The Buckeyes' coaching staff can't be there, but the talent sure will be this afternoon at Ohio State. Nike's The Opening is back in Columbus and the camp, one of the country's most respected since its inception, is bringing a host of big-time players including eight different Ohio State commitments in the 2016 and 2017 classes.
Let's take a look at the key players in attendance this afternoon.
BUCKEYE COMMITS ALL OVER
As noted, there are expected to be at least eight, and possibly nine, different Ohio State pledges participating today and it's a great opportunity for a few to prove they deserve an invitation to Oregon and for a few others to get top-flight instruction and coaching as they head into their recruitments biggest summer.
In the Buckeyes' 2016 class, Jake Hausmann, Kierre Hawkins, Michael Jordan and Jonathon Cooper will compete. Demario McCall is on the registration list, and he's told Eleven Warriors he would be competing this afternoon, but that is up in the air. He was tentatively scheduled to visit Ohio State Saturday and did not make that trip. Cooper is a player I'd almost expect to earn an invite to Oregon; he's dominated the camp circuit everywhere he's gone, including The Opening regionals in Atlanta.
Four of the six Buckeye 2017 commitments, the entire Ohio representation, will be in attendance. Danny Clark, Todd Sibley, Jr., Josh Myers and Marcus Williamson are all on the docket and ready to compete. Nike doesn't take many junior-to-be prospects to their July event, but Myers is a player that is going to be watched closely.
NON-BUCKEYES THAT WILL HAVE OUR EYES ON THEM
There's a handful of players scheduled that are very high on Ohio State's recruiting board, and those guys are sure to be watched closely by the media in attendance.
Austin Mack, the Buckeyes' top target at wide receiver, will be at the camp, although it's uncertain how much competing he'll do. AJ Rose, a Kentucky commit, is registered as a running back, but he remains a potential target for the Buckeyes at defensive back. Westerville's Jaelen Gill, a 2018 star, will participate as well and he's going to turn some heads.
Luke Farrell, from Perry, Ohio, will camp and get a shot to go head-to-head with Hausmann and Hawkins; all three are registered as tight ends.
The top trio of 2017 in-state wide receivers, Danny Davis, Ja'Vonte Richardson and Jaylen Harris, will all be at the camp and it's going to be incredibly interesting to see which stands out from the pack. As things stand, I imagine there's only going to be one of this trio that gets an early Buckeye offer, so this weekend could help differentiate among the group. Fremont Ross wide receiver Craig Yeast II, another highly-ranked 2017 wide receiver, is also expected. Ohio's top 2016 wide receiver, Justin Layne, will also be in attendance.
Out of state, 2017 Detroit Cass Tech star Donovan Peoples-Jones highlights a strong wide receiver group that also includes Louisville 2016 commit Dez Fitzpatrick, fast-rising 2017 Michigan-native Hunter Rison
At offensive line, Lexington, Kentucky's Landon Young – a Kentucky commit – visited the Buckeyes yesterday and is a prospect Ohio State remains very interested in. He'll get an extended look and although he's a tough sell for a flip, Ed Warinner remains in close contact. He'll join Notre Dame commit Tommy Kraemer, Michigan State pledge Gavin Cupp and uncommitted Michael Onwenu, from Detroit Cass Tech, as guys I'll be paying close attention to. In the 2017 class, I'll be eager to watch St. Xavier (Cincinnati) standout Matt Bockhorst and Monroeville, Pennsylvania's Robert Hainsey. Bockhorst is one a few outstanding Ohio lineman in the 2017 class that could see an offer come his way, maybe this summer.
A pair of Cincinnati prospects, Prince Sammons and Jerron Cage, will get a lot of my attention along the defensive line. Sammons, as I've noted, isn't really ready for primetime at offensive line or the defensive line, so I'm curious to see how he stacks up. Athletically, he'll be among the more impressive in attendance, but I'm interested to see how he handles the coaching and on-the-fly instruction. Cage is the younger brother of Notre Dame's Daniel Cage, and he's a player the Buckeyes – specifically Kerry Coombs – spent significant time getting to know this spring. 6-foot-3 and 260-pounds, Cage isn't really physically stronger than most of the guys he'll go up against this weekend, but he's got the frame to get to 300 pounds easily and I'm looking forward to seeing his hands and footwork.
At linebacker, one player I like is 2017's Josh Ross, a star at Orchard Lake St. Mary's in Michigan, with a Buckeye offer. Ross is the younger brother of James Ross, who plays for Michigan and the Wolverines are at the top of his list at this point.
In most camp settings, wide receivers and defensive backs are usually the positions that have the most talent on-hand and this weekend is no exception. Damar Hamlin tops the list of names to pay attention to, and the Pittsburgh Catholic Central star is set to make a push for an invitation to Oregon. He will be joined by two other Pittsburgh defensive backs, both from the 2017 class, as players I'll be watching closely. Lamont Wade and Paris Ford, each of whom accompanied Hamlin to campus yesterday, are among the country's best at their position for 2017. Georgia's Richard LeCounte registered for the camp, but a minor injury suffered during a camp last weekend will keep him from traveling and participating.
I'm interested also in a pair of Detroit Cass Tech defensive backs, 2017's Jaylen Kelly-Powell and 2018's Kalon Gervin could be the next in a long line of big-timers from the emerging Buckeye pipeline.