Ohio State is not far from signing arguably the best recruiting class in college football history. There are countless storylines to watch as the Buckeyes trickle through the final names of players they want to take in 2017.
While the class Urban Meyer and Ohio State bring in on National Signing Day Feb. 1 will be nothing short of historic — the 17 players committed make up a group currently ranked second overall by 247Sports, with a ridiculous composite average north of 95 — the fact possibly a handful more are set to jump in makes things rather interesting from a scholarship standpoint. The NCAA mandates every Division I program a maximum of 85 scholarships each season as long as they do not face sanctions for whatever reason.
Ohio State has 85 to work with for the third straight year under Meyer. In his first three seasons from 2012-14, the Buckeyes could only offer 82 scholarships due to NCAA punishments from the tattoo scandal and other violations that occurred under Jim Tressel.
Meyer, like any top-tier coach, is not exempt from processing guys for medical or other reasons in order to free up spots so he can sign a bigger class in February. The 85 limit hamstrings coaches and programs that wish to compete each year at the highest level and win national titles, which is expected at Ohio State.
Meyer probably won't speak to the media again until National Signing Day but it will be interesting to see which players the Buckeyes say are done playing for medical reasons, academic reasons, a transfer or something else entirely. Programs must be at the 85 limit by the time Autumn Semester classes begin or practice for that season opens, whichever comes first. For 2017, Ohio State opens classes this fall on Aug. 22. Camp will start earlier than that because the first game is Aug. 31 at Indiana.
Meyer and his staff are set to hit the road recruiting on Jan. 12 when the dead period comes to a close. There is a ton of talent still available on the market and Ohio State is expected to raise that number of commitments from 17 to somewhere in the low to mid-20s starting as early as this weekend with the U.S. Army All-American Bowl scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Targets Jeffrey Okudah, Darnay Holmes and Bubba Bolden are all set to announce their college plans at some point during the game.
Junior college transfer Kendall Sheffield should be kept on the radar in the coming days after the Army game as well. Ohio State reportedly leads for him but his position (cornerback) leaves him a bit in the dark as there might not be space. The Buckeyes already have four defensive backs committed and that number could rise on Saturday.
Roster attrition happens everywhere every year for every program. The Buckeyes lose only six seniors that were on scholarship — Pat Elflein, Joe Burger, Craig Fada, Cameron Johnston, Corey Smith and Dontre Wilson — from their 2016 team that went 11-2 and made the College Football Playoff. Three underclassmen on defense have announced they plan to leave school early and enter the 2017 NFL Draft — cornerback Gareon Conley, safety Malik Hooker and middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan — while quarterback J.T. Barrett, defensive ends Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes and Sam Hubbard and guard Billy Price all said they will be back. Will dynamic playmaker Curtis Samuel join them? What about cornerback Marshon Lattimore? Stay tuned.
With all of that in mind, here is a class by class breakdown of 2017 scholarships. An R in parenthesis stands for a player who redshirted.
|QB||J.T. BARRETT (R)||STEPHEN COLLIER (R)||JOE BURROW (R)||DWAYNE HASKINS||TATE MARTELL|
MIKE WEBER (R)
|WR||JAMES CLARK (R)||
NOAH BROWN (R)
PARRIS CAMPBELL (R)
TERRY MCLAURIN (R)
JOHNNIE DIXON (R)
ALEX STUMP (R)
K.J. HILL (R)
TORRANCE GIBSON (R)*
|TE||MARCUS BAUGH (R)||–||A.J. ALEXANDER (R)||
BILLY PRICE (R)
EVAN LISLE (R)
DEMETRIUS KNOX (R)
BRADY TAYLOR (R)
KYLE TROUT (R)
MALCOLM PRIDGEON (R)
BRANDEN BOWEN (R)
MATT BURRELL (R)
KEVIN FEDER (R)
LIAM MCCULLOUGH (R)
TYQUAN LEWIS (R)
SAM HUBBARD (R)
DARIUS SLADE (R)
DYLAN THOMPSON (R)
RASHOD BERRY (R)
MICHAEL HILL (R)
TRACY SPRINKLE (R)
JOSHUA ALABI (R)
DAVON HAMILTON (R)
ROBERT LANDERS (R)
DRE'MONT JONES (R)
JASHON CORNELL (R)
|LB||CHRIS WORLEY (R)||
DANTE BOOKER (R)
NICK CONNER (R)
JUSTIN HILLIARD (R)
KEANDRE JONES (R)
MARSHON LATTIMORE (R)
JOSHUA NORWOOD (R)
DAMON ARNETTE (R)
|ERIC GLOVER-WILLIAMS||JORDAN FULLER||JAHSEN WINT||ISAIAH PRYOR|
|K||SEAN NUERNBERGER||–||–||–||BLAKE HAUBEIL**|
*Gibson is a wild card. He signed a letter of intent to play at Mississippi Gulf Community College after serving a suspension for Autumn Semester but Urban Meyer left the door open for his return.
**Plans to gray shirt and thus pay his own way next fall. He will be put on scholarship in January of 2018 but is listed here for eligibility purposes.
The above chart puts Ohio State at 93 players on scholarship, provided Torrance Gibson returns to Columbus. If he doesn't, that number will obviously dip by one but still leaves the Buckeyes considerably over the limit.
With Okudah expected to join the fray on Saturday and Ohio State in the conversation for Holmes, Sheffield and Bolden, pieces of the puzzle will shift even more. Plus, Ohio State continues to recruit Jaylen Harris, Jay Tufele, Thayer Munford, Marvin Wilson in the hopes of rounding out what is already a ridiculous class with a bang.
Commits Tate Martell, Josh Myers, J.K. Dobbins, Brendon White, Marcus Williamson, Isaiah Pryor, Baron Browning and Shaun Wade all intend on enrolling in January. Okudah has indicated he would like to do the same, should he commit. There are other recruits that want to do that as well but Ohio State might not have room for them, so they will go elsewhere.
There are plenty of players on the chart that could be taken off scholarship for a multitude of reasons, be it medical or to pursue other opportunities at a different program. It is not fair for us to speculate on which ones will not be with the Buckeyes when they open camp in August, so we won't.
There is a plenty of time between now and then but National Signing Day is just 25 days away. Meyer will get his scholarship number down to 85, doing so with the best recruiting class in his soon-to-be six-year tenure.