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.
A BUSY WEEKEND
Ohio State welcomed a pair of top targets to campus for official visits this weekend in Maryland four-star offensive tackle Rasheed Walker and New Jersey four-star defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste. Both keep to themselves, so details from their visits remain sparse, but several sources close to the program and the prospects told Eleven Warriors they believe significant progress was made this weekend.
The 6-foot-6, 300-pound Walker made the trip to Columbus with his parents and was hosted by starting right tackle Isaiah Prince. He's been to campus numerous times, so there was nothing new the Buckeyes could show him that would instantly swing things in their favor.
Instead, head coach Urban Meyer and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa pitched an opportunity for early playing time and the ability to get developed into a top-flight NFL prospect. They're hoping that outweights Walker's desire to play close to home.
Walker isn't set to make a decision on his future until Feb. 7, National Signing Day, so Meyer, Penn State head coach James Franklin and Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente will all conduct in-home visits with him in the next few weeks. He's taken his official visits to Blacksburg and State College, but both the Hokies and Nittany Lions are expected to push for another unofficial visit between now and his decision.
“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 told Eleven Warriors earlier this month at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. “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.”
I still believe all of that favors Ohio State.
— dontMessWithOcho (@Javontae_JB) January 20, 2018
This weekend was his first time in Columbus for the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Jean-Baptiste, meanwhile. He and his mother spent a considerable amount of time with Meyer, defensive line coach Larry Johnson and defensive coordinator and area recruiter Greg Schiano.
The plan, according to those close to Jean-Baptiste, is for Meyer and Nebraska head coach Scott Frost to conduct their in-home visits with him this week. A decision could come any time thereafter.
Texas A&M and Wisconsin also recently extended an offer to Jean-Baptiste, but it's unclear at this time if he'll take an official visit to either. I don't believe the Aggies or Badgers have a chance to land his pledge, though, and that it's going to come down to the Buckeyes or Cornhuskers.
Jean-Baptiste's relationship with the Nebraska staff — albeit the old one — goes back more than a year, so he's certainly more familiar with the campus and the program as a whole. However, it's hard to say, “No,” to an offer from Ohio State, and I think he becomes a Buckeye when it's all said and done.
NEED VERSUS BEST AVAILABLE
Roster attrition is a touchy subject, but there's no denying Ohio State will face a numbers crunch this summer. After all, a commitment last week from four-star defensive tackle Tyler Friday puts the program at 23 pledges in the current recruiting class and 86 scholarship players for next year, one above the NCAA-mandated limit.
With that being said, the Buckeyes still have a rather large need at offensive tackle, which they hope to address with the addition of Walker and/or Tampa five-star Nicholas Petit-Frere. The staff also continues to recruit players at positions like running back and wide receiver — where the cupboard is currently overflowing with returning talent and incoming recruits.
The problem with that, however, is that all college football programs must be down to 85 scholarship players before the first day of Autumn Semester or the opening practice of fall camp, whichever comes first. And as things stand right now, the Buckeyes will see at least one player transfer out of the program this summer as a result. Each additional commitment between now and Feb. 7 means another player must go.
So how does the staff improve the roster knowing that attrition is inevitable? It seems, for some programs, taking the best player available — and not necessarily a position of need — is becoming a means of justification.
This from The Athletic recruiting analyst and ESPN sideline reporter Tom Luginbill, who has identified another unintended consequence of the Early Signing Period:
Generally, college recruiting philosophy revolves around identifying and filling holes within your roster. You have formulated your numbers by position, by need, as a result of attrition or early departures to the NFL draft. You have analyzed your 85 scholarships and know exactly what you need and are targeting those positions.
However, from this point forward, given that the player pool has shrunk from a lake to a puddle, the few teams that may only need a few prospects and feel good about the prospects they have already signed are focusing their efforts on landing the best available players on the board.
If you’ve been wondering, that’s why Ohio State continues to court prospects like Texas three-star running back Maurice Washington III and California four-star wise receiver Chris Olave — who assistants Zach Smith and Ryan Day are set to visit this evening — despite the fact that the Buckeyes already signed three players at both positions.
A majority of players have already signed, meaning there are fewer prospects available who are worthy of an offer. So instead of reaching for a lower-rated prospect at a position of need who may ultimately be a victim of attrition in the future, why not bring in the best player available?
Balancing the current roster, positional needs and remaining talent is quite the dilemma, and I’m glad I don’t have to make those decisions.
In last night's edition of The Hurry Up, I argued that Ohio State assistant director of player personnel Eron Hodges may have the most difficult job of anyone of the staff. After all, he's tasked with finding underrated or unheralded prospects who are worthy of a preferred walk-on opportunity from the Buckeyes.
Last month, he extended an offer to Bedford two-star wide receiver Davion “Speedy” Johnson, who announced his commitment on Monday afternoon.
— Davion Johnson (@TRMT_SPEEDY) January 22, 2018
“That's almost every kid's dream school growing up,” Johnson told Eleven Warriors at the time of the offer. “It means a lot because [they] feel that I have the ability to play at the highest level. I feel I can go earn a full scholarship.”
The 5-foot-8, 160-pound Johnson is considered the 298th-best wideout and No. 1,993 prospect overall in the Class of 2018, as he hauled in 65 passes for 1,256 yards and 18 touchdowns and was named second-team all-state after leading the Bearcats to the Lake Erie League championship. He chose to walk on at Ohio State rather than accept a scholarship offer from Iowa State.
Johnson becomes the seventh in-state prospect — and eighth senior overall — to accept a preferred walk-on offer from the Buckeyes, joining Dublin Jerome athlete Robert Cope and linebacker Cade Kacherski; Big Walnut linebacker Abe Myers; Piqua linebacker Ben Schmiesing; Berlin Center Western Reserve linebacker Jack Cappabianca; Mason defensive tackle Zaid Hamdan; and Arizona wide receiver Luke Donovan.
ANOTHER SITE'S OPINION
With the end of the current recruiting cycle in sight, Rivals started the process of unveiling its final player rankings on Monday afternoon.
— Rivals.com (@Rivals) January 22, 2018
Ohio State placed a nation-high 11 players in the Rivals100, outpacing top-ranked Georgia (10), Texas (7), Miami (6), Penn State (3) and Michigan (1). A notable omission is four-star tight end Jeremy Ruckert, who is widely considered the best player at the position — though Rivals gives that honor to Bulldogs signee Luke Ford.
The new rankings are as follows, with their movement in parentheses:
- No. 14 (-2) – CB Tyreke Johnson
- No. 20 (-4) – LB Teradja Mitchell
- No. 34 (+26) – DE Tyreke Smith
- No. 39 (-7) – WR L'Christian “Blue” Smith
- No. 40 (-7) – DT Taron Vincent
- No. 41 (-13) – RB Jaelen Gill
- No. 66 (-7) – RB Brian Snead
- No. 68 (-4) – DE Tyler Friday
- No. 76 (NR) - DT Tommy Togiai
- No. 80 (NR) – S Josh Proctor
- No. 100 (-1) – LB K'Vaughan Pope
Togiai, who finished his senior season with 93 tackles and 11 sacks, was not previously listed among the nation's Top 100 recruits. He jumped up to No. 76 following a strong performance at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl earlier this month.
“He's extra special because Togiai mixes power with athleticism to live in the backfield. If he has the physical edge over an interior lineman he can overpower them to make plays,” recruiting analyst Adam Gorney said. “If Togiai has to use his quick feet and violent hands to beat the offensive lineman, he can do that as well. Over and over again, especially during the week of practice at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Togiai showed off a mix of moves, his power and his toughness to be effective in a variety of ways.”
Proctor, who was named Mr. Football in Oklahoma after leading Owasso to its first state championship in more than 40 years, also saw a notable bump in the rankings.
“The state of Oklahoma is almost unanimously tardy in releasing game film for the season, so this evaluation goes back to Proctor's senior game film," recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt said. “We liked the Ohio State signee a lot before the season, but he stepped his game up as a senior, proving to have elite playmaking skills to complement his physical tools.”
Other notable prospects who saw their stock soar or fall with Monday's update include:
- No. 11 (+56) – OT Nicholas Petit-Frere
- No. 16 (-2) – OT Jackson Carman
- No. 29 (-3) – S Jaiden Woodbey
- No. 33 (+1) – DE Brenton Cox
- No. 65 (-8) – OT Rasheed Walker
- No. 89 (-62) – QB Emory Jones
Jones, who struggled mightily during Under Armour All-America Game practices, plummetted in the rankings.
“Jones really had a rough week in Orlando. He struggled with his accuracy throughout the week and he just never found a rhythm as a passer," recruiting analyst Chad Simmons said. "The conditions were far from ideal, but he just seemed off from day one for whatever reason. Jones is still a Rivals100 prospect and he still has a lot of tools for the Florida fans to be excited about, but his stock dropped some after his final high school performance.” – Simmons
ONE LAST TIME AT THE HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL
Ohio State four-star linebacker signee Teradja Mitchell wrapped up his high school career by helping U.S. Under-19 National Team to a 47-7 win over Football Canada in International Bowl IX at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Friday night.
This marked the second postseason all-star game for the 6-foot-2, 232-pound Mitchell, also played in the Under Armour All-America Game earlier this month. He finished with three tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss and one quarterback hurry.
Players rotated in and out throughout the game, but Mitchell had several highlight plays from the middle linebacker position. Here, he combined with fellow Hampton Roads linebacker Keshon Artis — a Virginia Tech signee — on the tackle for loss during a goal line stand.
— Keshon Artis (@In2WeTrust) January 20, 2018
Mitchell, who was named one of five finalists for the USA TODAY Sports Defensive Player of the Year award, will enroll in classes in Columbus in June and hopes to compete for playing time as a freshman. Columbus native and Oklahoma three-star linebacker signee Brian Asamoah, meanwhile, was named defensive MVP.