Signing day is just over one week away, and the Ohio State coaching staff is still working to address the most pressing remaining needs for the Class of 2018. If the Buckeyes hope to hold off Georgia and Alabama for the No. 1 spot in the team rankings, they likely will need to add to a class that's already sitting at 24 commits and signees.
Offensive tackle remains the area of focus, and Urban Meyer will chase the top targets – five-star Nicholas Petit-Frere and four-star Rasheed Walker – all the way up to next Wednesday's signing day.
One area that isn't a need at this point would have to be Tony Alford's backfield. The Buckeyes have already signed two of America's top-six running backs as well as the No. 2 all-purpose back. J.K. Dobbins will only be a sophomore in 2018, and the additions of Brian Snead, Master Teague, and Jaelen Gill add even more talent and explosiveness to Ohio State's "Tote Nation" stable.
But yesterday's big development certainly leads one to believe that there may be more to come for the Buckeyes' 2018 backfield haul.
|Jaelen Gill||HB||6-foot-1, 182 pounds||★★★★||No. 30||Signed|
|Brian Snead||RB||5-foot-11, 200 pounds||★★★★||No. 80||Signed|
|Master Teague||RB||5-foot-11, 210 pounds||★★★★||No. 228||Enrolled|
|Tavion Thomas||RB||6-foot-2, 225 pounds||★★★||No. 407||TBD|
Whether there's been some unexpected openings or if he's simply just too good to pass up, Ohio State has circled back to three-star tailback Tavion Thomas. We talked a lot about the Dayton product last year around this time when his recruitment was blowing up more so than any other player in the country. Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, USC, and Texas all offered during a month-long stretch that catapulted the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder into the national spotlight.
Ohio State entered the fray during this time as well, and Thomas would go on to take multiple trips to Columbus during the month of March. Needless to say, most felt he was trending toward the Buckeyes and – at the time – the crystal ball predictions had a distinct Scarlet and Gray flavor.
But for one reason or another, things didn't work out between the two parties. Ohio State already held a pledge from the aforementioned Brian Snead and was continuing the chase for the country's top back—Laurinburg, North Carolina's Zamir White. Meanwhile, Thomas continued collecting offers and would ultimately commit to Oklahoma in June.
We hadn't even heard his name mentioned for the better part of seven months, so Thomas' resurfacing on Monday was a surprise to say the least. Urban Meyer met with the family on Sunday and the Dunbar tailback backed off of his Sooner pledge the next day. He also wasted no time setting up an official visit and will make the trip back to Columbus this weekend.
Now, many are questioning why exactly the Buckeyes would look to bring a fourth back into the discussion.
Truly truly blessed to receive my 18 offer from thee University of Ohio State#GoBuckeyes really amazing coaches @CoachTonyAlford pic.twitter.com/Nd82YE8r0W— lackofworries (@tavionthomas937) February 18, 2017
First of all, it's important to once again note that Jaelen Gill isn't expected to play tailback for the Buckeyes. He may see a little bit of time in the backfield, but the Westerville star will be utilized in more of an H-Back role. The staff already elected not to pursue four-star tailback Maurice Washington. The Under Armour All-America Game MVP likely would have filled a similar role as Gill, though he's not near as highly regarded.
Snead and Teague, however, are both pure tailbacks and two of the country's very best. Each one of them has their strengths, and while they bring a physical presence given their respective sizes, it's reasonable to look at Thomas as a player the Buckeyes don't currently have on the roster.
Still, there are some question marks remaining, and our very own Andrew Lind discussed a few of these in last night's Hurry Up:
A lot of what happens from here depends on whether or not Thomas has overcome some academic hurdles that plagued his recruitment early in the process and forced Ohio State to move in another direction last spring. You may recall, the Buckeyes offered him a scholarship in February in the midst of a five-day string of offers from programs such as Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and Nebraska, but nothing progressed as his grades remained a significant concern.
Everything we've heard is that Urban Meyer is enamored with the state's No. 13 prospect, which probably isn't too much of a surprise given what appears to be a very strong push just one week before signing day. Given the renewed interest, one has to wonder if the rest of the requisite boxes have now been checked off.
It's usually pretty easy to tell who Meyer has honed in on. When these players visit campus, he's most often seen standing right by their side. It's happened with the likes of Raekwon McMillan, Chase Young, and several others. That was very much the case for Tavion Thomas early in the cycle (*visual evidence*), and things have once again heated up.
The subsequent decommit from Oklahoma looks to be pretty telling, but I don't think it's time to put a bow on this one quite yet. The Buckeyes certainly have more pressing needs, but right now they're recruiting like there are at least three spots remaining in the 2018 class. The upcoming visit will be a big one for both sides. Oklahoma and Cincinnati remain in the hunt while schools like Florida State, Mississippi, and Tennessee also have been trying to make a late push.
Too much of a good thing? Perhaps. But Tavion Thomas – along with his size and bruising style – would bring a different skill set to the Ohio State backfield for the foreseeable future.