Football Recruiting: Building a Fence Around Ohio

By John Brandon on February 7, 2014 at 4:00p

National Signing Day marked the end of the 2014 recruiting cycle, but the Ohio State coaching staff has already gotten quite a start on the 2015 class. With the Buckeyes going back to 85 scholarships in 2015 it will be important for them to take advantage of returning to full strength.

Much of the focus for 2015 recruiting thus far has been on the northeast, Texas and  Florida, and for good reason. Ohio State has offered a whopping 35 prospects from the state of Florida, 13 from Texas and 15 from northeast states. There is undoubtedly a ton of talent in these regions for Ohio State to tap into. That being said, in order for the Buckeyes to be as successful as possible they must put up a fence around Ohio.

“We want to sign as many kids in Ohio as we can. That’s our ultimate goal," said Ohio State director of player personnel Mark Pantoni. Ohio is the football hotbed of the midwest and historically whoever has controlled Ohio recruiting has controlled the Big Ten.

The 2014 class was an ideal example of what the Buckeyes would like to do in Ohio on a consistent basis as they landed each of the top six prospects in the state. Ohio's 2015 class might be a bit stronger than its 2014 class, boasting six Top 100 prospects in the 247Composite (as opposed to three in 2014). However, snagging the top 5-10 Ohio prospects looks to be a bit tougher.

So far Ohio State has offered six Ohio prospects and boasts one commit from the state in Eric Glover-Williams. Let's take a closer look at the top prospects in Ohio that the Buckeyes are chasing for 2015.

the offered

Of the six offered, Eric Glover-Williams has already committed to Ohio State while Hjalte Froholdt has committed to Arkansas and Shaun Crawford is a Michigan commit. Ohio State hasn't really had any contact with Froholdt since he committed, but they are still recruiting Crawford a bit.

1. Justin Hilliard, LB, St. Xavier H.S. (Cincinnati)

Hilliard is a consensus 5-star and the top player in Ohio. He's also ranked as the No. 3 outside linebacker in the nation by the 247Composite. Let's see - big time player, plays a position that Ohio State is still trying to build and he lives less than two hours from campus - he is a huge target for the Buckeyes.

Hilliard's recruitment is already shaping up to be a dogfight between the Buckeyes, Michigan and Iowa, with Notre Dame and others being factors as well. Michigan has been recruiting Hilliard really hard and he's definitely interested, while the Iowa connection is a bit more obvious - Hilliard's brother C.J. will be a freshman playing for the Hawkeyes this fall. Notre Dame has also had some success with St. Xavier recruits and quite frankly, Ohio State hasn't had a ton of success recruiting Cincinnati.

The Buckeyes are in a good place with Hilliard however for a few reasons: first, the local factor. He's the top kid in Ohio and a short drive from campus, plus Ohio State usually does pretty well with their top targets in Ohio. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, Hilliard's teammate Nick Tensing accepted a preferred walk-on spot in the 2014 class. While having Tensing doesn't compare to having Hilliard's brother, it should help at least a little. Thirdly, Hilliard is incredibly familiar with and comfortable at Ohio State. He has visited campus as a recruit four times - two games, a camp and another unofficial visit - and will likely spend at least a couple more weekends in Columbus before it's all said and done. Lastly, Ohio State has stepped up the recruiting efforts in Cincinnati and Kerry Coombs, Hilliard's primary recruiter, has done an excellent job.

Right now he's up for grabs and Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa are all in good shape, but when it's all said and done you have to like Ohio State and Urban Meyer's chances with the top kid in Ohio.

2. Jerome Baker, RB/LB, Benedictine H.S. (Cleveland)

Baker is a close second to Hilliard in terms of ranking the top kids in Ohio and in many other years he would probably be the top kid in the state. The good news for the Buckeyes is at this point they are the overwhelming favorite to land the Cleveland product.

Baker is a phenomenal athlete that could play either running back or linebacker, but is more likely a running back at this point. He has great size (6-1, 205 lbs) and speed (4.50 forty) that makes him the ideal style of back for Ohio State's power-spread system. He has visited Penn State and Illinois as well, though at this point it would be a pretty big surprise if he ended up anywhere other than Columbus.

3. Shaun Crawford, CB, St. Edward H.S. (Lakewood)

Crawford committed to Michigan in August but that hasn't stopped him from entertaining pitches from Ohio State. Coombs has been recruiting Crawford pretty extensively, and Crawford has talked about making a visit to Columbus. Whether a visit happens will remain to be seen, but with the trouble Michigan is having holding together its 2015 class it is certainly a possibility.

Crawford is a bit on the small side (5-foot-9), but is quick and has good ball skills as he also plays wide receiver. He is a consensus 4-star, the No. 8 cornerback in the 247Composite and is a player Ohio State would love to have. It will be interesting to see how new secondary coach Chris Ash impacts Crawford's recruitment and who Ohio State targets in the defensive backfield in 2015 moving forward.

4. James Daniels, OL, Warren G. Harding H.S. (Warren)

Daniels is the only offensive lineman Ohio State has offered in Ohio thus far and he is an excellent center prospect. He is a Buckeye legacy as his dad, LeShun, played offensive line at Ohio State. Meanwhile, his brother LeShun II will be entering his second year playing football at Iowa this fall. Coincidentally, LeShun II is a running back at Iowa like Justin Hilliard's brother. It will be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out as LeShun II and C.J. Hilliard will be getting to know each other pretty well over the next year while their brothers decide where to attend school.

While it would be nice, Daniels said it isn't that important for him to play with his brother: "It would be really nice to play with him, but I have to look at and choose the one that is best fitted for me."

At this point Ohio State is probably the clear leader for Daniels, though Iowa is absolutely in the mix as well. Daniels has a good relationship with Ed Warinner and Mark Pantoni, while Urban Meyer, Chris Ash and Luke Fickell all went to visit him in January.

Next up

1. Nick Conner, LB, Dublin Scioto H.S. (Dublin)

There has been a lot of talk on the site recently about Nick Conner. He is scheduled to visit Ohio State next Tuesday and an offer could very well be in the works. Ohio State really likes Conner, who is a bit under the radar but has drawn interest from Michigan State, Pitt, Kentucky, Northwestern, West Virginia and others.

Urban Meyer has personally recruited him a bit, which tells you what they think of him as a prospect. If he gets an offer next week it might not be long before he becomes Ohio State's third commitment for 2015.

2. Rashod Berry, DE, Lorain Digital H.S. (Lorain)

Berry doesn't have an offer but is very high on Ohio State. Berry will likely do almost anything he can to earn an offer from Ohio State, which he says would be a "dream come true." Berry is a phenomenal athlete - he plays both defensive end and wide receiver. While he likely projects to a weak-side defensive end, the athleticism he has to play receiver will only help him be a better defensive end.

Berry has camped at Ohio State and I would imagine he'll be back to camp this summer. Mike Vrabel was his primary recruiter but his departure shouldn't have too much of an effect on Berry. If Berry gets an offer he will be a Buckeye almost guaranteed. He holds offers from several MAC schools and he has a lot of potential if he bulks up. He's absolutely a guy to watch and he could earn an offer at some point.

3. C.J. Conrad, TE, Keystone H.S. (Lagrange)

Chris Clark has been Ohio State's top tight end target for a while now, but after not taking a tight end in 2014, taking two in 2015 could be a real possibility - especially if the Baugh situation is not worked out. While Ohio State has offered a few tight ends for 2015, they have a bit of interest in Conrad as well. Conrad camped twice at Ohio State and visited for the Penn State game, so he is certainly on their radar. He boasts offers from Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana and others and may try to earn a Buckeye offer at camp again this summer.

Clark and others are higher on Ohio State's board, but Conrad is a guy that the Buckeyes probably feel they could snag if they missed out on their top target or wanted to take a couple of tight ends in the class.

4. Rob Dowdy, OL, Westerville South H.S. (Westerville)

Dowdy is a big offensive tackle prospect right in Ohio State's backyard. With a big offensive line haul in 2014 it won't be as big of a priority for the Buckeyes in 2015 but Dowdy could become an option for Ohio State down the road. Dowdy visited Ohio State twice during the season - for the Florida A&M and Penn State games.

Right now, Dowdy is favoring Arkansas but that could change if a Buckeye offer came his way. Ohio State currently has 12 offers out to uncommitted offensive tackles but the Buckeyes aren't heavy favorites for any of them. The Buckeyes are in great shape for Drew Richmond but if they miss on a few of their offensive tackle targets Dowdy could become a possibility. Noah Listerman, George Brown Jr. and Larry Wells could be local offensive tackle options as well down the road.

5. David and Andrew Dowell, St. Edward H.S. (Lakewood)

David (WR) and Andrew (RB) Dowell have both received a bit of interest from the Buckeyes. Both attended Friday Night Lights and visited Ohio State for the Wisconsin game. David is probably closer to getting an offer than Andrew is, and they may both be a little ways away from getting offers. That being said, they have a relationship with Ohio State and they are names to keep an eye on going into the summer/fall. Additionally, if things start to get interesting with Shaun Crawford the Dowell brothers will likely get some more attention.

6. Anthony McKee, LB, Walnut Ridge H.S.

McKee is a slightly undersized but athletic outside linebacker. Ohio State is showing him a good bit of interest as he visited Ohio State three times this fall and Luke Fickell visited him a couple of weeks ago. As the Buckeyes continue to build linebacker depth, McKee could be a good local prospect to fill the voids.

McKee holds offers from Tennessee, Pitt, Arkansas and others. He is ranked as a 4-star and 14 best outside linebacker in the nation by the 247Composite. McKee is favoring Arkansas, Pitt and Tennessee right now but a Buckeye offer would likely change that.

Putting it together

Like 2014, the 2015 class probably won't feature too many prospects from Ohio but it will be crucial for Ohio State to lock up the top local kids. Winning battles to keep guys like Justin Hilliard and Shaun Crawford will be priorities for the staff who knows  that while out of state recruiting is incredibly important, building a fence around Ohio is critical as well.


Comments Show All Comments

Killer nuts's picture

Yeah, but who are we gonna get in 2016?

+6 HS
Jordan Wagner's picture

I am a big fan of Hubbard's George Hill. Already has an offer from West Virginia. Big time talent. Film. I know you were being sarcastic, but this kid is good. 

Killer nuts's picture

I'd ask you who we're gonna get in 2017 then but I'm sure you'd tell me Danny win this round my friend

+2 HS
Buckeye419er's picture

Kid does have vision.. 

There can be only one

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

Another player to keep an eye on - Cleveland St. Ignatius junior DE Dre'Mont Jones - added his first offer today (from Iowa.)

njclebuckeye5's picture

man, Hilliard can fly

Lobs it to the endzone... Touchdown Devin Smith!!

thePITman's picture

I heard Anthony McKee has a little brother (freshman, I think) who coaches are talking to when they contact Anthony. Can anyone else confirm? - Northeast Ohio Sports Opinions and Numbers

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

I'll look into that and get confirmation for you.

youngbuck32's picture

I just like the fact Coach Meyer doesn't throw scholarships to someone in the hopes that will help him land a younger brother.

Can't is the real "C" word!

+1 HS
JTACbuckeye's picture

I want UM and tOSU to crush it in Ohio for 2015... if only to keep Bert's grubby hands out of my home state!

The strong will stand, the weak will fall by the wayside.  100% and then some!

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

You meant Urban Meyer, right?

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

+7 HS
John Brandon's picture

It's really quite remarkable what Arkansas is doing in Ohio now. Bert had some connections from Wisky and he's using them to lure some of the Ohio kids south - probably doesn't bode well for mid-level B1G schools. 

HotSauceCommittee's picture

I am glad you mentioned the Ark thing. So surprised how many Ohio kids as well as other recruits we have been after have them in their top 3.

swainpm's picture

As much as it pains me to say it. I prefer the good OH kids tOSU doesn't recruit stay in the BIG-even if that means TTUN. For tOSU to stay at the top they need to play others at the top. And that means a good UM team is a big bonus. If OH kids don't sign with a BIG team then please not the SEC. And if you are going to sign with an SEC team ARK? Really? The state is basically fried M&Ms and XXX advertisements on billboards when you drive through it. What could possibly pull a kid from up north to that place?

+1 HS
cplunk's picture

Not gonna lie, fried M&Ms sound good

ITWASME's picture

It's gonna suck if Big Rob goes there cuz I always try to root for South kids

NEohioradioguy's picture

Hillard is must get recruit. Tressel let the top LB out of Ohio to many times. ie Jordan Hicks and Trey DePriest. The same goes for Jerome Baker he is a must get as well. Go get em URBAN



FitzBuck's picture

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

ToledoMan's picture

McKee needs an offer.  A 4 star, 14th rated position player nationally needs to be a Buckeye.

+3 HS
Jeremy Birmingham's picture

I think if McKee gets an offer it won't be until the summer or later. The need at LB isn't as great as before and he's not on the same level as Hilliard, Baker, Kilby-Lane, Holland, DeBerry who are all higher priorities for the Buckeyes right now.

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

Edited the story a bit to reflect that Jerome Baker has not in fact visited Michigan.  He's been scheduled to like 15 times but has not made it, so I understand John's confusion.

John Brandon's picture

yeah that's my bad, thanks Birm

allinosu's picture

Good job guys. Really cool to click on name and get more info. Do we have something on all OSU offers extended for 2015 and 2016.

+1 HS
allinosu's picture

Not liking Arkansas nose in there on some of the recruits. Bert has got it out for us for taking Ash I suppose.

+4 HS
buckeyeradar's picture

Great article again.  Got to keep your eyes open for all the talent in Ohio.  Any chance of getting an article about Mickey Marotti and how the early commitments for 2014 are doing?

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

+2 HS
John Brandon's picture

I think there might be some stuff from signing day's media event, check the "Football" tab

sbentz4's picture

Are there any specific positions of need for this class?

+1 HS
Jeremy Birmingham's picture

Quarterback, running back, offensive line and defensive line are all gonna be priorities.

Jordan Wagner's picture

Tight end will be a top priority, as well. 

allinosu's picture

I like the bothers. Is Andrews speed an issue?

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

Biggest issue for Andrew is that Ohio State is in on a lot of big national running backs and offering him this early almost guarantees he's "in." I think Ohio State would like to see one of their big national fish get caught first.

John Brandon's picture

Like Birm said, there are just so many running backs Ohio State is in on. Things become interesting if Shaun Crawford visits - I'm not sure what the relationship is like between Crawford and the Dowells but they are teammates which is something. I know the brothers definitely want to go to school together so I'm not sure Ohio State could get David but not Andrew if they wanted to do that

1967Buck's picture

  Hey ya Birm, How about tight ends to that group ?

+1 HS
Jeremy Birmingham's picture

Definitely, my bad. Buckeyes would like to take two TE in 2015

unholy bucknut's picture

2014 recruiting in the books. Can't wait to see what Urban and the gang got up there sleeves for 2015. It's a good feeling to be a Buckeye.

allinosu's picture

If Baugh doesn't stay out of trouble maybe 3 if opportunity knocked I'm guessing.

+1 HS
texbuck's picture

Seems bizarre that Froholdt committed to Arkansas of all places.  Is he really looking forward to playing for Bielema and getting his butt kicked by Alabama, A&M, and Auburn every year?

+1 HS
Goalscorer9's picture

Is there a reason we're not interested in Toledo Central Catholic linebacker Chris Green?  I've seen him rated pretty highly by some services

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

I talk to Chris pretty regularly (being from Toledo myself) and honestly I don't know what the issue is, I think he lacks the top end speed the Buckeyes would like to see out of a LB, in all honesty. Really good player though.

Ebvine96's picture

All I remember at Friday night lights camp is hearing about baker, must get

a Crawford flip would be great too

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

I wouldn't hold your breath about a Crawford flipperoo.

TheBadOwl's picture

Any Glenville names to keep an eye on in the next year or two?

When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

Youngbuck85's picture

No mention of Larry Scott from Hubbard? Looks like a stud running back to me

+1 HS
Jordan Wagner's picture

I'm a big fan of Larry Scott, but I'm not sure he would be able to qualify. Maybe a team like WVU takes a chance. 

John Brandon's picture

I like him a lot but Ohio State doesn't seem interested at all

osubuck57's picture

Other than Clark and Conrad, any other Tight Ends we might be looking at? I know Hentges has been mentioned.


Jordan Wagner's picture

Ohio State has had contact with some other tight ends, including Tyler Green of Dematha and Austin Dorris of Ohio. That talk isn't serious, at this point. The Buckeyes seem to have some serious interest in Jackson Harris of Tennessee, as well. 

m5987usus's picture

Any good quarterbacks from ohio this year???


Jeremy Birmingham's picture

Negative, no one that is going to be on Ohio State's radar at this point. Look for Messiah DeWeaver in 2016 to get some attention, but if the Buckeyes can get two in 2015 they'll probably pass in '16 with Clark already in the fold for 2017.

Jordan Wagner's picture

Not OSU caliber, but Joey Burrow will be a high level prospect. Has offers from Illinois, West Virginia, Fresno State, Cincinnati, Toledo, Western Michigan, Ohio and maybe a few others. More offers will be coming soon for the three-star QB. 

Ericgobucks's picture

John or Jeremey, what is the feeling regarding Hillard to Ohio State? I heard he wasn't that big of a fan of Ohio State and his crystal ball is favoring Iowa. I always hate to see the top player in the state head somewhere else. 

david43207's picture

just wanted to get thoughts on how big it is to get the extra scholarships back. now we can probably take that one like mckee who is a little undersize and give him a chance. what do  you think jeremy or john?

BeijingBucks's picture

I was just thinking about that yesterday... Urban getting top 5 (consensus? wutevs) classes while under scholly redux!??



None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

PittBuckeye's picture

Yeah that's always a good sign, but next years class still isn't supposed to be huge.

John Brandon's picture

They certainly have more flexibility, but Ohio State has a pretty small senior class this year so this won't be a huge class unless there's some attrition or guys leaving early.

15 spots open for 2015 right now by my count

Knarcisi's picture

There were 9 from OH in 2014. I see even less in 2015, maybe 6 or 7. It's OK as long as we keep getting the majority of the top OH kids. Our recruiting is going more to the east coast and into FL and TX. Our landscape has changed with Meyer, and it's a good thing. 

Knarcisi's picture

Sorry, double post. New site is going to take some getting used to. 

Casey_Stidham6's picture

A running back you should check out that is in the class of 2015 is JuNiel Liles from Lima Senior High School in Lima, Ohio. I think he is a very underrated RB, mostly because of his size. He works hard and has a great attitude. If you want to check out his highlight tape, find him on twitter and click the link in his Bio. 

Casey Stidham

John Brandon's picture

Thanks! I'll be sure to check him out

2014nationalchamps's picture

im surprised to not see any tarblooders on this list. There is normally at least one player worth taking from Glenville.

O-H-I-O  for life

John Brandon's picture

Yeah, we'll see if someone emerges this summer or fall but it's a bit surprising

Jordan Wagner's picture

Glenville has a few Big Ten caliber guys including Matthew Draper, Trevon Story and Milen Golden. I don't think any will draw OSU offers, simply because the Buckeyes are recruiting well right now. 

Buckman's picture

Any news on Elijah Taylor from Cincinnati Moeller? Or Luke Waddell, freshman running back, from Loveland?

I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault.


PittBuckeye's picture

Isn't St. Ed's where Kalis went?

sharks's picture

Its my alma mater too and I'd be absolutely beside myself if they starting sending kids up north on a regular basis

A man got to have a code...

+1 HS
JakeStevensIsSwag's picture

Does Ohio State have a junior day?

Buckeye fan from PA

Jordan Wagner's picture

While they will definitely be having prospects visit on and off, they plan to really try to get as many prospects as possible to come watch spring practice and the spring game. 

Daddypete's picture

Something else to keep in mind is that Coach Meyer's late father is also a graduate of St. Xavier (class of 1949). This could give him an edge in recruiting Hilliard. The Long Blue Line runs deep and it is a very special fraternity. Coach Meyer also coached there for 1 year while getting his graduate degree. For what it's worth....

"Stand and Deliver!"

+1 HS
John Brandon's picture

I wasn't aware of that, thanks for the info!