The Hurry Up: Offensive Tackle Rasheed Walker Finalizes Official Visit While Ohio State Offers Defensive End Javontae Jean-Baptiste

By Andrew Lind on January 9, 2018 at 6:50 pm
Rasheed Walker and Max Wray

Rasheed Walker and Max Wray

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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.

THE STAFF'S TOP REMAINING TARGET

Just a few days after he told Eleven Warriors he planned to take an official visit to Ohio State “as soon as possible,” Waldorf, Maryland, North Point four-star offensive tackle Rasheed Walker has locked in a date — the weekend of Jan. 20.

The 6-foot-6, 300-pound Walker is considered the sixth-best offensive tackle and No. 81 prospect overall in the Class of 2018, but has quickly become the Buckeyes' top target at a position of great need following Fairfield five-star offensive tackle Jackson Carman's commitment to Clemson last month. He recently narrowed down his offers to Ohio State, Penn State and Virginia Tech and plans to make his college decision on the traditional Feb. 7 National Signing Day.

“I've kind of seen everything I need to see, it's just that I like all of the schools. It's real hard to just choose one,” Walker said. “My main thing, when I take my officials, is that I want to get around some of the players. That's my main thing I've been trying to do.

“I do a lot of research on my own, also,” he continued. “I research the graduation rate. Who they develop and who they send to the [National Football] League. I look at their roster. Just all the stuff like that.”

All of that seems to favor the Buckeyes, though the Hokies and Nittany Lions certainly have proximity on their side.  

A NEW NAME EMERGES

Even with a recent commitment from Cleveland Heights four-star Tyreke Smith, defensive end also remains a position that Ohio State would like to address by Signing Day. 

Tyler Friday is without a doubt the staff’s top target, but instead of putting all of their eggs in one basket, they offered a scholarship on Tuesday afternoon to fellow New Jersey four-star Javontae Jean-Baptiste.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Jean-Baptiste is considered the 21st-best outside linebacker and No. 313 prospect overall in the Class of 2018, but most schools are recruiting him as a hybrid end. He recorded 88 tackles, 11.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery at state power Bergen Catholic and holds nearly two dozen offers from programs such as Boston College, Connecticut, Nebraska, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers, Syracuse, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. 

Jean-Baptiste came onto Ohio State’s radar when defensive coordinator Greg Schiano dropped by his school in December. The two have maintained contact since, with Meyer calling to extend the offer on Tuesday afternoon. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson is supposed to stop by Bergen later this week, as well. 

Jean-Baptiste has taken official visits to Boston College and Virginia Tech, with a trip to Nebraska looming this upcoming weekend. He’ll then take an official visit to Ohio State the same weekend as Walker, Dec. 20. 

No matter which way Friday is leaning at the moment, Jean-Baptiste is a prospect with a ton of upside who would help the Buckeyes address a need. If the staff were to make a push for his pledge, I don’t think he’d pass up the opportunity to play for a coach like Johnson.

A HOME RUN HIRE

On Monday afternoon, Ohio State officially announced the hiring of former Washington State defensive coordinator as the program's 10th assistant, though it remains to be seen what his exact role will be.

As my colleague Dan Hope pointed out, it's presumable that role will be significant — likely co-defensive coordinator with the responsibility of coaching the safeties. After all, he's not going to leave a similar post at another Power 5 school to be the low man on the totem pole with the Buckeyes. He'll also likely be positioned as the defensive-coordinator-in-waiting to take over for Greg Schiano if he leaves for a head coaching opportunity in the near future, as he would have already done this offseason if not for the social media mob at Tennessee.

Grinch is one of college football's top up-and-coming coaches, and his hiring will do wonders for an Ohio State defense was among the nation's best against the run but too often shaky against the pass. The Cougars finished last season allowing only 25.8 points per game (down from 38.6 when Grinch arrived) and ranked third nationally in fewest touchdown passes allowed, fifth in passing efficiency, sixth in yards allowed and ninth in turnovers forced — all of which ranked ahead of the Buckeyes.

Grinch does have some experience on the recruiting trail, but with stops at Missouri, New Hampshire, Washington State and Wyoming, he's never stayed at one school long enough to develop strong ties to one area.

That said, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said last year when he hired NFL lifer Bill Davis to coach the linebackers recruiting is all about work ethic and building relationships. Grinch is great at both, and I anticipate — given his Ohio ties as a Grove City native and Mount Union alumnus — he'll make a significant impact locally if given the opportunity.

Furthermore, Grinch's likely role as the defensive-coordinator-in-waiting allows the staff to pitch stability to top prospects and ensures the Buckeyes won't face a similar situation to what happened with former five-star safety commit Jaiden Woodbey. If you'll recall, he was “hurt” by Schiano's decision to take the job in Knoxville and ultimately flipped to Florida State during the Early Signing Period.

THE NATURAL PROGRESSION

With Meyer's national recruiting approach, Ohio State has landed fewer and fewer in-state prospects with each recruiting cycle. In an attempt to balance that, though, the Buckeyes seemingly only offer walk-on opportunities to lesser-known, but talented Ohioans who grew up rooting for the Scarlet and Gray.

Such an offer was recently extended to Massillon Washington wide receiver Austin Kutscher.

“It's a huge opportunity, and it's been a goal and dream of mine ever since I was a little kid,” Kutscher told Eleven Warriors. “I have been a Buckeyes fan my whole life, and I worked really hard to get this opportunity in the classroom and on the field.”

The 6-foot-1, 186-pound Kutscher was named second-team all-district as a senior after he hauled in 93 catches for 1,350 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also recorded 39 tackles and one forced fumble as a free safety, helping the Tigers to the Divison II state semifinals.

“I think that just my route-running and my ability to make plays with the ball in my hands impressed them,” Kutscher said.

Kutscher holds double-digit scholarship offers from programs like Ashland, Malone, Saginaw Valley State, Walsh and Wheeling Jesuit, but a chance to play for his favorite team will be difficult to pass up.

“I plan on attending Ohio State,” he said, noting he wants to take a trip to campus and get financial aid worked out before making a final decision. “I feel like I could earn a spot.”

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