Steve Gardiner the 6-foot-1, 205-pound three-star linebacker from Coffman High School in Dublin, Ohio, finished his senior season (13-1) with an astounding 180 tackles, 24 tackles and three fumbles caused.
Gardiner, Scout.com's No. 21 weakside linebacker, now favors Ohio State slightly over West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Northwestern. All of his favorites have offered, except Ohio State, which told Gardiner he would have to grayshirt.
"I don't mind grayshirting," Gardiner said. "I really like Ohio State and they have a great program every year. They are a top-notch team and I'm sure they'll be ready for the national championship game (against LSU). I'm excited to see the game and see how they do."
Gardiner always followed the Buckeyes as a youngster and says it's only about a 20-minute drive to the stadium from his house. "I'd prefer to stay somewhat close to home, but none of the schools in my top four are too far away. I think Northwestern is the furthest and that's only a six-hour drive. The flight is less than an hour, so that's not a big deal."
He visited Northwestern on Dec. 1 and says the Wildcats made him feel very welcome and at home. "My favorite part was getting to know all the players better," he said. "I think we all got along great."
On Jan. 11 Gardiner will be visiting Pittsburgh and says that will most likely be his final trip. "I don't want to wait too long and I'll probably make Pittsburgh my final visit," he said. "I really want to see what Pittsburgh is like and see how I'd fit in there with all the players and coaches."
With the recent coaching change at West Virginia, Gardiner admits he hasn't been hearing much from the Mountaineers. "I'd really like to take a trip out there too," he said. "But I'm not sure if I'll have time. I haven't heard from them in a while. I was surprised that coach Rich Rodriguez left, but I can't blame him for wanting to coach at Michigan. It's a great opportunity for him."
Although the Buckeyes are the leader, Gardiner says he's not close to making a decision. "If I had a clear top choice, I'd already be committed," he said.
He reports a 3.5 core GPA and a 23 ACT.