We're continuing with our series of checking out Ohio State's top targets in some of the key states for 2015 recruiting. We've already looked at Ohio, Florida, Maryland/DC, and Virginia. Today, we'll take a look at the talent-rich state of New Jersey.
Since Urban Meyer took over at Ohio State, New Jersey has become a priority on the recruiting trail. The Buckeyes' coaching staff has racked up frequent flyer miles from their many trips to the Garden State. Ed Warinner is assigned to the NJ region, however, Tom Herman and Urban Meyer have also spent plenty of time in the area. With plenty of talent hailing from New Jersey in 2015, expect the staff to continue this trend.
In 2014, Darius Slade and Noah Brown were top prospects from the state to sign with the Buckeyes. Five-star corner Eli Apple started the pipeline when he signed as a member of the 2013 class. With many offers already out in this area, Ohio State hopes to continue the pipeline for another recruiting year. Let's get to it and take a look at the Buckeyes' top recruiting targets in New Jersey for 2015.
Steven Gonzalez / Union City / OL
Four-star offensive guard Steven Gonzalez has not downplayed his interest in Ohio State at all. When he picked up an offer from the Buckeyes, he almost immediately named them his favorite. The six-foot-four, 300 pound bulldozing lineman is not only one of New Jersey's top prospects, but one of the top offensive lineman in the nation.
Gonzalez has repeatedly taken to social media to declare Ohio State as his overwhelming favorite, but he continues to tell Eleven Warriors he plans to wait until closer to National Signing Day to make his decision. A recent visit to Penn State went well, but they have not done enough to unseat the Buckeyes as his leader. In-state Rutgers is the other school to watch.
It's early and things could quickly change, but there is definitely reasons to be confident that he will ultimately select the Buckeyes. The coaching staff, specifically Ed Warinner and Urban Meyer, have stopped at his school on multiple occasions. The 67th overall prospect (according to 247Sports) could make an immediately impact in Columbus. Gonzalez is one of the top targets on Ohio State's board for 2015 and they are in good shape to eventually land him.
Minkah Fitzpatrick / Jersey City / CB
Minkah Fitzpatrick is one of the nation's best prospects and Ohio State will have plenty of competition for his commitment. Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State are the top schools vying for his pledge, which he hopes to announce during the summer.
His crystal ball doesn't shed too much light on which way he might be leaning. Alabama takes up 44% of the predictions, while Ohio State is right behind with 38%. South Carolina and Florida State have 12% and 6%, respectively.
Minkah and teammate Brandon Wimbush aren't a package deal, but it could always play a role. Wimbush appears to be favoring Penn State, while Fitzpatrick seems to be focusing on other options. The St. Peter's Prep duo visited Columbus for the Penn State game. Urban Meyer and the rest of the staff have been frequent visitors, as well.
Right now, I see Fitzpatrick heading elsewhere, but the Buckeyes do have some time to make up ground.
Brandon Wimbush / Jersey City / QB
Just a couple of months ago, many had pencilled Brandon Wimbush into Ohio State's 2015 recruiting class. Five-star quarterback Torrance Gibson favoring OSU could have impacted Wimbush's decision. While Wimbush once favored the Buckeyes, Penn State has emerged as the favorite to land the dual-threat quarterback from New Jersey. He has been intrigued by attending his mother's alma mater while playing for James Franklin.
The four-star signal caller was impressive at Friday Night Lights last summer, which helped him earn an offer. He had no varsity experience at the time, but proved to be one of the nation's best. Unless something changes, I think Wimbush will head to Happy Valley. The Buckeyes would like to take two quarterbacks, however, it is difficult to land two blue chippers in one recruiting class.
Sam Madden / Barnegat / OL
Sam Madden has three crystal ball selections to Ohio State, despite not holding an offer. The four-star lineman visited Columbus last fall for a football game, which led him to naming the Buckeyes in his top three. At six-foot-seven and 345 pounds, Madden would give Ohio State a prospect that could develop into an elite tackle.
Iowa, Nebraska, Miami, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Carolina and Wisconsin are just a few of his early offers. Alabama and Florida State, along with the Buckeyes have shown interest.
He is a name to keep a close eye on. He has family ties back to Ohio and has serious interest. If he gets an offer, the Buckeyes will surely be one of the teams to beat. Right now, Ohio State has a few other prospects, including Steven Gonzalez, higher on their board.
Juwan Johnson / Glassboro / WR
After receiving an offer from the Buckeyes in February, four-star receiver Juwan Johnson put them in his top five. Boston College, Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State are the schools that round out his list. The Army All-American will soon visit Penn State and they appear to be the favorite to land his eventual commitment.
His crystal ball has been trending toward the Nittany Lions. James Franklin has been focusing on the New Jersey area and he has had early success in the region. Johnson and Wimbush could give him two highly rated prospects from the Garden State. Decisions from both could come sooner rather than later.
Grant Newsome / Lawrenceville / OL
Six-foot-seven, 280 pound Grant Newsome could be a prospect to keep an eye on as we move forward. His recruitment is just blowing up, so he doesn't have any top lists or favorites. Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio State, and Penn State are just a few of his many offers. Newsome has quickly rose up the boards to four-star status.
It's still too early to predict where he might end up, although he does have two crystal ball selections to Michigan. He made visits to Duke and Maryland and has a visit to Northwestern scheduled. Ohio State should be one of his top schools.