The Hurry Up: Defensive End Commit Brenton Cox Visits Georgia While Ohio State Lands Walk-On Defensive Tackle Zaid Hamdan

By Andrew Lind on November 19, 2017 at 6:50 pm
Zaid Hamdan

Zaid Hamdan

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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.

ROUND AND ROUND THE CAROUSEL GOES

Jim Mora's tenure at UCLA came to an end on Sunday afternoon, as the school announced it had fired the head coach after six years.

It shouldn't come as a surprise, given the Bruins have woefully underperformed the last two seasons with Josh Rosen (a projected high NFL Draft pick) under center. But it wasn't the on-field results that did in Mora. No, it was a string of recent decommitments — five, as a matter of fact, in the span of a week — that seemed to have been the last straw.

Mora, who cannot comment directly on recruits until they've signed their national letter of intent, downplayed the situation earlier this month.

“When you read about the decommits, you worry about it. But there’s a hidden reality to it, I guess I should say,” Mora said during a press conference earlier this month, suggesting the team's record actually had little to do with their respective decisions.

Sure, those players may have wanted to stay closer to home or depth may be an issue at some places. But Saturday's loss to crosstown rival USC, which dropped UCLA to 5-6 on the season, made it harder for the administration to give Mora the benefit of the doubt. The talent level between the two programs was glaring, and it isn't getting any better if top prospects don't want to play for the Bruins.

Now, UCLA's 12th-ranked recruiting class is ripe for the picking. Four-star quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson may consider opening up his recruitment, which could lead him to reconsider Michigan, a finalist for his pledge earlier this year. Same goes for four-star wide receiver Jahan Dotson, who was high on Ohio State before he picked the Bruins following an official visit this fall — the Buckeyes are, after all, looking to bring on a third wideout in the current recruiting cycle.

Ohio State also recently offered four-star defensive end Abdul-Malik McClain, who plans to take an official visit to Columbus following the season. If UCLA doesn't act quickly in bringing on a new head coach, and someone noteworthy, things could fall apart rather fast.

ALREADY MADE THIS DECISION ONCE

Just one day after he helped Stockbridge, Georgia, to a 10-7 win over Ware County in the state playoffs, Ohio State five-star defensive end commit Brenton Cox was in Athens for an unofficial visit to watch the Bulldogs take on Kentucky.

Not to worry, sources close to the Buckeyes' program told Eleven Warriors the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Cox informed the staff of his intentions, as he simply went to the game with good friend and Georgia five-star wide receiver commit Jadon Haselwood. He's planned all fall to make that trip, just like his Alabama visit earlier this season.

It remains to be seen how much he's actually listening to what the home-state Bulldogs have to offer, but Cox has repeatedly said he's 100 percent committed to Ohio State. I don't expect that to change based upon one visit.

Cox, who is among the finalists for the USA TODAY Sports Defensive Player of the Year, is expected to take his official visit to Ohio State in mid-December and then sign with the Buckeyes during the Early Signing Period. He'll enroll in classes in January, which is good news for an Ohio State squad set to lose starting defensive ends Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes — and potentially redshirt sophomore Sam Hubbard to the NFL Draft.

A LATE PUSH?

Ohio State welcomed Cleveland Heights four-star defensive end Tyreke Smith, meanwhile, for a somewhat surprising unofficial visit for with Buckeyes' 52-14 win over Illinois.

The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Smith — who is also very talented basketball player — had a scrimmage on Saturday, so he was unsure he would make it to Columbus until the morning of. But the fact that he did, is a good sign for an Ohio State program seemingly looking up at conference foe Penn State in the race to land his pledge.

Smith has been among the Buckeyes' top targets for much of the current recruiting cycle, but his relationship with head coach James Franklin has things trending toward the Nittany Lions. And seeing as he already took his official visit to Columbus for Ohio State's win over — none other than — Penn State last month, it was going to be an uphill battle for head coach Urban Meyer and defensive line coach Larry Johnson as Smith heads toward an early January decision.

Sources within the Ohio State program told Eleven Warriors they believe the Buckeyes closed the gap this weekend, though. Smith has been to campus numerous times over the last year, so there was no need to roll out the red carpet. He just wanted another opportunity to spend time with the staff and hear their plan for him, and it seems to have resonated.

The Buckeyes will have to withstand an official visit to Oregon next weekend and then another trip to Happy Valley in mid-December, of course, but this one is certainly far from over.

ADDING TO THE RUSHMEN

Ohio State landed a commitment along the defensive front on Sunday afternoon when Mason two-star defensive tackle Zaid Hamdan accepted a preferred walk-on offer from Johnson and assistant director of player personnel Eron Hodges.

The 6-foot, 263-pound Hamdan is considered the 191st-best defensive tackle and No. 3,160 prospect overall in the Class of 2018, as he recorded 45 tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble for the Comets this season. He choose Ohio State over scholarship offers from Air Force, Army, Buffalo and Navy and preferred walk-on opportunities at Cincinnati, Michigan State and Pittsburgh.

“They showed by the most love and coach Hodges and coach Johnson laid out a plan for me and my future at Ohio State,” Hamdan told Eleven Warriors. “They said I could have an impact on the team. This, on top of the great academics and the family feeling I had while on campus, made me choose them over my other offers.”

I met Hamdan during Nike Football's The Opening Cleveland Regional in April, where he — though a bit undersized for his position — more than held his own against four- and five-star offensive lineman like Penn State offensive guard commit Fredrick “Juice” Scruggs and Pittsburgh offensive guard pledge Jake Kradel, both of which had offers from Ohio State. He's attended several camps on campus, and he and the staff have build a relationship from there.

“They told me I have an offer on the table if I was ever interested,” Hamdan said, noting the Buckeyes give him the best opportunity to succeed academically and athletically. “The coaches, game day environment, competitiveness and the family feeling on campus [make it the best choice]."

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