Joe Burrow, Tyler Green, Denzel Ward, Jashon Cornell Talk Friday Night Lights

By Jeremy Birmingham on July 27, 2014 at 11:15 am
Friday Night Lights at Ohio Stadium

Well, it's been quite a weekend for Buckeye recruiting, hasn't it? Friday Night Lights came and went and it started with a bang as Olathe, Kansas tight end Josh Moore committed to the Buckeyes before the sun had set Friday evening. Less than two hours later, it was another Josh — Detroit Cass Tech's Alabi — who decided it was time to be a Buckeye.

While we had a rundown of the event here, and stories post-event here, here, here, herehere, and here, a recruiting bonanza of this magnitude requires a bit more to dig through the happenings. In particular, the reaction from current Buckeye commitments hasn't really been discussed: until now. (Cue suspenseful theme music)

Here's what a few of your "Elite '15" had to say about their experience at Friday Night Lights as future Buckeyes rather than just as players competing for a scholarship offer.

"I think the main thing I really enjoyed about Friday Night Lights was getting to know my future teammates. Most of our commits were there and I spent a lot of time with them. Everyone but Grant (Schmidt), Kevin (Feder) and Dre'Mont (Jones) was there," Buckeyes quarterback commit Joe Burrow said of the night.  I can tell that it will be crazy to play in that stadium. There were only a few thousand people there and the "O-H-I-O" chant was loud. It gave me chills."

Burrow discussed the addition of the "Elite '15's" two newest members. Despite being so close to the action, the commitments of Josh² were a surprise.

"Those two committed kind of out of the blue," Burrow added. "The coaches told us when they had committed, and since they didn't really know many of us yet they brought them over and we tried to get to know them better, to make them feel at home. I spent a lot of time with Jake Hausmann. He spent a lot of time with our commitments and I think he really felt at home."

Hausmann, a 2016 tight end from Cincinnati, said he too had a great time at the camp, despite his decision to not participate in the drills.

"Yeah," Hausmann said. "It was really fun. (Ohio State) needed a 2015 tight end commitment. (I was going to work out) but I was a little beat up from camp and I don't want to get hurt before the season."

Buckeyes defensive back pledges Denzel Ward and Tyler Green also took in the action, although Green camped and Ward opted out. For Ward, it was a unique experience to see the grind for an offer from the other side of the fence.

"It was a cool experience," the 5-foot-11, 165-pound cornerback said. "I was just in a lot their shoes, working to receive a scholarship offer from the top school in the country. I didn't work out, I just shadowed Coach (Kerry) Coombs with some other commits and listened to what he was teaching everyone. What stood out to me was the intensity and enthusiasm of the campers and the coaches. It lasted through the whole camp."

Green shared a similar point-of-view.

"Aside from The Opening, Friday Night Lights was the best event I've ever been to, recruiting-wise," the Maryland-native said. "The fan support was awesome, it was great how the current players interacted with the commitments and recruits. I had Vonn Bell and Doran Grant in my face the whole time (laughs). The fans were crazy. There was a point when Mike Doss was trying to tell us how great the fan base was so he just randomly yelled out "O-H!" and the fans were on point and replied "I-O" without hesitation. I had fans screaming my name and calling me from the stands and I did pictures and even signed autographs."

"Being a part of that Friday night was one of the best feelings of my life. I know those fans will root for me, and those coaches will treat me like family, and those players will show me the ropes and help me be great. Picking Ohio State is the best decision I've ever made."

The chance to develop friendships with future teammates, the chance to gain a rapport with the guys you'll line up next to for three-to-five years? That's why events like Friday Night Lights matter. Jashon Cornell talked about his friendship with linebacker commitment Justin Hilliard.

"With Justin, it just feels like we're brothers already," Cornell said. "He's like my right-hand man. I felt like I belonged at Ohio State, just chilling with some of the freshman and Justin, it felt like we were family. The atmosphere was great, it wasn't even a spring game or a practice or anything, you can tell by how many fans showed up that they truly love Ohio State football. They were calling our names and trying to take pictures with us and stuff."

Cornell and Hilliard were not just there having fun, even though fun was certainly had. There was business — recruiting business — to attend to.

"I spent a majority of my time at the camp with Drew Richmond and Justin spent most of his time with Torrance Gibson," Cornell said of his evening. "Drew has always got me laughing. He and Torrance are by far two of the funniest recruits out there."

Ironically, it's Burrow who could be the most impacted by the potential of a Gibson commitment to the Buckeyes, but he's on board with whatever makes his future team better.

"I didn't get to spend much time with Torrance because he was working out," Burrow said of the Florida five-star. "I know he wants to be a quarterback, but it would be incredible to have an athlete like him on our team."

Linebacker Nick Conner didn't get much of a chance to meet Gibson either.

"I said 'Hey' to Torrance in the locker room, and I unfortunately didn't get to meet Drew," Conner said. "My family and I got there a little earlier and went to check out the new facilities at the Woody Hayes. Just seeing the new place and being in there again was sweet. It was pretty cool meeting the guys there and getting to hear their stories about Ohio State and their high schools. It's going to be so crazy walking on the field there one day as a player and not a fan."

Michigan had an up-and-down day yesterday, adding a big-time 2015 commitment but taking a surprising loss to one of their top in-state 2016 targets. Saginaw's Brian Cole decided to stay home and committed to the Wolverines and linebacker Daelin Hayes surprised many with an impromptu commitment to USC during a west coast visit. Both players already held Ohio State offers, but Cole was the more likely of the two to consider the Buckeyes more than on a cursory level.

Hayes was at USC with fellow Michigander Mike Weber. Weber picked up a Southern Cal offer during his visit and last week moved the Trojans into his top five. While Weber continues to trend towards the Wolverines, I've been told a number of times the Buckeyes have been his clear-cut leader, but Ohio State's pursuit of Damien Harris isn't going to stop if Weber were to commit, so it's likely he ends up elsewhere, especially so if Harris commits to the Buckeyes as most predict he eventually will. Of course, with Weber's friends and teammates now committing many places other than Michigan, things get a bit murkier. While he won't base his choice on anyone else's decision, the Buckeyes picking up a commitment from Alabi Friday night sure-as-poop doesn't hurt their odds with Weber.

Next Buckeye commitment? The Buckeyes still believe it could be Warren, Ohio's James Danielsalthough most "experts" believe things are heading towards the Ohio State legacy selecting Iowa this week (Thursday) at his school. The Buckeyes, for their part, truly believe it's a 50/50 toss-up right now. Ohio State would still like to take three more offensive lineman in their 2015 class, and Daniels is one they have penciled in.

I'm getting close to offering to consume my loafers if 2016 linebacker Brendan Ferns ends up anywhere other than Ohio State.

Things appear to be fading away from the Buckeyes as it pertains to Saguaro (Scottsdale, Arizona) star Christian Kirk. Ohio State will do whatever they can to stay involved and near the fore for his signature, but they've got some work to do and aren't feeling nearly as good about their position as they did a month ago.

Although things are trending downward with Kirk, I'd expect — at this point — for both Van Jefferson and Lawrence Cager to end up Buckeyes come signing day. Jefferson's decision could come at any time and the main competitors for his commitment, Tennessee, are losing confidence in their position with him I am told. Whether or not that holds is the question, but the Buckeyes are in great shape as things currently stand.

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