Football Recruiting: Pieces Coming Together For Truly Elite '15?

By Jeremy Birmingham on June 8, 2014 at 12:00 pm

With the commitment of The Plains, Ohio quarterback Joe Burrow two weeks ago, Ohio State ended a near three-and-a-half month commitment drought. To make things worse, the player who did commit to Ohio State three-and-a-half months ago, Ben Edwards, is now committed to Auburn, but it does feel that things are turning in a very positive direction for Ohio State as summer approaches.

Has Urban Meyer's staff suddenly remembered how to recruit after months of just tripping over themselves? Of course not. They've been playing the long game for a while and it appears that a number of key dominos are getting closer to falling into place. Yes, Burrow's commitment was a integral part of what's to come, but the biggest in-state piece, Justin Hilliard, is suddenly becoming more and more realistic after months of playing catch up. Suddenly, the 2015 class is poised to take off, and it could be led by a number of key Ohioans.


Much has been made regarding the lack of Ohio "flavor" in this year's recruiting class up to this point. Yes, the Buckeyes have two commitments from the Great State of Ohio (Eric Glover-Williams and Burrow), but a few players inside of the state without offers (TE C.J. Conrad and LB Nick Conner) seem to be talked about more than those with offers. 

When it's all said and done, Ohio State could still end up a class comprised of at least 40-percent Ohioans, and that's a fairly good number considering it's widely-considered a "down year" for talent in Ohio. 

EGW and Burrow could realistically be joined by linebackers Jerome Baker and Justin Hilliard, defensive lineman Elijah Taylor and Dre'Mont Jones, running back L.J. Scott and offensive lineman James Daniels. Consider that other players like Westerville South star Rob Dowdy and Nordonia's Denzel Ward are still possibilities as well, and suddenly a depleted 2015 class could end up in double-digits in Ohio. 

Of the group with offers, right now the biggest question mark is Cincinnati Moeller's Elijah Taylor. In fact, there's a good chance he could be off the board for Ohio State within days. The longer he waits the better, but it appears that wait won't be much longer.

Of course, Notre Dame is also a threat for Justin Hilliard. The Fighting Irish had what could have been their last shot at Hilliard this weekend. There's more and more scuttlebutt indicating he's close to making a decision that will make 11W readers very happy.

If one of these major Ohio pieces go the Scarlet and Gray way soon, the others will find it much easier to get on the train. 


As a few of you may have noticed, there's been a slight change in my prediction for Hubbard running back L.J. Scott. While Michigan State has long been the favorite to land Scott, a visit last weekend to Ohio State seems to have shifted momentum back towards the Buckeyes, according to sources close to Scott and sources at Ohio State. However, unlike when this (Scott moving back towards OSU) happened before, the Buckeyes have seemed to continue to press the issue with L.J. and his family this week and it's made a big impact. If a commitment comes soon for Scott, it's almost certainly going to be Ohio State, and that's what I believe happens.

Last week at the Nike Football Training Camp in Columbus, Damien Harris was asked specifically if he'd be "bothered" by one of his suitors having a commitment from another running back and he said it'd not be an issue. On Friday, he released his top eight schools, and as expected the Buckeyes made the list.

According to Harris his list is in no specific order, but if you've paid any attention to his recruitment, if there was an order, that list may very well be it. 

As the nation's premiere running back, he's not going to be swayed or scared off by anyone committed before him. He's confident and self-assured and realizes he'll have to compete anywhere he goes. Second, Damien also acknowledged that as he's waiting until later in the process, schools are going to be almost forced to have another option in the event that he doesn't choose them. The Buckeyes, who didn't take a running back in 2014, would not be wise to wait until signing day for Harris only, knowing they'd risk losing Scott and Mike Weber.

What does all this mean for Weber? That's going to be almost entirely up to him. He stated last week that his top three schools are Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State, but a very reliable source indicated to me that the Buckeyes were the team he favored the most.

However, a commitment from Scott could put his spot at Ohio State in jeopardy, so might he be forced to try and make a move first? I'm not sure he's even remotely close to making that decision, but there's a chance it could be made for him soon. Ohio State is in a dubious position here for sure because telling Weber "no thanks" if Scott were to commit while they waited for Harris could compromise a ton of goodwill they've built up at Cass Tech this year and in the future. 

It'll be interesting to see where they go from there. For my money, Harris is the clear-cut best running back of three simply because he possesses something Scott and Weber do not — gamebreaking speed — but beyond that any pair of these three running backs would be an absolute homerun for Meyer and his staff.


Two important Clarks — Austin and Chris — both announced their top four schools on Friday at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge and the Buckeyes are still in the mix for the offensive lineman from Virginia and the tight end from Connecticut.

Austin Clark, a 6-foot-6, 297-pound lineman from Lexington, Virginia will make his decision next weekend, and the Buckeyes are in his final group alongside South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. His "crystal ball" is slanted heavily towards Tennessee and the Vols do appear to be the team to beat. Ohio State had hoped to get him back on campus once more before his decision is made, but that will not happen. 

As for Chris, the nation's most-offered tight end, the Wolverines of Michigan continue to be the team to beat, but Clark's final four has a very Big Ten feel to it, with 75-percent of his final choices from Delaney-ville. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and North Carolina, where Clark originally committed, are his final group and he'll make visits to each Big Ten school within the next two weeks.

I still believe Michigan has the edge for Clark, but there are reasons to feel more optimistic about him and Ohio State, and if things continue moving in that direction up to his visit, Urban Meyer could very well swing this one back towards Ohio State.


Jashon Cornell showed up to the Rivals Five-Star Challenge donning Scarlet and Gray, but as we know, shirts aren't necessarily a great tell-all. With a number of big visits coming up (Stanford, Michigan, Michigan State, Oregon, UCLA, USC and more) you shouldn't expect the drama to end anytime soon. The good news for Ohio State is that after last weekend's visit, the Buckeyes are squarely in the thick of things for the first time in a while.

One player to watch at this weekend's camp? South Dakota's Grant Schmidt. He's the type of player Ohio State has had great success with along the offensive line in the last few years and he says he's in almost daily contact with Ed Warinner. I imagine Schmidt shows up on Sunday and dominates. He'll tour Ohio State with his family on Monday and it wouldn't be too shocking if he committed on this visit.

Ohio State and Texas A&M continue to be the teams to beat for Scottsdale, Arizona wide receiver Christian Kirk, despite excellent visits to Tennessee and Auburn last week. I'd give the Aggies a slight edge right now, but if Kirk can get back to Columbus this summer — and I've heard a few positive things that would indicate it could happen sooner rather than later — that would be huge for Ohio State.

One player that is making a return to Ohio State this month is Orlando, Florida (Timber Creek) five-star running back Jacques Patrick, who will make a stop in Columbus within the next two weeks. Patrick has sort of fallen off the Buckeye big board in recent months as the drumbeats became louder and louder that he's unlikely to leave Florida for college. Still, he'll be checking out the midwest power programs over the next few weeks as he visits some family in the Detroit area and he's never stopped being in regular contact with the Buckeyes.

Oscar Smith (Chesapeake, Virginia) defensive end Josh Sweat will visit Ohio State on Friday, July 25th and make an appearance at Friday Night Lights. While he's unlikely to camp, it will be a huge opportunity for the Buckeyes to make their pitch to the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Sweat, who is without question one of the nation's premiere athletes.

Anaheim, California 2015 quarterback Travis Waller picked up a big offer on Friday as Notre Dame made their interest in him known. The Irish, reeling from the decommitment of Blake Barnett, become a major player in Waller's recruitment moving forward. Barnett is likely to end up at Oregon and that would effectively end Waller's interest in the Ducks and it's less and less likely the Buckeyes extend an offer in his direction as well.

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