Football Recruiting: Pieces Coming Together For Truly Elite '15?

By Jeremy Birmingham on June 8, 2014 at 12:00p
40 Comments

With the commitment of The Plains, Ohio quarterback Joe Burrow two weeks ago, Ohio State ended a near three-and-a-half month commitment drought. To make things worse, the player who did commit to Ohio State three-and-a-half months ago, Ben Edwards, is now committed to Auburn, but it does feel that things are turning in a very positive direction for Ohio State as summer approaches.

Has Urban Meyer's staff suddenly remembered how to recruit after months of just tripping over themselves? Of course not. They've been playing the long game for a while and it appears that a number of key dominos are getting closer to falling into place. Yes, Burrow's commitment was a integral part of what's to come, but the biggest in-state piece, Justin Hilliard, is suddenly becoming more and more realistic after months of playing catch up. Suddenly, the 2015 class is poised to take off, and it could be led by a number of key Ohioans.

THE HEART OF IT ALL 

Much has been made regarding the lack of Ohio "flavor" in this year's recruiting class up to this point. Yes, the Buckeyes have two commitments from the Great State of Ohio (Eric Glover-Williams and Burrow), but a few players inside of the state without offers (TE C.J. Conrad and LB Nick Conner) seem to be talked about more than those with offers. 

When it's all said and done, Ohio State could still end up a class comprised of at least 40-percent Ohioans, and that's a fairly good number considering it's widely-considered a "down year" for talent in Ohio. 

EGW and Burrow could realistically be joined by linebackers Jerome Baker and Justin Hilliard, defensive lineman Elijah Taylor and Dre'Mont Jones, running back L.J. Scott and offensive lineman James Daniels. Consider that other players like Westerville South star Rob Dowdy and Nordonia's Denzel Ward are still possibilities as well, and suddenly a depleted 2015 class could end up in double-digits in Ohio. 

Of the group with offers, right now the biggest question mark is Cincinnati Moeller's Elijah Taylor. In fact, there's a good chance he could be off the board for Ohio State within days. The longer he waits the better, but it appears that wait won't be much longer.

Of course, Notre Dame is also a threat for Justin Hilliard. The Fighting Irish had what could have been their last shot at Hilliard this weekend. There's more and more scuttlebutt indicating he's close to making a decision that will make 11W readers very happy.

If one of these major Ohio pieces go the Scarlet and Gray way soon, the others will find it much easier to get on the train. 

SCOTT IMPACT ON HARRIS, WEBER

As a few of you may have noticed, there's been a slight change in my prediction for Hubbard running back L.J. Scott. While Michigan State has long been the favorite to land Scott, a visit last weekend to Ohio State seems to have shifted momentum back towards the Buckeyes, according to sources close to Scott and sources at Ohio State. However, unlike when this (Scott moving back towards OSU) happened before, the Buckeyes have seemed to continue to press the issue with L.J. and his family this week and it's made a big impact. If a commitment comes soon for Scott, it's almost certainly going to be Ohio State, and that's what I believe happens.

Last week at the Nike Football Training Camp in Columbus, Damien Harris was asked specifically if he'd be "bothered" by one of his suitors having a commitment from another running back and he said it'd not be an issue. On Friday, he released his top eight schools, and as expected the Buckeyes made the list.

According to Harris his list is in no specific order, but if you've paid any attention to his recruitment, if there was an order, that list may very well be it. 

As the nation's premiere running back, he's not going to be swayed or scared off by anyone committed before him. He's confident and self-assured and realizes he'll have to compete anywhere he goes. Second, Damien also acknowledged that as he's waiting until later in the process, schools are going to be almost forced to have another option in the event that he doesn't choose them. The Buckeyes, who didn't take a running back in 2014, would not be wise to wait until signing day for Harris only, knowing they'd risk losing Scott and Mike Weber.

What does all this mean for Weber? That's going to be almost entirely up to him. He stated last week that his top three schools are Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State, but a very reliable source indicated to me that the Buckeyes were the team he favored the most.

However, a commitment from Scott could put his spot at Ohio State in jeopardy, so might he be forced to try and make a move first? I'm not sure he's even remotely close to making that decision, but there's a chance it could be made for him soon. Ohio State is in a dubious position here for sure because telling Weber "no thanks" if Scott were to commit while they waited for Harris could compromise a ton of goodwill they've built up at Cass Tech this year and in the future. 

It'll be interesting to see where they go from there. For my money, Harris is the clear-cut best running back of three simply because he possesses something Scott and Weber do not — gamebreaking speed — but beyond that any pair of these three running backs would be an absolute homerun for Meyer and his staff.

ARE YOU SERIOUS, CLARK?

Two important Clarks — Austin and Chris — both announced their top four schools on Friday at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge and the Buckeyes are still in the mix for the offensive lineman from Virginia and the tight end from Connecticut.

Austin Clark, a 6-foot-6, 297-pound lineman from Lexington, Virginia will make his decision next weekend, and the Buckeyes are in his final group alongside South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. His "crystal ball" is slanted heavily towards Tennessee and the Vols do appear to be the team to beat. Ohio State had hoped to get him back on campus once more before his decision is made, but that will not happen. 

As for Chris, the nation's most-offered tight end, the Wolverines of Michigan continue to be the team to beat, but Clark's final four has a very Big Ten feel to it, with 75-percent of his final choices from Delaney-ville. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and North Carolina, where Clark originally committed, are his final group and he'll make visits to each Big Ten school within the next two weeks.

I still believe Michigan has the edge for Clark, but there are reasons to feel more optimistic about him and Ohio State, and if things continue moving in that direction up to his visit, Urban Meyer could very well swing this one back towards Ohio State.

RANDOMNESS

Jashon Cornell showed up to the Rivals Five-Star Challenge donning Scarlet and Gray, but as we know, shirts aren't necessarily a great tell-all. With a number of big visits coming up (Stanford, Michigan, Michigan State, Oregon, UCLA, USC and more) you shouldn't expect the drama to end anytime soon. The good news for Ohio State is that after last weekend's visit, the Buckeyes are squarely in the thick of things for the first time in a while.

One player to watch at this weekend's camp? South Dakota's Grant Schmidt. He's the type of player Ohio State has had great success with along the offensive line in the last few years and he says he's in almost daily contact with Ed Warinner. I imagine Schmidt shows up on Sunday and dominates. He'll tour Ohio State with his family on Monday and it wouldn't be too shocking if he committed on this visit.

Ohio State and Texas A&M continue to be the teams to beat for Scottsdale, Arizona wide receiver Christian Kirk, despite excellent visits to Tennessee and Auburn last week. I'd give the Aggies a slight edge right now, but if Kirk can get back to Columbus this summer — and I've heard a few positive things that would indicate it could happen sooner rather than later — that would be huge for Ohio State.

One player that is making a return to Ohio State this month is Orlando, Florida (Timber Creek) five-star running back Jacques Patrick, who will make a stop in Columbus within the next two weeks. Patrick has sort of fallen off the Buckeye big board in recent months as the drumbeats became louder and louder that he's unlikely to leave Florida for college. Still, he'll be checking out the midwest power programs over the next few weeks as he visits some family in the Detroit area and he's never stopped being in regular contact with the Buckeyes.

Oscar Smith (Chesapeake, Virginia) defensive end Josh Sweat will visit Ohio State on Friday, July 25th and make an appearance at Friday Night Lights. While he's unlikely to camp, it will be a huge opportunity for the Buckeyes to make their pitch to the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Sweat, who is without question one of the nation's premiere athletes.

Anaheim, California 2015 quarterback Travis Waller picked up a big offer on Friday as Notre Dame made their interest in him known. The Irish, reeling from the decommitment of Blake Barnett, become a major player in Waller's recruitment moving forward. Barnett is likely to end up at Oregon and that would effectively end Waller's interest in the Ducks and it's less and less likely the Buckeyes extend an offer in his direction as well.

40 Comments

Comments

Knarcisi's picture

It's a 4 quarter game, boys. 

+2 HS
Buckeye4life23's picture

Hilliard is the piece we need to get this class moving in my opinion.  Hopefully good news at the end of the month!

Muck Fichigan that is all.

+11 HS
PoKeY21's picture

Agree completely. I think Hillard would seriously get the ball rolling if he commits. I think Baker would be a lock soon after and hopefully that would push Harris's hand and make Gibson take a bigger interest. I think Kirk is a stretch for us but if he sees all this talent im sure it would increase our odds dramatically. The 5 mentioned will be what makes or breaks this class. If we could hit 80% it would be another top 3 class for Meyer and Co.

When my time on earth is gone, and my activities here are passed, I want they bury me upside down, and my critics can kiss my ass - Robert Knight

+1 HS
Buckeye4life23's picture

I agree and I also think Cornell could commit to us soon after. I think he has a decision in early July, I maybe wrong though.

Muck Fichigan that is all.

The Clean North's picture

I really think one of the most important guys in terms of playing time possibly next year is Chris Clark. We haven't signed a TE since Baugh ( who I have heard only good things from but is on very thin ice still). Harris, Hilliard, Cornell, and Sweat we definitely need but more for a season or two down the road as those positions are pretty young and deep. We have to get this guy. 

+3 HS
Mortc15's picture

So Scott is likely to commit soon, Weber has major interest, as well as Harris, and now Patrick is visiting. Although, JP is a long shot, what if he became extremely interested in osu. Is there any way osu would take more than 2 Rb and if they had their choice who would the 2nd be after Harris? 

Buck-I4Life

theopulas's picture

have to be JP....

Theopulas

Ahh Saturday's picture

So Birm, what's the deal with Elija Taylor?  I noticed you've put in your CB pick and it isn't for the Buckeyes, yet above you say, or imply, that the Buckeyes have a realistic chance with him.  How realistic, and if not Taylor, are things moving forward again with Settle at the DT position?  I have to say that DT is a need in this class, and I'm getting nervous about the situation.

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

If Elijah holds off from committing - because there's speculation it's coming SOON - then chances go back up for OSU. Gotta keep the Ohio boys home and Hilliard, if he were to commit soon, would be a major first piece.

weimerad's picture

Birm, 2 things:

1) there's no way they take a commitment from both Scott and Weber, esp with Harris being the top RB target. It's simply first come first serve for Scott and Weber

2) is the offer to Schmidt commitable? I'm surprised they would accept a commitment from him given the fact there are several other OL being targeted. My opinion is that the top OL guys on their board are Richmond, Burrell, Patrick Allen and James Daniels

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

Schmidt is GOOD. Camping today and I think he will make an impression. He's very reminiscent of Jack Mewhort to me - I'd take that all day every day and twice on Sunday.

Jeremy Birmingham's picture

Until he gets to campus it's basically off the table.

Gametime's picture

Birm, given that's the case with Gibson, and Waller's regular contact with Tom Herman, WHY is it less likely that Waller gets an offer from OSU? That doesn't seem to make any sense.

...I too dream in color and in rhyme
So I guess I'm one of a kind in a full house
Cause whenever I open my heart, my soul or my mouth
A touch of God rains out...

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

Pretty sure Birm is on record in one of the million QB threads saying that there was a decision was between Burrow and Waller. OSU chose Burrow. (Edit: Waller to OSU??? Thread)

I think we're now all in on TG or no one, but I may have just made that up. 

Read my entire screen name....

+1 HS
bleedscarlet's picture

Do you feel like if they don't get TG up for a visit that Burrow would be the only QB in the class?

I'm too drunk to taste this chicken

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

We need to let the Gibson talk go. We have Burrows for 2015, hopefully Haskins for 2016, and then Clark in 2017. We will be fine. TG needs to go to Auburn. He can't throw the ball so he'd be a perfect fit for their offense. 90% run, 10% pass. 

-3 HS
305Buck's picture

There's 3 Football University camps in Dublin, Ohio next month, Torrance Gibson's 7 on 7 team is expected to be there so hopefully he and Tavaras McFadden makes it to Ohio State.

These 7 on 7 trips are very important. It gives southern kids who don't have the financial flexibility a way to see Ohio State.

JDunc686's picture

Birm, does the way things are panning out with Nick Conner remind you of how things played out with AJ Hawk?  That said, what are the chances we see a similar result with Conner showing out at a camp and getting that offer, then committing?

-1 HS
Condor's picture

Great update Birm. thanks.

I haven't heard anything about Van Jefferson in a while. Have I missed something?

"Do not fear me gypsy, all I want is your tears."

 -- Borat Sagdiyev

 

weimerad's picture

So Birm how to you see the RB situation playing out and ending up? 

And if they accept a commitment from Schmidt, who then is on the outside looking in? Allen or Daniels? Because you would think they will save spots for both Richmond and Burrell. And I don't see 5 OL in this class

305Buck's picture

I think the staff lets it play out. I don't believe both Allen and Richmond ends up at Ohio State though.

It's a close race with Alabama and Tennessee for Richmond, and it's a tight race with FSU for Allen.

My OL class would be, Burrell, Schmidt, Daniels, Allen/Richmond. But if both Allen and Richmond do decide to come to Ohio State and the class is full, then you have to believe that Daniels ends up at Iowa.

johnny11's picture

Give me Scott and Harris. Weber I think will be good, but Scott and Harris have more potential IMO.

+3 HS
GirthBrooks's picture

Any thoughts on a possible Nick Conner offer?

-2 HS
johnny11's picture

I've been reading on other websites that OSU only takes three linebackers if they are the "right three". With Shamar commiting to FSU my understanding is its Baker and Hilliard and thats it. Unless a guy like Holland comes around or Shamar flips.

+5 HS
m5987usus's picture

Awesome article Birm.

O-H!

+1 HS
m5987usus's picture

Awesome Article Birm.

O-H!

buckeyeradar's picture

Way to bring it Birm.  I like Grant Schmidt a lot.  Bringing the whole family to Columbus could be a big sale.  I think the Schmidt family realises that Warinner, a great coach will be the best for the kid.  Does Coach Warinner make his list of recruits and Urban ok's them, or who has the most say with the offensive line?

Buckeye in Texas

Buckeyeneer's picture

Great stuff as always, Birm.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

AzBuck50's picture

I gave wrong information on another thread about C. Kirk. Unless plans change, he will be camping at OSU on the 20th of this month. Texas A & M this weekend, then maybe a trip to USC at the end of the month. I got the Texas AM and OSU trips reversed.

Azbuckeye50

+1 HS
Hayze's picture

Where did you see he is camping at OSU on 6/20?

AzBuck50's picture

I asked a friend who is very close to the Saguaro program and Kirk's recruitment. The person knows I am a big Buckeye fan, so updates me from time to time. Did not read it anywhere. I am not an insider, just a casual recruiting fan.

Azbuckeye50

oregonianbuckeye's picture

Thanks, Birm. Great as always. You hearing anything regarding the Gallimore kid? 

+1 HS
Knarcisi's picture

Started last week with Burrow, continues today with Green. 

jamesrbrown322's picture

The discussions re: Conrad and Conner, and the outrage of some of the fanbase, reminds me of a classic scene, and line, from Hoosiers - 

"I would hope you would support who we are. Not, who we are not. These six individuals have made a choice to work, a choice to sacrifice, to put themselves on the line...That kind of commitment and effort deserves and demands your respect. This is your team."

If they want, earn, and deserve the opportunity to be Buckeyes, then welcome them and cheer for them.

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

+4 HS
bigDbuck's picture

Not holding my breath on Gibson. Happens, then good, if not then not. He might be WR in end anyway. There were many 5* in past with much better passing skills. 

Give me Harris and Hilliard in this class and I'd be happy. I know Meyer will fill up rest with plenty of talent. 

+2 HS
buckeyestu's picture

Getting Harris and Hilliard would be absolutely great. I am not holding my breath in regards to Gibson.

ArizonaBuckeye's picture

I think this class will end up to be much better than some people might predict. UFM doesn't disappoint on the recruiting trail.

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you." -Woody Hayes-

+1 HS
FROMTHE18's picture

The only thing I've learned about this recruiting cycle is that predictions can basically go out the window. Burrow's and Green's commitments were really out of nowhere and with the staff seemingly being very picky, its become pretty damn difficult to get a grasp as to how this class will turn out. Kilby-Lane's commitment was a bit of a shocker and so its going to be one wild ass ride until NSD for recruiting. 

Crimson's picture

You just said shocker and ass in the same sentence.  Well done.