There's still a long way until February, but Ohio State has already secured commitments from several top prospects from around the nation. It's a tall task to recruit at such an elite level, and the country's top-ranked 2018 class already features a handful of noteworthy victories over some of college football's top programs.
Urban Meyer beat out Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles for five-star defensive tackle Taron Vincent and Teradja Mitchell – the nation's No. 2 inside linebacker. Notre Dame was in the same boat for Dallas Gant as was Oklahoma for Josh Proctor. USC was right up there on Jaiden Woodbey's list and five-star Georgia pass-rusher Brenton Cox spurned the in-state Bulldogs in favor of the Buckeyes.
Several other battles will wage on over the course of the next eight months, but right now we feel there are a handful that stand out above the rest.
Anthony Cook • Cornerback • ★★★★★ • Biggest Threat: Texas
It's debatable at this point as to who exactly is Ohio State's top remaining cornerback target. It's also probably a moot point, however, as the staff is likely to take two more to complement Sevyn Banks.
The Buckeyes signed Lone Star state prospects Jeffrey Okudah, Baron Browning, and J.K. Dobbins for the 2017 class, and all three are poised to make an impact as true freshmen. Tom Herman wasn't hired until November, so it's hardly fair to consider either one of them a real Meyer vs. Herman recruiting battle.
Five-star cornerback Anthony Cook is a different case.
The Houston (Lamar) defender is in the process of narrowing things down, and it's no doubt that the Buckeyes and Longhorns likely top his list. The nation's No. 2 corner will enroll early and a decision is expected sometime before November. The aforementioned Okudah is a close friend, but Cook's current teammate – 2018 wideout Al'Vonte Woodard – is expected to commit to Texas in just two weeks.
Tyson Campbell • Cornerback • ★★★★ • Biggest Threat: Miami
Out of all the prospects on the list, this one may be the toughest pull. The Buckeyes may very well be out in front right now for American Heritage cornerback Tyson Campbell, but the 6-foot-2.5, 180-pound corner resides less than an hour from Coral Gables and will surely be on Miami's campus multiple times between now and signing day.
The Hurricanes do already have four cornerbacks committed, but Campbell is a player that any team in the country would find room for. Teammate Nesta Silvera has already pledged to Mark Richt, but four-star defensive end Andrew Chatfield – another member of a loaded Heritage roster – has sided with Urban Meyer.
There's a long way to go with this one and Nick Saban is also involved, but we expect this recruitment to come down to the Buckeyes and Hurricanes.
Micah Parsons & Jayson Oweh • Defensive Ends • ★★★★/★ • Threat: Penn State
Ohio State's defensive line class is already off to an incredible start with commitments from the nation's top defensive tackle and one of the top pass-rushers. The Buckeyes are set to lose a number of starters following the 2017 season, and this is likely the most important unit to address.
James Franklin and Co. aren't going to go down without a fight for two of America's best defensive ends. Micah Parsons backed off of his Penn State pledge in April, and while Ohio State is in a great spot, it's probably too early to pencil him into the class. It's been rumored that distance from home could be a factor, and though a number of SEC visits are in the works, the five-star still seems likely to wind up in Big Ten country.
Jayson Oweh – the nation's No. 10 defensive end – may have more upside than any other player in the country. The 6-foot-5, 235-pounder has only played organized football for one year, and Larry Johnson seems to be a huge fan of the four-star from Blairstown, New Jersey. Penn State appeared to have the upper hand through the spring, but a visit to Columbus for the June 9th camp has put the Buckeyes right at the top.
Ohio State may run into a bit of a numbers crunch at defensive end, but it's reasonable to expect at least one of these two to ultimately side with the Buckeyes.
Jeremy Ruckert • Tight End • ★★★★ • Biggest Threat: Michigan
We've long talked about Jeremy Ruckert's status as one of the top overall targets for the 2018 class, and as a commitment inches closer, nothing has happened to change that.
The Buckeyes have been out in front for some time now, but anytime the other school is Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines, then the battle is that much more important. Michigan has shown how much it loves to use its tight ends, and the Maize and Blue is still lurking as a threat for the Lindenhurst, New York star.
Ohio State TE target Jeremy Ruckert at The Opening day 2. pic.twitter.com/9NESycnuut— Bill Kurelic (@Bill_Kurelic) June 30, 2017
Reports out of Beaverton have been extremely positive thus far, and there's already some discussion that the 6-foot-5.5, 238-pounder could potentially earn his fifth star. Ruckert – who checks in as the country's No. 75 prospect – has been the focal point of Ohio State's tight end recruiting for just about an entire calendar year.
A decision is expected this summer.
L'Christian Smith • Wide Receiver • ★★★★ • Biggest Threat: Kentucky
Regardless of where Blue Smith falls on Ohio State's board at receiver, it's become pretty clear that Urban Meyer has every intention of signing the state's most gifted athlete. Kentucky appeared to surge a bit throughout the spring, and while the Wildcats are certainly still in the running, the Buckeyes look like the favorites here.
“It's two completely different places,” Smith said, explaining how things are a little more personable and relaxed in Lexington in terms of fan engagement and his relationship with the staff. “Ohio State is more of a business. They are really detailed with what they do and the players that they get.” Via
Smith had been planning to make an announcement in July, but that timeline has been pushed back to late August. Could that bode well for the Wildcats? It's certainly possible, and Kentucky has had some major success in Ohio lately; albeit for prospects that don't have Buckeye offers.
But this doesn't look like one that Meyer is going to let get away.