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.
CHANGE OF PLANS
Cincinnati Winton Woods four-star linebacker Christopher Oats was expected to take an official visit to Ohio State this weekend, most likely setting the stage for his commitment next Wednesday, National Signing Day. There's been a change of plans, though, and all signs point toward him ending up with Kentucky instead.
As first reported this afternoon by Rivals' Marc Givler and since confirmed by Eleven Warriors, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Oats has called off the visit despite the Buckeyes still pushing for his pledge. His relationship with the Wildcats' staff — particularly that with recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow — appears to outweigh the chance to play for his childhood favorite team.
But how does that happen?
Oats was among Ohio State's top targets at the position early in the process, but let his academics get in the way. He reportedly tried to commit to the Buckeyes in June, but was asked to hold off while he improved his grades.
Ohio State then landed commitments last summer from three four-star linebackers in Dallas Gant, Teradja Mitchell and K'Vaughan Pope, and Kentucky used that as an opportunity to make a move with Oats. Marrow — who strongly believes Urban Meyer's national recruiting approach has helped his program — pitched to him the idea of joining a long list of Ohioans who now play for the Wildcats.
That includes Lagrange tight end C.J. Conrad, Cincinnati safety Mike Edwards, Youngstown linebacker Jordan Jones, Warren athlete Lynn Bowden and Westerville running back Benny Snell, among many others.
Kentucky seemed all but certain to land Oats' pledge until Ohio State circled back late in the process.
“I've put in a lot of hard work, and they stayed with me the whole way when they could've went out and got someone else,” Oats told Eleven Warriors shortly after he set up his official visit. “They kept letting me know that they would have room for me.”
I then switched my 247Sports Crystal Ball prediction from the Wildcats to the Buckeyes, but that hinged solely upon Oats actually making the trip to Columbus.
Now that visit is off the table.
While questions about his grades will surely be tossed around as a reason why he didn't end up at Ohio State, Oats' decision will be more so about his relationship with Marrow and the rest of Kentucky's staff. And while the Buckeyes have had great success in recent years doing so, it also goes to show the staff won't always be able to put an in-state kid on the back burner and land his pledge late in the process if they choose to go that route.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and defensive coordinator and area recruiter Greg Schiano are in New Jersey this evening to conduct their in-home visit with Bergen Catholic four-star defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste. The duo also spent the day at his school, where they met with Crusaders head coach Nunzio Campanile.
With Oats now out of the picture, it would appear to open the door for Jean-Baptiste to fill his spot at the hybrid defensive end/linebacker position. But I'm not certain the Buckeyes will push for that.
As I mentioned shortly after Jean-Baptiste took his official visit to Columbus last month, sources indicated not everyone at Ohio State is sold on what he brings to the table. While he's bulked up quite a bit in the last year or so, he'll need to continue to develop physically if he's going to play on the defensive line.
The Cornhuskers and new head coach Scott Frost have taken advantage of that hesitancy, meanwhile. Virginia Tech and Texas A&M are also trying to make a late move by pushing for an official visit this weekend. But unless there's another sudden change of heart from the Buckeyes, Jean-Baptiste's relationship with Frost — which goes back to his days at UCF — will ultimately win out.
NEXT ON THE ASSEMBLY LINE?
North Stafford, Virginia, four-star running back Devyn Ford included Ohio State in his Top 6 on Thursday afternoon alongside Clemson, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Penn State and Virginia Tech.
Top 6 no order pic.twitter.com/vMWUjzAYXc
— Damonte (@TsunamiFord) February 1, 2018
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Ford is considered the seventh-best running back and No. 78 prospect overall in the Class of 2019, as he's rushed for 5,071 yards and 76 touchdowns in his three-year varsity career with the Wolverines.
Ford — who was named the Commonwealth District and Virginia High School League 5A Region D Offensive Player of the Year last season — has been to campus several times over the 12 months, including Junior Day last January, Friday Night Lights in July and the Buckeyes' 39-38 win over the Nittany Lions in October. He has a strong relationship with Meyer and running backs coach Tony Alford, as well, but the Hokies are considered the favorite in his recruitment at the moment.
There's no shortage of elite running backs in next year's class, and that includes IMG Academy five-stars Noah Cain and Trey Sanders. But Ohio State is clearly in a good spot early with one of the country's best.
PLANTING FLAGS LIKE HE'S KERRY COOMBS
Before he headed to Maryland for in-home visit with four-star offensive tackle Rasheed Walker last night, Meyer spent a considerable amount of time Wednesday morning recruiting the state of Michigan.
Meyer started the day at Belleville, where he saw five-star offensive tackle Devontae Dobbs, Michigan State cornerback commit Julian Barnett and freshman defensive end Damon Payne. He also stopped by Detroit Martin Luther King to check on four-star safety Marvin Grant and sophomore wide receiver Rashawn Williams.
Meyer also spent time at West Bloomfield, where he offered a scholarship to three-star linebacker Lance Dixon.
Blessed to Receive an offer from THE Ohio State University pic.twitter.com/NCkz3HDIgU
— A c e (@Lance__Dixon) January 31, 2018
“[I've] been waiting on it for a long time,” Dixon told Eleven Warriors.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Dixon is considered the 25th-best outside linebacker and No. 430 prospect overall in the Class of 2019, as he recorded more than 100 tackles and 10 tackles for a loss to help the Lakers to the state title game last season. He holds nearly two dozen offers from programs such as Cincinnati, Kentucky, Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Penn State and Wisconsin.
Dixon attended a one-day camp in Columbus last summer, but Wednesday's visit marked the first time he's met Meyer — though it was only a brief greeting, the only thing permitted by NCAA rules.
“[I] didn't really know what to expect,” he said, “but it means a lot for him to take time out of his day to come see me.”
Dixon plans to visit campus again soon, but doesn't have a date set in stone just yet. Offer in hand, he'll surely Meyer's full attention then.
JUST A SMALL NOTE
Speaking of Walker, I was told by sources close to his family the above-mentioned visit with Meyer, offensive line coach Greg Studrawa and defensive line coach and area recruiter Larry Johnson went well. He is not conducting interviews at this time, so I was unable to contact him directly for comment.
That said, Walker is likely to keep everyone in the dark on what he's thinking until he makes his college announcement on Wednesday. It's my understanding, though, he'll listen to what Penn State head coach James Franklin and his staff has to say during their in-home visit this evening before taking the weekend to assess the situation with his family.
As I mentioned in last night's edition of The Hurry Up, Walker's recruitment is very much a toss up. He has a strong relationship with the Nittany Lions, but the depth chart and the opportunities presented in life after football seems to favor the Buckeyes.
We shall see.