Lewis, Kirk Highlight Big Weekend in Columbus

By Jeremy Birmingham on March 1, 2014 at 12:00p
33 Comments

Don't look now Buckeye fans, but there's a new "recruiter du jour" on the trail in the Big Ten. James Franklin and Penn State are off to a blazing start for 2015 and the Buckeyes and the rest of the conference are no doubt feeling a bit "on notice." 

Full of bravado during his initial press conference, Franklin's results have backed up his braggadocio. Already with six commitments, including three of Pennsylvania's top ten prospects, Penn State is off and running. Harrisburg tailback Andre Robinson, their most recent commitment, chose Penn State over Ohio State. Robinson, from powerhouse Bishop Mcdevitt High School, is the 12th ranked running back in the country, chose Franklin over Meyer to further his career.

Long story short? Franklin is a good one, and Robinson's verbal commitment is a big win for Franklin and his plan of domination.

BUCKEYES LOOKING FOR LEADERS

Ohio State's 2015 class has gotten off to a quiet start, although it's still quite strong for this early in the process. What's the biggest difference between Ohio State's 2015 start compared to 2014? In-state and regional commitments.

In 2014, the Buckeyes had Damon Webb, Kyle Trout, Parris Campbell, Kyle Berger, Sam Hubbard, Marcelys Jones and Dylan Thompson locked up by the first week of April. Four players from that group went on to The Opening and helped set the tone as one of the top classes in the country. As talented as they are tight-knit, the 2014 class sharpened each other's skills on the field in various camp settings. Off the field, they became close friends through shared college visits and constant communication. That approach paid off in spades for the Buckeyes in 2014, so why is 2015 different?

The first commitment in the class, Eric Glover-Williams has yet to embrace the role of a "leader." That's not a knock on the talented athlete, he's just a lone wolf from Canton and the only Ohioan currently committed. The Buckeyes' two Florida commitments - Jamel Dean and Ben Edwards - aren't close friends, either. Dean has been recovering from a torn ACL, so he's been unable to compete in Florida events where he'd get to know Edwards better. End result? A lack of camaraderie.

Ohio's top player in 2015?
Can Ohio State land Justin Hilliard?

In Ohio, the Buckeyes have offered only four of the top-ten 2015 prospects.  Two of the state's top ten, Shaun Crawford (No. 4) and Tyree Kinnel (No. 10,) have already committed to their biggest rival, Michigan. I am taking a stand and not counting Arkansas commitment Hjalte Froholdt as an Ohio player, sue me.

The state's top two players, Justin Hilliard and Jerome Baker, aren't close to making their decisions; so Ohio State gets no relief there either.  Perhaps worse than decisions being far in the future, the Buckeyes are not "in front" for either player at this point. Last year, they "knew" they had Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith, just didn't know when they'd get them. That's not the case for 2015. 

The Buckeyes are in a better position with Baker than Hilliard but the Benedictine star continues to have real interest in his childhood favorite, Penn State. Michigan State is also lurking, hoping to catch his eye with another big year on the field. Baker says he won't decide until after his senior season, so there will be plenty of nervous nights for the Buckeyes. 

Hilliard, visiting his supposed favorite Notre Dame this weekend, has never had the Buckeyes in front. Besides Notre Dame, the Buckeyes will have to fight off a who's who of national powers for his signature. 

What about Nick Conner and C.J. Conrad? Many think those two are in line for a Buckeye offer, but how long can Ohio State wait? A Michigan State or Michigan offer could be too much for either to pass up, and each of them have seen interest from new schools recently. The Spartans are also in great shape to land one of Ohio's top tailbacks, Larry Scott or Darrin Hall.

Ohio State is never going to struggle to find talented players. There is, though, something altogether different about a player who grew up dreaming of Scarlet and Gray. He represents it different. He eats, sleeps and breathes Ohio State and it shows in everything he does, including how he recruits other top players.   Damon Webb and Mike Brewster were notable exceptions, but most of the time, true leaders of a class are players had dreamt of being a Buckeye their whole life.

There's no doubt that Ohio, which as a whole has less "talent" than in previous years, continues to be a priority for the Buckeyes. Do Urban Meyer and his staff might need to speed up their evaluations of in-state talents? Doing so could prevent the walls around the state, built by Jim Tressel, from decaying much further. 

Don't panic, and don't fret about the recruiting class (I feel like this is a necessary mantra to repeat at some point or points every single year.) Urban Meyer and his coaching staff will be fine. Just remember: these guys know what they're doing. They are the best in the country at their jobs.

BIG WEEKEND ON TAP

This weekend could help kickstart the 2015 class for the Buckeyes as two major targets, Arizona wide receiver Christian Kirk and Washington (D.C.) defensive back Marcus Lewis are both on campus checking out Ohio State. 

Kirk, the second-ranked wide receiver in the country, talked with 11W about the Buckeyes a few weeks back, and he and his mother arrived in Columbus Thursday evening. They'll check out Ohio State for two full days before departing Sunday morning to head back to Arizona. It's a business trip for Kirk, and he's high on Ohio State. Ohio State, equally high on him, has put Zach Smith alongside Urban Meyer as the coach involved in his recruitment. That's a good sign as Smith continues to build a reputation as an ace recruiter for the Buckeyes. There's a good chance that come Monday we could be talking about how Ohio State put themselves into a position to land the Scottsdale star. Kirk, George Campbell and Calvin Ridley would be the dream trio at wide receiver for 2015, and it never hurts to dream big.

Marcus Lewis from Washington, D.C.
Marcus Lewis makes his first visit to Ohio State

Marcus Lewis, offered by Ohio State last fall, committed to Virginia Tech in November, which appeared to end his recruitment.  His commitment lasted only two weeks, and since he re-opened Larry Johnson and Chris Ash have been on the case. Ash visited Lewis in late January and this weekend the 6-foot-1, 187-pound DB makes what could be a telling visit to Columbus. Commitment watch? Maybe.

QUICK-HITTERS

Christian Kirk and Marcus Lewis make their way to Columbus, but many Ohio State targets will make their way elsewhere this weekend. Kentucky running back Damien Harris and Tennessee tight end Jackson Harris each will head to Alabama. Nick Saban has a chance to impress two prospects that are high on Ohio State's wish list.

Drew Richmond will visit Memphis this weekend, and he insists it's not just a cursory visit and that he has legitimate interest in his hometown team. One of Ohio State's top offensive line targets for 2015, Richmond's recruitment has continued to get more and more frenetic. The Buckeyes are still in excellent shape, but expect this to come down to Ohio State vs. the SEC in some way, shape or form.

Jackson (Ohio) linebacker Reagan Williams picked up offers from Toledo and Purdue in the last week and is visiting Michigan this weekend. 

Lakewood St. Ed's wide receiver Alex Stump will visit Bowling Green on Sunday. He's a player that should see his stock begin to skyrocket as camp season rolls around.

Sterling Jenkins made his way to Penn State for their recent junior day and came away impressed. He has spring plans to visit Penn State (again) and Pittsburgh for spring practices. He also says he'd like to make return trips to Ohio State and Michigan if possible. The fight for the offensive lineman is a three-way battle between those three schools and I don't see it changing much.

Ohio State offered Lackawanna Junior College offensive tackle Paris Palmer on Thursday night. We talked to the 6-foot-9, 305 pounder, who is originally from North Carolina and he's an impressive young man. If Lackawanna rings a bell, it's because that's where Jermaine Eluemunor, he of four commitments for 2014, played his junior college ball.

Expect Cleveland Benedictine star Jerome Baker to make a visit to Ohio State sometime soon to check out a spring practice once the Buckeyes get underway. Nick Conner is planning on being on campus sometime next week for spring practice as well as the Buckeyes continue to recruit the Dublin product.

Ohio State offered 2015 H-Back/Quarterback/TE/FB/LB Chandler Cox from Apopka High School in Florida yesterday. Cox, a teammate of big-time offensive line prospect Martez Ivey, has offers from Florida, Alabama, Miami, Florida State and others. This isn't your typical "three-star" player. Apopka is familiar to Ohio State coaches who recruited Nebraska signee Zack Darlington a year ago.

Orlando Timber Creek running back Jacques Patrick will make another visit to Florida State this weekend. Despite his brother heading north, it's still very likely that Patrick stays in Florida and I think the Seminoles are the team to beat at this point. Urban Meyer continues to recruit Patrick hard, but getting him to Ohio State would be a major coup at this juncture. Patrick did tell me that he talked to Urban Meyer this week as usual, and that he plans on making a return to Columbus this summer.

Detroit Cass Tech running back Mike Weber is visiting Tennessee this weekend. Once thought to be a Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State battle, it appears that Michigan has vaulted back into the conversation after the decommitment of Damien Harris. If there's a team outside of the midwest that could swoop in and steal Weber, Tennessee would be it. They've made an excellent push on his teammate as well, 2015 defensive lineman Josh Alabi

I expect East St. Louis running back Nate Strong to commit to Missouri, and it could be sometime soon. I had a conversation with the 6-foot-2 running back earlier this week and he talked about wanting to stay closer to home. He wants to give his family a better chance to watch him play and Missouri offers that possibility along with SEC football.  He's recovering from a broken toe suffered towards the end of his junior season, but Strong says that he's healthy and looking forward to his senior season.

 

 

33 Comments

Comments

Chief B1G Dump's picture

Im all good with a slow start. The way Urban and staff have closed Every. Single. Year. The slow start is fine by me. Urban had proved it year after year. We go through watching TTUN claim the early recruiting championship (and now apparently PSU too) and then we systematically and methodically pasd them by and pull together a top 5 class annually.
I see Urban recruiting like a guy who was dealt pocket aces and got 2 more on the flop...slow play it. Then walk away with everybodys chips.

+6 HS
DenBuck's picture

It's hard not to fret at least a little...chasing the national 4-5 star guys is great but when you whiff on most of them, we lose the 3-4 star midwest kids as they've already committed or at minimum have established really solid relationships with other coaches. Scares me, give me indigestion but we always end up OK. James Franklin is a formidable force that may alter our approach?

Buckeye For Life

+4 HS
Killer nuts's picture

Birm, your work is ridiculous and greatly appreciated. It's amazing how you keep a finger on the pulse of so many recruits across the country 

+3 HS
Ahh Saturday's picture

Thanks as usual, Pusherman, for providing me with my Buckeye football fix.  It's a loooong off-season.  I guess the big question is who are the candidates to fill that leadership role for the '15 class, and how soon might one of them commit?

m5987usus's picture

Birm will Kirk commit any chance after the visit or will he take all of his visits?

O-H!

Killer nuts's picture

Follow up question: how epic will the gif party be if/when he does commit?

Woodshed's picture

IMO, OSU needs to stop holding off on future class commits like they have been known to do.

Yes, I know about Jones, EGW, Dean, and Clark but I have to think that there are others that may have wanted to commit but were told to hold off. At some level I think that delay allows other threats to legitimize themselves.

FitzBuck's picture

Hate the fact that kids can be born in Ohio and not want to play for OSU.  The only people who should be blamed are the parents for letting these things happen.  (Sarcasm)

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

+3 HS
sharks's picture

God screwed up.  When he dropped the Ohio River down from the heavens, it landed about 10 miles south of where he meant it to; and thus, Ohio gets N. Florence, aka Cincy.

The postgame show is brought to you by... Christ, I can't find it. The hell with it...

-1 HS
Gray Box's picture

Kirk seems to be enjoying his visit: 

+4 HS
tdible2132's picture

As stated in the article, the slow start can be largely attributed to the peculiar recruiting grounds in Ohio this year. Most of the top prospects in state seem wide open and it seems like they didn't grow up OSU fans (Baker, Hilliard, Crawford, Kinnel, etc.). I do find it surprising considering they grew up during a period of OSU dominance, but I'm still confident in this class. Missing on both Hilliard and Baker would really hurt though, and I must say I'm worried about Baker and PSU.

+2 HS
BiElEmAsDoUbLeChIn's picture

And I quote.."Ohio state will have a higher ranked recruiting class then penn state this year! Better yet it will be top 3 nationally!" End quote!

+2 HS
RBuck's picture

Don't forget the F initial for Urban's middle name stands for Flip.

"It's just another case of there you are". ~ Doc (1918-2012)

Youngbuck85's picture

Urban F Meyer and the f is for finisher 

+1 HS
DC-town's picture

Food for thought, we need PSU and gasp, um to get some decent talent...osu is always going to have talented guys, but it's easy to fret not getting a position grouping we want

'Piss excellence' -RB

Seattle Linga's picture

I trust in Urbs and his plan

sharks's picture

Only three 2015 recruits a few weeks after 2014 NSD?

 

The postgame show is brought to you by... Christ, I can't find it. The hell with it...

+5 HS
PittBuckeye's picture

I keep hearing negative news about a bunch of the top guys we're interested in, the news last year sounded a lot more like sunshine and rainbows. 

CaliforniaBuckeye's picture

Hopefully things start to pick up! 

"The only way we'd get beaten was if we got a little fat-headed, if we didn't train right, if we had dissension on the squad." - Woody Hayes

+3 HS
Ericgobucks's picture

Does anyone know what the red lockers are? I am nearly sure they are the players lockers, i've seen pics of those. 

ODEEZ330's picture

I like the start to this class especially if Edwards sticks (kid's a beast). They Got urbans main guy he wanted from ohio this yr (egw). Got me thinking wonder if Hilliard and baker were a bit turned off when news came out urban told egw he was their top guy in state and wanted him to be the 1st committ. Most likely looking way too far into it but aye. Recruiting gotta love it lol

O'Deez330
stark county football

bucknut94's picture

I belief it is way to early to form an opinion about the 2015 class. They haven't played one down as seniors. There may be some prospects out there waiting in the wings.

buckeyedude's picture

I hope Kirk likes snow.

 

 

Buckeye419er's picture

I'm about as worried as a breast feeding baby at Hooters. After we put a beat down on the competition yet again this season the worthy recruits will take notice. 

+2 HS
MN Buckeye's picture

ok, 419. Now that you threw out that metaphor, there is a mental picture that will be hard to erase.

+1 HS
jamesrbrown322's picture

I think Hilliard is ND all the way. I do not remember the last time OSU got a kid from St. X that ND wanted. So, losing him will not be a shock. It is not a great year in state, particularly in terms of the positions where OSU has true needs. I am thinking this class will look a lot more like, gasp, a John Cooper class, with most of the high profile talent coming from out of state. If OSU lands Gibson/Wimbush, they may be willing to pursue more elite talent. It is way too early to be stoked or disappointed. If OSU is similarly situated in 8-10 months, then there may be a problem. However, as of today, I am just looking forward to OSU taking part in the first ever College Football Playoff.

"I can accept failure, but I cannot accept not trying." - W.W. Hayes

ScarletNGrey01's picture

So Birm, how's the 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes shaping up?

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

Ericgobucks's picture

Jeremy, I know you just said that Ohio State doesn't even lead for Hilliard, but if you had to venture a guess right now what would it be? I know its only one kid, but I really hate seeing the #1 player in state leave. I'd really be pissed if he ends up in Michigan. It's funny you just wrote this article because I (as a amateur recruiting follower) was thinking the same thing. If it weren't for the schadenfruede of Michigan losing 2 5* commits already this year, we'd all probably be a lot more focused on our slow start. I do need to repeat to myself...Urban always works it out in the end. 

Hoosierbuck7's picture

What Penn State and Franklin are doing is impressive, but isn't anything new. When a new coach arrives to a decent program, recruits jump at the thought of being able play early and be the ones to bring about change. Recruiting will never be easier than it is right now for Franklin and his staff. After the honeymoon is over, things will start to even back out. I'm not saying that he won't continue to have success, because a coach should at a school like PSU, but let's keep some perspective on the hot start.

As for what Ohio State - no need to worry. April will be a big month, as it always is for Urban, and will lay the ground work for this class.

“I have yet to be in a game where luck was involved. Well-prepared players make plays. I have yet to be in a game where the most prepared team didn't win.” - Urban Meyer

+1 HS
Vach7's picture

Not the light reading I was hoping for on a Sunday morning.  I need me a Gray Box to lift my spirits!

AlwayzABuckeye614's picture

I can not stand the fact that we may not get the TOP players here in Ohio, especially if we lose them to TSUN.. 

Buckeye Chuck's picture

The thing that concerns me, as DenBuck said above, is that unless you're Bama or the Carroll-era USC, national recruiting is always going to be a little more unreliable than in-state. If we end up getting the usual number of 4 and 5 stars from around the country, then no worries; but it's beginning to look like we're going to need more than our share this time around, because we're either slow-walking or downright not interested in so many of the Ohio prospects (or they may not be interested in us, in the case of Hilliard).

I think there's an advantage to making early offers to a couple of guys who might not be sure things, but will "eat, sleep, and breathe Ohio State," as Jeremy says. Reading between the lines, I'm getting the sense that maybe some of the state's high school coaches are beginning to feel a little neglected compared with how things were in the Tressel years.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

MN Buckeye's picture

I would rather have the top players commit when they are certain rather than have them commit early only to flip elsewhere because they made an emotional decision. (See MI for reference.)

Also, it is interesting that more top players are looking at MSU this year. They have made strides to improve things (facilities, stadium), but I think they are still far behind the top two of the B1G.