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.
A LASTING BOND
Ohio State landed a commitment this morning from Tampa Berkeley Prep five-star offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere, which not only put a bow on the best recruiting class in program history, but also addressed the staff's biggest remaining need this cycle.
Most assumed Florida to be Petit-Frere's ultimate destination until his official visit to Columbus this past weekend. That was hardly the case, however.
“It wasn't really about the final visit. I had [the Buckeyes] on my mind the entire process,” Petit-Frere said on ESPNU, shortly after he announced his commitment. “When I went up for my visit, I had several questions, and they answered them. I feel like it's where my heart wanted me to go.”
Weighing heavily on his mind was the future of defensive coordinator and area recruiter Greg Schiano, whose sons attended Berkeley Prep while he was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccanneers. He was also a volunteer assistant for the high school football team for two years after he was let go in Dec. 2013.
The two have grown exceptionally close throughout the process, but Schiano assured him and his mother, Loris, he wasn't going anywhere for the foreseeable future — which he confirmed in a press conference on Wednesday morning. And if he was to eventually take another job, Petit-Frere would be in good hands.
As mentioned, the Gators were considered the favorite in Petit-Frere's recruitment, thanks — in large part — to proximity. Distance meant very little to him or his mother, though.
“The conversation [we had] were just where the best place was for me. [To] pick that school,” Petit-Frere said. “As long as she knows the people there are going to take care of me.”
LET IT SNOW
Schiano's decision to remain in Columbus also had a significant impact on Oradell, New Jersey, Bergen Catholic four-star defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste's decision this morning. In fact, he told Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald it was the biggest reason he signed with Ohio State instead of Nebraska.
“Ohio State has something special going on,” Jean-Baptiste said. ““I want to play at the next level [and] Ohio State has a good group of coaches.”
Jean-Baptiste reportedly called the Cornhuskers' staff this morning and let them know he would be signing with them. But with school cancelled for the day thanks to several inches of snow that blanketed the region, he and his family had one final discussion with his family.
During that talk, Jean-Baptiste said he switched to Ohio State and coach Urban Meyer, who told the Big Ten Network that Jean-Baptiste had signed with the Buckeyes before Jean-Baptiste’s actual signing ceremony inside a Bergen Catholic coach’s office.
So, with that said, Ohio State keeps arguably its best recruiter and a great defensive coordinator on top of landing two elite prospects. I'd say the dominoes fell just right for the Buckeyes this National Signing Day.
CAN'T CATCH 'EM ALL
Though Ohio State finished with the consensus No. 2 recruiting class in the country — according to 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals — the Buckeyes did come up just short with one target: Maryland four-star offensive tackle Rasheed Walker.
As expected, Walker pledged his services to Penn State on Wednesday afternoon.
One of the nation's top offensive tackles, four-star Maryland native Rasheed Walker, has committed to Penn State. https://t.co/s5aNooK6GA— Roar Lions Roar (@RLRblog) February 7, 2018
It was always an uphill battle for the Buckeyes, who had a very realistic shot to land Walker late in the process. His relationship with head coach James Franklin is what ultimately sealed the deal for the Nittany Lions, however.
“I feel like I have a really good opportunity up at Penn State and they can get me to where I need be,” Walker told Rivals' Adam Friedman. “It's a great school with great academics and a great football team. I love the tradition and the area. I felt like that was the place for me.”
FILLING IN THE REST
Over the last month, we've talked about a number of prospects who seemed like a shoo-in for Ohio State and then — for one reason or another — quickly trended away.
The wait is over 110% commit bearcats nation put on for my city I will Be signing tomorrow @GoBearcatsFB @GoBEARCATS also just wanna thank @Marcus_Freeman1 & @CoachFick For giving me the chance to play the game that I love pic.twitter.com/JHdPxmmity— lackofworries (@tavionthomas937) February 7, 2018
Among them, Dayton Dunbar three-star running back Tavion Thomas, who signed with Cincinnati this morning.
Though the move was expected after Ohio State stopped recruiting him and concerns about his academic standing remain, there's no denying this is a big pick up for second-year Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell. For his sake, I hope Thomas becomes a big contributor.
Cincinnati Winton Woods four-star linebacker Christopher Oats, meanwhile, was pretty much set to take Jean-Baptiste's spot in Ohio State's recruiting class until he called off his official visit last weekend in favor of yet another trip to Kentucky.
His relationship with recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow was key for the Wildcats, who can finally say they stole a recruit away from the Buckeyes — though his overall importance to each program varies considerably.
Last but not least, Cedar Hill, Texas, Trinity Christian three-star running back Maurice Washington III pledged his services to Nebraska over Arizona State.
You may recall Ohio State kicked the tires on Washington, who showed he was one of the country's top playmakers during the Under Armour All-America Game, but with three running backs already in the fold pitched to him the idea of playing cornerback. He wasn't too fond of that and subsequently cancelled his official visit.
Now on to the Class of 2019...