There's an oft-repeated adage that swirls around recruiting and recruiting websites: "recruiting is fluid." Things change, targets change, minds change and more often than not in the case of Urban Meyer's tenure at Ohio State, they change for the better. Lose on one player, strike gold with one that might be a better fit. Miss out on a prospect you thought would be a slam-dunk, sign one that was originally a long-shot. Ebb and flow, hit and miss, everything is fluid, everything works out.
That has been the case, usually. Somehow, this recruiting cycle feels different. With 14 committed players in the "Elite '15," and a class that will likely end up around 20-21 players, it seems the names and faces we're talking about today are the same players we've been talking about — waiting on — for months.
As we prepare for the real football season, with practices underway today, the recruiting noise will quiet down, at least temporarily. With that in mind, we'll take a look at a few of the Buckeyes remaining high-priority targets and where things sit in their recruitment. Let's get started at tailback, where the nation's top recruit at the position narrowed down his list from eight to five this past Friday.
Damien Harris, the Kentucky native and former Michigan commitment, moved his list from eight to five, and as one would expect, Ohio State is definitely involved.
As you review Harris' list, a few things will clearly stand out to most of you. Yes, Ohio State, Alabama, and Kentucky are on the list as one would expect, but that's not it. The Wolverines are not on the list anymore, and that goes along with what we've been saying for a while now: there was not much of a chance he was going to end up back in Ann Arbor. Perhaps more interesting that Michigan's exclusion, is the inclusion of Texas A&M, who offered Harris just hours before he released his list.
Are the Aggies a real threat? Sure, if he visits, of course they are. However, what it really seems to suggest is that his list of legitimate contenders could be much smaller than five. In fact, it's likely two. Yes, Florida, Alabama and A&M are not to be trifled with because it's not unusual for any of them land big-time recruits, but this has felt like a Buckeye and Wildcat battle for some time now and I don't think that will ultimately change.
Harris certainly isn't the only player left on Ohio State's board that they've been waiting seemingly forever on, especially on offense. Wide receivers Van Jefferson and Christian Kirk continue to be the top targets, as they've been for the majority of the last year.
Jefferson has been to Ohio State a handful of times and after every visit, the drumbeats of a pending commitment get louder. Then, as time goes on, the worry he'll end up at Tennessee or Georgia or Clemson or anywhere but Ohio State reemerges and the handwringing starts all over. There were rumors he was going to commit on July 26th, his birthday: he didn't. There were rumors he was going to commit this past Saturday: he didn't. Van himself doesn't engage in social media or care much for media and interviews and his parents, irked by too-regular probing from people trying to get the story, have all but shut down their communication as well.
I spent a lot of time talking with his parents while at The Opening and there were only two things I know for sure from those talks. First, the interest in Ohio State is genuine, on Van's part and his parent's. Second, the goal was to have a decision made by the time his senior season at Ravenwood High School rolled around, and that's coming 'round the mountain. There's no way to know when Van will commit, or where, but I'd be willing to bet dollars to donuts it won't be much longer before the story reveals itself. Ohio State feels good, not great, about their chances to land him.
As I mentioned previously, things seem to be fading as it pertains to Ohio State and Christian Kirk, the nation's 4th-ranked wide receiver. The Scottsdale, Arizona-native made two separate trips to Columbus this year, and has said the Buckeyes are going to get one of his official visits, but nothing has been scheduled yet. He's a perfect fit for Urban Meyer's offense and a player the Buckeyes will not give up their chase for until February comes around and signing day happens. What went wrong here? Nothing, really, but in recruiting absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder.
After the skill positions, the Buckeyes have continued to pursue two big names along the offensive line in Drew Richmond and Matt Burrell. The pair of tackles, Richmond from Tennessee and Burrell from talent-rich Virginia, have never hidden their affection for the Buckeyes, but neither of them appear close to ending the year-plus long recruitment. Richmond will make a decision on September 9th, but it's unlikely that his verbal pledge that day will end his recruitment. There's many who believe that whatever school the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Richmond is almost sure not to end up at the school he selects that day.
With Burrell, I've been more adamant than most in my belief he will choose Ohio State, and I still feel that is the most likely outcome. His recent trips to Florida State and Florida left a major impression on him, however, and things are a bit murkier now than they've been previously. Ironically, many top players go here, there and everywhere to check out different schools believing it will provide clarity on a choice, when all it really does is show them more possibilities. Comfort and relationships almost always wins out, and with Burrell, that's still a Buckeye win.
Tomorrow night, we'll take an in-depth look at a number of defensive players the Buckeyes are still hoping to land in 2015.