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.
ON THE HOMESTRETCH
This weekend — the final weekend before National Signing Day — Ohio State will welcome Tampa five-star offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere and Dayton Dunbar three-star running back Tavion Thomas for their respective official visits. How it unfolds could ultimately determine whether or not the Buckeyes hold onto the top-rated recruiting class in the country.
It'll be the first trip to Columbus since the summer for the 6-foot-6, 272-pound Petit-Frere, who is widely considered the top-rated offensive tackle in the country. Florida has long been considered the favorite in his recruitment, but his relationship with Ohio State defensive coordinator and area recruiter Greg Schiano — who has strong ties at Berkeley Prep, as his sons attended the school when he was head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — gives the Buckeyes a great chance of swinging things in their favor this late in the process.
With only one offensive tackle in the fold in Tennessee four-star Max Wray, Petit-Frere's pledge would help Ohio State address its top remaining need in the current recruiting cycle. The staff also remains in pursuit of Maryland four-star Rasheed Walker, so it could very well become a strength in a matter of days with both set to decide on Wednesday, Feb. 7.
While I currently give Florida the nod given its proximity to home, Notre Dame also feels confident about its chances thanks to its academics — something that is very important to Petit-Frere and his family. Ohio State can give him a lot to think about this weekend, though.
A report surfaced last night that Schiano will interview with the NFL’s New England Patriots — which isn’t the greatest timing — but the Buckeyes can still pitch the opportunity for early playing time and life after football. It remains to be seen if that'll be enough, though.
As for Thomas, all signs point toward him committing to Ohio State this weekend. He won't arrive until late Saturday night follow Dunbar's basketball game against Trotwood-Madison, but the staff simply doesn't invite in-state prospects to campus this late in the process without that being the plan.
I talked about Thomas' impending decision at length earlier in the week, shortly after he decommitted from Oklahoma. And if head coach Urban Meyer, running backs coach Tony Alford and the rest of the staff believe he has cleared — or is in the process of clearing — his academic hurdles, he'll be a Buckeye.
Speaking of Walker, he released a video on Friday afternoon previewing his upcoming decision among Ohio State, Penn State and Virginia Tech.
The video — which highlights Walker's high school career, his time at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and what he likes about each of the three finalists — comes on the heels of in-home visits this week with Meyer, Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin and Hokies head coach Justin Fuente. It ends with Walker saying, “I'm about to go to...”
I briefly discussed Meyer's visit and Walker's looming decision in last night's edition of The Hurry Up:
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.
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.
FORMER AND FUTURE TEAMMATES?
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and the aforementioned Schiano were in New Jersey on Thursday night for an in-home visit with Bergen Catholic four-star defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste, but first stopped by Don Bosco Prep to see four-star defensive end commit Tyler Friday.
While there, the duo extended a scholarship offer to four-star athlete Jalen Berger.
Extremely blessed to receive an offer from The Ohio State University Dream come true pic.twitter.com/inKTmwj0eg— Jalen Berger (@JalenBerger) February 1, 2018
“It means a lot to me to receive a scholarship offer from a school I watch on TV every day and the athletes that come out of there that I watch highlights of almost every day like Ezekiel Elliott, Curtis Samuel and a lot of other guys,” Berger told Eleven Warriors. “It feels unreal to get this offer at the age of 16.”
The 6-foot, 175-pound Berger is considered the ninth-best athlete and No. 94 prospect overall in the Class of 2020, as he racked up 1,115 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns for the Ironmen last season. He holds more than a dozen offers from programs such as Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State and Virginia Tech.
Berger, whose family is originally from Chillicothe, was on campus for a 7-versus-7 tournament when he was in eighth grade. He's planning another visit for the spring and hopes to make it back again over the summer when he returns to Ohio for a family reunion.
“It was everything I expected,” Berger said. “I loved it. I can't wait to get back.”
Friday might not be on campus yet, since he won't enroll in classes until June, but Ohio State landing his pledge last month could pay dividends down the road in their pursuit of Berger. He's excited to see what his former teammate brings to the table for the Buckeyes.
“I can't wait to watch Tyler perform next year,” Berger said. “He's a great person and an amazing athlete. I believe he can start for Ohio State next year.”
PEDAL TO THE METAL
Despite facing retirement rumors for much of the current recruiting cycle, Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson helped the Buckeyes piece together the best defensive line haul in the nation. He's showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, either.
On Friday, Johnson — whose recruiting area includes the greater Washington D.C. metropolitan area — offered a scholarship to Nokesville, Virginia, Patriot offensive guard Jakai Moore.
Blessed to receive my 11th offer from Ohio State pic.twitter.com/hxRDNyiIZn— Jakai Moore (@jdamonsa) February 2, 2018
“It's shocking,” Moore told Eleven Warriors. “It makes me feel like I can really compete at that level and learn from coaches that have a lot of expereince winning and being in national championships.”
The 6-foot-6, 295-pound Moore is not yet ranked by any major recruiting sites, but offers from programs such as Boston College, Maryland, Penn State, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and West Virginia show he'll surely be among the top-rated prospects in the state for the Class of 2019.
Moore has never been to campus, but plans to make his first trip to Columbus sooner rather than later.