The Ohio State spring game is nearly upon us, and the annual recruiting extravaganza is sure to go a long way in helping to solidify the next few signing days for the Buckeyes' staff.
The visitor list is constantly changing as these events approach – which has already been seen with the state's top linebacker – so we will hold off until tomorrow to release a more extensive list of who's expected in Columbus. It's certainly shaping up to be an impressive showing.
While there may not be any announcements scheduled for the weekend, these types of festivities have been known to create enough excitement for the unexpected to take place.
Today, we look at the prospects who may be worth keeping a close eye on this weekend.
Cade Stover • 2019 OLB/DE • Mansfield, Ohio (Lexington) • ★★★★
The Buckeyes are still being selective when it comes to which 2018 in-state prospects to offer, and this makes the recent offer to 2019 Ohioan Cade Stover that much more telling.
Stover had a busy start to the year as he checked out Columbus and received a visit from Urban Meyer in January. This weekend's trip will be his second visit in the last month. There have been rumblings of a commitment ever since the Buckeyes offered on March 28th, but thus far the state's No. 2 prospect remains on the market. Oklahoma and Penn State are two other programs that have offered the country's fourth-ranked 2019 outside linebacker.
Checking in at 6-foot-4 and 206 pounds, the Mansfield star is listed as either an outside linebacker or defensive end depending on the recruiting service. He played free safety and wideout as a sophomore but could definitely go the Sam Hubbard route as he packs on some pounds and transitions into more of pass rusher.
The 2019 crop of in-state defensive linemen is shaping up to be one of Ohio's top units in recent memory, and Stover may very well be the first domino to fall.
Fredrick Scruggs • 2018 OL • Erie, PA (Cathedral Prep) • ★★★★
Erie, Pennsylvania's Fredrick "Juice" Scruggs is a rarity in the recruiting world these days as he's been mostly quiet and private throughout the process. He was in Columbus in March but there was little fanfare as most simply didn't know about the visit. The four-star made it to Cleveland last weekend and did speak a bit about his interest in the Buckeyes, stating that they're at the top of his list with the Nittany Lions.
Ohio State is likely looking at a bigger offensive line class for 2018, and the speculation is the number could reach as many as six new signees. Offensive tackle is one of the priority positions for this class, but Greg Studrawa will need to bring in a center and likely a couple other interior linemen as well.
The 6-foot-3, 270-pounder appears to be someone the staff holds in high regard. He's an interior lineman all the way and is at least tentatively being mentioned as a visitor for the spring game. It's difficult to even guess what may happen for someone who stays under the radar like Scruggs, but if the Ashtabula native does find his way back to Columbus, then things could get interesting.
Jake Kradel • 2018 OL • Butler, PA (Butler Area) • ★★★
Another of Ohio State's more recent offers went out to 2018 offensive lineman Jake Kradel. The three-star plays tackle for Butler Area Senior High, but his future at the next level looks to be along the interior line and potentially as a center.
The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder was in Columbus in late March and received a Buckeye offer just last week. Upon receiving the honor, crystal ball picks immediately started to come in for Ohio State. Pittsburgh was the presumed favorite before Meyer came calling and D.J. Durkin also has Maryland in the mix.
A decision was originally planned for late May, but the latest offer appears to have shaken things up a bit. Earlier this week, the Pennsylvania product spoke with Rivals.com recruiting analyst Ryan Donnelly about the Buckeye offer and his timeline.
“I wanted to explore and make sure it was the right fit before I commit anywhere. I didn’t want to just pull the trigger, I wanted to see other things,” Kradel explained. When asked how this could impact his initial decision timeframe of late May, he responded: “I don’t know. It could be then, it could be next weekend, it could be whenever.” Via ($)
This recruitment may very well come down to when and if the Buckeyes are ready to push for a public commitment.
Aeneas Hawkins • 2018 DL • Cincinnati, Ohio (Moeller) • ★★★★
Four-star defensive lineman Aeneas Hawkins will be back on campus for the second time this month. The Queen City defender's recruitment looks rather wide open right now after he backed off his May decision timeline, but the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions are the frontrunners here with Cincinnati also in the picture.
Ohio State's defensive line recruiting remains a bit of a mystery, but after landing five-star defensive tackle Taron Vincent, the staff may look to push a little harder for other prospects in the trenches. Hawkins is a unique player because at 6-foot-3 and 265 pounds he could end up on the inside or at defensive end.
The Moeller star was on commitment watch for a while but then elected to take a step back and not rush into things. Still, anything can happen at these kind of events and he certainly hasn't been shy about his affinity for the Buckeyes.
Tavion Thomas • 2018 RB • Dayton, Ohio (Dunbar) • ★★★★
The state's top running back also has indicated that he's in no rush to make a decision and right now is planning on taking his official visits. That most recent plan came after he previously discussed making his pledge a bit sooner in the process, so clearly it's something that has at least been on his mind.
Most everyone knows the tale now as the Dunbar star has become a national name with offers from virtually every major program in America. He's been to Tuscaloosa already and this weekend will mark his third trip to Columbus. USC, LSU, Georgia, Michigan, and Texas are among the other offers.
The staff may be wanting to watch and see how his senior year unfolds – both on the field and in the classroom – but this is another case where a commitment wouldn't be too surprising in the least. Even if it's not something that's being planned heading into the weekend visit.
At 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, Thomas would be the bruiser that could complete a backfield trifecta complementing four-star Brian Snead and one of the country's top all-purpose backs in Westerville's Jaelen Gill.
It's important to remember that this weekend's spring game isn't just about the potential commitments. Obviously there's that euphoric feeling of being able to watch actual football taking place for the first time in months, which sure is nice. But from a recruiting angle, it's often more about building and cultivating the relationships for the 2018 class and beyond.
Three of the last four spring games actually came and went without any action on the commitment front. Last year's event – despite no new additions – still went a long way in building the 2017 class and getting things kicked off for 2018. Jeffrey Okudah and Amir Riep were among the 2017 visitors. From the current class, Dallas Gant and Jackson Carman were both a part of the festivities.
Regardless of whether or not anyone decides to go public with a decision, this will once again be one of the year's biggest recruiting events.