The future stars of Ohio State football officially begin their college careers, as standouts from all over the country put pens to their National Letters of Intent.
One of the biggest concerns for Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer when it came to college football’s first Early Signing Period was how it would speed up the recruiting process for both his program and the prospect.
“You're squeezing the recruiting process into a small time period and [there are] very critical decisions for us [to be made and] more critical decisions for the young person,” he said.
The same could be said for those prospects who remain unsigned after that date, as new programs enter the fray looking to address needs in the weeks leading up to the traditional National Signing Day.
Meyer is fortunate to sit in the position, though, where he can offer a prospect late in the process and alter his recruitment entirely, and that was exactly the case for Oradell, New Jersey, Bergen Catholic four-star defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste, who pledged his services to the Buckeyes on Wednesday morning.
The Jean-Baptiste File
- Class: 2018
- Size: 6-foot-5, 215 pounds
- Pos: DE
- School: Bergen Catholic (Oradell, NJ)
- Composite Rating: ★★★★
- Composite Rank: 16 (OLB)
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Jean-Baptiste is considered the 16th-best outside linebacker and No. 219 prospect overall in the Class of 2018, but Ohio State plans to move him to defensive end at the next level. He picked the Buckeyes over nearly two dozen offers from programs such as Boston College, Connecticut, Nebraska, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech.
“The program and the history, it's tremendous,” Bergen Catholic head coach Nunzio Campanile told Eleven Warriors. “In the short time they've been recruiting him, they've made some really good impressions. When you hear 'Ohio State football,' that's as premier as it comes in college football. That's exciting to Javontae and his family.”
Jean-Baptiste came onto the Buckeyes' radar when defensive coordinator and area recruiter Greg Schiano dropped by his high school in December. The staff awaited decisions at that time from four-star defensive ends Tyreke Smith and Jayson Oweh, but liked his potential as an edge rusher and maintained contact through the holidays.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson then extended an offer in early January, and Ohio State instantly became the favorite to land his pledge thanks to the lack of depth at the position. However, a commitment from fellow New Jersey four-star Tyler Friday, the re-emergence of Cincinnati Winton Woods four-star linebacker Christopher Oats and a subpar official visit had him trending toward the Cornhuskers for the better part of the last two weeks.
That all changed last Thursday, though, when Oats cancelled his official visit to Columbus in favor of a trip to Kentucky. With the two expected to play a similar hybrid defensive end/linebacker role and a spot now open, Meyer and Schiano conducted an in-home visit with Jean-Baptiste to see if they could overcome his relationship with Nebraska head coach Scott Frost.
The Aggies also made a late push behind new head coach Jimbo Fisher, and Jean-Baptiste took an official visit to College State this past weekend. It appears the opportunity to play for the Buckeyes was difficult to pass up, though.
Jean-Baptiste becomes the 26th member of Ohio State’s Supreme ‘18 recruiting class, joining Friday, Smith and Pickerington North three-star Alex Williams at the defensive end position.
Eleven Warriors will have more on Jean-Baptiste's pledge shortly.