Birminology: Dynamic Duo Chooses Buckeyes

By Jeremy Birmingham on July 2, 2014 at 2:08p

As they've hinted for months, the Justin Hilliard and Jashon Cornell "package deal" has come to fruition. For as often as they are discussed, rarely do these sort of deals work out as intended, but today – to the unbridled enthusiasm of Ohio State football fans everywhere –  the nation's second-ranked outside linebacker and third-ranked weakside defensive end decided the Buckeyes were the best fit for their respective, and their collective, futures.

The road to a Buckeye commitment was winding for both, and if you'd asked the majority of recruiting analysts just two months ago, the road was virtually impossible for Urban Meyer and his staff to traverse, but traverse it they did. Now, with two highly-ranked commitments in the 2015 class recruiting and working for the Buckeyes, the big picture possibilities are exciting to consider for the "Elite '15." Yes, just weeks removed from worry and stress regarding the "slow start" for Urban Meyer and his staff, the Buckeyes now sit with 12 commitments and with an undeniable momentum heading into the summer's premiere recruiting extravaganza. Nike's The Opening, which takes place next week in Eugene, Oregon, could be impacted heavily by today's decisions.

Let's take a closer look at what the commitment of Justin Hilliard and Jashon Cornell could mean for the Buckeyes.


Now, we're not usually one to toot our horns here at Eleven Warriors, but I was the first to officially predict the Cincinnati St. Xavier star to Ohio State when I did so last November. My reasoning last winter was simple: Urban Meyer could not afford to — and would not allow himself to — lose a player of Hilliard's caliber, in his home state to a regional rival like Notre Dame, Michigan or Iowa. There are few players nationally who possess a better combination of the on-the-field chops and off-the-field pedigree that Hilliard does, and for Meyer's Buckeyes to continue taking the steps they need to towards a national championship, players like Hilliard are a must have.

Hilliard made trip after trip to Columbus, South Bend, Ann Arbor, and Iowa City and with each visit to Ohio State, the drumbeats got louder and louder that the Buckeyes had made up the ground in his recruitment that they initially had given up. As the country's second-ranked outside linebacker, Hilliard is capable of playing inside or outside in Ohio State's defense and brings with him considerable clout as a recruiter and a player that others gravitate towards. He's the five-star lightning rod that the Buckeyes have needed to take the "Elite '15" in a different and exciting direction. 

At 6-foot-2 and 230-pounds, Hilliard is built like a college linebacker as he prepares to enter his senior season of high school. Blessed with excellent balance and leverage, Hilliard has exceptional closing speed from the linebacker position and is a sure-fire tackler. He hits hard, he arrives with bad intentions and he's as good a person off the field as he is a bad-ass on it. This commitment is a 100-percent homerun for Urban Meyer, Luke Fickell and the rest of the Ohio State coaching staff. While Meyer's relationship with Hilliard may have been the deal-sealer, Fickell's steady influence can't be overlooked. 


Unlike Hilliard, who had made trip after trip to Columbus, Jashon Cornell's sudden emergence as a legitimate possibility to join Ohio State's recruiting class came by surprise to most. There were a number of planned visits to Columbus by Cornell and his camp in the last year, but each and every trip fell through for a myriad of reasons. As the months passed without a visit, it became less and less likely for Cornell to choose Ohio State.

A month ago, when he traveled to Columbus to participate in the Nike Football Training Camp, Cornell finally got to spend time on campus with the Buckeyes and things went from zero-to-100 real quick. Immediately upon departing, Cornell named Ohio State the leader in his recruitment and showed up to the Rivals Camp Series Five-Star Challenge in Baltimore a week later in Buckeye garb. Since that visit, Cornell has had visits planned to Michigan State, Penn State and Notre Dame, but on each occasion the trip didn't get made. Today, we found out why: he was a Buckeye and ready to make it public.

In Cornell, the Buckeyes land a versatile and talented defensive end with the frame to move inside if needed but the athleticism to wreak havoc from a rush position. Student Sports, the group that runs NFTC camps all over the country, had a glowing evaluation of Cornell's game.

"Cornell may be as polished a defensive end as we've seen in this class. Is coming off a 14 sack sophomore season, where he showed off an elite blend of speed, play recognition ability, and toughness. Ran a 4.69 40 at the Chicago NFTC, but is also a tough, grind-it-out player. Could probably run by most offensive linemen, but showed a physical, low-to-the-ground, edge rush in Chicago. On tape, shows the makings of a complete defender, plays the run well and can hold his ground effectively for his size. Will never be the biggest defensive-end, but has elite quickness, long arms, and the intangibles."

Ohio State's Larry Johnson, Sr. made a major impact on Cornell during his visit and it was the development of that relationship that pushed this one in the Buckeyes' favor. I also don't believe it's a coincidence that has Hilliard's interest in Ohio State elevated, Cornell's commitment to actually making a visit to Columbus strengthened.

While the Minnesota native has indicated he'd like to still take a visit college visits this month, I'd be surprised to see that happen. 


With Cornell and Hilliard in the fold, Ohio State will have two valuable and well-liked recruiters on hand in Eugene for The Opening. There, they'll hope to cultivate important relationships with other recruits they'd like to join them in Columbus; players like Damien Harris, Matthew Burrell, Tim Settle and others. While Cleveland's Jerome Baker won't be in attendance at The Opening, he's likely to become the next commitment for Ohio State when makes his decision on July 11th. 

Justin Hilliard and Damien Harris
Is Damien Harris the next to join Justin Hilliard?

Harris, the country's top-ranked running back, is the wild card. There's a feeling that he could announce a decision at almost anytime, and I think he's pretty confident in what school he's going to attend, but he had made it clear he wants to take official visits, and that's preventing him — at least right now — from making his decision. He does not want fans to view him negatively if he visited other schools, even if it's just to watch a football game.

As for Burrell, his recruitment is a fun one to watch. The 6-foot-5, 300-plus-pounder from Virginia continued to be pulled in multiple directions. Ohio State has the two-headed-coaching-beast of Larry Johnson and Zach Smith working to recruit him, and Penn State has a handful of his peers doing the majority of the work. Can the Buckeyes, with a boost from Hilliard, Cornell, and maybe Damien Harris give Burrell something even bigger to consider? Despite his affability and fun-loving personality, Burrell is seriously considering every angle of his recruitment and Ohio State's roster in the future could very well make the Buckeyes a difficult choice to turn down.



Comments Show All Comments

thatlillefty's picture

These damn gif's are crashing the site.

+9 HS
gumtape's picture

Is it OK to tweet Birm to tell him he is awesome or would that be creepy?

High and tight boo boo

+17 HS
osupolo's picture

I think you should tweet Ramsey and ask him...

+6 HS
hit_the_couch's picture

Glad to see these guys committed. Maybe now all those whiny posters will finally stop worrying/ complaining about the recruiting situation especially after they were worked up about only having 2 or 3 commits through part of June. Patience people, the dominoes will fall.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

+6 HS
chemicalwaste's picture

I think the number of people whining about whiners is steadily gaining on the number of people whining about a lack or commitments.

kdogg72's picture

I was one of the whiny posters, I was really worried about our commitment number through early June. Here it is July and I have no worries. Fan is short for fanatic, and there is a reason I work at a hospital and not coaching big time college athletics. I humbly eat my words and will do my best to let the coaches coach

+3 HS
Hovenaut's picture
(The site....and the Silver Bullets...)
+12 HS
11UrbzAndSpices's picture

Thank you. Whenever someone says "Aaaand I'm back," I chuckle and look insane because I think of this (specifically AND WE'RE BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!!)

"Quit skipping leg day bro" - Dr James Andrews

Crimson's picture

We're back.  Thank you Birm!

+4 HS
YTOWNBUCKI's picture

Hopefully Hilliard and Cornell realize how valuable they are to this fan base.  I mean, they crashed the entire site.

CJDPHoS Board of Directors

Go get your shine box, Gumar!

+13 HS
TicoVersion1's picture

10 Star BOOM big enough to crash the site!!!

+2 HS
SilverState's picture

Dayuuum, that was a rough 3+ hours. Good to be back.

+9 HS
3GB's picture

The Lord of Whispers has spoken.

BuckeyeKing02's picture

Thanks, Birm.  Excellent coverage (as always) and the reason 11W is my Buckeye site of choice.

As an aside, where do you project our chances with Josh Sweat?  With our new commits at The Opening with him this weekend and Burrell (from his home state of Virginia) there as well, do you think it will have enough of a positive influence to sway him to the Buckeyes? 

+1 HS
Jeremy Birmingham's picture

The Ohio State visit last week went very well for Sweat and his family and they're in the conversation. He's a different type of dude, though, very quiet and not interested in all the pomp and circumstance. If the Buckeyes want to land him, it's about what's best for his future and his trust in the coaching staff; being friends with other recruits won't matter much.

BuckeyeKing02's picture

Thanks for the info.  Sounds like a very level-headed guy and thoughtful about his approach, which seems to be more of a rarity with all-star recruits these days.  Hopefully that approach will serve him well regardless of where he lands.  You certainly can't fault him for it!

+1 HS
Brutus' Left Nut's picture

Is his personality more like

(a) Kawhi Leonard - ultra talented guy who is shy so doesn't like talking to the media and being in the public and would prefer to just work on his game (or maybe Lynch is a better comparison) or

(b) James Harisson - complete badass with an edge/strong dislike of the media that is more attributed to being annoyed by the attention than embarassed by it?

I get the impresison he is more of a Kawhi type., but just curious.  Seems like if it's (a) that's a better fit for LJ and if (b) that would be a better fit for Vrabel.

ab1993's picture

(b) Marshawn Lynch

+1 HS
awarren84's picture

DEION SANDERS: You all right? I like when you got off the plane with the Beast Mode (sweatshirt) and everything. You look like you're ready to play, man.

MARSHAWN LYNCH: Yup, that's what time it is.

SANDERS: You camera-shy? You just don't want to talk, really.

LYNCH: I'm just about that action, boss.

SANDERS: You about to go get it. You just like to do.

LYNCH: That's what it is. I ain't never seen no talking winning nothing. Been like that since I was little. I was raised like that.

SANDERS: Well I respect it.

LYNCH: I'm gonna get it. Don't need to talk about it.

"Anything less than flagrant is just playing grab ass!"

+4 HS
Furious George 27's picture

Is it safe to say boom! Yet?

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

Barnsey69's picture

That was traumatic...never again, I can't take it!

10 Star Wednesday...awesome.

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

osu407's picture

I read that Cornell said he was going to recruit Gallimore, and that they are roommates at The Opening.  

+4 HS
Jeremy Birmingham's picture

That's one DT that I'd personally LOVE to see at Ohio State.

Earle's picture

All your stars are belong to Urban.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

+10 HS
Lincoln's picture

I was so happy - but I had this feeling not being able to celebrate with friends:

+19 HS
OSUpawn's picture

I feel like a spoiled kid..... All I'm thinking about right now is that I want Harris.

I believe the SEC players put their pants on one leg at a time like we do.

+1 HS
BierStube's picture

Go ahead Birm .. you have earned it!

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

+3 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

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

+1 HS
Buck Commander's picture

I got so excited when I seen this I nearly Went BOOM In my britches.............BOOOOOOOOM BAAAAAAAABY!

Every time I set my DVR to record Biggest Loser......It always records Wolverine Football Games!

+1 HS
chemicalwaste's picture

Saw. Think see-saw not see-seen. Saw.

+4 HS
ab1993's picture

zero-to-100 real quick

I see what you did there... looks like you're spending too much time with mr. collier lol 

FROMTHE18's picture

Bring on Baker and then Harris soon. I think elite guys recruiting other elite guys is key but one thing to also keep in mind is that the class is filling up and its not to say the top players won't have a spot saved, but the idea of 'better commit now or risk missing out' must have some influence on these guys still out there.

Buckeyeneer's picture

10Star Wednesday - So big it shut 11W down.

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

THE Ohio State University

Adam21's picture

Birm: Any chance Penn St. commits such as Adam McLean, Sterling Jenkins or Steven Gonzalez see what is happening at tOSU and think about re-opening their recruitments? Or have the Buckeye staff moved on?

Hayze's picture

McClean and Jenkins are all PSU and Gonzalez never had a committable offer.

+2 HS
chemicalwaste's picture

A simple "no" wouldhave worked just fine but...

Adam21's picture

Where does it say Gonzalez did not have a committable offer? According to these two threads, and we wanted Gonzalez and he had an offer out to him. I try to read as much as possible on here as I can, but it is possible I missed where he didn't have a committable offer. 

lamplighter's picture

Hot damn - nuff said

MN Buckeye's picture

Does the way the 11W staff interact with recruits make a difference? I think so.

+1 HS
ELJTSA76's picture

Sweat seems to have the same priorities as Cornell - at least, based on what has been quoted and printed. Maybe Cornell can help OSU here if there is any kind of relationship. I know almost all of these kids have seen each other at various camps, so who knows?

buckeyeradar's picture

Great info Birm.  I feel like a spoiled brat at Christmas.  Three years in a row of assume talent and I still want more.  I look at all the stars we have - it's like an Urban Milky Way.  The best part is knowing that the recruits want the best around them too.  Best talent - Boom!  Best coaching - Boom!  Best site - Boom! CRASHED!  

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

+1 HS
mkosu73's picture

#23 to #6 (espin) in 10 minutes!


+2 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Today was a banner day - Great Job Football and 11W Staff.

+2 HS
BuckeyeJAK's picture

Two Great recruits  Job well done coaching staff

Mark May is a mental midget

nm_buck's picture

Fire Fickell

"The future is bright at Ohio State."  - Urban Meyer 1/1/15

+4 HS
Knarcisi's picture

Red, White, and Booooooom!

Eph97's picture
+3 HS
WOLFofOHIO's picture

do you guys wanna see a preview of how Mgoblog will look after the opening??

there is no greater joy than watching Michigan get slammed. in anything

+2 HS
PasadenaBuckeye626's picture

It feels weird to give Fickell some credit.

Go Bucks!

Groveport Heisman's picture

Which one of these kids was Fickell lead recruiter on?

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

BUCKSOMIES's picture

We want more!  We want more!   We want more!

m5987usus's picture

I speak with Burrell a lot and I spoke with him yesterday, trust me when I say this, IMO I think it is going to be very difficult for him to turn down Ohio State.


+1 HS