In the 2014 class the needs were obvious – offensive line and linebacker. This year, after three straight top-five recruiting classes, the needs may be less glaring but they are still there.
After focusing on receivers, athletes and defensive backs for the past few seasons, don't expect these positions to be as much of a focal point in this class moving forward - especially when the first three commits in the 2015 class come from these positions. However, it will be important for Ohio State to land their targets at a few other key positions - primarily quarterback, running back, tight end, offensive line and defensive line.
Let's take a closer look at these positions - who the Buckeyes are targeting and who could end up being in "The Filthy '15" (yes? no?)
Despite landing Elite 11 dual-threat quarterbacks in the past two recruiting classes, quarterback remains an important need for the Buckeyes, who lose Braxton Miller after this year. Why? Because Braxton Miller is the only quarterback on the team that has attempted more than a couple of passes. Yes Barrett, Jones and Collier all appear to be good candidates but at this point we really don't know how any of them will pan out.
As for targets, Ohio State has a few really elite guys they are in on early. Torrance Gibson is a highlight reel waiting to happen - at 6-foot, 4-inches tall and 200 pounds, he is a unique combination of size, speed (reportedly ran a 4.37 40-yard dash) and passing ability. He has tremendous upside and is more developed in the passing game than most dual-threat guys at this stage. Many believe he could be an elite receiver as well if things didn't work out at quarterback. FILM
Brandon Wimbush is not nearly as big (6-foot-2) or fast (4.65) as Gibson, but he is elite in his own right. He does a really nice job of standing in the pocket and throwing strikes, and he is like a running back in the open field. He also does a really nice job of keeping his eyes downfield while scrambling in the pocket, a very rare ability for a high school junior. FILM
The other top target is Jarrett Stidham. Like the other two, Stidham is another big (6-foot, 3-inches tall), fast (4.57) quarterback. He does a great job throwing in the pocket and on the run, and runs the ball well too. He definitely looks to pass first but is a good open-field runner - primarily running the ball on designed runs as opposed to scrambles. He's really an ideal fit for a short, quick-pass offense with a read-option mixed in as well. FILM
Too Early Prediction: Torrance Gibson - Ohio State has made him their top priority and are recruiting him as a quarterback. If they don't get Gibson I think they will get Wimbush, but I don't think they will get both. Stidham seems like more of a longshot at this point but Tom Herman has pulled a top quarterback out of Texas before.
The way the staff is offering quarterbacks continues to indicate that they would like to take two in this class, but at this point it's really hard to say who would be willing to be the second quarterback. Dwayne Lawson, who we caught up with this week, could be an option for the second quarterback spot.
After not taking a "true tailback" in the 2014 class, the Buckeyes would probably like to add at least one (and probably two) for the 2015 class. Ohio State only has one senior (Rod Smith) and no juniors on the roster, meaning that the position is young and still pretty deep. Still, you can never have enough running backs and they didn't really target the position in 2014. I say this because while Parris Campbell and Curtis Samuel played running back in high school, it's not clear exactly how the staff plans to use them. At 184 lbs. and 185 lbs. respectively, Campbell and Samuel probably won't be between-the-tackles runners unless they bulk up. The same can be said for Dontre Wilson, so while there are plenty of young backs on the roster, only Zeke Elliott, Warren Ball, Bri'onte Dunn and Rod Smith are likely going to be playing the tailback position.
Carlos Hyde brought an entire new dimension to Urban Meyer's offense, one that hadn't been seen from the running back position on the majority of his teams. Meyer and Co. have made it clear that they would like to keep the "power-spread" a focus of the offense, which means they'll need to add depth at tailback.
The top running back targets for Ohio State right now are Damien Harris, Jerome Baker, Jacques Patrick, Michael Weber and Soso Jamabo. Mike Mitchell transferring really hurt the Buckeyes with Jamabo and at this point Weber seems to heavily favor Michigan State despite Ohio State recruiting him hard.
Ohio State is feeling really good about Jerome Baker, and they got Harris to visit a few days ago. Those two are the primary targets right now and the Buckeyes would love to get both. Jacques Patrick is another guy they are chasing really hard. He will be tough to pull out of Florida but he really fits what Ohio State is looking for (6-foot-2, 220 lbs, 4.5 forty). The Buckeyes are also targeting Bryce Love, Taj Griffin, Chris Warren, Andre Robinson, T.J. Simmons and others.
Too Early Prediction: Jerome Baker (+1) - he loves Ohio State and he is one of their biggest targets. Baker can play either running back or linebacker at the next level but right now the Buckeyes are recruiting him as a running back. This is likely due to the need at the position and the huge haul at linebacker they brought in last year.
Regardless, I think the Buckeyes will land another running back in addition to Baker, I'm just not sure who it will be at this point. They would really like to get Damien Harris or Jacques Patrick, but Chris Warren, Andre Robinson, Andrew Dowell (not offered yet) and T.J. Simmons could all be strong options at tailback. I'm optimistic about Harris but he'll be tough to land.
If they choose to go after another hybrid/slot back, Taj Griffin or Bryce Love would be top choices. Nate Strong could also be a good candidate if/when things heat up between Ohio State and Terry Beckner (high school teammates). Either way, the Buckeyes have plenty of great options to choose from at running back this year.
After landing a big time tight end target in 2013, Ohio State didn't take any in the 2014 class. Now, with three tight ends on scholarship - one senior and one dealing with legal issues - it will be necessary for the Buckeyes to grab at least one but probably two tight ends in the 2015 class.
Chris "Another Day, Another Offer" Clark is the primary target at tight end for the Buckeyes, but his recruitment is going to be a "dawg-fight" with Georgia and others. Clark is visiting Ohio State in late March, so we'll have a better idea of where the Buckeyes stand after that, but for now Clark says things are even at the top.
Hale Hentges is another guy that Ohio State likes a lot. He has an offer, he visited Ohio State in October and the Buckeyes have continued to stay in contact with him, coach Hinton visited him a few weeks ago too. Garrett Williams is strong target too, but he will be hard to lure out of the south.
One guy to really keep an eye on is Jackson Harris. Harris just picked up an Ohio State offer yesterday and has been high on the Buckeyes for a while. He has been on the Ohio State radar for quite some time and there is a lot of mutual interest.
Locally, C.J. Conrad (Lagrange, Ohio) is a name to watch. Conrad holds offers from Illinois, Pitt, Indiana, Kentucky, Syracuse, Duke and a handful of MAC schools. If Conrad gets a Buckeye offer, I imagine he will have a tough time turning it down.
Too Early Prediction: Chris Clark and C.J. Conrad - Clark is the Buckeyes top priority at tight end and he is really high on Ohio State without even visiting yet. The fact that Ohio State remains "even" with Georgia (and others) after he visited Georgia a couple of weeks ago says a lot. I think the Buckeyes will land their top target Clark, and I think C.J. Conrad will eventually get offered and become a Buckeye.
Even after reeling in a stellar offensive line class in 2014, it remains a priority for 2015. There are only two senior offensive linemen but five juniors and they are still in the process of adjusting to losing four starters from this past season.
James Daniels and Steven Gonzalez are more obvious candidates, as both appear likely to be Buckeyes in the end. After that it's a bit less obvious. There is a lot of mutual interest between Ohio State and Drew Richmond, one of the top tackles nationally. Sterling Jenkins, Matthew Burrell and Chuma Edoga are other top players that are interested in Ohio State (although Edoga just named Tennessee his favorite) along with several others. Of guys that have yet to be offered: Sam Madden is highly touted and has the Buckeyes in his top 3 and several local products (Rob Dowdy, George Brown Jr., Noah Listermann, Larry Wells) would be interested if offered.
It's a little murky at this point but the Buckeyes have cast a wide net as offensive line is once again a priority.
Too Early Prediction: James Daniels, Steven Gonzalez, Drew Richmond, Rob Dowdy and Sam Madden - I think more early commitments are made, the Buckeyes will make some more offensive line offers and Dowdy and Madden will eventually get offered and commit.
A small offensive line class in 2014 combined with the new hire of Larry Johnson means I expect Ohio State to have a huge defensive line class this year. Additionally, there are a bunch of elite defensive linemen the Buckeyes are in on early.
Losing Vrabel hurt d-line recruiting for a while, but Johnson has already shown what he can do on the trail.
Top targets include Tim Settle and Christian Wilkins on the interior, Terry Beckner, Jashon Cornell, Darius Fullwood, Kyle Phillips and James Lockhart on the ends. Lockhart has named Baylor his leader, Cornell is likely bound for Notre Dame and Phillips favors Tennessee, but the Buckeyes are in good shape with all of the other targets listed.
Too Early Prediction: Tim Settle, Terry Beckner, Christian Wilkins, Darius Fullwood, Rashod Berry - I really think Larry Johnson and co. are going to hit a home run on the defensive line recruiting this year and bring in a truly elite class. Rashod Berry is the only one without an offer, but he has a high ceiling and loves the Buckeyes and I see him as a part of this class.
Well, the Buckeyes appear poised for another great recruiting class and these positions are going to be pivotal. Who would you like the Buckeyes to land? Who do you think they will land?
Everything is fluid and these "Too Early Predictions" will probably change many times, but the crucial positions will stay the same. We saw Ohio State fill their main needs in 2014, let's see if they can do it again.