Football Recruiting: Ohio State, Big Ten Look for Strong Finish

By Jeremy Birmingham on October 15, 2013 at 7:30p

The times, yes the times, they are a changin'.

The football world as we knew it has turned upon its own head and the Buckeyes — a touch above the rest of the Big Ten — are the last remaining vestiges of midwestern football imperialism. Florida State, Clemson and Miami, the ACC's top-ten-ranked trio, known more for their collective derp over the last decade than their gridiron greatness, have become more and more the sweethearts of a media-driven football popularity poll with each win against hapless foes because they finally mustered one signature against a quality opponent.

McMillan in scarlet and gray? Can you see it?Can Ohio State hold off Clemson for McMillan?

The Pac-10, or Pac-12 or Pac-whatever it's called these days has emerged as a legitimate football conference and the Big 12 (or whatever it's called) will stake their claim: Everyone is better than the Big Stinking Ten, and there's only one way for Ohio State and the rest of their conference compatriots to push back against the laughingstock it's become. Win. Win on the field and win off the field. That begins where we are: recruiting. How do you get better recruits? Win. Hire better coaches. Spend more money on your program realizing that football, whether it should or shouldn't be, is the cash cow for not only your athletics department, but your entire university. 

As it stands, Ohio State and Michigan have continued to do well, but the momentum gained over the summer months, as prospects do their own research and visits, establishing relationships with coaching staffs and other recruits, dissipates as a ground swell of anti-B1G rhetoric — and mediocre Big Ten performances — become the order of the day.

The conference's premiere recruiting powers are each hoping to round out their classes with a few remaining big fish, and the ability to close on top talent like Marshon Lattimore, Chad Mavety, Raekwon< McMillan, Thomas Holleyand more for Ohio State, as well as Michigan's pursuit of Da'Shawn Hand and Malik McDowell, are absolutely vital f or the perception of the conference moving forward. To be the best, you have to beat the best, and that includes in the game of recruiting.


Speaking of Raekwon McMillan...

I've been pretty adamant for months that there's no player more important than Raekwon McMillan in the "Dream '14" big picture. McMillan's talent — he's a top 20 national prospect and a unanimous five-star — is secondary to the point I wrote two paragraphs ago. Landing McMillan, after a near two-year conquest battling the SEC's and ACC's best programs, would gives Urban Meyer a huge win against the establishment. McMillan also happens to be a player who fits a major personnel need for the Buckeyes, so it's a win/win. So what's the problem?

Clemson is the problem. Clemson is a legitimate national title contender. Clemson is five hours away from Hinesville, where McMillan has finally settled after a childhood that saw him moving around quite a bit. Clemson has, in his own words, recruited him the hardest of any team. Clemson took on, and beat, Georgia in a season-opening mega-matchup that McMillan was in attendance for. Clemson hosts top-five Florida State this weekend in what could be another epic contest and yes, you guessed it, McMillan is considering a trip to be in attendance. Clemson is the problem.

"Where as now I'd put him right now? 55-percent Clemson and 45-percent Ohio State, right now," one source in Georgia shared with Eleven Warriors.  "He knows about Ohio State's major need at linebacker, but (he) feels like he could start at Clemson from day one and it's much closer (to home.) They are a serious contender now in the national title picture."

I don't mean to paint a picture of doom-and-gloom, because I still feel the Buckeyes win out in the end thanks to the relationships McMillan has built with Ohio State coaches and commitments, but this is by no means a done deal for the Buckeyes. There is work to be done and Urban Meyer and his staff know that. They visited McMillan last week.

"(Urban) Meyer came by and surprised Raekwon and stayed for a couple hours," the source added. "Raekwon had no idea and was shocked when he walked in the door because (Buckeye linebacker coach Luke) Fickell and (Clemson wide receivers coach Jeff) Scott and (defensive coordinator Brent) Venables from Clemson spent all afternoon at the school and also stayed for his whole game that night."

This is going to be a fight to the end, so buckle up Buckeye bros.


No, we're not referencing the awesome Bill Murray movie (and yes, it's awesome whether you like it or not,) we're talking about Penn State and the job done by BOB under some pretty remarkable circumstances. This past weekend, as Penn State beat Michigan in a very exciting (but equally as terrible) football game in front of 108,000 raging fans, Penn State and Bill O'Brien may have put themselves out front for Buckeye target Mike Gesicki, the nation's top-ranked tight end. Gesicki visited Ohio State for the Wisconsin game in late September, and the Buckeyes were confident they acquitted themselves nicely, but the looming Penn State visit was a concern and it appears rightfully so. 

WE ARE...SNATCHING YOUR MAIN RECRUITS UP?Mike Gesicki is Ohio State's primary target at tight end.

Two of Ohio's top 2015 prospects, Lagrange (Keystone) tight end C.J Conrad and Jackson linebacker Reagan Williams were in attendance in Happy Valley, and both came away very impressed and hoping for offers. The common refrain? "It was the best atmosphere I've ever been in."

How did that atmosphere impact Gesicki, already torn between Ohio State and Penn State? Pretty much as expected. 

"Mike still isn't decided yet," one source close to Gesicki shared with 11W. "The Penn State game was a game changer and he really built a connection with (Penn State freshman quarterback Christian) Hackenberg. He likes that he'd have a few years with him and how the tight end is integrated into Penn State's offense."

So the Buckeyes will be left in the cold? Not exactly, as least it's not that cut-and-dry.

"Mike definitely likes and has a closer bond with Urban Meyer than anyone else. Meyer was 'in' on him before most were and made him a priority. He also has a good relationship with all the current commitments and recognizes Ohio State is an opportunity to play for more. He's truly torn and changed his decision multiple times."

Penn State had eight receptions from their tight ends on Saturday against Michigan, Ohio State's two tight ends, Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman (widely praised by Meyer and staff preseason) have 14 catches between them through six games. Penn State has sophomore Jesse James, freshman Adam Breneman (the country's second-ranked TE in 2013) among six — yes six — tight ends on their official roster that are either freshmen or sophomores. The Buckeyes have experience returning in their duo, but after Heuerman and Vannett have only Marcus Baugh, who (as reported yesterday by various outlets) may be in the ol' doghouse, so Ohio State offers legitimate championship opportunities with a less-crowded position and the best relationship Gesicki has with a coach. 

Gesicki announces his college intentions this Friday. Again I say, buckle up kiddos.


The nation's No. 52-ranked prospect for 2014, Gallatin (Tenn.) native Josh Malone has not been a name discussed much in Buckeye cirlces of late, but with the news today (first reported by analyst Marc Givler) that he will be eschewing a Florida visit for an official visit to Ohio State for the big night game against Penn State on October 26th, perhaps the discussion should ramp up a bit. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Malone has already taken official visits to Tennessee and Georgia, and has a Florida State trip scheduled on November 1st as well as planned trip to Clemson in November, so the Buckeyes are working from a trailing position, but getting him on campus is huge. 

Not much to talk about here yet, and we'll work to get an update with Josh on his recruitment as his visit gets closer, but he's worth keeping an eye on suddenly.


A few of you noticed in my Sunday night column that Jalyn Holmes was a "DNP" for Lake Taylor's blowout win against Churchland last weekend. While there are naturally going to be assumptions made because of Holmes' suspension earlier this season, the matter was far more serious. 

"I was in the hospital all last weekend," Holmes shared when asked why he was out of commission. "I had a kidney and muscle breakdown and had to get treated. They are not sure entirely what caused it."

Despite the scare, the nation's fourth-ranked defensive end says not to worry.

"I'm good," Holmes added. "I'll be back playing maybe this week."


With 18 current commitments, we here at 11W still believe that Ohio State lands at least six more commitments before February, and finish with a minimum 24 for 2014. Here's the final six as each of us see it now. 

JeremY BIRMINGHAM JOHN BRANDON Jordan Wagner Mike Young
WR - Johnnie Dixon OL - Chad Mavety OL - Frank Ragnow OL - Chad Mavety
OL - Chad Mavety DT - Thomas Holley DL - Thomas Holley DL - Thomas Holley
DL - Thomas Holley LB - Raekwon McMillan LB - Raekwon McMillan LB - Raekwon McMillan
LB - Raekwon McMillan DB - Mike Rogers DB - Mike Rogers DB - Mike Rogers
DB - Marshon Lattimore DB - Marshon Lattimore DB - Marshon Lattimore DB - Marshon Lattimore
DB - Erick Smith DB - Erick Smith DB - Erick Smith DB - Erick Smith

There's a few deviations as you can see, but for the most part we're in agreement. I am going to stand by my gut and keep Dixon on the Ohio State list, because I think if it comes down to it and the Buckeyes want to add another safety, Lonnie Johnson is as good a fit as Mike Rogers. Smith, Rogers, Malik Hooker and Erick Smith at safety mean room for Dixon at wide receiver. Jordan sees Frank Ragnow as the last offensive lineman in the 2014 class, and it's a real possibility that he could end up in this class regardless of whether or not Mavety commits.

Jordan: "The recent offer to Ragnow shows that the staff definitely wants to add a fifth lineman to this class. Damian Prince appears to be favoring Maryland while Alex Bookser seems to be leaning toward Pitt. Ragnow is a pretty dang good backup plan. His offer list is pretty impressive. He is trying to visit this weekend and the Buckeyes should know where they stand at that point.

Mike, the only analyst in Buckeye circles who correctly tabbed Malik Hooker as a Buckeye weighs in on Mike Rogers, the defensive back from Smyrna (Ga.) offered by Ohio State last week. 

Mike: "I Wouldn't have said this a week ago, but I expect Rogers to commit. He's thoroughly obsessed with the Buckeyes. One visit and he'll be convinced to flip."

Another name present on a couple lists is Chad Mavety, and while there's reason to be positive that the star JUCO lineman could end up in Columbus, nothing has yet been decided.

John: "I think it's pretty clear that Ohio State wants to take one more offensive lineman, with Mavety and Damian Prince being at the top of their board. I think Mavety is the more likely of the two to commit to Ohio State and will bring not only talent but some experience and maturity as well, being a JUCO transfer. The official visit for the Indiana game should lock up Mavety, who could be given an opportunity to challenge for a starting position as soon as next season."

Oh, and Raekwon? Desite some waning optimism, we're all on board with McMillan ultimately choosing Ohio State. 

Mike: "He's clearly the top target left for the Buckeyes. He's one of only a few guys taking an official visit for the Penn State game, but he'll be the center of attention. I'm sure the staff has made it evident that he has a good shot to get playing time in his freshman year. That's a huge help in landing him."

Jordan: "Definitely the most important recruit left the board for the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes could always use a five-star linebacker and McMillan fits the mold perfectly. He is planning to visit for the Penn State game and it will be a good opportunity for the staff to make another good impression. I've always been slightly worried about Georgia because Raekwon has mentioned distance from home before, but I think he will ultimately be a Buckeye. We'll probably have to wait a while before we find out for sure."

John: "McMillan has been and continues to be Ohio State's most important target in the 2014 class and he has built an incredible relationship with Urban Meyer and the staff.  I thought Alabama was Ohio State's biggest challenger but he has replaced them in his top 3 with Georgia. The pull from Georgia to stay home will continue to be strong, but returning to Ohio State for the Penn State game will seal the deal for good.  At the end of the day, the relationship with the coaching staff, the lack of linebacker depth, and the ability to compete for a championship every year will be too much for him to turn down. McMillan is the top inside linebacker in the nation and is the closest thing Ohio State has to a must-get prospect."


Comments Show All Comments

Bubba 81's picture

After T. Boyd and Sammy Watkins leaves for the NFL in 2014, Clemson will sink back to where they always the back end of the top 25. When is he last time Clemson has been rank in the top 5 in back to back seasons? If McMillian wants to play for a consistent elite team then OSU is it, but If he just wants to play close to home, that will be hard to overcome.

3GB's picture

Clemson will fill those voids with players like Deshaun Watson and Demarre Kitt/Artavis Scott, and they've continued to recruit at a high level so I don't see them fading that fast if they hang onto their coaching staff.  I do agree that OSU is a more consistently elite team though and has just as much need in the LB corps.

InHartWeTrust's picture

Agree 100% with 3GB here.  They will reload and be solid if the staff remains, but tOSU is still obviously the bigger player in the national picture.

cinserious's picture

Clemson is trending opposite of Oklahoma. The Sooners have been bleeding top-notch coordinators (Brent Venables, Mike Stoops, etc.) and went from a consistent top 5 program to a has-been, while Clemson is pulling in these coordinators (like Venables) and making legit runs for the NC.  Why would one make a lateral move (not even) from Oklahoma to Clemson? $$$,$$$,$$$.
You pay out the big bucks to keep the coaching staff consistent and you will be a winner. You try to be cheap and you will fall to mediocrity. I don't have the numbers on how Oklahoma pays its staff but I'm assuming its less than what Clemson is paying. Big-Ten universities beware!

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

rdubs's picture

3 true freshman are going to replace redshirt seniors and juniors?  That will not result in a top 5 program.  They might be back up there by the time they are juniors, but they won't be there next  year if they are relying on those players.

741's picture

Hear, hear! (Regarding the B1G's need to step up it's collective game vis-a-vis coaching and recruiting.)

calebhouser9's picture

Great article Birm! One question, in the chart... Geisicki is not mentioned. Is that because you all believe PSU will win him over? Sorry if you addressed this already. 


Jeremy Birmingham's picture

The entire third portion of the story is about Gesicki. 

avail31678's picture

Kinda what Birm said....but I know you were asking specifically about the predictions chart, not the article.
My take is (just my take): yeah - the 11W staff thinks he's likely going to PSU.  Jeremy's write up about him mentions the change in momentum and the atmosphere at the PSU game and the pull of how tight ends are used at PSU...and then not one 11W staffer predicts him to OSU, so I think it's safe to say that right now, PSU is the safe bet.

Jordan Wagner's picture

I can't speak for everyone else, but I wouldn't say PSU is a safe bet. Before, I liked Ohio State's chances slightly more than Penn State. It's now flipped. He's a tough guy to read. 

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

The longer he waits to "make up his mind" the better.  Who wouldn't want to immediately commit to a school after attending that kind of game.  I'm sure he was starry eyed.  

Read my entire screen name....

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Big Mike - hold off on your decision and come to the Horseshoe for the OSU - PSU game!  Winner gets your services - enough said!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

Jordan Wagner's picture

I did a quick twitter poll on who everyone thinks will be the final six. Most popular answer:


InHartWeTrust's picture

Those would be mine as well, expect I am obviously starting to worry about Gesicki a lot.  If he is out, I think Prince/Rogers.  Would like to see the 6'3'' receiver mentioned in the article landed as well, we can use another big guy to go with Noah.

ScarletGray43157's picture

"I was in the hospital all last weekend," Holmes shared when asked why he was out of commission. "I had a kidney and muscle breakdown and had to get treated. They are not sure entirely what caused it."
This is not a minor issue.  Something is up somewhere with this young man.  Between the on-field drama and an unknown but serious enough to put him in the hospital for a week condition there is too much drama.  

In old Ohio there's a team that's known throughout the land...

InHartWeTrust's picture

What?! Because he had a serious medical problem and spent a weekend in the hospital he is "too much drama" to continue on with?  I get the on field issue, but there was a good article on that, and the medical thing should not be held against the kid.  Get real.

EDUGOON's picture


"We Don't Believe You, You Need More People"- Hova #GOBUCKS #FreeElGuapo #Famthik

1stYrBuckIClub's picture

Since I have some medical background, let me clear up some of the supposed 'drama' that you state is contributing to 'too much' of it. It sounds like Jalyn had a condition known as rhabdomyolysis. It can occur in people that work out (strength-training) too much. The muscles are damaged (similar in the way body-building happens, small damage, small repair, slightly bigger muscles after each repair). However, if too much of it occurs, or if you're dehydrated, your kidneys can't remove the excessive breakdown products fast enough. I worked in a hospital and we'd get prisoners that developed it frequently, it was part of their 'initiation' at the prison from other inmates. But if it has been treated, it doesn't mean he'll get it again. 

ohhiyo's picture

i believe we have a wikipedia doctor

Oyster's picture

But he did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, so he has that going for him...

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

MN Buckeye's picture

I still hope that Gesicki chooses the good guys. I am curious to know why he seems determined to decide this week.

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

Does the talk of O'Brien going back to the NFL not phase recruits at all? Meyer isn't going anywhere and he is building something special at OSU. 

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Great article Jeremy.  Hope we get these guys soon!

Demesome's picture

Where is juju smith in all of this? I'll like to see us recruiting more in Cali. This guy left the hospital to make his recruiting trip. That's love show him love

U already knew that

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

My dad grew up in Pennsylvania, so though I grew up in D.J.'s heroin-riddled backyard of Marion, I was more than aware of Penn State and spent about half of my summers there in mountain bliss. It was not lost on me that, as an independent, PSU was a whole lot badder than they've ever been since joining the B1G (save for 1994, when they were good as hell). Hence the delusional fans who are perhaps not as delusional as we all think (save for their reaction to the D-coordinator of 1994 team, who was sick as hell).
My point is that there are many, many on the East Coast who still hold the Nittany Lions in very high regard and make it an attractive destination for a recruit. In fact, probably the only thing holding back Penn State in the last ten years before the shitstorm was, again, Paterno, as a doddering old coach. Now that he's gone, sanctions packing up, and BOB presumably staying... it could get interesting.

hit_the_couch's picture

I don't know what anyone would see in Hinesville. When I was at Ft. Stewart, I couldn't wait to get the hell out of there. If it's his home and he loves it, I can respect that. I still hope McMillan comes to tOSU.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

KBonay's picture

Any darkhorse, say, Juju Smith in the mix?

Jordan Wagner's picture

He's in the mix, but not sure OSU has much of a chance. 

cinserious's picture

Clemson is the problem.

Nothing a good ole' fashioned 'Clemsoning' can't fix. Plus the fact that FSU is going to whoop that ass this Saturday. FSU might jump us in the polls after that but its all good if we can instill in McMillan Clemson's trend over the past several years of not getting over the hump and NEVER making it to the title game.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

avail31678's picture

I say this with full knowledge that the TAMU v. Bama game this year was very important, and a great game...
But isn't it nice that a non-SEC game could be the game of the year this year?  Stanford v. Oregon is still on the horizon, but FSU and Clemson looks to be a great game on paper.  I really hope it lives up to the expectations.  I can't wait to watch it. 

niblick's picture

Josh Malone...yeeeeeeees please!

JLP36's picture

Hard to believe that Gesicki will not come to the Horseshoe to see them head to head.  I cannot think that favors the Buckeyes.  BOB is a force to be reckoned with.  He can recruit and coach.


ChazBuckeye's picture

"Penn State has sophomore Jesse James, freshman Adam Breneman (the country's second-ranked TE in 2013) among six — yes six — tight ends on their official roster that are either freshmen or sophomores. The Buckeyes have experience returning in their duo, but after Heuerman and Vannett have only Marcus Baugh, who (as reported yesterday by various outlets) may be in the ol' doghouse, so Ohio State offers legitimate championship opportunities with a less-crowded position and the best relationship Gesicki has with a coach. "

Awesome point and I feel it will be the #1 reason why OSU is Gesicki's choice on Friday.  Go Bucks! Time to fill in the puzzle pieces;-)
Not sure why SO many feel he's going to choose PSU (even some 11W staff).  Makes no sense to me.  OSU can play for a NC and PSU can't for some time....not to mention look at PSU's TE #s comparably to OSU's.  The only reason OSU's TEs aren't seeing as many catches is because Braxton doesn't see them in his progressions (hence most catches by the TEs were with Kenny playing QB).  Trust me, they're open...they just don't have the passes thrown to them.

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

Jordan Wagner's picture

Recruiting doesn't always make sense. I feel he will choose PSU because I think that is where he wants to go, not because I think it makes the most sense for him to commit there. That's not set in stone. 

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

A lot of info out there but some people have reported that Gesicki likes OSU better, but the people around him are pushing him PSU. I think he ends up OSU in the end, but I've been wrong before. 

jccavanaugh's picture

Jalyn dealing with rhabdo doesn't sound good. Either he's pushing himself too hard in the weight room or someone else is. Hope it isn't a severe case. Some people's muscles never quite recover from it.

Squirrel Master's picture

They have 6 TE's and one is a former top recruit that is a freshman right now. I understand its a tough pick but even if PSU uses their TEs more, still doesn't change the fact he will be in a fight to get PT.
OSU TEs might not be getting many catches, but they are apart of a standout running game and are doing stuff on the field. Not to mention the even less used TEs of the past are still currently in the NFL. At least, Ballard is looking at getting back in soon.
I think Heuermann and Vannett make the NFL if not get drafted. What they do is highly underrated.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

sharks's picture

That kidney issue with Holmes sounds like the problems a few years back at Iowa (I think). Weren't the injuries there career-ending for a couple of those guys?

A man got to have a code...

hetuck's picture

Don't think it was career-ending. And, IIRC, it happened last year at OSU for swimmers. 

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi