Football Recruiting: The Closing Bell

By Jeremy Birmingham on February 2, 2014 at 12:00p
Berger and his future boss.Berger's ACL injury isn't stopping him from smiling.

Welcome to Super Bowl Sunday, the day that football takes its rightful place at the center of American sport and culture. There's no better evening that illustrates the glory and the power of football better, and no sadder night as we prepare for the next few months sans the pigskin. 

Fortunately, for some of us, recruiting gives us a buffer that we can use to keep our sadness to a minimum. We live vicariously through our teams off-season victories and this week we prepare for the culmination of a year of recruiting that will once again see Ohio State with a top five class across the national recruiting services.

I know the majority of you are hoping/wanting/needing/begging for information about Jamarco Jones and Malik McDowell, but as both finish up official visits – Jones to Michigan State and McDowell to Ohio State – there isn't much to update until later this evening, so do check back.

We'll start with one of Ohio State's earlier commitments, Kyle Berger, as he rebounds from a torn ACL.


It's been five months since Buckeye linebacker commitment Kyle Berger tore his ACL in his team's final preseason scrimmage against Canton McKinley, and Berger is continuing his rehab and working towards his goal: to be ready to make an impact for the Buckeyes next fall. He believes he's getting closer.

"Things (with my rehab) are going really well," Berger told 11W. "I've been doing strength and stability work, especially when jumping and landing lately. I should start working on cutting next month, and that's like the final phase of the rehab. I've been jogging and running for a few weeks now, and I just started planting and stopping on one leg, that will eventually lead into cutting."

Berger has not let his injury affect his spirits, seeing the timing of the injury as a blessing rather than a curse. 

"If I had gotten hurt at the end of my senior season, I'd have almost no chance to play next year," he continued. "Instead I've been able to get a lot stronger, because all I do is workout and run. I'm at 227-pounds right now, but I'll lose a bit soon and then get back to gaining 'good' weight."

With signing day approaching, Berger has maintained his place as one of the "Dream '14's" most active recruiters. He has plans to be roommates with Sam Hubbard, Stephen Collier and yes, Jamarco Jones, when he arrives on campus for good this summer. 

"I think he's going to be a Buckeye, still," Berger said of Jones and his visit to Michigan State this weekend. "He knows how important he is to our class, but we all understand if he needs to take a final look, it's a tough choice for anyone to make, but I think we're ok."

After signing day, Berger plans to get more active with his preparations for his Buckeye career.

"Next weekend I'll be in Columbus for the Touchdown Club Banquet," Berger added. "I hope to see the coaches and the guys on campus, but I'll for sure be there the first spring practice. I hope to meet with (Buckeyes' strength coach Mickey) Marotti and the nutritionist sometime soon, too."


Raekwon McMillan and Dante Booker, two of Ohio State's highest-ranked recruits in the "Dream '14," were selected to the Parade All-American teams this weekend, an honor that ranks among the most prestigious in all of high school sports. McMillan and Booker join Michigan commitment Jabrill Peppers as the only Big Ten (potential) signees to make the cut. McMillan, who is already enrolled at Ohio State, and Booker were two of four linebackers selected. Florida quarterback commitment Will Grier has been named Parade's Player of the Year and Alabama leads the way with five different selections for the Parade All-American team.

Two other Buckeye commitments, Dylan Thompson and Brady Taylor, ventured to the Lonestar State this weekend to participate with Team USA in the International Bowl. The game will take place Friday, February 7th and both Buckeye commitments view being selected as one of the awards they've received.

"About to take off to Texas for the Team USA All-American game against Team Canada," Thomspon said via Twitter. "So honored to represent my country this way!"

Kyle Berger was originally committed to play in this game but is unable due to his rehab.


Originally 2015 quarterback Brandon Wimbush wanted to make his college choice in December, but as new offers came in and more schools became a possibility, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound signal caller decided he'd push back his decision until late February, giving him more of a chance to check out his options. Now, as we enter February, he says that is still up in the air, thanks in part to a number of new offers and interest he continues to receive.

"I'm probably going to take a little more time," Wimbush told Eleven Warriors. "I wasn't aware these new offers would be coming, it's getting a bit hectic now."

Will Jones continue to throw up the "Block O?"Still future teammates? Jones will visit MSU.

As we chronicled a few weeks back, one of the schools that would become a very valid threat to the Buckeyes and their pursuit of the St. Peter's Prep star, Penn State, will get their first real shot to impress Wimbush in just about two weeks. He's scheduled to visit the Nittany Lions, his mother's alma mater, February 15th. 

"I can't wait to get to Penn State and check it out," Wimbush said. "But I'm enjoying all of these schools that are coming after me and a couple of my teammates. It's really a great experience."

One of Wimbush's teammates, five-star cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick, has a Buckeye offer and he visited Alabama this weekend. There were some rumblings from the Crimson Tide faithful that a Fitzpatrick verbal could be coming their way, but Wimbush doesn't think that's going to happen this soon.

"I don't think there's any chance he commits this soon," he said of his teammate. "Not a chance."

The Buckeyes were at the top of Wimbush's list eary in the process, but with new schools in the mix it becomes a more challenging chase. He is still in regular contact with the Buckeyes and says he would like to make another visit to Columbus before he makes a choice.

"I talk to them regulaly, yes," he said. "I actually talked to (Buckeye quarterback coach) Herman a couple of hours ago. I know they are trying to get busy in New Jersey. I hope to get back there during the spring."


In case you didn't know it, former Buckeye commitment Lonnie Johnson committed to Western Michigan back in November. Yesterday, the Broncos added another wide receiver commitment that could have some relevance to Buckeye recruitniks: Javonte Seabury. I can see the collective eyebrow raising, the mouths forming "Who?"

Seabury is the older brother of 2015 star running back Jacques Patrick from Orlando (Fla.) Timber Creek High School. Patrick, as we've discussed before, is one of Ohio State's highest priorities for 2015, and if the near fifty scholarship offers he's already received are any indication, the Buckeyes are not alone in that thinking. While the Florida schools namely (Florida State and Florida) continue to have the upper-hand in his recruitment, Patrick has been quoted a number of times in the past saying that if his brother ended up in a northern state, that could definitely help his chances of heading in a similar direction. He reiterated that point to 11W this weekend.

"(Seabury coming north) helps because that's my brother and I know he'll want me to come up that way," Patrick said of his brother's commitment. "One of my other closest friends is going to be at Toledo (Timber Creek quarterback Stuckey Mosley, committed to play basketball for the Rockets), and he'll be there this summer, so it's definitely something that could help Ohio State or Michigan with me."

Always interesting the world of recruiting, ain't it?


Yesterday Ohio State offered 2015 offensive lineman Luke Hiers, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound center with offers from Kentucky, South Florida, LSU, Miami, NC State and more. Ohio State's running back coach Stan Drayton offered Hiers, who said the Buckeyes have been recruiting him since the spring of his sophomore year at Lake Wales High School in Lake Wales (Fla.) Despite the Buckeyes lengthy investment and the relatively "early" decision to extend an offer, Hiers says there's not much interest in the Buckeyes at this point.

"My top three schools are Kentucky, USF and Nebraska," Hiers told Eleven Warriors. "I've visited Kentucky and South Florida, and the Buckeye offer is an honor, but my top three schools are who I will choose from."



As we talked about Raekwon McMillan and Chad Mavety, I am a big believer in the idea that "heart" wins out over "head" in most matters of recruiting a high school kid. The school he loves the most isn't always the one that makes the most sense for his career, but the one he loves is where he ends up most of the time. When it comes to Jamarco Jones, I believe — as of right, Sunday morning — that his head and his heart are in the same place: Columbus. I know there's reasons to be worried about Michigan State, but I believe Jones signs with the Buckeyes on Wednesday. I have had enough conversations in recent days with folks I trust to help move my concern level from "a lot" to "a little" and most of those people believe Jones sticks with the Buckeyes, so I do as well. 

Malik McDowell's situation is, believe it or not, even more difficult to figure out than Jones', but something about this recruitment just screams "Urban Meyer wins" to me and for that reason I am going to believe Malik signs with the Buckeyes come Wednesday. Right now everyone is guessing when it comes to McDowell, and I am too, but I'll trust my gut - and the dynamic duo of Urban Meyer and Larry Johnson, Sr. to seal the deal with the Detroit five-star.


Comments Show All Comments

Buckeye1996's picture

Thanks Jeremy. Always good stuff. Getting McDowell and keeping Jones would be a great finish for the year. UrbanTM is getting it done.

Ahh Saturday's picture

Just logged in wondering what's up with crootin' and here's Birm with the update. Thanks as usual, and one question. Is Buckeye signing day ALL about JJ and MM, or is there a chance for a surprise?

ab1993's picture

According to a NSD schedule I was looking at yesterday, Ohio State is still an option for Damian Prince, Frank Ragnow, Derrick Nnadi, and JuJu Smith. All probably extremely small chances, but who knows in recruiting. Some places still say Solomon Thomas has us as an option, even though we weren't n his final schools. Who knows with recruiting, but I wouldn't count on anyone except Malik McDowell.

Ahh Saturday's picture

Think Ragnow just went Pig. My guess is that if there is a signing day surprise, it'll be somebody nobody's been talking about.

ab1993's picture

edit: nevermind

Urban Ohio's picture

 Read'n 'bout crootin' on ur 'puter

Newcomerstown Trojans between Woody and Beaver.

Ahh Saturday's picture

My 'phone, actually.

Urban Ohio's picture

I thought about that but Puter sounded good. Pooter

Newcomerstown Trojans between Woody and Beaver.

Knarcisi's picture

Reward your gut then, Birm. Fill it with beer, pizza, and other goodies on this Super Sunday. 

RBuck's picture

Can't wait to open all the presents Wednesday. Christmas in February for sure.

Long live the southend.

ChazBuckeye's picture

As I stated before, if Wednesday at 9:30 the gentle giant from Up N chooses the Buckeyes, then I may have to open my distilling apple pie a little early:-)  And if I have no work on Wednesday, then I could be an absolute mess by noon.  Haven't done that since college...

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.

BuckToAsT's picture

I'm hoping 11W temporarily goes down between 9:30am and 9:40am.  
I've cleared all appointments that day just in case 

ScarletNGrey01's picture

Birmingham is a five star recruiting sports journalist in my book, thanks as always for the update.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

Hovenaut's picture

Can't wait to see this class in action.

Nice check-in with Kyle Berger, glad to read he's doing well and look forward to seeing his contributions down the road.

Ericgobucks's picture

Thanks Jeremy. I feel a little better about Jones and feel we are no worse than 50-50 for McDowell. Three more days!

KBonay's picture

I. Like. Your. Gut. 

allbucksallthetime's picture

Birm, always, thanks for sharing the promising information you have about how the "Dream '14'" class will finish up.  While there are no guarantees, the prospect of JJ signing with tOSU and adding MM to this class is really exciting.  Go Bucks!

pcuzz1's picture

You're the man, birm! Always nice to get that recruiting fix.

pat cozzens

740Bucks's picture

Kyle Berger's comments make me feel a lot better about Jones' decision!!

"My idea of a good hit is when the guy wakes up on the sidelines with train whistles blowing in his head." - Jack Tatum

FitzBuck's picture

Birm I don't know how you do what you do while holding down a second job but just know we all appreciate your work.  I follow you on twitter and the updates are always on point.  I also follow Mike Farrell who is a bit of an asshat that can't get anything right outside of SEC schools.  Maybe you should give him some pointers,  

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

TMac's picture

Only Good Surprises are allowed on Wednesdays!!
Thanks Birm!

ONE Not Done!

36buck's picture

Berger is my favorite recruit.  A tackling machine. 

lljjgg's picture

I hope your gut is right on both (JJones and McDowell) Jeremy!

For anyone interested, here's an article Sam Webb posted (writer for The Detroit News who I believe focuses on Michigan recruiting) last night on the McDowell situation.

Not going to lie, the comments from his parents in the article sounded to me like MMcDowell is already sold on MSU, and he's just taking these visits because his parents haven't bought in to MSU yet (maybe never will)/to pacify them. My guess is JJones stays a Buckeye, McDowell ends up at MSU. I'd be content with that outcome, JJones is the much bigger need for OSU.

lljjgg's picture

Not one to gossip, but apparently at the bottom of that article Malik McDowell's mom has commented a few times in the comments section. Getting harrassed by UM and MSU fans something fierce -- not a good look for those fans (though I'm sure she's aware there are some jerks in any fanbase).

Matthew Harmon, research African American students college party schools, research the defense coaches and tell me how many NFL players each have sent to the league in the position my son plays. If athletes are only taking General Business at any school, blame the parents for allowing their child to be used. This is not a decision for the MSU or UofM fans to make... It's sad how you all bash one another. You all need to grow-up... Just because you read it on the internet doesn't mean it's true... #SickofthestateofMichigan....

^I particularly liked the #SickofthestateofMichigan hashtag she threw in there haha.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Reading between the lines, both parents do not like MSU at all. If they have sway in the kid's decision, though, it still seems like it could go anyway between Michigan, OSU, or FSU.
Mr. McDowell's coolness toward MSU seems to boil down to two points: 1). his perception that MSU is a "party school"; 2). that OSU, Michigan, and FSU staffs have a better track record of preparing DE for the NFL. As for the second point, his implied logic is that the MSU (Narduzzi) system is LB and DB "friendly," while not being especially well-suited to developing DL skills in ways that translate to the NFL.
I don't know how valid that implied criticism is, but inasmuch as it is valid, that message needs to be broadcast far and wide!   

allinosu's picture

I would think FSU would be more of a "party school". Plus too far to keep tabs. After being sure we had no chance in the past, the stars are really lining themselves up for us lately.

tennbuckeye19's picture

Man, reading those comments after that article was pretty freakin' sad. What a bunch of morons. 
This is why fans need to get a freakin' life and think before they do stuff. Players and their parents read what people say and hear what people say. 
I don't know where Malik ends up, but if I'm his parents, I don't know if I would feel very good about reading what people said about them during this process.

ab1993's picture

I like our chances. It seems that the McDowell family's primary focus is on getting him to the NFL, and Larry Johnson has pretty good record with that.

Buckabroad's picture

Keep your head up and keep getting healthy, Kyle. You're going to be great for Ohio State.

"The minute we stop expecting greatness, we become Wisconsin."

sharks's picture

Hey yo Sparty, I didn't hear no bell...

Sorry, they had a marathon on the ion channel (whatever that is) and I watched 3,4,and 5 back to back to back.

A man got to have a code...

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Great article Jeremy!  You bring a wealth of information each week and we love it!  I sure hope we get both Jones and McDowell.  I'll be watching on NSD very closely and can't wait to see what happens! 
Go Bucks!!

PittBuckeye's picture

Can't wait for Wednesday. Just lets get on with the answering of questions, and be done with the asking of them for the 2014'ers.

ghalephoto's picture

I think its funny to go thru all the recruiting services and the guys that get paid to tell us where a kid is going and everything that goes with it.  Then you have a simple conversation with a fellow recruit (Berger) and you get a better feel for what a future teammate is really thinking.  I will go with what Kyle says about Jones...seems very legit. Great article and insight.

pabdublin78's picture

Thanks Jeremy.  I know all of us trust your judgment more than all the other so called "experts".  It's going to be an interesting next few days and we look forward to further updates when you feel you can share more info with us.  Go Bucks! 

bucknut94's picture

I'll trust your gut feelings, Jeremy. :) 

BuckeyeJAK's picture

Wednesday  Will be a Scarlet and Gray day !!!! 

Mark May is a mental midget

MN Buckeye's picture

Thanks, Birm! Glad to see Thompson and Taylor honored by being selected to play in the International Bowl. McDowell has been a real enigma this recruiting season, but good for him for being cautious. I never thought OSU would be a happy medium between MSU and UM, but I like our chances if you think it's a possibility.

IGotAWoody's picture

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

osubuck57's picture

Great news about Berger!! Will be very happy with our recruiting class, whichever way it shakes out. Wednesday can't get here soon enough.


JakeStevensIsSwag's picture

Skipping school for NSD :D

Buckeye fan from PA

sivaDavis's picture

Crazy to see that a 2015 kid already had a top 3 and is being close minded about it, what if he really develops in the best OL in the nation and starts to get top tier offers and not just Kentucky, Nebraska offers? 

"I've had smarter people around me all my life, but I haven't run into one yet that can outwork me. And if they can't outwork you, then smarts aren't going to do them much good." - Woody Hayes

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

Good stuff Birm.  Hope everyone enjoys Super Bowl Sunday.  After tonight, we need to start prepping for NSD.  I already have my day off and I'm looking forward to sitting on 11W and watching ESPN on Wednesday. 

DMcDougal24's picture

And I thought we wouldn't have any signing day excitement this year

BUCKSOMIES's picture

Thanks Jeremy.  Great stuff as usual.

buckguyfan1's picture

Thanks Birminator! 

allinosu's picture

Jamarco is home watching the game and has not change his buckeye twitter page yet.

Bloombergl's picture

So, I do keep checking back and the anticipation is killin me!  What's the latest on the day's visits?  The silence is deafening.  (You have spoiled us, Birm!)

Ebvine96's picture

McDowell jamarco updates cuz this Super Bowl blows

Buck Commander's picture

I guess no news is good news????

Every time I set my DVR to record Biggest Loser......It always records Wolverine Football Games!

southbymidwest's picture

So the big question for NSD is who wins the Joey Bosa award this year? (He was the first one to fax in his LOI within a couple of minutes of the opening time.)

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

I say Knox.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Poison nuts's picture

I agree. Somebody should start a pool...

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

buckguyfan1's picture

I'll go with Sam Hubbard. 

GulfCoastBuck's picture

Anyone else think it's nuts they still fax them in rather than scan and email?

Buck Commander's picture

According to Bill Kurelic Malik McDowell and his parents came away impressed with their official visit to Ohio State and Buckeye defensive line coach Larry Johnson.seen this on 24/7 sports!

Every time I set my DVR to record Biggest Loser......It always records Wolverine Football Games!

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

I'll be happy if i'm wrong, but I don't see Malik picking Ohio State.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Buck Commander's picture

I'm kinda thinking the same.....But him on one end and Bosa on the other......WOW

Every time I set my DVR to record Biggest Loser......It always records Wolverine Football Games!

cesmit's picture

Kurelic was on Wall-to-Wall Sports tonight and said he's hearing that JJ's visit to MSU went very well and that he plans to announce a decision Monday or Tuesday.

jamesrbrown322's picture

Are there any names out there to remember just in case they lose out on both Jones and McDowell, or are they content with what they're have no matter what?

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill