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.
AS FLUID AS WATER
If there's one thing this business has taught me, it's that the world of recruiting is full of twists and turns.
We watch as prospects move up and down a program's list of priorities and see game-changing offers get handed out left and right. We also discover how a single player's decision can impact several different recruiting classes, even on the eve of National Signing Day.
That said, Ohio State has positioned itself to land a commitment tomorrow morning from Oradell, New Jersey, Bergen Catholic four-star defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste despite the fact that he's been trending toward Nebraska for the better part of the last two weeks.
But how, you ask? First, we must go back to when the Buckeyes offered the 6-foot-5, 215-pounder in early January.
Ohio State had only one commitment at the defensive end position in Cleveland Heights four-star Tyreke Smith when it extended an offer to Jean-Baptiste, and most instantly assumed he would end up with the Buckeyes thanks to the lack of depth at the position. But a pledge from fellow New Jersey four-star Tyler Friday one week later, the re-emergence of Cincinnati Winton Woods four-star linebacker Christopher Oats and a subpar official visit all contributed to the Cornhuskers taking the perceived lead in his recruitment.
While sources close to Jean-Baptiste continue to suggest it's a two-horse race between Ohio State and Nebraska, it would appear not everyone in Columbus is sold on what he brings to the table. He's bulked up quite a bit in the last year or so, and his continued development would be crucial if the staff has him earmarked him for defensive end.
Jean-Baptiste and Oats play a similar hybrid defensive end/linebacker position, and if all things are equal, Ohio State is typically going to give that spot to the in-state prospect. As long as his academics were in order, Oats was widely expected to commit to the Buckeyes during or shortly after his official visit this past weekend.
Halfway through last week, however, Oats called off the official visit to instead visit Kentucky. His relationship with recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow helped the Wildcats overcome the late interest from Ohio State.
While questions about his grades will surely be tossed around as a reason why he didn't end up in Columbus, 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.
Later that evening, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and defensive coordinator Greg Schiano conducted an in-home visit with Jean-Baptiste and met with his coach, Nunzio Campanile, to reassess the situation. Given the Buckeyes are already over the NCAA-mandated scholarship limit and his long-time relationship with Nebraska head coach Scott Frost, I wasn't sure if they'd once again — or would even be able to — push for his commitment.
But that's exactly what has happened in the last few days.
Texas A&M also made a late push behind new head coach Jimbo Fisher, and Jean-Baptiste took an official visit to College Station this past weekend. Sources close to him indicate it'll either be the Aggies or Buckeyes at approximately 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, which is why I placed by 247Sports Crystal Ball predicition in favor of the latter this morning.
URBAN MEYER, CLOSER
Along those same lines, Ohio State also hopes to address its biggest remaining need in the current recruiting cycle when Tampa Berkeley Prep five-star offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere and Maryland four-star Rasheed Walker announce their college decisions tomorrow morning.
I've detailed both of their respective recruitments at length, so I won't bore you with a long recap. Instead, I'll cut to the chase with predictions on where each lands.
Up first, the 6-foot-6, 272-pound Petit-Frere will announce during the 10 a.m. hour of ESPNU's National Signing Day special. He's down to Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame and Ohio State, and I was told this morning by Buccaneers head coach Dominick Ciao he and his family are still wrestling with the decision.
Academics are the most important factor to Petit-Frere and his mother, but that combined with the opportunity for early playing time and life after football has put the Buckeyes right in the thick of things late in the process.
The Gators have long been considered the favorite in Petit-Frere's recruitment thanks to proximity, but Ciao also said the Buckeyes hit this past weekend's official visit — which included a one-on-one sit down with defensive coordinator and area recruiter Greg Schiano — out of the park. Petit-Frere has kept things extremely close to the vest throughout his entire recruitment, but there's a lot of confidence in Columbus right now, hence the flurry of crystal ball predictions in favor of Ohio State this afternoon.
Talk about a walk-off home run for the Buckeyes.
As for the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Walker, I was confident Ohio State would steal him from Penn State thanks to all of the above-mentioned factors until late last week, when sources close to him told Eleven Warriors his relationship with head coach James Franklin gave the Nittany Lions the advantage in his recruitment.
There was a lot of confidence on the Buckeyes' side following his official visit last month, but it's always been an uphill battle. And despite Meyer giving it his all during an in-home visit last Wednesday, Penn State will be the choice tomorrow at 11:15.
A BIG DAY AHEAD FOR HIM, TOO
Though they won't be faxing in a national letter of intent like scholarship athletes, more than a dozen preferred walk-on prospects will also celebrate their commitment to Ohio State tomorrow. Among them, Brecksville-Broadview Heights wide receiver Sam Wiglusz, who accepted the opportunity on Monday night.
“Obviously, Ohio State football is a program that is unmatched,” Wiglusz told Eleven Warriors. “Getting to work with these coaches and train in the facilities will put me in a position to become the best football player and person I'm capable of. On top of it being a great academic institution, it was a hard opportunity to pass up.”
The 6-foot, 175-pound Wiglusz recorded 80 catches for 1,432 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Bees last season. He turned down scholarship offers from Carnegie Mellon, Dayton, Malone, Notre Dame College of Ohio and Wofford to play for the Buckeyes.
Assistant director of player personnel Eron Hodges, who has done a great job identifying underrated or unranked in-state prospects for Ohio State's walk-on program, was the one who offered the opportunity to Wiglusz.
“I think what he saw on the field was similar to off the field in that I go and get the ball in a crowd and that he sees me working for and going to get any opportunity I can in everything I do,” Wiglusz said.
Wiglusz becomes the 15th senior to accept a walk-on offer from the Buckeyes this recruiting cycle. He'll join Dublin Jerome athlete Robert Cope and linebacker Cade Kacherski; Mason defensive tackles Zaid Hamdan and Garrison Glover; Big Walnut linebacker Abe Myers; Piqua linebacker Ben Schmiesing; Berlin Center Western Reserve linebacker Jack Cappabianca; Bedford wide receiver Davion Johnson; Worthington Kilbourne long snapper Roen McCullough; Massillon Washington wide receiver Austin Kutscher; Cincinnati Summit Country Day School wide receiver Xavier Johnson; Lyndhurst Brush cornerback Lloyd McFarquhar; and Arizona wide receiver Luke Donovan on campus this summer.