Buckeyes Aim to Keep Recruiting Momentum Alive

By Kyle Rowland on June 20, 2014 at 8:30a

One month ago, Ohio State’s 2015 recruiting class included two players – and one of them could be facing legal troubles. Rivals.com ranked the Buckeyes 56th nationally behind powerhouses such as Western Michigan, Louisiana Tech, Texas San-Antonio and Florida Atlantic.

No more, not after three 2015 commitments in three days and six in 12. When Athens quarterback Joe Burrow committed on May 27, the floodgates opened. Tyler Green (DB), Grant Schmidt (OL), Liam McCullough (LS), Nick Conner (LB), Dre’Mont Jones (DE) and Denzel Ward (DB) all followed.

For months after the New Year, the Buckeyes’ losses to Michigan State and Clemson hung in the air like unwelcome cigarette smoke. Not only did Ohio State falter down the stretch, but the lack of impact recruits – or any recruits – caused restlessness in the Columbus. February signaled another top-five class. Yet, there was little movement for 2015.

Plenty can happen in a month, as Ohio State proved. Urban Meyer and Co. attacked the summer with a plan that’s been executed with precision. Not only has Ohio State moved up to 29th in the 2015 class rankings, it has also secured two commitments for the Class of 2016.

Suddenly, the Buckeyes are one of the hottest recruiting destinations in the country. Not that anyone is surprised by that development. Nearly every recruiting class Meyer’s signed in the past decade has been rated among the best in college football. Ohio State’s beginning to chart a similar trajectory.

A handful of nationally sought after recruits will make decisions in the coming months, including Ohioans L.J. Scott and Jerome Baker. But there’s a bigger catch waiting to be reeled in. 

The summer could become hotter in a matter weeks – and not because the mercury rises in June, July and August. Standout linebacker Justin Hilliard is due to announce his college decision this month, likely after visiting Ohio State – with Arizona wide receiver Christian Kirk – and Notre Dame this weekend.

“Making my decision this month at St. X,” Hilliard  recently tweeted. “Hopefully wherever I go I can get my boys @Jay_Rock16 @Damien_D1Harris and @Clark8Chris to tag along.”

That would be Jashon Cornell, Damien Harris and Chris Clark. Cornell is defensive end from Minnesota and one of the top players in the nation. Harris, a running back from Kentucky, was committed to the Wolverines until they fired offensive coordinator Al Borges. He’s since soured on Michigan. Clark, from Connecticut, is one of the top tight end recruits and committed to Michigan on Thursday.

Modern-day recruiting doesn’t just include a school selling itself to players. In the 21st century, committed players take on the role of assistant coach once they give their pledge. Hilliard will soon take that step. The question is – for whom?

Ohio State is thought to be the front-runner, along with Notre Dame, Alabama, Iowa and Michigan. The St. X product would provide even more linebacker depth at a position that was stockpiled with talent in the Buckeyes’ latest recruiting class. Meyer saw deficiencies and has aggressively targeted the position.

In seven games last season, before suffering a foot injury, Hilliard had 76 tackles, seven tackles for loss, four sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery. At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, he possesses the build and physique of a veteran college linebacker. Recruiting analysts haven’t shied away from deeming him the best linebacker in America.

Hilliard’s interest in Ohio State is reportedly high, with Notre Dame and Iowa rounding out his top three. His brother, C.J., plays for the Hawkeyes.

A visit to South Bend coincides with the Irish’s biggest recruiting weekend of the year. Termed the “Irish Invasion,” dozens of the top players in the classes of 2015, ’16 and ’17 will be present for a one-day camp and weekend visit. Hilliard, a five-star prospect, is No. 1 on Notre Dame’s want list. On Saturday, he’ll head a few hundred miles to the east.

If he commits to the Buckeyes, Hilliard could excel as the ringleader in a “Super Friends” recruiting pitch, setting up Ohio State – or Notre Dame – to haul in one of the top classes in the country. 


Comments Show All Comments

danavh4's picture

Stay home Mr. Hilliard...stay home!  Kwon and Hilliard in the same linebacking crew??  Yes please!  Once you commit to the Good guys...you can preach to your friend Mr. Clark about reversing his hasty decision and he can come join you in C-bus and play for the good guys!

Michigan Fan: "We lose a long snapper and the whole team goes to shit!"

+10 HS
Jeremypreemo81's picture

I have a feeling Justin commits this wknd and Kirk may pull the trigger too.  Making this one of the most glorious recruiting weeks EVER

+3 HS
jamesrbrown322's picture

Hope you are right. It would really be a boost for the summer. If they get Hilliard, I think they get Damien Harris to come to FNL and commit. Then, it's only a matter of time for Cornell.

With that, room for more commits will tighten, and we may see some elite recruits follow suit, and commit on order to secure their spot. (Looking at you Jerome Baker and Van Jefferson, jump on in, the water is perfect!)

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

+3 HS
jBarnes's picture

I'm doubling down on all these comments - getting Justin Hilliard would be epic.  I think he would also do a lot to open up our Cincinnati connection which is a fertile recruiting ground.  Justin, Ohio is in your blood.  We've got a young Buckeye Tree ready to to be planted in the grove in your name.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”  ― Douglas Adams  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

theopulas's picture

josh sweat......


sharks's picture

Back to Kirk: A&M got that Kima (not the awesome one from The Wire) guy and another 5* WR recently. Does that mean anything for OSU's chances?

A man got to have a code...

MikeTheBuckeye's picture

I was looking that over the other day as well. A&M is already set at WR with 2 highly ranked recruits at that position. I'm having a tough time seeing him chose them over the good guys. We have yet to sign a receiver in this class and I'm not sure we have a true receiver as dynamic as Kirk. He could quickly land some solid playing time in our rather mediocre WR unit.

+1 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

Mediocre WR unit? What? We currently have 4 guys that are champin' at the bit to show what they've got, led by Dontrell Wilson (who is now a receiver), Johnnie Dixon, Corey Smith and Michael "put me in coach, I'm ready to PLAY" Thomas. Devin Smith and Evan Spencer will be looking to make the most of their senior years, and Jalin Marshall is also in that mix. And I haven't even mentioned any of the true freshman coming in. I think you're comment would've been accurate last year. This unit is far from mediocre in 2014.

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

+2 HS
MikeTheBuckeye's picture

Johnnie Dixon is a true freshmen is he not? Anyways, that leaves Evan Spencer and Devin Smith as the only 2 proven receivers. And I believe Spencer has already reached his ceiling. With that said, I have high hopes for the Michael Thomas and Dontre Wilson this year. And I believe we will be using Lattimore on both sides of the ball especially if our wideouts lag behind. Maybe mediocre was the wrong term to use but the majority of our receivers are unproven to say the least.

IGotAWoody's picture

Johnnie was an early enrollee. I meant the freshmen that have yet to report.

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

Poison nuts's picture

Also - James Clark, Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith, Jeff Greene, & possibly Marshon Lattimore too. OSU has some talent at WR.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

+1 HS
CowCat's picture

Overall this could be the fastest team in Ohio State history.    Can't wait.

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

+1 HS
YTOWNBUCKI's picture

If they land Hilliard and Harris this offseason is going to be a heck of a lot easier to deal with.

Gotta love the hot streak. 

CJDPHoS Board of Directors

Go get your shine box, Gumar!

+4 HS
Mortc15's picture

While Harris, Cornell, and Kirk would be awesome guys to land, not getting Hilliard would be a major disappointment. Would OSU be fine without him? Yes. But losing the best linebacker from instate, would be a huge blow. 

But I digress, he's picking up the "O" hat when he verbals in about a week! 


+2 HS
Rogabone's picture

I cannot for the life of me shake the notion that there is a REAL possibility that we land (or some other lucky program) Kirk, Harris, Hilliard, Clark & Cornell. They've all talked about how tight they've all gotten, Hilliard just reiterated that where he goes hopefully he can play with his 'Boys' on Twitter with Clark responding to him after his visit this week that OSU is dope and Cornell followed that up with you aint lyi'n, bro.

Check it out here; http://www.cleveland.com/osu/index.ssf/2014/06/four-star_lb_justin_hilli...

Here's the thing, Torrance Gibson was in this group of 'friends' for awhile but since it seems that OSU is moving on from him, Hilliard did not drop his name with the others. We all know that all of these guys have high interest in OSU. I cannot stress just how important Hilliard / Clark's upcoming decisions (this month I believe) would be... Think about it. Would be an astronomical get. **Just found out Clark is out..

"Who is that madman?" the new arrival asked St. Peter.

"That's God," St. Peter replied. "But he thinks he's Woody Hayes."

+1 HS
mh277907's picture

Clark committed to UofM yesterday... But I do agree that it is a very real possibility that we get Cornell, Harris and Hilliard.


Rogabone's picture

Clark to TSUN? Thank for the heads up. Just started my morning catch up!

"Who is that madman?" the new arrival asked St. Peter.

"That's God," St. Peter replied. "But he thinks he's Woody Hayes."

+1 HS
MikeTheBuckeye's picture

Thanks for the link. I've always known these guys would be somewhat of a "package deal" but to seeing the other recruits respond in the way they did, I can't help but feel a grand sense of optimism for the class of '15.

depbuck's picture

Clark is a scUM commit for now. Wouldn't be surprised if he ends up elsewhere

+2 HS
MN Buckeye's picture

Thanks for the summary, Kyle. This flurry of activity seems to have coincided with camp season. I am very happy with the great players we have commitments so far, which has generated much positivity around the program. I hope we see the momentum continue these next few weeks.

Kingbuck12's picture

Flip time for Clark, he's all buckeye when Hilliard, Harris, and Cornell commit. Not worried at all. Good to be a buckeye!!!!!! 


+1 HS
Li Xiao Buckeye's picture

Guys, I'm like freaking out.  It's been less than 24 hours since our last recruit... this drought has got to end!  I trust Urban and everything, but I thought by now he'd have three more 5-Stars in the bag.  I mean, i went to bed last night in anticipation that UFM would be working overtime, calling commits in the middle of the night to secure their verbals.  I wake up and what in the world, NOTHING!  We are in big trouble with this class.  Just sayin'.

I'm not in this world to live up to your expectations and you're not in this world to live up to mine. - Bruce Lee

+7 HS
xrox's picture

I wonder if Urban's strict punishments have slowed down recruiting outside Ohio. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. If a recruit is pausing because following rules is hard, maybe OSU isn't the place for them.
Or it could be the exact opposite, and the fact that OSU has been in the news in the off season is a deterrent. Who knows what goes on in each recruit's head? I trust Urban, and the guys he's brought in so far seem like good fits.

seafus26's picture

Visit north Indiana in October, November, December, January, Febuary, or march , Mr. Hilliard. It'll make Columbus seem like a spring break destination. Then visit it in non-snow coverered months. It's pretty cool then, if you're into miles and miles of corn fields.

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

DoubleB's picture

The sky has ceased it's falling you guys. 


-1 HS
MikeTheBuckeye's picture

Is it bad that I'd rather take Kirk than Hilliard? I still view our LB core as a strong point. But the WR unit has been dismal for years. Of course I would love to have both. But if I were choosing one over the other ...

+3 HS
BAR43's picture

Bold statement. Although I probably agree we need more help in the WR area, its hard to quantify the significany of keeping the top instate recruit. Think you have to defend your own first if all else is equal. Additionally, athletic WR are a bit more prevelant than stud LB coming out of high school. How about we just take both..

+5 HS
Max Power's picture

No way that I would choose a WR over an Ohio LB who is already built like a college backer. Our LB group seems replenished with young talent but you never pass on the top player in our state-not to mention the consensus top player at his position nationally. Kirk is a great receiver, dont get me wrong but Hilliard is as close to "must get" as it comes.

Lets hope this a moot argument and we land both

+2 HS
buckeyeradar's picture

I think coach Meyer will be using the TE more this Fall which will get us a TE recruit.  We may even get a decomit but my first choice is someone who wants to be here.  Don't be surprised if we already have one disguised as a 2014 linebacker.

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

+1 HS
FROMTHE18's picture

Not going to lie, Ill be incredibly bothered if he picks ND. 

+1 HS
My2Sons's picture

By golly, we'll just have to make sure he understands that (since you don't remember HIS name, we'll just tell them all, OK?  Or just him?)

-5 HS
cdkmike's picture

the sky will fall if ohio state does not get hilliard

Michael green

TresselourgodUrbanoursavior's picture

I will definitely be butt hurt

+1 HS
Max Power's picture

Hilliard seems like he is all Buckeye and God I hope so. He is an incredible linebacker who would terrorize ball carriers playing along side Raekwon McMillan. That scenario would erase all the memories of poor linebacker play we have faced the past few seasons. When a talent like him is from the great state of Ohio, the staff has got to keep him at home!

As stated at the conclusion of the article, Hilliard would become a major boost in recruiting. If he can help land Cornell and Harris, he is worth his weight in gold (pants) already. Clark is probably a lost cause but Justin can remind him what a big mistake he made every November.

scottyp_330's picture

I'm fairly at ease with our WR core for the next couple years, a couple recruits here or there are always helpful, but all I want for Christmas is Hilliard and Harris! What a LB core we would have OMG.... I am unbelievably excited for the next few years it's going to be epic. My biggest concern is do we have our go-to guy at QB yet?

+1 HS
theopulas's picture

i think we might get josh sweat...which would make this #1 rc