Heat Check: New Defensive Back Surges Up the Ohio State Board With Early Signing Period Just Weeks Away

By Andrew Ellis on December 5, 2017 at 1:15 pm
Four-star defensive back Tyreke Johnson has emerged as one of Ohio State's top targets.

Recruiting is all about momentum. Sometimes you're gaining it, sometimes you're losing it. What prospects are trending up with Ohio State? Let's take a look.

Coaching changes, an early signing period, bowl preparation, and trying to hang onto several of your top-rated 2018 commitments? This is the time of year when the recruiting cycle is in full gear, and a lot has transpired in the past month or so. 

In terms of the 2018 recruiting rankings, the Buckeyes still hold a comfortable lead over Tom Herman's Longhorns. However, there are all kinds of question marks right now as several of the team's top commitments are looking around. Emory Jones and Brenton Cox are both taking a hard look at the Crimson Tide while there's still some uncertainty surrounding Jaiden Woodbey and Josh Proctor.

What does it all mean? It means there are still a lot of moving parts as the Buckeyes look to add five or six more and hold onto the commits that are already in the fold. We've got a lot to sort out heading into the inaugural early signing period (Dec. 20-22) and college football's bowl season.

Let's go ahead and break this edition down on each side of the ball, shall we?

NAME POSITION RANK Prev. Rating Others In the Mix
JACKSON CARMAN OT 1 1 ★★★★★ Clemson•USC
KAMRYN BABB WR 2 2 ★★★★ LSU•Michigan•ND
TYREKE SMITH DE 4 4 ★★★★ Penn State•Alabama•USC
JAYSON OWEH DE 5 5 ★★★★ Penn State•Notre Dame
RASHEED WALKER OT 6 6 ★★★★ Penn State•Maryland
WALKER CULVER OT 7 NA ★★★ Virginia Tech•Colorado
ANTHONY COOK CB 8 3 ★★★★★ Texas•LSU
NICHOLAS PETIT-FRERE OT 9 7 ★★★★★ Florida•Bama•ND•Michigan
TOMMY TOGIAI DT 10 8 ★★★★ Washington•USC
MATTHEW BALDWIN QB 11 NA ★★★ Kentucky•Minnesota•Iowa•UNC
  •  Last month's version can be found HERE.


Still no changes at the top. Jackson Carman is Ohio State's No. 1 priority and he plays a position of great need. The five-star is scheduled to check out USC and Clemson this month, but the Trojans may have emerged as the biggest threat. Clay Helton and his staff made the trip to Fairfield to visit with Carman last night. We've still got this one ending up in the Buckeyes' favor, however.

Ohio State needs to add two more tackles, in my opinion. Carman should be one, but right now it's anyone's guess for the other signee. We've still got Rasheed Walker and Nicholas Petit-Frere on the board, but Walker remains the more likely of the two. It should end up being Ohio State or Penn State for the Maryland product. The official visit to Happy Valley is scheduled for this weekend, but Walker will still have the opportunity to get back to Columbus. 

Petit-Frere seems to be nowhere close to a decision, and the Buckeyes are probably running third at best right now. We'll see what Dan Mullen's arrival does for the Gators' chances, but Notre Dame, Michigan, and Alabama all remain in the hunt. Ohio State will have to work to get an official visit, and we've moved the country's No. 3 tackle down a few spots due to all of the uncertainty. 

Chattanooga, Tennessee's Walker Culver is a new addition to the list following an Ohio State offer and subsequent decommitment from Colorado. I was a bit hesitant to include the three-star since there are some questions as to whether or not he's a take at this point, but the minute he's given the green light then this could be over.

Culver will be in Blacksburg this weekend, and the Hokies definitely look to be an option. At 6-foot-6 and 273 pounds, he will certainly need to spend time in a college weight room, but the length looks to be there and more and more schools are taking notice. He's not as talented as Walker or Petit-Frere, but Culver already made one trip to Columbus and may be the most likely option in addition to Carman. This one may just depend on the Buckeyes' number crunch. 

Sticking with the offensive side of the ball, there's still not much to report on Kamryn Babb as he holds steady at the No. 2 spot. Ohio State is still in the driver's seat and it looks to just be a matter of time before the country's No. 11 receiver is a part of the class. As a side note, Cameron Brown – a Husker commit and four-star teammate of Babb – also appears to be trending toward the Buckeyes. We shall see what transpires now that Scott Frost has officially been introduced. 

The Buckeyes extended an offer to Matthew Baldwin a month ago, and the Austin, Texas signal-caller is a candidate to be a late addition to the class. Obviously a lot will depend on the Emory Jones saga, but there's a chance Baldwin gets in regardless; especially since he is waiting things out and won't be enrolling early. Jarren Williams was previously on the list, but he seems like a done deal to Miami right now.


Ohio State still needs a cornerback in this class, and really they could end up taking a pair depending on how things transpire. Five-star Anthony Cook has been toward the top of the board for the entire cycle, but he's plummeted in this month's update. The reason for the drop has nothing to do with talent as Cook is one of the best pure corner's in the country. However, the Buckeyes have been fading for the last few months and the Houston native seems Texas or LSU bound when he announces his decision on Dec. 20. 

We've said it before, but we view this board as a combination of numerous factors including positional needs, reciprocated interest, player caliber, and how hard the staff may be pushing. It's not an exact science, but there's no denying that things haven't been trending well for the country's No. 2 corner. Kerry Coombs was busying planting flags yesterday, so maybe Ohio State can pull off a late stunner? 

Cook's descent has allowed another defensive back target to make his debut at the No. 3 spot. Jacksonville's Tyreke Johnson is a former teammate of Shaun Wade's, and the talented defender checks in as the nation's No. 39 overall prospect. Rivals.com lists Johnson as a five-star and the No. 12 player in America. Most outlets consider the 6-foot-1, 191-pounder as more of a safety, but the Buckeyes seem to like him as a cornerback. 

Johnson made an official visit to Columbus in late October and also checked out Clemson this past month. Last week he tweeted out that a commitment video was in the works, so Buckeye fans may not have to wait long for some very good news. He holds offers from Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, and basically every other national powerhouse. 

Ohio State's defensive line recruiting has been a chore to keep up with this cycle. Larry Johnson will be losing a lot after this season, so reloading the unit is going to be just as important as it was in the secondary for the Class of 2017. Things really aren't going as planned; at least not right now. 

Brenton Cox is the lone defensive end commitment, and we touched on his ongoing saga with both Alabama and Georgia. Elsewhere, Tyreke Smith and Jayson Oweh remain the top targets at the position. Right now it's impossible to say the Buckeyes are out in front for either of one of the four-stars. The Nittany Lions likely lead for Smith and there are now some rumblings that it could be a Penn State vs. Michigan battle for Oweh. 

Early playing time will be plentiful and there's the chance to play for the best defensive line coach in America. So what gives?

Negative recruiting is a part of the game, and we've discussed Larry Johnson's alleged retirement as a hurdle for the Buckeyes even though there's no real evidence to support the claim (other than being 65 years old). The above tweet from Johnson Jr. – the former Nittany Lion star – probably isn't helping matters for Ohio State. It's one thing for other coaches to use this against them, but a tweet from the coach's son? Even if the intent was harmless, that is far from ideal as the Buckeyes look to snag another 2-3 defensive linemen. 

Defensive tackle recruiting remains in a solid spot with Taron Vincent and Antwuan Jackson in the fold. Jackson visited Alabama last month, but the JUCO's interest doesn't seem like it's anywhere close to the Jones/Cox level. Tommy Togiai remains an option, but we've dropped him down to No. 10. Adding a third tackle isn't exactly imperative, and Washington may have the slight edge at the moment. 

Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes, Tracy Sprinkle, and Michael Hill are preparing for their final game. Sam Hubbard may very well be doing the same. Chase Young is going to be a great one and everyone knows about Nick Bosa, but the defensive line will remain a priority for the next few months. It's safe to assume that new names will emerge as well. 

It wouldn't be a surprise if Ohio State adds a commitment or two in the coming weeks. Unfortunately it also wouldn't be a surprise to see one or two go the other direction. The early signing period adds all kinds of intrigue to the process and the coaching changes only add fuel to the recruiting fire. 

Schools like Tennessee and Florida continue to have decommitment issues, so there's always a chance the Buckeyes can latch onto a fresh face late in the process. On the other side of the coin, Greg Schiano has already been targeted for one job, so who knows what other schools (Oregon?) could perhaps come calling. 

Buckle up. It's bound to be a long month filled with twists and turns as the Buckeyes prep for the Dec. 29 showdown with the Trojans. And what a night it's sure to be in Arlington.

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