Early Signing Period Signifies Pivotal Week in Ohio State's Quest to Capture the 2018 Recruiting Crown

By Andrew Ellis on December 17, 2017 at 7:05 am
Jaiden Woodbey had a busy weekend checking out USC and Florida State.
Jaiden Woodbey

This Wednesday marks the start of the inaugural early signing period, which runs from Dec. 20 through Dec. 22. Based on the way things are shaping up, it certainly looks like Wednesday's fanfare will be reminiscent of what we typically see in the first week of February.

With the bulk of Ohio State's 2018 recruiting class slated to sign, these may very well be the most important few days of the entire cycle. Urban Meyer currently has the Buckeyes atop the national recruiting rankings, and there's a very good chance that they end Alabama's seven-year reign of terror. The Crimson Tide checks in at No. 8 in the rankings, but Nick Saban is of course expected to make a surge in the coming weeks.

2018 Rankings Snapshot
Team Commits 4 & 5-stars Avg. Commit Rating Total
1. Ohio State 21 19 94.87 308.31
2 Texas 19 17 93.20 284.07
3. Georgia 18 12 92.00 271.73
4. Miami 20 14 91.40 271.03
5. Penn State 20 10 90.59 259.03
6. Notre Dame 20 10 90.49 257.81
7. Oklahoma 20 9 90.14 251.81
8. Alabama 15 11 92.35 250.18

The Buckeyes have been close to the top spot several times since Meyer's arrival, but the crown is absolutely within reach for 2018. I'm of the opinion that Georgia and Alabama are the two schools that will pose the greatest threat in the coming weeks, but Ohio State has positioned itself quite nicely. 

The class is likely to finish with 24-26 signees, so there's certainly still room for a few other new additions. If the Buckeyes want to hold onto the top spot in the 2018 recruiting rankings, there are three key storylines to be on the lookout for this week.

Carman Sweepstakes Coming to an End

The state's top player is set to sign with his school of choice this week, and while the Buckeyes have long been the favorite, Clemson and USC haven't made this one easy. Jackson Carman is coming off his official visit to Southern Cal, and the five-star certainly has some legitimate interest in both the Trojans and Tigers. 

The Fairfield tackle took his official visit to Columbus in October and the Buckeyes have always been the favorite here. We can probably expect some very pro-USC (or even Clemson) tweets in the coming days before the pen is officially put to paper. Sometimes the suspense building is simply just that, while other times there may be a bit more to it. I tend to think this one would be more of the former.

Whether there's a little bit of drama or none whatsoever, Ohio State landing the country's No. 9 prospect would go a long way in hanging onto the top spot in the team rankings.

Holding on for Dear Life

There are a few Buckeye commitments to watch closely this week as they continue to be courted by other top programs. These are pretty much the same names we've been talking about for months now, but crunch time is officially here and all three are set to sign in the coming days. 

The Emory Jones saga is finally nearing its conclusion, and the long-time Ohio State pledge appears destined for just about anywhere but Columbus. It's tough to pinpoint precisely what's going on here, but this recruitment has been a rollercoaster for some time now.

Alabama looked like the stiffest competition for a while, but there's actually some question marks as to whether or not the Crimson Tide are pushing for the Georgia signal-caller. That's especially interesting since Saban is still looking for his quarterback. Jones has been to Tuscaloosa multiple times, and one has to think Bama is at least still in the running. 

Florida and Florida State entered the fray a bit later, but Jones' decision to check out both schools this weekend certainly adds even more intrigue. The Seminoles and Gators also are still looking for a quarterback, and Dan Mullen actually was the first to offer way back in May of 2015 when he was still in Starkville. 

Ohio State has commitments from both Jones and three-star Texan Matthew Baldwin. We've talked a bit about the possibility of taking two quarterbacks in the class, so it wouldn't be too crazy for both to sign with the Buckeyes. Right now it's not looking like Jones will end up in the Big Ten, but there's still a couple days left for some more twists and turns. 

Are the Buckeyes slipping for Jaiden Woodbey as well? It's been an interesting weekend for the five-star California native. He took a visit to USC on Friday, and the Trojans have long been viewed as the biggest competition. His father played for Southern Cal, but he's insisted that he is a solid Ohio State commitment despite his legacy status. A few new Trojan crystal balls have been submitted in the last 24 hours.

Saturday he flew to the Sunshine State to check out Florida State. Willie Taggart extended and offer less than a week ago, but Woodbey certainly appears to be at least somewhat receptive of the Seminole pitch. Honestly I think Ohio State fans should feel okay about the trip to Tallahassee. Spending a whole weekend at USC likely would have been even more concerning.

The timing of this is a bit troublesome as Woodbey hadn't really checked out other schools up until the final weekend before signing. Could this just be an example of a kid taking a few visits to make sure he's making the right decision? It's certainly possible, and we will know more in the coming days. 

The third commitment to watch is four-safety pledge Josh Proctor. The Oklahoma native pledged to the Buckeyes during April's spring game weekend, but he has checked out the in-state Sooners this fall. This recruitment has been a bit quieter than that of Jones and Woodbey, but that's partially due to Proctor's personality. He really doesn't say a whole lot. 

Ohio State will look to sign the nation's No. 8 safety this week, and while I suppose Oklahoma may still be viewed as a threat, there's nothing too ominous going on at this point.

Surprise, Surprise?

Urban Meyer and the Ohio State staff have been known to have a few things up their sleeves. I wouldn't expect this year's class to be any different, and those surprises could start as soon as this Wednesday.

The Buckeyes have been looking at Pickerington's Alex Williams for some time now, but things have really heated up in recent weeks. The West Virginia commit plans on signing with his school on Dec. 20, and it wouldn't be a shocker if the local defensive end elects to stick around the Columbus area. At 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds, he could be brought in as more of an athlete with the potential to end up along the defensive line or perhaps even at offensive tackle down the road.

I wouldn't be shocked if there were a few other surprises this week, and there will almost assuredly be some more unexpected twists as February draws near.

The Buckeyes have a comfortable lead in the team rankings right now, but Georgia and Alabama should absolutely make things interesting before the final tally is in. Ohio State will also have to gauge any potential transfers and NFL departures to get a better feel for how many can ultimately be signed in 2018. 

With this week being of paramount importance, it will be especially interesting to see what happens with the commits who don't elect to sign early. One has to think that Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, and other powerhouse programs will immediately take notice and could set their sights on some new targets leading up to the more traditional February signing day. 

View 43 Comments