The 'Best of the Midwest' combine is an annual event held in Indianapolis to showcase the top talent in the midwest. Marshon Lattimore, Erick Smith, Terry McLaurin, Lonnie Johnson and others highlighted the event last year, which produces several future Buckeyes. It also gives many under-the-radar prospects national exposure and a chance to show what they can do. This year's event was as good as advertised, with a handful of top 2015 prospects and a slew of future stars.
Damien Harris stand out
Damien Harris is good, he's really good. Sporting Michigan gloves, he ran a 4.34 in the 40 (hand-timed) and dominated linebackers both in pass-blocking and as a route-runner. The coaches running the event named him MVP of the running backs and 247Sports named him the combine's top overall prospect. Meanwhile, he told Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports that his recruitment is pretty much a two-horse race between Ohio State and Michigan and he likes both schools a lot.
247 Recruiting Director JC Shurburtt has Crystal Ball 5 star RB & Michigan decommit Damien Harris to Ohio State.— jbook (@jbook37) February 18, 2014
He also had some good things to say about Urban Meyer and Ohio State in a recent interview with LGHL:
"I really like Coach Meyer as a coach; I think he's a really great guy. He gives me that family feel that I'm going from one home to when I'm in college I'll be in another home, the place I belong. I think he's really good at what he does. He's passionate and intense in his coaching," Harris said. "He (Meyer) and Coach Drayton, the running backs coach, sat me down and took the time to tell me how they would develop me as a person and a player, how I would be successful at the university, how they would use me, what they would do with me, and stuff like that. It was a great visit overall.
"I talk to him on almost a daily basis. We're just really getting to know each other and are starting to develop that trust where I'll be just at home (in Columbus). Everybody is going to miss home and you have to feel like you're going from home to another home. A home is where you belong and where you should be, and he makes me feel that way," Harris said. "We're developing a really great relationship and we'll have to see where it takes us."
- Damien Harris
Harris will be making a visit to Ann Arbor this weekend but, as Harris said, "obviously it’s going to be a little different without Coach Borges being there." And so it begins.
Nick Conner Too
Harris wasn't the only Buckeye target that stood out - Nick Conner had quite a showing as well. Conner was named 'Most college-ready defender' by 247Sports and was named MVP of the linebackers by the coaches. He measured in with great size(6-foot-3 and 225 lbs) and excelled in 1-on-1's.
Best of the Midwest. LB MVP: Nick Conner, Dublin Scioto (Ohio), 2015 and Justice Hart, Cleveland Glenville (Ohio), 2015— Allen Trieu (@AllenTrieu) February 17, 2014
Dublin junior Nick Conner easily the best looking LB at the combine. Also the most explosive in drills.— Derek Young (@DYoungScout) February 17, 2014
Conner is hoping for a Buckeye offer and Ohio State could be very close to making that offer. Expect Conner to climb in the rankings and pick up a bunch of offers before it's all said and done.
Ohio kids shine
The 'Best of the Midwest' combine gave the state of Ohio to showcase its talent and local prospects did not disappoint. In total, 12 Ohioans were named to 247Sports All-Combine team.
In particular, a few under-the-radar prospects took advantage of the opportunity to showcase their skills.
Chase Pankey of Cincinnati Moeller had an impressive showing, running in the 4.4 range and showed great natural receiving ability. 247Sports named him the event's most complete wide receiver. He doesn't have any offers yet, but is hearing from Georgia, Tennessee, Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Cincinnati.
Rob Dowdy also had a strong showing, earning 247Sports Top 2015 OL prospect honors. Dowdy told 11W that the event "went really well and [he] had a lot of fun." He also said that he kept his feet moving, did what the coaches told him and won his 1-on-1 battle every time. Dowdy is on the Buckeyes radar and is beginning to gain a lot of national recognition. He is really high on Georgia Tech right now but is hoping for a few more offers.
2016 DE Jonathon Cooper stood out among all defensive linemen, showing great athleticism and pass-rushing ability off the edge. He already has good size as well at 6-foot-3 and 215 lbs. Cooper had a busy weekend, performing well at the Core 6 event in Cincinnati before competing in the 'Best of the Midwest.' He was named to the All-Combine team and is a name to remember moving forward.
Lastly, Denzel Ward made a name for himself and earned his first offer from Cincinnait after running a 4.31 40-yard dash and blowing away the competition on the broad jump. The junior from Macedonia, Ohio excels on both sides of the ball and is obviously a phenomenal athlete. Don't be surprised to see him blow up over the next few months. He was also named the event's 'Breakout Performer.'
More coverage on the event and some of the players on Ohio State's radar that shined in it over the next few days, so stay tuned.