While we'd like to take this time to wish all of you a happy new year, there are some things a bit more important than getting drunk, making resolutions, and starting new diet/exercise regiments. Of course, we're talking about football.
While most of you are getting excited (or maybe not) about the Buckeyes' January 2
Urban Gator Bowl against the University of Florida, recruitniks like myself have other things on our sights. Yes, New Year's brings some of the best games of the college bowl season, but it also brings the high school all-star games and this year the schedule is more jam packed than ever.
As per usual there will be the Under Armour All-America Game and the US Army All-American Bowl, but this year the Offense-Defense Bowl took a step up with the big boys and the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl was born. I'm not too fond of adding any more games than this, but these four games do allow some of the country's top players to be recognized on the national level and gives the prospects a chance to go against a higher level of competition to see where they are at heading into their college careers.
There are a total of 8 Buckeye commits participating in these games, with another 12 or so OSU targets playing as well. It will definitely be interesting to see how these future Buckeyes fair against the top talent in the country, and how they represent their future university on the national stage. Join us after the jump to find out more about each of these games and the players that will be participating in them.
Offense/Defense Bowl (12/29, Dallas, 6:30 PM EST)
A total of five players on Ohio State's board will be playing in the Offense-Defense Bowl tonight and the best part is that they are all Buckeye verbal commits.
All members of the West, RB Bri'onte Dunn, RB Warren Ball, WR Roger Lewis, LB Josh Perry, and DE Se'Von Pittman will have their chance to shine in the game. Unfortunately, not other OSU targets will play in the game, so recruiting others to come to Columbus isn't in the plans here, but these future Buckeyes will have a chance to bond, especially with Dunn and Ball bunking up together, as well as Pittman and Perry rooming together.
In practice so far, the word is that the Buckeyes' backfield tandem is looking good. Both Dunn and Ball have run hard and downhill in practice, but it has been noted Dunn has looked a bit better than his counterpart heading into tonight's game. Both players are expected to see plenty of carries this evening and I am expecting big things from both players. This is Dunn's last hurrah in high school before heading to OSU for classes on January 3, so expect him to give it his all.
The other bright spot of the week has been Roger Lewis. Lewis has apparently been making some spectacular grabs in practice and has shown great ability to get positioning on defenders and put himself out there to make the catch. Keep in mind the Pickerington Central star has speed to burn as well, and has used it to be rated the second overall player at the O/D practices by one recruiting service.
Finally, the O/D coaches have done nothing but rave about Josh Perry. The Olentangy linebacker has been flying all over the field and making plays both against the run and the pass. He's definitely outshined Se'Von Pittman thus far in practice, but when the shoulder pads strap on, I expect both of these players to have nice showings in Dallas.
Semper Fidelis All-AmeriCaN Bowl (1/3, Phoenix, 6 PM EST, CBS Sports)
The Semper Fi game could be the biggest out of them all if you are an Ohio State fan. There are no OSU verbals playing in the game right now, but targets OT Jordan Diamond, LB Cam Williams, DB Bam Bradley, DB Demetrious Cox, and OL Alex Kozan are all participating in the game.
You know about Diamond by now, as the 6-6/290 offensive tackle may be the most wanted man by Urban Meyer at this point. Diamond has narrowed things down to Ohio State, Auburn, Arkansas, Michigan, and Wisconsin, visiting the first two already and having scheduled the latter three for January. I think Diamond is favoring the Buckeyes as of this minute, but this will go all the way down to Signing Day and anything can happen with a recruit like this by then.
Williams is currently a Penn State commit, but has visited Ohio State officially and says he will return again for an unofficial in January. He wants to see who the Nittany Lions hire as a head coach before making a final decision and also has his official to Happy Valley, as well as in-homes from both schools before that is made. I would say things are about 51/49 right now with a slight edge to OSU until a coach is hired by Penn State.
Bradley will have the light on him at the game, as this is where he will announce his college decision. Bradley is down to Ohio State, Pittsburgh, and Stanford and has reasons to pick all three. OSU would make sense as he is from Ohio and his mother lives in Dayton, about a 45 minute drive from campus. Pitt is a good fit as well, as his brother Nicholas Grigsby is a freshman linebacker for the Panthers. Finally, Stanford would work for Bam as well, as his other brother is Golden State Warriors' forward Chris Wright, and it would be a comfort thing to have someone he knows in the bay area. I think Urban Meyer hit a home run on the official visit a few weeks back and believe Bradley will be announcing for the Buckeyes on Tuesday.
Cox has narrowed things down to six schools and they are Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh. This has been a recruitment I just can't get a read on, as at times I think he is all Buckeye, but then at others I see him nowhere near Columbus. I think once Bradley commits the picture will be a bit clearer and I will say Cox will not be a part of OSU's 2012 class. I expect him to go to Michigan State or Penn State, depending on who the Nittany Lions hire next month.
Finally, Kozan was a lineman all Buckeye fans wanted at one point, but with a greater need at tackle and players like Diamond, Kyle Dodson, and Joey O'Connor now in the picture, it appears Kozan is a back-up to a back-up option for Urban Meyer. Kozan, who grew up an Ohio State fan, has been sitting on an offer for a while now and could have pulled the trigger a while back to solidify his spot in this class before Meyer came on board, but it now appears the ship may have sailed for the Colorado native. I think Iowa will be the team to win out here, with Auburn being a possibility as well.
Under Armour All-America Game (1/5, 7:30 PM EST, St. Petersburg, ESPN)
The Under Armour Game will feature just one Buckeye commit in the form of DE Noah Spence, but will also include four targets including OLB Ifeadi Odenigbo, ATH Davonte' Neal, OL Joey O'Connor, and QB Jameis Winston.
You all know the splash Spence made when he committed to the Buckeyes after his official visit a few weeks ago. What you don't know is that Spence is working just as hard, if not harder, than anyone to help recruit the top targets on OSU's board to come to Columbus with him. I'm excited to see what Spence does on the field for the Black Team in the UA Game, but I'm more excited to see what he can do off the field in terms of recruiting his peers.
Odenigbo is one player who will likely not be swayed by Spence and I'm not even sure if Urban Meyer is still pursuing the Centerville prospect. I do believe if Jim Tressel was at Ohio State that Odenigbo would be Columbus bound, but having three coaches at OSU during his recruitment, as well as his desire to seek a higher academic institution has steered him away from Columbus. Things are down to Notre Dame, Northwestern, Cal, and Stanford, and with a Catholic background and a closer location to home, I think Notre Dame will be the pick here.
On the other hand, Neal is someone Spence will be on early and often in St. Petersburg. The talented wide receiver/cornerback from Arizona will be visiting Ohio State officially on January 13 and word is the Buckeyes with Urban Meyer are the leader right now for his services. Things are thought to be down to OSU, Notre Dame, and Arkansas, with Arizona and Arizona State in the shadows, but the fact that Neal lived in Akron until he was 9 and fits the Meyer system like a glove makes me think this super athlete will be in Scarlet and Gray.
While Kozan is a back-up to a back-up option, O'Connor is just a back-up option as of right now. Diamond and Dodson are the two Meyer has his eyes on, but O'Connor is visiting Columbus on January 13 and it is thought that if the Bucks offer that he will accept. I think Meyer wants to include the one time Penn State commit in this class, and it may come down to a numbers game at the end of the day. I think if offered, O'Connor becomes a Buckeye, but it's too early to tell how this one will play out.
Finally, Jameis Winston is currently committed to Florida State, but is looking at Alabama again and has said he will visit Ohio State sometime in January. This one was definitely alive after a spring visit when Jim Tressel was at the helm, died after Tressel left, and now is back alive again with Meyer wanting Winston to succeed Braxton Miller behind center one day. I think Winston either sticks with FSU or goes to Alabama, as I just can't see him in this class, but you get a recruit on campus with Urban and anything can happen.
US Army All-AmeriCaN Bowl (1/7, San Antonio, 1 PM EST, NBC)
A more even spread in this game, there will be two OSU verbal commits and three OSU targets playing in the US Army All-American Bowl next weekend. The commits playing are DE Adolphus Washington and DT Tommy Schutt, while the targets are OT Kyle Dodson, WR Stefon Diggs, and WR Joel Caleb. All players will be on the East team, giving the verbals a chance to try and sway the other three prospects.
Washington and Schutt are expected to be dominant during practices and the actual game. Both players are relentless, high-motor linemen who excel in both stopping the run game and getting to the quarterback. I have had a man-crush on Washington ever since I saw him play in the first game of the season this year and I fully expect him to stand out with a national audience watching next Saturday. Oh yeah, that Schutt guy should put on a good show as well.
Dodson is still "committed to Wisconsin", although he clearly is not after taking visits to Ohio State and Auburn, ultimately re-opening his commitment. Wisconsin lost both their offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, making the exit from Madison a bit easier, and I expect a decision to be made between the Buckeyes and Tigers, although visits to USC, Michigan, or Michigan State are still on the table. Dodson can play the visit game all he wants, but at the end of the day I think he goes where he wanted to be all along: Ohio State.
Diggs is an all-star prospect and would be a home run by Meyer, but I believe this one may be over. Diggs originally said he would visit Columbus in January, but it's not looking like that's going to happen, as the Bucks were left off his most recent list of top schools. Of course, just like they were removed, they can be added back on at any minute, but for now don't expect to see Diggs playing for the Buckeyes anytime soon.
Finally, Joel Caleb visited Ohio State way back in the beginning of the month and he is currently favoring the Buckeyes and Virginia Tech. Rumor is that Caleb was told to hold off on committing until Meyer could see what players like Diggs and Neal would do, so you may have to wait a little while for this one. It is my belief that if Neal commits to OSU that Caleb is out, but if Neal decides to go elsewhere, I see Caleb joining the class. We should know more in a few weeks after Neal's official visit to Columbus is over and that will likely tell the tale on what will happen with Caleb.