Ohio State looks poised to bring home the top-rated recruiting class in the country for the Class of 2018, thus ending a seven-year run by Alabama atop the rankings. But, of course, resting on your laurels is not something you can afford to do on the recruiting trail, and coaches constantly have to look toward the future in an effort to compete for national championships year-in and year-out.
The Buckeyes' 2019 class took a huge step forward — both literally and figuratively — on Saturday evening when West Virginia five-star offensive tackle Doug Nester pledged his services just two weeks after an unofficial visit for Friday Night Lights. And with the 6-foot-6, 295-pounder now in the fold, he'll undoubtedly start to focus his efforts on bringing some of the nation's best with him to Columbus.
So, who are some of Ohio State's top targets for the Class of 2019? It's certainly too early to project the staff's needs at most positions, as players unexpectedly declare for the NFL Draft or leave the program following every season. But given the level of in-state talent and the continuous narrowing of scholarship offers from the nation's elite, it's rather easy to pinpoint which prospects sit atop the staff's recruiting board.
They are as follows:
Much like Jackson Carman in the current recruiting cycle, Olentangy Orange five-star defensive end Zach Harrison is a can't-miss prospect for Ohio State. He's one of the top-rated players at his position, one which will always be in high demand, and he lives 20 minutes from campus.
Though he doesn't seem to enjoy the recruiting process much, the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Harrison isn't expected to make a decision on his future anytime soon. He'll likely visit other Midwest powers like Michigan, Notre Dame and Penn State beforehand. But, that said, anything other than the Buckeyes would be shocking.
Similarly, it's widely assumed Lexington four-star outside linebacker Cade Stover will end up in Columbus when things are said and done. In fact, many expected him to make the call shortly after he received a scholarship offer in the spring.
He didn't, but that certainly shouldn't raise any alarms for Ohio State — the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Stover doesn't want to rush the process. He's been on campus numerous times that day, and told reporters following Friday Night Lights he's just making sure he doesn't commit and then have second thoughts about making the call.
The biggest battle Ohio State may face on the recruiting trail in 2019 will occur in the state up north, as Belleville, Michigan, five-star offensive tackle Devontae Dobbs is eventually expected to decide between the Buckeyes and Wolverines.
The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Dobbs is nowhere close to making the call, as he's set to reveal a list of his Top 20 or so schools in the coming weeks. But you could his familiarity with campus and relationship with the coaching staff gives Ohio State the leg-up this early in the process. Michigan will undoubtedly make a home-state push, though.
Ohio State's current linebacker haul is as impressive as any in the country, with a trio of four-star commits in Teradja Mitchell, Dallas Gant and K'Vaughan Pope. But competition breeds success, which is why Georgia five-star outside linebacker Owen Pappoe will be someone the staff chases through National Signing Day.
The 6-foot, 207-pound Pappoe has been on campus a few times already, so the feelings are mutual. Now, it's just a matter of building upon that relationship and showing him that Ohio State's linebacker tradition outweighs playing with his four teammates committed to Florida State.
There's no doubt in my mind that IMG Academy five-star running back Noah Cain is the top-rated running back in the country, and he's a big reason why Ohio State won't look to add a third running back in Class of 2018. Cain has been to campus twice since in the four months since the staff offered him a scholarship, and he's gotten particularly close with running backs coach Tony Alford as a result.
But all that said, the increased exposure from playing at IMG will only make it that much more difficult for the Buckeyes to land Cain's pledge. LSU, Miami, Oklahoma and Texas — the Denton native's home-state school — are also among his early favorites.