Spring break is over and the Buckeyes are set to return to the practice field. A warm front is moving in as Ohio State plans to host some of the nation's top junior prospects, and each would be welcome. Let's take a look at some news and notes from the past week, while we continue to preview the upcoming visits.
Chris Clark Commits to North Carolina
Yesterday, news of four-star tight end Chris Clark committing to the North Carolina Tar Heels surprised many. Many insiders thought Ohio State had a good chance at landing the ultra-athletic prospect from Connecticut. He was set to travel to Columbus for a visit, but that visit will not happen now that Clark has pledged to UNC.
In spite of the commitment, there has been questions about whether or not Clark's recruitment is over. The six-foot-six tight end held offers from pretty much every school you could think of and he had always planned to make a commitment early. Based on past conversations with him, I would expect Clark to be finished with the recruiting process and stick with his pledge to the Tar Heels.
Missing out on Clark is undoubtedly a blow, especially since the Buckeyes want to bring in two tight ends for the 2015 class. Fortunately, it is still early and plenty of worthy tight ends are still out there. Hale Hentges of Missouri was offered while on a visit to Columbus for the Penn State game, and he plans to make a return visit to Columbus in early April. Jackson Harris is another four-star tight end with offers from Ohio State and pretty much every other top school in the country. Urban Meyer will find it difficult to pull him out of Tennessee, though.
Another name to watch is Ohio's own C.J. Conrad. The Kentucky Wildcats could continue their assault on Ohio by landing the four-star tight end from Keystone High School. If Ohio State offers Conrad, expect for him to be a Buckeye. Jake Pickard could be another tight end prospect to keep an eye on.
Penn State Hot On The Trail
Since James Franklin took over at Penn State, recruiting has picked up for the Nittany Lions. Just a few years ago, some writers fretted about PSU turning into a MAC-caliber program because of the "death penalty" they received. Fast forward to today, and Penn State holds the nation's fifth-ranked recruiting class, although it's too early for that to mean much.
Four-star All-American Juwan Johnson recently pledged to Penn State over several other schools, including Ohio State. Unlike the Chris Clark news, this was expected. Johnson is the eighth commitment in Penn State's recruiting class.
It's still early in the recruiting process, but Franklin is doing good things in Happy Valley. Penn State ought to have have one of the Big Ten's top recruiting classes when National Signing Day rolls around in 11 months.
As for the Big Ten's other top recruiting classes, Nebraska and Iowa are also surprisingly hot on the recruiting scene. Both holding national top 20 recruiting classes at the moment, but it's unlikely they can sustain their success. Michigan and Ohio State currently check in at fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Big Ten.
Big Weekend Coming for Buckeyes
Unlike many schools that host dozens of prospects at a time, Ohio State prefers to host a smaller amount of prospects at one time for a junior day. This strategy allows the staff to focus on a smaller number of visitors while spreading visits out over their spring practices. This weekend is expected to be one of the bigger weekends for recruiting, as Birm discussed a little bit already.
Van Jefferson recently scheduled his visit and will attend this weekend. The four-star receiver is one of the top guys on the Buckeyes' board and the interest is definitely mutual. I wouldn't expect a commitment this weekend, but he is a prospect that I have pegged in my early class predictions.
The visit will be big for four-star athlete Jordan Whitehead of Pennsylvania. A standout at the Friday Night Lights Camp, Whitehead is one of the top corners Ohio State is recruiting. The Nittany Lions have made a move for him late, but this weekend could be an opportunity for the Buckeyes to make the move back to the top of his list.
Larry Johnson Sr. will be asked to work his magic on high three-star defensive end Darius Fullwood. After OSU hired LJ Sr., Fullwood quickly picked up an offer from the Buckeyes. He will be visiting Columbus this weekend and is shaping up to be another Penn State-Ohio State battle for his services.
As for non-attendees, you can cross Chris Clark off the list after his verbal commitment to North Carolina.
Future Buckeyes at NFTC Miami?
Five-star quarterback Torrance Gibson and four-star linebacker Sh'mar Kilby-Lane are two Florida prospects that Ohio State is in good shape to land. Both prospects continued to impress at the Nike Football Training Combine in Miami.
Gibson, a dual-threat quarterback, listed Ohio State as one of the schools standing out, along with Tennessee and Miami. He spoke with 247Sports in a free video interview where he discussed his recruitment and mentioned that he hopes to visit Columbus during his spring break.
Kilby-Lane is a prospect that many thought could commit when he visits Columbus for the Spring Game. However, Kilby-Lane said he plans to wait until Signing Day. In a short video interview, he named the Buckeyes as his favorite with Florida State and Alabama in the mix.