The Hurry Up is your nightly dose of updates from the Ohio State football recruiting trail, keeping tabs on the latest from commits and targets from around the country.
A SECOND CHANCE TO MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE
A little over a week ago, Ohio State offered a scholarship to Blinn Junior College defensive tackle Antwuan Jackson, a former four-star prospect who transferred from Auburn following his redshirt freshman season.
As I mentioned at the time, the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Jackson seriously considered the Buckeyes before committing to the Tigers, as he took an official visit for the 17-14 loss to Michigan State in 2015. He grew extremely fond of defensive line coach Larry Johnson at the time, which is why Auburn blocked a possible transfer to Ohio State — as well as any other SEC program, Clemson, Georgia Southern and Mercer — when he announced his intentions to leave the program in mid-May.
Luckily, Jackson latched on at Blinn after his appeal to have the restrictions overturned was denied. And just like Ohio State cornerback Kendall Sheffield last recruiting cycle, he'll be able to sign a National Letter of Intent with the school of his choosing this December.
“It was very rough for me and my dad,” Jackson told Eleven Warriors. “Being denied [the chance to transfer to Ohio State] hit pretty hard because they're telling me I can't attend other schools outside of the conference. My dad was scared that I wouldn't get into school by the fall, so dealing with that was hard on me, too.”
Jackson never elaborated on the reason(s) for his departure, though many have speculated he was unhappy with being redshirted during his freshman season — which is exactly the reason Sheffield left Alabama last summer.
“Coming to Blinn was the best choice for me,” Jackson said. “I'm happy to be here and enjoy my semester at Blinn.”
Alabama and South Carolina have also offered Jackson a scholarship, while Georgia, Louisville and North Carolina State seem on the verge of following suit. He plans to take official visits to Columbus and Tuscaloosa at the very minimum before making a decision on his future.
Jackson would have three years to play three seasons at the next level.
WOULD THEY TAKE BOTH?
Ohio State will welcome Pocatello, Idaho, Highland four-star defensive tackle Tommy Togiai for an official visit during this weekend's game against Oklahoma — and some believe he might be close to making a decision on his future.
The 6-foot-3, 290-pound Togiai — who is considered the seventh-best defensive tackle and No. 97 prosect overall in the Class of 2018 — made his first and only trip to campus for Friday Night Lights, though he's reportedly had nothing but good things to say about the program in the weeks since. There's some optimism surrounding the visit from within the walls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, too, but I've always gotten the sense that distance from home will be too much for the Buckeyes to overcome in his recruitment.
Sources close to Togiai told Eleven Warriors he plans to take all five official visits before making a decision, which makes sense given his interest in USC, Utah and Washington. As we all know, though, emotions can get the best of prospects when they're on campus and immersed in the game atmosphere.
Togiai's visit will surely be something to pay close attention to, but don't anticipate a #BOOM just yet.
CONSIDER THE FLAG PLANTED
Establishing relationships with younger prospects on unofficial visits is just as important as rolling out the red carpet for those on campus in an official capacity. Among the underclassmen set to attend Saturday's game against Oklahoma is Detroit Martin Luther King junior defensive end Tyrece Woods.
OSU on saturday #GoBucks— Tyrece Woods (@espnrece) September 6, 2017
“I've been talking to coach [Kerry] Coombs a lot, and he said the staff likes me,” Woods told Eleven Warriors. “He had texted me yesterday saying it would be great if I came up Saturday.”
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Woods is not yet ranked by any major recruiting sites, but that's expected after he missed most of his sophomore season with an unspecified injury. He holds offers from Eastern Michigan and Kent State, and caught the staff's attention during a visit for a one-day camp in June.
“[Coombs] likes my versatility and my athleticism for my size,” Woods said. “I'm listed as a hybrid defensive end, but I can drop back and play linebacker also.”
Of course, pulling Woods out of Michigan will be a tall task if he develops into one of the state's best, as the Wolverines and Spartans have also showed early interest. The Buckeyes do hold one advantage, though.
“I would be a dream come true [if Ohio State offers], and I would maybe commit within a few weeks,” Woods said, noting he was a Michigan fan when he was younger. “When coach [Urban] Meyer got the Ohio State job, everything changed.”
A SHORT, BUT IMPORTANT TRIP
Ohio State is also set to welcome a contingent of players from Reynoldsburg this weekend, including four-star athlete Mershawn Rice and his parents.
OSU this weekend— Showtime (@rice_mershawn) September 7, 2017
The 6-foot-2, 193-pound Rice is considered the 11th-best player in the state and No. 289 prospect overall in the Class of 2019, as he recorded 29 catches for 441 yards and three touchdowns for the Raiders last season. He holds offers from Cincinnati, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Toledo, but has become increasingly familiar with the Ohio State program this spring.
Saturday's visit will mark his third since March, which includes a trip to campus for a spring practice and a one-day camp in June. The staff is finally able to contact him with the change of the recruiting calendar earlier this month, and they wasted no time in showing Rice he's among their top in-state priorities for the 2019 recruiting cycle.
"I've talked to coach [Kevin] Wilson a lot more," Rice told Eleven Warriors. "Hopefully [an offer] is coming if I just keep doing what I'm doing."
NEXT IN LINE
Dublin Coffman freshman safety A.J. Kirk Jr. will also be on the sidelines prior to Saturday's game, his first trip to campus in a recruiting capacity.
Can't wait for Saturday night in the Horseshoe!!! 1st unofficial recruiting visit... #BuckeyeNation— A.J. Kirk Jr. (@AJKirkJr1) September 7, 2017
“It's a big-time game,” Kirk told Eleven Warriors. “I just can't wait to see what the environment is like and how hostile it can be for opposing teams.”
The 6-foot, 180-pound Kirk is only a freshman, so he won't have a ranking attached to his name anytime soon. But his performance at Ohio State's one-day camp in early June and offer from Kentucky shows he'll undoubtedly be one of the top-rated players in the Class of 2021.
“[My recruitment] is still very open, but an offer from the Buckeyes would be big time and a blessing from God,” Kirk said. “They are one of my top teams on my list to earn an offer from. Really, any school that sees my talent and is willing to give me an opportunity at the next level [will be]. Just to be amongst that 1.5 percent that get the opportunity to go play college football is a blessing.”
Kirk's older brother, Mike Doss, was a three-time All-American safety for Ohio State and helped the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2002. He's acted as a liason of sorts for Kirk, as NCAA rules are extremely restrictive for underclassmen in terms of contacting coaches. Doss has also been a mentor, as he also dealt with the recruiting process firsthand.
“Times have changed a lot from his time to now, so they didn't have platforms of social media to really put themselves out there like we can,” Kirk said. “But it is great because I know like any other parent or role model, he would never lead me in the wrong direction. And he actually knows how some things are in the process and what to look for.”