11W Recruiting Mailbag: How 2016 Could Finish, Who Could Impact Next Season and Much More

By Jeremy Birmingham on December 1, 2015 at 1:15 pm
The Mailbag Returns

The 11W Recruiting Mailbag is your one-stop-shop for all things Ohio State recruiting. Got a question? Ask it, and if we can answer it, we will.


D-Line, who finishes out the class?Toad1204

Birm: We've talked about Antwuan Jackson for so long that it almost seems sometimes he'll never make a decision, but eventually he has to, right?

Right now, with Nick Bosa, Jonathon Cooper and Malik Barrow all committed, the goal remains the same as it has since the summer: find at least one more defensive tackle and Jackson is the primary target. Right now, he's the one guy that I think is the closest to being "in" despite continually having Ohio State and Auburn tied at the top of his list. Ohio State's Larry Johnson will see Jackson this Friday night and the Buckeyes will likely check on Rashard Lawrence at some point this week as well as a last-ditch effort at Rashan Gary.

Both Bosa and Barrow are recovering from leg surgeries and Jonathon Cooper narrowly escaped a serious injury at the end of his senior season as well, so as the Buckeyes' needs numbers-wise become more clear it's not entirely outside of reality that another potential end could be considered. One that I personally would try and reach out to if I was Ohio State? Fort Lauderdale's Brian Burns. The American Heritage standout (Torrance Gibson's high school) is a really intriguing prospect to me and with unrest at Georgia (one of his top schools), there could be an opportunity for a late move to be made.

Which positions do you anticipate being the most difficult to fill with seniors and juniors leaving? In your opinion, is the coaching staff targeting to fill any voids appropriately?TGoBucks10

Birm: I would never question what the Ohio State coaching staff is doing when it comes to their recruiting. The Buckeyes currently have the nation's top recruiting class in 2016 and 2017 and continue to pound the pavement for talent in both years. 

Without question the area of concern for most people has been defensive tackle, but as Michael Hill, Donovan Munger and Tracy Sprinkle have stepped up a bit towards the end of this season, it's not going to be quite as challenging next year as maybe initially imagined. 

For me, the toughest spot to anticipate for next season is running back and defensive back. With the departure of Ezekiel Elliott, Mike Weber and Antonio Williams–as well as Bri'onte Dunn and maybe Curtis Samuel–will need to pick up a heavy, heavy workload but also need to prove competent in pass-protection and catching the ball out of the backfield. 

In the secondary, I think it's reasonable to expect that both Vonn Bell and Eli Apple make their way to the NFL and it's imperative to replace those two next season but also to recruit for the long haul because Gareon Conley and Tyvis Powell will be gone next year barring injury. 

You mentioned that OSU bouncing back after a loss was huge for our recruitment. How big was this "bounce back" in your opinion, and will it have direct effect on any particular recruits?AZNChipmunk

Birm: The level of athlete and competitor that Ohio State recruits isn't used to losing, and they don't take it well, and naturally you don't want people to get comfortable with being defeated. Players who made their way to Columbus for the Michigan State game got a glimpse of a rarely seen phenomenon: a Buckeye loss. 

The father of Clairton, Pennsylvania, 2017 four-star Lamont Wade told me directly following the game that his family was interested in seeing how Ohio State responded to adversity, because winning is easy to handle.

Success breeds success, and last year Ohio State's success meant a pair of losses in the coaching staff and it'd be wise to expect at least that many departures from this year's staff. That's the next major hump for Meyer to overcome, that's the next major adversity. If Chris Ash takes the Syracuse job, if Ed Warinner finds himself leading a program somewhere else it's next man up and it's getting harder and harder to hold on to quality assistants.

Which true freshman from the 2016 class do you see starting next fall?ISurvivedCooper

Birm: I think the answer to this question can and will be affected by how quickly Nick Bosa recovers from his ACL surgery. If Nick is 100 percent and ready to go by June, I think he's the type of person and player that can make a splash early since he can play on the edge or the interior of the defensive line.

Beyond Bosa, I think that Austin Mack, Jake Hausmann and Luke Farrell are all going to compete for early playing time, especially Mack as an early enrollee. With so many roster spots up in the air, the Buckeyes are bringing in a handful of their 2016 class in January and that's not so people can sit around and not play.

We are No. 1 in current 2016 rankings, but only have a couple of big ticket guys left on the probable list. Where do you think we finish in the recruiting rankings? Top 3? Top 5?HuffDaddy

Birm: I will say that I don't expect the Buckeyes to stay at the top for 2016, but it'd be a surprise if they ended up any lower than fourth or fifth. 

Alabama, LSU, Florida, Florida State and Michigan are all contenders for the country's best class when it's all said and done. Ohio State's final ranking is going to be heavily impacted by how they finish, especially if they're unable to land any of their top defensive back targets. 

About a month ago, you and Andrew had each of your 'final five' predictions, and both had Victor and Jackson included. Nothing seems to have changed with those two, so what are you thinking on the other three, if you were to predict? It seems a LB and 2 DBs are the focus for the other three, and Hayes might be trending this way for LB, but no name that I've seen in any articles or Hurry Ups for DB that seems to be at least an Ohio State lean.KJonesATX

Birm: You know, it's kind of hard to deny that at this point the Ohio State class is a bit stalled currently. Right now, I'm still pretty confident in where the Buckeyes stand with Antwuan Jackson and Binjimen Victor, but from the group of Rashard Lawrence, Damar Hamlin, Jordan Fuller, Daelin Hayes, Brandon Burton, Nigel Warrior, and most of their other outstanding targets, it's tough to label them the "favorite" for any.

We've seen other names like Dylan Singleton (Lawrenceville, Georgia) and Myles Dorn (Charlotte) at defensive back come in for official visits and guys like Cleveland's Tony Butler remain a potential option, but new names are bound to pop up if the top group all falls through.

Bottom line? Stay tuned until signing day, because Urban Meyer's recruiting is never boring for long.


Was throwing into the endzone while up 42-13 for the benefit of all the Michigan recruits in attendance or was that payback for Harbaugh and his staff sniping at the Buckeye coaches on Twitter for the last 11 months? FatPants

Birm: I don't think that Urban Meyer was really concerned about who was watching on Saturday, whether in person or on television, but I definitely wouldn't be surprised if there was a bit of a message he was trying to send. The facts are that when you're at the top of the mountain, and have been for a while, it's a bit frustrating when the new kids on the block come in and make a bunch of noise and people start giving them crowns they've not earned.

The Buckeyes did whatever they wanted on Saturday afternoon and there's no doubt that Jim Harbaugh and his staff will spend the next 360 days reminding themselves of it in order to get a win in Columbus next year.

If you didn't have to work, how many bottles of Boone's Farm would you have consumed after the MSU loss? If Boone's Farm isn't your choice, please elaborate.YTownBuckI

Birm: My family consists of Boone's Farm connoisseurs, which you may or may not have known prior to your question. Wild Island is the correct variation, always and forever, but Mountain Berry is another favorite, but neither are the proper game day beverage choice.

For me, were I watching that debacle on the couch with a drink, it'd be something simple like Miller Lite and in the event of an embarrassment like that afternoon in Ohio Stadium double-digit drinks would certainly be expected.

Why does the season fly by, yet takes forever to get here?BuckeyesVsTheWorld

Birm: Because human nature is such that we never truly appreciate what we have and instead would lament what we're missing. 

As my good friend Sheryl Crow once crooned "it's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got."

My advice, completely unsolicited and perhaps more serious than the initial question called forL Find a way to spend the offseason doing more things that truly matter and that become life-long memories, it'll make that time more worthwhile and not so eagerly surrendered.

Who's your pick to have a break out season next year? Gibson?KareemAbdulJacobb

Birm: I think the obvious choice is a guy like Mike Weber, and the cheap pick is a guy like Noah Brown who most pegged as "the guy" this year, but I'm going to go with KJ Hill. All year long he's a guy I've heard about and Urban Meyer has brought him up multiple times as a player he really wanted to get into the game this year but the moment was never right.

On defense I'll go with Erick Smith, who might seem like an obvious choice but he'll be coming off a torn ACL and is going to be really needed in the secondary after being a special teams ace the last year and a half. 

As for Torrance Gibson? He's one of the most athletic guys on the team and if he buys into the program from a mental standpoint, which he's been much better with lately, he'll be a great player for the Buckeyes down the line.

We are losing some great players and probably some coaches this year. What does next year look like to you? Especially, what do you think will be the most difficult to reload and who will step in to do it?JonnFerrell

Birm: I don't want to be a pessimist, but I think it's a good idea for Buckeye fans to start tempering expectation for 2016 right now because it's got the potential to be a really tough year. There are 12 seniors departing and by my count probably eight juniors leaving early and maybe 10. The Buckeyes were unable to get many freshmen experience this fall and because of that there's bound to be upwards of 45 freshmen and redshirt freshmen on next year's roster.

Couple those facts with a more-difficult-than-usual schedule (road games at Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State among them) and I am on record as saying an eight-win season next year is a real possibility.

Maybe I'm "pessimistic" but it's not meant to be, occasionally you're going to have a year that isn't spent entirely at the top of the polls.

Any real story or further inside information regarding the Weber tweet? – ThatUNMGuy

Birm: I understand why people freaked out, I do. This tweet could be taken a number of ways and its reasonable to assume that when it was fired off, Mike was aware it could become fodder for those who wish to speculate.

When you're a football player at a place like Ohio State, everything you do and say will be scrutinized to the Nth degree and Weber had to know that. Still, it's just as likely that in these cases a 19-year-old college student could be talking about anything in his life, from school work, to family life, to his girlfriend. 

In Weber's case, he was talking about just being a kid again, the chance to go back and play little league football, to relive high school, etc. He was not talking about his decision to attend Ohio State and is working very hard to help Ohio State land a number of recruits from the Detroit area that he's personally close with.

If he was so unhappy in Columbus I don't think he'd be stepping up and trying to aid the recruiting efforts of people he's known his whole life.

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