11W Recruiting Mailbag: Talking Defensive End Targets, Recruiting in Tennessee and Upcoming Announcements

By Andrew Lind on October 19, 2017 at 2:15 pm
Anthony Cook

Anthony Cook

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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.

With what appears to be an unstoppable offense and defense right now, do you think the momentum will carry on to a revenge game at home under the lights against Penn State? Will our defense hold Saquon Barkley under 100 yards rushing? - WezBuck28

Um, this is a recruiting mailbag. But I'll be more than happy to pass this question along to our football beat writer, Dan Hope, who has a mailbag of his own running on Friday afternoon.

I kid, and appreciate the question nonetheless. The offense is finally hitting its stride thanks to a confident J.T. Barrett, and I think an opening drive touchdown will set the mood for the entire evening. They can't settle for a field goal, or it'll feel like a low-scoring, run Barrett left, run Barrett right kind of evening from a play-calling standpoint thereafter.

Defensively, the line and backfield are playing exceptional as of late, but I don't think they'll hold Barkley to 100 yards. Then again, that's not a necessity for the Buckeyes to win. In fact, I think he'll probably be closer to 200 in a 38-24 loss, replicating his last performance in Ohio Stadium. 

I just feel as if Ohio State is able to limit his explosive plays, especially when Penn State gets in the red zone and comes up with interceptions on Trace McSorley's jump-ball throws — which were his specialty last season — this game won't be as close as most anticipate. 

How will the defensive end situation finish out? Pennsylvania five-star defensive end Micah Parsons no longer seems like an option, but what will happen with Cleveland Heights four-star Tyreke Smith and New Jersey four-star Jayson Oweh? Many insiders have Smith going to Penn State as of late and Oweh to Ohio State, and others have it visa versa. - Weimerad

A few months ago, I believed Ohio State had a legitimate shot at landing all three — as well as five-star commit Brenton Cox. But, man, how things have changed since.

The staff has distanced itself a bit from Parsons ever since his official visit for the Oklahoma game, for a variety of reasons. It's not just the tweet calling for a change at the quarterback position (that seems like forever ago, doesn't it?), but his supposed lack of maturity and the people with whom he associates, too, that have many wondering if the risk is worth the reward.

Penn State's staff, meanwhile, welcomed him for an official visit one week later with arms wide open, and everything points toward him rejoining the Nittany Lions recruiting class before everything is said and done.

So then Smith became the perceived top target, but things have recently been trending toward Penn State with him, as well. I warned of this around the time of Nike Football's The Opening Finals, at which time I first got a sense of how real of a threat the Nittany Lions truly are to the Buckeyes' chances.

There, his mom and I had a long conversation about the recruiting process, something she went through as a former basketball player. She pointed out how much honesty and compassion plays a role in her and Tyreke's thinking, which is why they'd become particularly fond of Penn State head coach James Franklin.

His mom never got that same feeling from Urban Meyer, however, and admitted Ohio State head coach would have to go above and beyond in his efforts to land their son. Without any long-term ties to the state — Smith is originally from California — his recruitment has never been the slam dunk most have painted it to be.

I've debated for several weeks on whether or not to change my 247Sports Crystal Ball prediction to Penn State as a result, but I'm holding off solely because I think Meyer will go all-out to keep Smith in Ohio. It's one thing to lose a top prospect who just doesn't want to be here — ahem, Jackson Carman — but another entirely to have him land with a rival program.

All of this has made it that much more important to land Oweh, however, as the Buckeyes hope to bring on two defensive ends at the absolute minimum. It's believed Oweh has the highest ceiling of all of them, and he and defensive line coach Larry Johnson have become extremely fond of one another on and off the field ever since his first visit back in June.

Meyer and Johnson made it a point to pay Oweh a visit early this week, as they travel the country on their open week to meet with top prospects. Given the need at the position, it's become obvious how much they want and need him in Columbus.

What impact will Dorian Hardy's rescinded Penn State offer have on Ohio State's recruiting of Oweh, Parsons and Smith? - 1MechEng

What is your latest take on Maryland four-star offensive tackle Rasheed Walker? Does he end up a Buckeye? - NHBuckeye

These two questions go hand-in-hand, though I'll address Hardy first. For much of the last few months, sources close to the Penn State program have told me numbers in their class were going to be tight. If you include Hardy, they'd already be at 23 commitments.

That left only two spots open in the class for names like Oweh, Parsons, Smith, Walker, four-star wide receiver Solmon Enis and four-star safety Kwantel Raines. Surely, that's less than ideal given the amount of talent still out there.

But following Hardy's alleged involvement in a post-practice fight, the Nittany Lions rescinded his offer and gave themselves hope of landing some combination of Oweh, Parsons, Smith and Walker in the process.

Penn State is supposedly still focused on the defensive line first, but there's a growing confidence surrounding the program that the staff may push for Walker's commitment sooner rather than later to keep him from going to Ohio State. Meyer and Johnson visited with Walker's coaches on Tuesday morning for that exact reason.

With only one commitment at offensive tackle in the form of Max Wray and uncertainty surrounding Fairfield five-star target Jackson Carman, Walker has become a trendy name connected to Ohio State in recent weeks. He's been to campus several times, talks with the staff daily and admits there's heavy interest.

Walker is set to return to Columbus for an unofficial visit next week and then take an official following the season, but I'm not entirely sold on him being on the market much longer. If that's the case, it means Penn State has given up on landing all three defensive ends and Ohio State must seriously consider other offensive tackles like Florida's Nicholas Petit-Frere and Kentucky commit Darian Kinnard.

If we don't get Parsons, Oweh, or Tyreke Smith, do you think we try for Winton Woods four-star linebacker Christopher Oats, Lakota West four-star linebacker Xavier Peters and Springfield four-star defensive tackle Leonard Taylor and put them on the defensive line? - UD_Buckeye

Early in the process, all three seemed destined to be Buckeyes. Oats was often mentioned in the same breath as linebacker commit Dallas Gant, Peters was an athletic freak with all of the potential in the world and Taylor was the guy who just got the job done regardless of position (he plays quarterback in high school, but projects to be a tight end or defensive tackle at the next level depending on who you ask).

But as the staff continues to chase — and land, might I add — top-rated out-of-state prospects at their respective positions, their respective spots in the class seemingly disappeared. The only one with a realistic shot of ending up at Ohio State at this point in time is Oats, who will gladly wait to see if the Buckeyes have any spots open after they're done pursuing California five-star linebackers Solomon Tuliaupupu and Palaie Gaoteote.

Now if — and that's a rather large “if” — Ohio State were to miss out on Parsons, Oweh and Smith, I think there's a great chance Oats in, as he already plays a bit of a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role. But I highly doubt Taylor or Peters get a second look. They're good prospects, but just not at the elite level Ohio State recruits.

Other names to keep in mind instead are Iowa four-star defensive end John Waggoner and Missouri three-star Daniel Carson, both of which hold an offer, have been to campus before and speak very highly of Johnson.

Which leads me to...

Is there any Darron Lee, Robert Landers or Thayer Munford-type players whose recruitment process picks up late due to being an in-state prospect that the Buckeyes are giving a good look at now? - EnonBuck79

Fairfield four-star defensive end Malik Vann and Huber Heights Wayne four-star defensive end Alex Reigelsperger are two prospects I could potentially see landing an offer from the Buckeyes late in the process.

Vann would be the more likely prospect, given his commitment to Cincinnati and head coach Luke Fickell was a bit of a surprise given he holds offers from Alabama, Florida State, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and a host of others. His pledge seems strong, but the Bearcats haven't been playing their best football this season despite the overall mood surrounding Fickell's arrival.

If Ohio State comes calling, it'd be a difficult offer to turn down. Plus, landing him would surely boost the Buckeyes' chances with Carman. The lure of playing with his high school teammate and good friend might make him rethink his feelings on being in Ohio, something that's allowed Clemson and USC to gain momentum in his recruitment.

As for Reigelsperger, he recently flipped his pledge from Kentucky to Minnesota, and seems very excited to be a part of something special under head coach P.J. Fleck. But he's always dreamed of playing for Ohio State, and there the belief early in the process he'd get that opportunity given his relationship with now-wide receiver commit L'Christian “Blue” Smith.

He's set to sign his National Letter of Intent in December, however, meaning the Buckeyes must get a sense they're losing out elsewhere and make a move on Reigelsperger before it's too late. If they offer before Dec. 20, he's all theirs.  

Final call on Houston five-star cornerback Anthony Cook? - OSU069

It's difficult to make a quote-unquote final call with about a week and a half to go before Cook makes his decision, especially given his coach and several other sources close to him have told me he's still undecided.

Ohio State has long been the leader in Cook's recruitment, dating all the way back to when the staff offered him a scholarship last summer. With the Buckeyes' push in Texas last recruiting cycle, it only added to the inevitability of him coming north like J.K. Dobbins, Baron Browning and his good friend Jeffrey Okudah.

But the Longhorns made quite the push during his official visit early this month, and I've never been more open to the idea that he chooses Texas than I am now. Cook has talked a lot about his desire to see improvement on the field from the Longhorns under head coach Tom Herman, and this season — despite their 3-3 record — has been a clear step in the right direction.

Texas is recruiting better than it has at any point in the last decade, and the on-field product is surely only going to get better in the next few years. Landing a bunch of kids from the Houston area — including Cook's teammate D'shawn Jamison — only helps, too.

My heart is telling me Texas, and Cook's heart is probably telling him the same. I fully understand the intrigue of being a part of something special for the local team. But the fact that Meyer, defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and assistant coordinator Kerry Coombs have put so much time and effort into his recruitment and back it up with proof of sending defensive backs to the National Football League makes me believe Ohio State is where he lands.

It's the ultimate battle of head versus heart and theory versus testimony, and the Buckeyes come out on top in both.

I can't see ol' Butchy Jones surviving his debacle — “We did everything to win except score touchdowns?” I mean, c'mon man! Are there any Tennessee commits that we may shift our focus on?Admittedly, I don't follow Tennessee recruiting, so not sure there are even any there that would make sense, but we seem to hit the same geographic region pretty hard. There has to be a ton of flips from Tennessee as a result. - Buckeye Scottie

I talked a bit in last night's edition of The Hurry Up about Ohio State's pursuit of Tennessee five-star offensive tackle commit Cade Mays. And even though he's set to take an official visit sometime this fall, I just don't see him backing off his pledge — no matter what happens with Jones.

Mays has been committed to the Volunteers for more than two years and his dad was a captain in Knoxville in the early '90s. His uncle played there, too. The family ties run deep, and Mays obviously fell in love with the Tennessee football program long before Jones' arrival. That's not likely to change when he's gone, either.

One name to pay attention to, though, is Tennessee four-star wide receiver commit Alontae Taylor. He pledged his services to the Volunteers more than a year ago, but has already admitted he's looking around amid Jones' unsettling future. Taylor will take an official visit to Ohio State in the coming weeks, too.

For most of the cycle, the Buckeyes were expected to take only two receivers. They already hold a commitment from the aforementioned Blue Smith and are the favorites to land St. Louis four-star wide receiver Kamryn Babb. But the recent offer to Taylor and California three-star Chris Olave make it clear they're searching for one more, and I wouldn't be all that surprised the Tennessee commit is the answer.

Who do you think will be our next #BOOM! And when? - Sanatonefan

The next scheduled announcement is Cook on Oct. 30, but the Penn State game looms large for several reasons. Dozens upon dozens of elite prospects are expected to be in attendance — we'll bring you a full list a week from Friday — and the momentum from a win could surely turn into a pledge (or three) next weekend.

There are many obvious candidates I point out each time this question is asked, especially given the Buckeyes only hold one commitment in the Class of 2019. In-state prospects like Olentangy Orange five-star defensive end Zach Harrison or Lexington four-star linebacker Cade Stover are most likely.

But I'm going to focus solely on 2018.

From seemingly the beginning of his recruitment, it has been a matter of when, not if, the aforementioned Babb would pledge his services to Ohio State. His knee injury in a practice before the season put his recruitment on the backburner a bit, but this mark his first trip to campus since June (and only visit period this fall).

All signs point to Babb making the call next weekend, and I anticipate you all will have your #BOOM.gifs ready.

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