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.
HE HAS A POINT
While Ohio State missed out on making its third College Football Playoff appearance in four year, Alabama remains the only team in the country to have punched its ticket every season since the postseason tournament was implemented in 2014.
That’s certainly something Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban pitched to Buckeyes’ five-star defensive end commit Brenton Cox, who was in Tuscaloosa for an official visit this weekend (pictured above).
Cox’s trip to Alabama has been planned for a while, and he plans to follow it up with official visits to Ohio State and Georgia over the next two weekends. But again, as head coach Urban Meyer pointed out during his Big Ten Championship media availability on Friday, the Crimson Tide were given a clear advantage on the recruiting trail by sitting at home while the Buckeyes prepared for a title fight in Indianapolis.
“I don't believe it's fair,” Meyer said, “but I'd much rather be here. That's something that I have a whole recruiting staff [for]. What's the answer? Work that much harder. And when this game's over, get on a plan and go do the best you can to keep going. But the best recruiting tool out there is for us to play well tomorrow.”
Ohio State did just that, beating Wisconsin, 27-21, to capture its 36th Big Ten crown. But it wasn’t enough for the College Football Playoff committee to overlook that aforementioned loss to Iowa and include the Buckeyes among the final four team.
That’s now something Meyer and his staff must overcome, as the two biggest threats to flip Cox from his pledge are playing for a national championship while Ohio State will play in an overall meaningless bowl game. The fact that the Buckeyes were in consideration goes a long way with most recruits, but it remains to be seen how stock Cox puts into their exclusion — especially if he believes he can still play early and then be developed into a premier NFL prospect a little closer to home.
What was once thought to be a sure thing for Ohio State isn’t any longer, and the Buckeyes will have to knock the official visit next weekend out of the park if it wants to hold onto Cox, who is without a doubt the best prospect at a position of great need in Columbus.
This will be his first trip to campus since Friday Night Lights, and I personally believe defensive line coach Larry Johnson will remind Cox again of why he fell in love with the program in the first place, and they Buckeyes will be able to hold onto his pledge as a result.
HOPE YOU'RE PREPARED
Even without a trip to the playoff, Ohio State has shown under Meyer that it will always be in the conversation for a national championship and will send defensive backs to the NFL at a seemingly unprecedented rate.
It now appears the Buckeyes are on the verge of landing a commitment from Jacksonville Trinity Christian four-star safety Tyreke Johnson as a result.
The 6-foot-1, 191-pound Johnson hadn’t been discussed much as Ohio State chased after Texas five-star cornerback Anthony Cook. But with his ability to play anywhere in the defensive backfield, the Buckeyes quickly made him one of their top targets — regardless of position — following his official visit for the win over Penn State.
Sources close to Johnson have told Eleven Warriors Johnson was leaning toward playing out west at a program like UCLA, but that trip to Columbus changed the tide in his recruitment. The Buckeyes’ business-like approach and opportunity to play alongside his good friend and former teammate Shaun Wade really sets the program apart.
Johnson announced late last week he was dropping the Bruins from consideration, as it’s unclear if new head coach Chip Kelly will retain defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin.
I have officially taken UCLA out of my recruitment process due to the instability of the coaching staff and for the simple fact that idk where @coach_meat is going to end up but i wish the @UCLAFootball the best— tyreke johnson (@Im_showtime_) November 30, 2017
Now, those same sources indicated it’s only a matter of days before Johnson pulls the trigger. He is, after all, set to sign with his college of choice during the Early Signing Period on Dec. 20-22 and enroll early.
A LATE PUSH?
With Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes graduating and Sam Hubbard likely off to the NFL, the defensive end position — as mentioned — is a major priority this recruiting cycle. So while the staff is trying to hold onto Cox, they’re also looking to land two or three others to round out the class.
New Jersey four-star end Jayson Oweh and Cleveland Heights four-star Tyreke Smith are the obvious names, and the Buckeyes are among the finalists for both. But UCLA four-star commit Abdul-Malik McClain is another prospect the aforementioned Johnson has come to like in recent weeks, and sources close to the program have told Eleven Warriors he’ll take an official visit next weekend.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound McClain — San Juan Capistrano, California, native — is considered the 14th-best weak-side defensive end and No. 270 prospect overall in the Class of 2018, as he recorded 34 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks, 11 quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery for the Lions this fall. He committed to UCLA in July over more than a dozen offers from programs such as Arizona State, Notre Dame, Oregon State, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.
Ohio State, Oklahoma and USC all offered in November, hoping to take advantage of UCLA’s struggles under former head coach Jim Mora. It’s unclear at this time how the above-mention Kelly’s hiring will impact McClain, but it’s noteworthy he also visited the Sooners last month.