Tough Path to No. 1: How the Buckeyes Could Fend Off Georgia for the Nation's Top 2018 Recruiting Class

By Andrew Ellis on February 4, 2018 at 8:30 am
Urban Meyer is in a battle with Kirby Smart for the nation's top recruiting class.

Urban Meyer's last recruiting title came in 2010.

Let's make one thing perfectly clear before we delve into Ohio State and Georgia's respective paths to the recruiting crown: the Buckeyes' staff has once again put together a heck of a class. 

A lot of times people tend to gravitate toward the whole "what have you done for me lately" mantra and get a bit discouraged when great things don't happen on the first Wednesday in February. The fact of the matter is that Ohio State's 2018 class already features 24 commits/signees, 21 of those prospects are of the four-star variety or higher (WR Chris Olave conveniently fell to a three-star the day after committing), and the bulk of the team needs have already been addressed.

The signing day #BOOMS that we've seen with players like Vonn Bell, Isaiah Prince, and K.J. Hill are always exciting, but don't let the late-cycle action overshadow all of the great things that happened in the earlier stages.

Yesterday, Andrew Lind provided a nifty signing day preview that focused on Ohio State's top remaining targets. Nicholas Petit-Frere and Rasheed Walker are at the top of the priority list, and failing to add another offensive tackle would be a bit of a blow to the class as a whole. Walker will announce on Wednesday, and his recruitment is coming down to the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions. Petit-Frere is currently in town for an official visit, and Ohio State needs to hit a grand slam to beat out Notre Dame, Florida, and Alabama.

Dayton tailback Tavion Thomas appeared to be the most likely addition, but yesterday evening we were told the staff likely has moved on from the in-state three-star. While it's not exactly a position of need, he would bring a unique skill set to the backfield. Luke Fickell and the Bearcats may very well benefit from the Buckeyes' decision on this one.

There have been plenty of twists and turns of late, so it would hardly be a surprise if there were a few more over the next 72 hours.

Right now the Buckeyes lead the Bulldogs by less than two points for the top spot in the team rankings. Kirby Smart and Georgia are still looking to add to the class, and it would appear that they still have at least a couple spots remaining. 

Make no mistake about: the odds of Ohio State finishing atop the rankings are pretty low right now. As Andrew pointed out yesterday, the Buckeyes would likely need to add both Petit-Frere and Walker to have a chance at holding onto the No. 1 ranking. They aren't in the driver's seat for either one right now, so the chances of that happening are minimal. 

Remaining Georgia Targets
Prospect Pos. Rating Nat. Rank
Tyson Campbell CB ★★★★★ No. 12
Quay Walker LB ★★★★ No. 31
Otis Reese LB ★★★★ No. 87
Rick Sandidge DT ★★★★ No. 141
Tommy Bush WR ★★★★ No. 196

The Buckeyes' current score of 311.17 may very well be the final tally come Wednesday. Adding a five-star in Petit-Frere would jump the score up to 316.41. Adding Walker would take it to 313.84. Nabbing both of the tackles would raise it all the way up to 318.61. 

If you're looking for a reference point, then consider that the Buckeyes' highly-touted 2017 class finished with a score of 312.41. Last year's signing day haul included a whopping five signees that were considered five-star prospects and finished No. 2 in the country behind Nick Saban's Crimson Tide. 

An interesting twist to this battle is the fact that Brenton Cox – a one-time Ohio State commit – may very well be what puts Georgia on top. The five-star signed with the Bulldogs during the early signing period, and that obviously was a big blow to the Buckeyes' chances. Besides the lost points for another one of the nation's top players, defensive end is one of the few position groups that Ohio State didn't fully address during the cycle. 

American Heritage cornerback Tyson Campbell was a major Buckeye target throughout the process, but his recruitment appears to be coming down to Georgia, Alabama, and Miami. The five-star is giving the Canes one final shot with a visit this weekend, but right now the crystal ball heavily favors Georgia. Adding Campbell would boost the Bulldogs' score from 309.23 to 315.50. He'd be Kirby Smart's seventh five-star signee of the class, which is simply absurd.

Georgia is also working on a pair of linebackers including Michigan's top-rated commit in four-star Otis Reese and Bama pledge Quay Walker. Adding Campbell – and really any of the names from the list above – should give the reigning SEC champs a pretty solid grip on the top spot.

If I were to predict the finish, it would probably look something like this:

  • 1. Georgia, 2. Ohio State, 3. Alabama, 4. Texas, 5. Miami

Alabama is sitting at No. 6 right now, but Nick Saban only has 18 in the bag thus far and definitely looks to have some late tricks up his sleeve. Tom Herman has the Longhorns in a great spot as well. They're currently at No. 3 and may be able to hang onto that spot if the right pieces fall into place. Miami or Penn State will likely end up rounding out the top five. 

My prediction for Wednesday? Another fine recruiting class for Meyer and the Buckeyes. Unfortunately there may also be a number of people feeling a sense of disappointment due to the lack of fireworks at the end.

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