Before I dive into a pressing recruiting stories, I'd be remiss if I didn't make some mention of the Memorial Day weekend. I hope that everyone is enjoying the long weekend — the unofficial start of summer — but my greater hope is that you take a moment to sincerely thank the men and women you know who have donned the stars and bars on a military uniform. Without their willingness to sacrifice their lives for our way of life, I'd certainly not be here writing about something like recruiting. I'd not be here talking football, which is, in some way, meaningless in the big picture of life, although it's a welcomed escape from the daily grind we all fight through. I know it's cliché, but those men and women are true heroes and deserve our utmost respect. They fight a battle far greater than anything we can imagine, and it's unfortunately a battle that doesn't stop for many, even after their tours abroad are over.
If you, or anyone you love, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, get help and realize that asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, but strength. Everyone — even the true heroes — needs a little help, a little support, and an ear or a shoulder sometimes. After all those men and women do for us, it's the least we can do in return.
It's been a pretty eventful couple days in the realm of Buckeye recruiting, so let's get back on track and recap a few of the more important stories.
HILLIARD TOP FIVE, BUCKEYES MOVING ON UP
On Friday morning, Cincinnati St. Xavier linebacker Justin Hilliard named his top five schools and shared with a few thoughts on each of his remaining candidates with us.
— Justin Hilliard (@JHilliard47) May 23, 2014
Aside from the releasing of his top schools, it was also disclosed that Hilliard had moved up his decision date and would now select a school prior to — or near to — the start of his senior season. These announcements come on the heels of Hilliard's recent visit to Columbus, where he hung out with Raekwon McMillan and spent some more quality time with the Ohio State coaching staff. More importantly than his time with McMillan might be the reports that Hilliard's mother came away from the visit impressed with Urban Meyer's plans for her son as a football player and as a student-athlete.
On Friday, I stated I believed this will eventually come down to Ohio State and Alabama, despite Hilliard's comfort and connections to his other three finalists. I know all the reasons he could choose Notre Dame, Iowa, or Michigan; but to me this feels like a classic Urban Meyer versus Nick Saban stand-off. Hilliard will visit Ohio State again next weekend and it's another opportunity for the Buckeyes to make their pitch to the Cincinnati star.
CRAWFORD OPENS THINGS BACK UP
As has been speculated recently, Lakewood St. Edward defensive back Shaun Crawford has officially re-opened his recruitment and rescinded his commitment to Michigan. The country's ninth-ranked cornerback, Crawford has recently visited Notre Dame and will be making a trip to Columbus next weekend to give Ohio State another look.
The Buckeyes offered Crawford — who grew up a big-time Michigan fan — last fall but it appeared nothing would come of it as the St. Ed's star reaffirmed his commitment to the Maize and Blue over and over, but time and change led to a different outcome this spring. Crawford, Kentucky tailback Damien Harris and Florida speedster George Campbell have all taken back their Michigan commitment since January and uncertainty about Brady Hoke's future has been a common theme.
Right now, Notre Dame appears to be the favorite to land Crawford, but Ohio State will work very hard to not let this second chance go to waste. Big, big weekend upcoming.
TORRANCE GIBSON SITUATION
Towards the end of the week, it was reported that Torrance Gibson had been suspended from his high school and (at least temporarily) removed from his American Heritage football team. The nation's top-ranked athlete, it was reported, had been suspended because of altercation with a teacher, but that report was refuted immediately. What has not been refuted is that Gibson is in fact suspended and his future with his state champion AH team is in doubt. While there's no doubt he'll land on his feet because of his immense ability, this issue is apparently causing a few teams to back away a bit from his recruitment.
Ohio State — for what it's worth — isn't backing away, but they're certainly paying a bit more attention to things that are off-the-field related.
Gibson is an incredibly talented kid, but he's also got a mega-spotlight on him day in and day out, and that's a big burden for a high school kid to carry, even if he brings on much of it himself. I've talked to Torrance, and my advice to him was simple: shrink your circle, get back to the basics and focus on improving yourself on the field, off the field and drown out the rest of the background noise. Don't allow the drama to become the show. He does have a number of great people around him, so I'm confident the course will be corrected.
As for his recruitment, I still believe once Gibson gets to Ohio State this summer, they'll become the leader to land his commitment. Getting out of Florida will be a good thing for him.
TIGHT END SITUATION
Chris Clark is fading away from Ohio State it appears. I expect him to ultimately land at Michigan, despite some reports that he may try and make another visit to Columbus before his announcement at The Opening. Don't count on it. This is just a situation where a player is more comfortable elsewhere and although Ohio State isn't going to give up on him — because he's really good — it's probably not going to happen.
So, does that mean Hale Hentges is more likely a Buckeye? No, I don't think so, despite the widely-held belief that Ohio State would have to land one of the two. I think that Ohio State, and Missouri, will both be left holding the bag and Hentges will end up elsewhere. Right now, my gut tells me Florida State is the dark-horse.
So where do the Buckeyes go? Great question. Miles Boykin, more of a wide receiver prospect, was offered by the Buckeyes and that offer might be the primary reason that C.J. Conrad decided he wasn't going to camp to earn a Buckeye offer. He's since committed to Kentucky. Could Jake Pickard be a possibility or do the Buckeyes try and smooth things over with Conrad? It's bound to be an interesting few weeks.