It's here. College football season is officially upon us. Gig. It. Tee.
So yes, we're hours away from kick-off on the 2014 season, but surely you — and obviously I — can't help but think about the true lifeblood of college football: recruiting. As your work day winds down and your insatiable pigskin hunger gets its first measure of satisfaction in months, it's my hope you'll enjoy this little appetizer I've prepared for you.
Over the past few months, Ohio State's 2015 recruiting efforts have been, well, erratic. The tepid start to the class prompted some to abandon hopes of a top five finish from the "Elite '15," only to have their lack of confidence/faith thrown in their faces during a furious commitment push in May through July.
As key targets like Van Jefferson and Venzell Boulware have committed elsewhere in the past week, the Buckeyes are hoping some good news is around the corner. That corner could very well be next weekend in Columbus when Ohio State takes on Virginia Tech. A number of players at/near the top of the Buckeye board will be making their official visit with the Buckeyes, including a host of players who appear to have Ohio State at the top of their lists.
On Tuesday, Berea, Kentucky's Damien Harris tweeted a pretty important change to his recruiting calendar.
Had a great talk with Coach Meyer and the staff! Taking my official September 6th for the Virginia Tech game
— Damien Harris (@Damien_D1Harris) August 26, 2014
With Harris now on the slate, the Buckeyes — and the 105,000-plus in attendance — will be putting on a show for the nation's top-ranked running back (Harris), the top overall player in the country (Josh Sweat), perhaps the country's most dynamic athlete (Torrance Gibson), the second-ranked cornerback in the nation (Kevin Toliver II) as well one of the fastest-rising wide receiver prospects in the country this summer (Lawrence Cager).
Cager is having some potential difficulties arranging travel plans for his family, so he may not make the trip and it appears Scottsdale, Arizona's Christian Kirk will not be on-hand as the Buckeyes had hoped. There is still an outside chance that Matt Burrell, one of the most important targets left on the Buckeye board, could make his official next weekend as well. So yeah, it's a big weekend.
Harris, Cager, and Gibson are among the players most people believe will end up as Buckeyes, and although each of them continue to be very big on Ohio State, they've each held off on committing up to this point. I won't be so bold as to predict that changes next weekend, but there's plenty of reasons to be optimistic Cager and Gibson could potentially change some of their recruiting plans as well.
Gibson, who was in some ways "outed" as a "silent commitment" said he still plans to announce on October 20th, but his official visit to Columbus is the only one planned and Cager has long named Ohio State his "dream school" and has not ruled out a commitment earlier than his All-Star game announcement plans.
While there's an obvious frustration from Buckeye fans all over the internet, clamoring for a commitment from a player or players who they believe to be difference-makers, each of these players continues to wait for the right time to make their choice. It's a new era in recruiting and I'm a believer that guys should wait until they're 100-percent ready to announce, and hopefully ready to do so without the need for additional visits.
Maybe I'm just old-fashioned...
If you'd like a chance to watch Ohio State 2015 commitment Joe Burrow take the field for the first game of his senior season, you can. On Friday evening, if you head over to the Athens Bulldogs website and click on the link for ESPN, you'll be able to watch Burrow and his teammates take on Gallia Academy. The game is likely to get out of hand quickly, so if you want to watch Burrow you're going to want to check it out early. The game begins at 7:30 p.m. For the record, Burrow is one Buckeye commitment who will not be in attendance on September 6th in Columbus because he'll be in Athens watching his dad's Ohio Bobcats take on Kentucky.
Alabama commit Mekhi Brown visited Ohio State this past summer and had announced that he'd be taking an official visit to Columbus this fall. The initial plans were for Brown to visit during the Virginia Tech game, but he told me last night that won't be happening. He did suggest he'd reschedule the visit and pinpointed the home game against Michigan as the likely date.
If you're a fan of high school football and big-time prospects interested in Ohio State, then make sure you're watching St. Thomas Aquinas and American Heritage go head-to-head this Friday night on Fox Sports. Aside from Torrance Gibson, Buckeye targets like Tarvarus McFadden and Dredrick Snelson will line up for the Patriots of Heritage while St. Thomas Aquinas rolls out Nick Bosa (2016 DE) and Trevon Grimes (2017 WR) as well as 2015 studs Devante Peete, Jordan Scarlett, Rashard Causey, Damon Arnette and others. You'd be hard-pressed to find this much talent on one high school football field anywhere else in the country.
Speaking of Nick Bosa, the country's top-ranked weak-side defensive end in his class — and brother of Ohio State defensive end Joey —will be one of the many major recruits on campus next weekend. Remarkably, Bosa won't even be the top-ranked defensive end in the 2016 class on hand. That honor goes to Tampa Bay's Shavar Manuel, the second-ranked overall player in the 2016 class. Manuel is a 6-foot-5, 262-pound end from Blake High School and although it's unlikely the Buckeyes are able to lure him north for college, getting him on campus is a great place to start.
One player from the 2016 class that is on commitment watch for next weekend is St. Clairsville, Ohio's Brendan Ferns. The linebacker from southern Ohio will be back on campus for what seems like the 14th time in the last five months and the Buckeyes continue to be in a great position with the 6-foot-3, 223-pounder. Could a commitment be coming? Possible, but not likely. I'd expect him to wait through the end of the season, but the environment next weekend could change a lot of plans.
Ohio State offered 2016 wide receiver Divine Deablo from Winston Salem, North Carolina on Tuesday and he instantly becomes a member of the "all-name" team. The 6-foot-3, 180-pounder has offers already from Clemson, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and others.
Another top 2016 offer that went out on Wednesday, to Pittsburgh's Damar Hamlin, and the Buckeyes are going to be involved in this one for a while. Hamlin is the country's 12th-ranked cornerback in the 2016 class and at 6-foot-tall and 175-pounds, he fits the profile that Chris Ash is looking for in his cornerbacks. Hamlin worked out at Ohio State during Friday Night Lights and apparently the Buckeyes liked what they saw. Hamlin told 11W that the Buckeyes are near the top of his list and we'll have more from him later this week.