National signing day is now less than one month away.
While Ohio State is going to see a good portion of its 2017 class moving onto campus next week, there's still plenty to be on the lookout for as the month of January never seems to pass by without its surprises.
Last year it was the triple boom on Martin Luther King Jr. Day as Dwayne Haskins, Keandre Jones, and Binjimen Victor all pledged to the good guys. Two years ago, Isaiah Prince – an Alabama commit at the time – took a a secretive trip to Columbus before ultimately siding with the Buckeyes on signing day. The 2013 class saw Dontre Wilson make a late January official before choosing Ohio State over the Chip Kelly-less Ducks.
The dead period will be ending on Jan. 12, and Ohio State and the rest of the nation will have three weeks remaining to work some recruiting magic. There are a number of Buckeye storylines worth watching, and some noteworthy national ones as well.
Army Bowl Fireworks
Ohio State commits will be taking over San Antonio this weekend for the Army All-American Bowl. Andrew is in town and will have a full preview on Friday, but the biggest storylines remain unchanged.
Five-star defensive back Jeffrey Okudah looks to finally make things official after having the Buckeyes out in front for the bulk of his recruitment. The nation's top corner is tentatively scheduled to announce during the fourth quarter of Saturday's game. Earlier this week, Shaun Wade told LandOf10.com about his housing plans with Tate Martell, Baron Browning, and one other player whose name he couldn't yet mention. The trio is all set to start classes next week. Okudah also will be enrolling early. Hmmmm.
Ohio State remains the crystal ball favorite for yet another five-star cornerback in Calabasas, California standout Darnay Holmes. The nation's No. 2 corner isn't quite the lock that Okudah is even though all of the recent buzz has surrounded the Buckeyes. UCLA and USC are both fighting for his signature, and it's never wise to rule out the local teams.
Holmes is another early enrollee and he too is tentatively scheduled to make his announcement during the fourth quarter.
Urban vs. Texas for Top JUCO Corner
It's a fairly common practice for SEC schools to dip into the JUCO ranks to bring in some game-ready talent. While the Buckeyes did sign Malcolm Pridgeon in 2016, this is a strategy rarely utilized in Columbus. With the early departures of two – and possibly three – starters in the secondary, it shouldn't be too big of a surprise that Urban Meyer and Co. are looking at possibly bringing in the nation's top JUCO corner.
Six weeks ago, no one was even talking about Kendall Sheffield and the Buckeyes. That changed when he took a bit of an under-the-radar trip to Columbus for the game against Michigan. That visit was followed up by a visit from Meyer himself, and now Ohio State is right in the thick of his recruitment.
If the Buckeyes add Okudah and Holmes this weekend, that would be six defensive backs that would comprise arguably the greatest group ever signed in a single class. So would it make sense to potentially bring in a seventh? Given the 2017 vacancies in the secondary, it's probably not a bad idea; especially for a player who could be a one-and-done and an immediate starter.
Texas and Texas A&M look to be the only competition right now, but Sheffield and his family aren't exactly the most talkative bunch. It doesn't appear that either the Longhorns or the Aggies feel too confident, and insiders from both programs seem to feel that the buzz is favoring Ohio State this week.
Sheffield was expected to enroll in January at his school of choice, but a few of the reports out of Texas are now saying that is not a definite. If that does happen, then a decision will obviously need to come in next the handful of days.
Could Sheffield and/or Ohio State be waiting until after the dust has settled with Okudah and Holmes this weekend? It's certainly possible.
Ohioans Fighting for Offers
The Buckeyes have commitments from five Ohioans right now (including IMG Academy's Marcus Williamson who hails from Westerville), and four-star wideout Jaylen Harris looks like the only offered player who remains a likely addition to the class. Ohio prospects are interesting, though, because oftentimes the Buckeyes can extend offers very late in the process and still end up victorious due to the in-state allure.
Brady Taylor was pulled away from Virginia Tech when the Buckeyes offered in January of 2014, and there are two players in the state to really keep an eye on this month; both of whom are likely to end up in Lexington if Ohio State elects not to make a move.
The Buckeyes have commitments from two of the nation's top linemen in five-stars Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis. Davis is an interior guy and Myers could potentially play guard or tackle. The loss of Jake Moretti to Colorado and Trey Smith's commitment to Tennessee could still spell good news for four-star tackle Thayer Munford. The Massillon product looks to be the next man up if the staff does in fact push for another along the line.
Perhaps the most intriguing player in the state is four-star athlete Lynn Bowden. The Warren Harding star finished second to Toledo's Michael Warren for the state's Mr. Football honors. As a senior, the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder lined up at quarterback for the Raiders while amassing 57 total touchdowns. He's a Jalin Marshall-type player who could be used similarly if the Buckeyes decide to reevaluate and extend an offer.
Andrew touched on it a bit last night, but it will be interesting to see if the rumored Kevin Wilson hire could influence the way the Buckeyes view Bowden, who decommitted from Indiana in April. If so, it could be reminiscent of the Darius Slade signing in 2014. Slade wasn't even on the Buckeyes' radar until Larry Johnson was hired in mid-January that year.
In speaking with Eleven Warriors, the state's No. 5 prospect made it clear how much a Buckeye offer would mean to him. If Ohio State doesn't elect to pursue, then Kentucky or Michigan State would likely be in line to land the state's top playmaker.
Wolverines AGAIN Battling for Nation's No. 1 Prospect
Last year, the Wolverines signed the nation's No. 1 player in defensive tackle Rashan Gary. The Paramus Catholic star was a guy that visited Ohio State, but everyone knew he wasn't going to end up in Columbus. This year, running back Najee Harris is the country's top prospect, he too visited Ohio State, and he's not going to end up in Columbus. But will the Antioch, California product end up in Ann Arbor or Tuscaloosa?
I give Harris credit for the way he's handled his recruitment. He's been pretty quiet and kept the media outlets mostly in the dark. Harris has been committed to Alabama since April of 2015, but schools like Michigan and USC have both been discussed as possible destinations since that time. He took his official to Bama in late November and was in Ann Arbor on Dec. 10.
Harris is in San Antonio for the Army All-American Bowl and will be enrolling at either Alabama or Michigan early next week. Going into the weekend, his decision still seems to be very much up in the air, and his plans for enrolling are pretty incredible.
Harris, a 2017 five-star running back and Alabama commit from Antioch High School in California, will not make his final decision publicly following Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, according to 247 Sports. The website reported that his coach, John Lucido, said Harris won't notify the media of his choice and will simply fly to his college of choice after the game to enroll in school early. Via
So basically a bunch of rabid fans in Ann Arbor and Tuscaloosa will likely be waiting for flights to arrive at the nearest airports on Sunday. The super-savvy ones will merely be monitoring various flight trackers from the comfort of their own homes.
I can respect this move by Harris. I'll respect it even more if he sticks with the Bama pledge.
Team Rankings Fallout
The Buckeyes are maintaining an absurd 95.72 average per 2017 commit. It's difficult to even put into words how good that is, but basically that averages out to a very high four-star per each commit. Remember, the team rankings are based on total points, so Ohio State isn't going to finish No. 1 overall when schools like Alabama and Georgia are set to bring in 25+ players. But Urban Meyer's average per commit is far and away the best in America. Right now Bama is sitting at 92.89, Georgia is at a very respectable 93.38, Michigan is at 90.86, and Florida State is holding steady at 91.62.
Alabama is very likely to finish with the nation's top-ranked class once again, and even Georgia may surpass Ohio State depending on how many more players the Buckeyes elect to add.
But make no mistake about it, the star power of this class is unmatched, and Saturday should be another big score for the Buckeyes.