11W Recruiting Mailbag: Talking Emory Jones' Recruitment, Battles With Penn State and Favorite Commitments

By Andrew Lind on October 5, 2017 at 2:15 pm
Emory Jones

Emory Jones

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The 11W Recruiting Mailbag is your one-stop shop for all things Ohio State recruiting. You have questions. We have answers.

Emory Jones.  What are you hearing? - KBonay

As much as I've previously said Ohio State has nothing to worry about when it comes to Jones, we're reaching a critical juncture in his recruitment where both he and the staff must have a very important and potentially class-changing conversation in the near future.

It all revolves around Jones' desire to visit Alabama, something he's done three times since the Crimson Tide offered him a scholarship in March. He and his mother were on campus Saturday, and he plans to take an official visit later this month, too, which has the staff at least a little bit concerned.

All that said, Jones and those around him continue to insist he's just using these visits to make sure Columbus is where he wants to be and that he'll sign with the Buckeyes when the time comes. After all, he is just 17 years old and this is a once-in-a-lifetime decision. But, at this point, how much more could there be for him to see in Tuscaloosa?

As the prized prospect and perceived leader of Ohio State's top-ranked recruiting class, Jones seems to hold all the leverage in this situation. And to an extent, he does. The Buckeyes haven't actively recruited another quarterback since he committed a little over 14 months ago. But if he visits Alabama for its game against Arkansas on Oct. 14 as expected, the Ohio State staff is going to have to do its due diligence, too.

With the early signing period drawing nearer with each passing day, the Buckeyes can't afford to be held captive by Jones' desire to see other schools. Sources close to the program tell Eleven Warriors they have reached out to Kentucky four-star quarterback commit Jarren Williams to — at the very minimum — gauge his interest in the Buckeyes.

Now, I'm not suggesting they're going to dump Jones — the centerpiece of the current recruiting class and someone who has repeatedly reaffirmed his pledge — and go all-in for a committed prospect, especially when: 1. Jones is widely viewed as a better quarterback, and 2. Alabama reportedly has more interest in Williams and showed more attention to him than Jones during their unofficial visit on Saturday. But there's a very good chance Williams receives a scholarship offer if Jones makes that trip to Alabama next weekend, which would surely be a contingency plan if the latter were to eventually flip his pledge.

On the other hand, there's also a good chance the visit never happens, Jones shows up in Columbus on Oct. 28 for his official visit to Ohio State and this conversation quickly becomes a thing of the past. What happens after the inevitable conversation between Jones and head coach Urban Meyer will be very telling.

It seems like Ohio State and Penn State are starting to overlap more in recruiting the same top athletes from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, etc. Do you see any specific recruiting battles looming ahead for top regional 2019 prospects between the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes? - 1MechEng

As evidenced the back end of its current recruiting class, Penn State isn't quite yet recruiting on the same level as Ohio State. But if the Nittany Lions beat the Buckeyes in Columbus later this month and go on to win the Big Ten again, the reverberation will surely be felt in the next few recruiting cycles.

On-field results are hard to overcome, and two-consecutive wins over Ohio State is something head coach James Franklin will carry with him into the house of every single prospect both programs recruit.

Prospects like Olentangy Orange five-star defensive end Zach Harrison, Lexington four-star linebacker Cade Stover, Mentor defensive end Noah Potter, Virginia four-star running back Devyn Ford, New Jersey four-star athlete "Rocket" Ronnie Hickman, Washington D.C. four-star linebacker Shane Lee and New Jersey four-star defensive end Antonio Alfano have all expressed significant interest in both programs. 

I anticipate they'll all include Ohio State and Penn State among their top schools throughout the process and eventually commit to one or the other when the 2019 recruiting process is finished — Harrison, Stover and Hickman will be Buckeyes, while Ford, Lee and Alfano will pick the Nittany Lions.  

Who, in your opinion, are guys Jim Tressel would have taken in this class that are from Ohio if he were still here? - Raiderred

Honestly, this was my favorite question of month.

We all know by now how Meyer and his staff have a more national approach to recruiting than Tressel, who would often forgo chasing stars to land the three-star and/or in-state projects who might develop into a serviceable player down the road.

Meyer, meanwhile, continues to bring in less and less in-state talent, but fills those spots with four- and five-star talent from elsewhere. So it goes without saying the Buckeyes' current recruiting class would look extremely different than it does now if Tressel were still the head coach.

I can't imagine Jones, Brenton Cox, Jeremy Ruckert, Jaiden Woodbey, Teradja Mitchell, Max Wray, Sevyn Banks, Josh Proctor and/or K'Vaughan Pope would be currently committed. Instead — in addition to the likes of Jaelen Gill, L'Christian “Blue” Smith and Dallas Gant — there would be a heavy emphasis on the state of Ohio.

Names like Michigan State tight end commit Trenton Gillison, Kentucky offensive tackle pledge Darian Kinnard, Kentucky linebacker commit Xavier Peters, Cincinnati Winton Woods linebacker Christopher, Springfield defensive tackle Leonard Taylor and Cincinnati defensive end commit Malik Vann would all be on board. Notre Dame commit Phil Jurkovec would likely be the quarterback of the future, too.

Tressel — like Meyer — would still hope to land Fairfield offensive tackle Jackson Carman and Cleveland Heights defensive end Tyreke Smith, though chance of brining in both decrease considerably under the former head coach.

What if we miss out on Houston five-star cornerback Anthony Cook? Who are the next realistic options, assuming we still want two cornerbacks in the class? - Bakerjon

First off, I don't expect Ohio State to miss out on Cook. They've made him a priority for almost two years now, and — in short — the chance to play alongside his good friend Jeffrey Okudah and the staff's knack for sending defensive backs to the National Football League will far outweigh the opportunity to play close to home.

I also believe the talk about Texas pulling even following his official visit last weekend is only to make the last month of his recruitment interesting. After all, the Buckeyes have been considered the leader throughout his entire recruitment.

Now, if he surprises me — and pretty much every other local and national recruiting analyst — by picking the Longhorns on Oct. 30, then I believe the Buckeyes make a significant push for IMG Academy four-star cornerback Houston Griffith. There's a long-established relationship already there, and there was a belief he might have committed this spring until Ohio State got a surprise pledge from Sevyn Banks.

Griffith did include the Buckeyes in his Top 7 alongside Alabama, Florida State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Penn State and Texas in June, so he at least remains interested. It's been hard to get a read on his recruitment, though, as the Cornhuskers, Fighting Irish and Seminoles have all been trending at one point or another this summer.

If Cook is off the board, he'll certainly be the first person defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, assistant coordinator Kerry Coombs and the rest of the staff calls.

Who is your favorite recruit from this current class, and why? - Seattle Linga

This is a tough one, and I genuinely like every single player who is currently committed to Ohio State and about 99 percent of those who aren't. I'd have to say, though, that I've grown especially close to and fond of both running back commits Jaelen Gill and Master Teagu and their parents over the last year or so.

Though I don't have anywhere close to the longevity as some of my fellow recruiting analysts, both Jaelen and Master were very willing to talk to me throughout the process and keep me updated on how things were going both on and off the field. They come from great families and have a very good head on their shoulders as a result.

It's obviously a goal to cultivate a relationship like that with every recruit and parent I meet, but — much like Shaun Wade and his family last cycle — I know that I'll be close to Jaelen and Master and their families for a long time.

With rumors of Tennessee five-star offensive tackle commit Cade Mays deciding to look around or potentially decommitting, how much do you think our staff pursues him/gauges interest? - BumJuiceIsBitter

Mays, who I think is by far the best offensive tackle prospect in the Class of 2018, has been committee to Tennessee for more than two years and has been extremely instrumental in helping the Volunteers land other in-state recruits. He's right in the heart of Knoxville, and has taken on a similar to role to Gill at Ohio State by opening up his home to visiting recruits.

The roots run deep in his household, too, as his dad, Kevin, was an offensive lineman for Tennessee in the early '90s, and was named team captain his senior year. His uncle played for the Volunteers, too.

Simply put, Mays has lived and breathed Tennessee football from the time he was born. Even with the Volunteers' struggles and looming firing of head coach Butch Jones, I don't see him wanting to be anywhere else.

Are we close to any 2019 commitments in the near future? - Csklarek7

Until they finally make the call, Harrison and Stover are the obvious candidates. And even though both has repeatedly said they'll likely hold off until later in the process, they're on commitment watch every time they're on campus.

Same goes for Cincinnati Anderson offensive tackle Zeke Correll and/or Walnut Hills defensive tackle Jowon Briggs, though Kentucky and Notre Dame remain legitimate threats in their respective recruitments.

Harrison and Stover are expected to return for the aforementioned game against Penn State. Given what I said earlier about the Nittany Lions and their pursuit of both prospects, the Buckeyes would love nothing more than to get a win and land a pair of highly sought-after targets in the same weekend.

Texas four-star quarterback Grant Tisdale is also hoping to make it to Columbus for that game. And now that he has a few starts under his belt, I could see Meyer and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day pushing for his pledge.

Then again, sudden commitments seem like a thing of the past and are less likely than a prospect setting a commitment date. We'll just have to see how things play out.

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