Ohio State is about to bring in what could be the best recruiting class ever recorded, at least as it pertains to average star rating per signee.
The class currently sits at 19 commitments with nine of those having already enrolled and begun participating in the usual January conditioning activities. That's good enough for No. 2 in the national team rankings, and with one and possibly two more commits on the way, Urban Meyer should once again expect a top-five recruiting finish.
It's even more impressive when you consider that schools like Alabama, Georgia, and Michigan – who are also expected to finish in the top five – have anywhere from four to seven more commitments than the Buckeyes.
It's crazy to think that the state's No. 1 wide receiver – Cleveland's Jaylen Harris – is actually one of the lower-ranked commits in the class. Two weeks ago, we spent some time analyzing the Harris pledge and what it means for Ohio State. Behind Harris and four-star early enrollee Marcus Williamson, there are three other future Buckeyes that we shouldn't be forgetting about.
|Jerron Cage||Defensive Tackle||Cincinnati (Winton Woods)||No. 236 (No. 13 DT)|
|Pete Werner||Linebacker||Indianapolis (Cathedral)||No. 292 (No. 16 OLB)|
|Blake Haubeil||Kicker||Buffalo (Canisius)||No. 1,255 (No. 1 K)|
The need for defensive tackles was pretty apparent heading into the 2017 cycle, but it also may be something that's been blown out of proportion a bit.
Yes, Ohio State has missed on virtually all of the high-profile interior linemen that have been targeted and that's caused some uneasiness throughout the fanbase. It's tricky, however, when you consider that stud tackles don't exactly grow on trees in the Midwest.
The list ranges from Neville Gallimore (Oklahoma) to Christian Wilkins (Clemson) and on and on all the way up to Rashard Lawrence (LSU), Antwuan Jackson (Auburn), and Rashan Gary (Michigan) from last year.
Still, guys like Robert Landers and Davon Hamilton have thus far proven their worth despite their three-star high school standing. Cincinnati's Jerron Cage (Winton Woods) was a big addition when he committed back in July of 2015. He filled a position of need then and the same can certainly be said now.
Ohio State has fought off Notre Dame and the family ties connecting Cage to their program, and with just days remaining until signing day, the Buckeyes are expected to keep the state's top defensive tackle within its border.
A four-star prospect measuring in at 6-foot-2 and 275 pounds, Cage is a likely redshirt candidate but should move up the depth chart heading into 2018 after the departures of Michael Hill and Tracy Sprinkle.
Buckeye linebacker recruiting was steady early on in the cycle but became a much more interesting follow in the winter months. The late-November decommitment from Antjuan Simmons just meant that Luke Fickell and the coaching staff would have to ramp up the efforts on Baron Browning and the other top targets.
Around this same time, Fickell was paying a visit to four-star Notre Dame pledge Pete Werner. The Indianapolis product committed to the Irish at their junior day event in March of 2016 and would open his recruitment back up shortly after the visit from the Ohio State staff. He took an official visit to Columbus in early December and officially committed on Dec. 11.
Extremely excited to commit to The Ohio State University! pic.twitter.com/RausvmV6HR— Pete Werner (@petewerner23) December 11, 2016
Werner – along with Browning – will be a candidate to at least add some depth to the middle part of the linebacker group following the departure of Raekwon McMillan. Ohio State appears to be in good shape on the outside, but it's likely that the two newest additions will be given tryouts at various spots before at least one of them ultimately winds up on the inside.
At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Werner certainly has the measurables of a collegiate linebacker. He will need to put in some work in the weight room before being ready to see the field, which is something that Browning is already doing as an early enrollee.
The loss of the No. 2 player in the state of Indiana was a blow that even the biggest of Notre Dame homers would have to acknowledge as Brian Kelly's class has hit a rough spot late in the 2017 cycle.
Blake Haubeil has the honorable distinction of being the only composite three-star commitment in the 2017 class. More importantly for the Ohio State special teams, he is the No. 1 kicker in the entire country. His Kohl's Kicking profile lists him as a five-star and notes a number of honors including being named a 2016 USA Today and MaxPreps All-American.
"The campus was terrific. My parents and I were amazed with the variety of options for education; but what separates Ohio State was the atmosphere of the campus; from the training facilities to the stadium and the history behind it. As soon as the Buckeyes offered me, I was positive I wanted to go."
The Buffalo product committed to Ohio State at the 2015 Friday Night Lights camp and is set to arrive in June, though he's not expected to be on an athletic scholarship until January of 2018.
The departure of Tyler Durbin likely means that senior Sean Nuernberger will once again take over kicking duties for the 2017 season. After that, it's expected that Haubeil will lead the Buckeye kicking game in 2018 and beyond.