focus, while the other three are redshirting freshmen.
But with every Georgia player available at Peach Bowl media day, it was a chance for Eleven Warriors to catch up with all of them and ask about their memories of being recruited by Ohio State, what they liked about the Buckeyes at the time, why they chose Georgia and how they feel about playing against Ohio State now.
CB Jaheim Singletary
At this time two years ago, Singletary appeared set to play for Ohio State. He committed to the Buckeyes on Jan. 2, 2021, just one day after the Buckeyes beat Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal.
— Jaheim Singletary (@Jaheim2_) January 2, 2021
That decision came at a time when recruits were unable to make visits due to COVID-19, and Singletary said he committed to the Buckeyes because of the communication he had with Ohio State’s coaches at the time as well as several connections he had to Ohio State. from his high school, Trinity Christian Academy, which produced former Buckeye defensive backs Shaun Wade and Tyreke Johnson and running back Marcus Crowley.
“Covid was around at the time, and I wasn’t able to visit many places. And Ohio State, the communication we could have with coaches, Ohio State was doing a very good job at the time,” Singletary told Eleven Warriors. “So I just went with the flow of how everything was going. Then I had like fellow mates from my city who went to Ohio State and they had a good track record.”
Seven months later, however, Singletary opted to decommit from Ohio State after continuing to go through the recruiting process.
“When it came down to it, the decision me and my family made, it wasn’t really that hard,” Singletary said of decommitting. “It was just the best decision for me and my family at the time.”
In November 2021, the five-star cornerback committed to Georgia, which he came to feel was the right place for him.
“Just the feeling,” Singletary said when asked why he chose Georgia. “The feeling that they gave me and my family. The track record of everything, just knowing Kirby Smart is a great coach, the whole staff’s great people and just knowing I’m going to get developed to be a man and a better football player at the end of the day.”
He described it as both “a bittersweet feeling” and “a dream come true” to now be going up against the school he originally committed to with a national championship game berth on the line.
“At one moment I was dreaming of playing for them, and now I’m at Georgia, a place that I love,” Singletary said. “That’s crazy, because I was just talking about that earlier part of the week, when we first had the first (Battle for Bowl Week event with Ohio State). It’s just a good feeling though. Because I know they’re a very good program, very good team and the competition level, I know at the end of the day it’s going to be a good thing.”
RB Kendall Milton
Milton was a top target at running back for Ohio State in the 2020 recruiting class, and the interest in Ohio State from Milton’s end was mutual. The four-star running back from California made several visits to Columbus as a recruit, including an official visit to OSU after he put the Buckeyes in his top four schools along with Georgia, Alabama and LSU.
“I just remember going through the process, there was a lot of culture involved with that school,” Milton recalled when asked about being recruited by Ohio State. “I remember going through the practices and all my visits and everything, a lot of competitive practices. A lot of tradition from the players all the way up to the coaches.”
Milton said he had a good relationship with Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford, who played a big part in OSU making his top four.
“He was one of the coaches that I kept in touch with quite often,” Milton said. “During recruitment, he was just a good guy. He was always open, honest. Honest about the plan, honest about what his goals were and what he wanted to get out of the whole process.”
In the end, however, Milton decided Georgia was the school that fit him best.
“I wanted to get somewhere where I’d feel comfortable if I wanted to live there after football,” Milton said. “I put a lot of different things into the decision, including business opportunities and just living situations and just things that I wanted to get out of college. And I felt that Georgia provided those more than any of the other opportunities that I had, which is why I made the decision. And I’m happy with that decision.”
Having already played against both LSU and Alabama, Milton described it as “a blessing” to now have the chance to play against Ohio State.
“This is definitely an exciting game, especially since I got the opportunity to be recruited by the coaches and be in the facilities and be around the program a little bit,” Milton said. “It’s a great game that now, years later, we’re actually playing against each other in one of the biggest games of the season.”
LB MJ Sherman
Ohio State may have had a better chance to land Sherman if it hadn’t had a coaching change after the 2018 season. When asked why Ohio State was one of his final two schools as a recruit, Sherman replied with a two-word answer: “Urban Meyer.”
Still, the Buckeyes remained in the race for Sherman – who went by Mekhail Sherman back when he was a recruit – until the end. He announced in April 2019, nearly four months after Meyer coached his final game at Ohio State, that OSU was one of his final two schools along with Georgia. He said Meyer’s departure was a factor, though, in his decision to ultimately choose the Bulldogs over the Buckeyes.
The No. 33 overall prospect in the 2020 class said he chose Georgia because of its close-knit family atmosphere and because “they push you to the T,” and he’s still happy with the decision he made three years later.
“I feel like I’m sitting in a good spot,” Sherman said.
Knowing that Georgia and Ohio State are CFP contenders on an annual basis, he isn’t surprised to be going head-to-head with OSU now.
“It was inevitable,” Sherman said. “Because we both have dreams, both schools have dreams and promising futures to be here at any moment, any given day. It was just a moment in time from happening, so once again, it was just inevitable. Both of us have great schools and great football programs and we were bound to bump heads sometime.”
OL Earnest Greene
Ohio State was one of the final four schools in the running to land Greene, who was one of the Buckeyes’ top offensive line targets in the 2022 class, in which he was ranked as the No. 45 overall prospect. Nearly one year after announcing his commitment to Georgia at the All-American Bowl, Greene wasn’t interested in talking about what he liked about Ohio State as a recruit, saying “I feel like that was so far behind I would just focus on Georgia right now.”
Having strongly considered Ohio State, though, he said it does feel “real ironic” – though like Sherman, he’s not surprised it’s happening – to be facing OSU in the CFP now in his first year at Georgia.
“Everybody knew this was going to happen when you consider programs, so it was bound to happen,” Greene said. “But it’s just ironic it happened in my first year.”
This weekend will be an opportunity for Greene to reunite with his former high school teammate Kourt Williams, who he played with at St. John Bosco High School in California, and he said his conversation with Eleven Warriors on Thursday would prompt him to connect with Williams.
“I actually gotta reach out to Kourt, Kourt was my guy,” Greene said. “I haven’t talked to him in a minute, so you just reminded me to reach out to him.”
DT Christen Miller
Like Greene, Miller was one of Ohio State’s final targets in the 2022 recruiting class before he opted to sign with Georgia in February. The Buckeyes were Georgia’s top competition for Miller, hosting him on numerous visits during his recruiting process, but he ended up choosing to stay in his home state of Georgia, which is a decision he doesn’t regret even though he liked what he saw at OSU.
“Early in my process, I just saw two good schools. And it came down to Georgia and I made the right decision by going to Georgia,” Miller said. “But Ohio State was a good program. That’s why they were in my top 10 schools at the end of it. But I feel like I made the right choice by going to Georgia and being developed here at Georgia, so it all worked out.”
Christen Miller made several visits to Ohio State before choosing to play for Georgia.
Miller, who played in four games during the regular season and could theoretically see action in the CFP after the NCAA passed a blanket waiver allowing players to participate in bowl games without impacting their redshirt eligibility, said he is excited to play against Ohio State particularly because his former high school head coach Miguel Patrick is on Ohio State’s staff as a defensive quality control coach (although he’ll be leaving the Buckeyes after the season to be UAB’s defensive line coach).
“He coached me and developed me in high school, so going against him, that’s an amazing feeling,” Miller said. “I can’t wait to do it.”