Welcome to The Hurry Up, which runs Sunday through Thursday, serving as your last stop for recruiting news and notes nightly. We'll recap the day as it happened and preview the days ahead while keeping our ear to the ground on the Ohio State recruiting scene.
EICHENBERG REMAINS HIGH PRIORITY AMONG 2016 LINEMAN
On signing day the Buckeyes swept in and landed Greenbelt, Maryland's Isaiah Prince, stealing the country's 7th-ranked offensive tackle in the 2015 class at the last hour. The addition of Prince gave Ed Warinner's already loaded offensive line group six signees (and a seventh, long-snapper Liam McCullough) and at the very least some serious flexibility on numbers and positions for the next couple of years.
If the Buckeyes had their druthers, they'd sign their entire class of 2016 lineman from within Ohio's borders. They've already received a commitment from Portsmouth's Tyler Gerald (now at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida) and continue to try and chase the state's top overall player in 2016, Cincinnati Elder offensive tackle and Notre Dame commitment, Tommy Kraemer. While it's unlikely Ohio State will flip Kraemer from the Irish, they're still in a fist fight for the state's second-ranked offensive tackle, Cleveland St. Ignatius' Liam Eichenberg.
Two weeks ago, Eichenberg cut his list to only Ohio State and Notre Dame, and with a decision expected to come soon, the Buckeyes are working hard to keep the 6-foot-6, 290-pounder from believing that their depth means early playing time isn't a possibility.
"We know that other schools are going to hold this year's class against us for next year," one source shared about the Buckeyes' depth. "Signing six guys isn't normal but it does allow us to focus on 2016 in a more narrow way. We could be comfortable signing only two or three guys, so [Eichenberg and Gerald] could be it, especially if they're both locked up early. That keeps us from having to look elsewhere and gives him a chance to be very instrumental in his class."
247Sports.com lists Eichenberg as the country's second-ranked offensive tackle and a five-star prospect. Rivals.com lists him as only the 32nd-ranked tackle, so while there's some disagreement over what the ceiling is for the Ignatius star, the Buckeyes are confident in their belief that he'd fit into their culture and system nicely.
"He's a great kid; hard-working and confident," the source added. "He's right there with the best players in the country."
FLORIDA WIDE RECEIVERS LOVE ALFORD HIRE
Yesterday's Hurry Up touched briefly on Tre Nixon's opinion of new running backs' coach Tony Alford, who's hiring was made official by Ohio State today. Nixon has an offer from the Buckeyes as well as the Irish.
"He's a family guy, down-to-earth," Nixon, the three-star from Viera, Florida, said. "He has a lot of energy."
A 6-foot-1, 190-pounder, Nixon's 247Sports.com crystal ball was slanted heavily towards the Irish, primarily because of the relationship with Alford.
He told 11W last night that the Buckeyes are absolutely going to be considered more now that Alford joins Tim Hinton in recruiting him.
"Him being there definitely helps the Buckeyes," Nixon added. "I'm very close with Coach Alford. Him leaving Notre Dame surprised me to be honest, I had no idea he'd be leaving there, but I know coaches move around a lot these days. They are doing what's better for them and their families and it's understandable; it works in recruits' favors sometimes."
Binjimen Victor is one of the bigger targets for Ohio State's Zach Smith in 2016 and he too may have gained a helping hand thanks to the Alford hire. The 6-foot-4, 170 pound Victor, who is one of the country's most talented big WRs in 2016, just received an offer from Florida yesterday.
"(Alford) is a great dude," Victor shared. "He's not going to be recruiting me to wear green anymore, now it will be scarlet. At the end of the day, it's a business."
Victor said he talked with Smith, Ohio State's wide receivers' coach last week, just hours after the Buckeyes wrapped up their 2015 class.
"Yeah, we talked last week," Victor said of his relationship with Smith. "Now that 2015 is over we'll definitely build a better connection. Coach Alford being there will help too."
CHANGING THE RECRUITING GAME
Not usual for me to comment on the recruiting situations that are happening around the country when they don't impact Ohio State at all, but the saga around Georgia's Roquan Smith requires some paying attention to.
If you weren't aware, Smith announced last Wednesday — on signing day — that he would be attending UCLA, picking the Bruins over Georgia, Michigan and others. Hours after announcing his commitment, but before sending his letter of intent to the Bruins, Smith learned that UCLA's linebacker coach, Jeff Ulbrich, would be leaving Westwood to take a job with the Atlanta Falcons. Initially, Smith had stated a final decision about a school choice would be coming within a week or so, but yesterday he, via his high school coach Larry Harold, decided that no letter of intent would be signed. Period.
“He’s not going to sign a letter of intent,” Harold told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The reason why is because what he went through last week. This just gives us flexibility in case something else unexpectedly happens again.”
Obviously Ohio State drew fire from pundits and Michigan-based instigators for their handling of Stan Drayton's departure, but they were hardly the only school to have this kind of thing happening. Alford is one of three coaches from Notre Dame to leave South Bend, Ulbrich left UCLA, Texas, Florida and others all dealt with similar issues.
As the notoriety from this sort of thing increases, expect more and more athletes to eschew the entire letter of intent process to keep their options as open as the schools recruiting them are. A letter of intent binds only the player the school and provides no security for the player himself. Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples called the LOI the "worst contract in American sports" and it's clear that more and more people are beginning to see the flaw in the system.
I'm not sure exactly what changes need to be made in order to create a more balanced system, but expect it to be a regular topic of discussion until those necessary changes occur.
BUCKEYE CAMPS SCHEDULED
While most of you who read this article nightly don't have any personal or vested interest in the nature of Ohio State's recruiting, there's likely some who have high school age children that are interested in pursuing their dreams of playing for the Buckeyes. One of the best ways for less-heralded athletes to get that sort of opportunity is by making sure they attend one of the Buckeyes' on-campus camps, held in mid-June.
Today, by way of Larry Johnson's Twitter account, those dates are now official.
Yes, the Buckeyes have a pretty good idea of who they're going to be watching before these camps take place, but without them we'd not see Darron Lee terrorizing offenses in the Scarlet and Gray, nor would players such as Sean Nuernberger, Terry McLaurin and others be on Ohio State's roster. They're a great opportunity to get players of all ages incredible training from Buckeye coaches and to get seen by Ohio State. Full camp details can be found at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.