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.
Cincinnati Princeton outside linebacker Jaheim Thomas and a few of his teammates participated in the Under Armour All-America Camp Series in Cleveland this past weekend. Instead of heading back home at the conclusion of the event, they stopped by campus for an unofficial visit on Monday morning.
Had a great time at Ohio state will be back for sure! @ ohiostatefb pic.twitter.com/QtTnI7znLw
— Jaheim (@JaheimThomas454) February 19, 2018
“It was great,” Thomas told Eleven Warriors. “[It was] my most exciting visit yet. We went into the locker room, did photo shoots, talked to the coaches and built relationships.”
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Thomas — like most prospects from the Class of 2020 — is not yet ranked by any major recruiting sites, but holds offers from Bowling Green, Rutgers and Toledo after he recorded 20 tackles, three sacks and one interception for the Vikings last season.
While on campus, Thomas, defensive end Darrion Henry and cornerback Elijah Eberhardt spent time with linebackers coach Bill Davis, new cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson, defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and director of player personnel Mark Pantoni.
“I think they are all really great guys and coaches,” Thomas said.
Henry — as we mentioned earlier this week — actually picked up an offer from Ohio State, joining Akron Archbishop Hoban four-star linebacker DeaMonte Trayanum and Cincinnati St. Xavier four-star offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. as the only in-state sophomores to hold that distinction. Thomas hopes he'll soon follow.
“It would mean a lot to me,” Thomas said, noting the coaches told him he needs to add some weight and muscle mass. “All my hard work [would] pay off.”
Clinton Township, Michigan, Chippewa Valley three-star linebacker Marcel Lewis also attended Sunday's camp, where he was touted as one of the best players at his position. Shortly thereafter, he told Eleven Warriors he'll take an unofficial visit to Ohio State next month.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Lewis is considered the 20th-best inside linebacker and No. 622 prospect overall in the Class of 2019, as he recorded 88 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss and three sacks to help the Big Reds to the state quarterfinals — where they lost to powerhouse Detroit Cass Tech. He holds more than a dozen offers from programs such as Cincinnati, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue and a handful of Mid-American Conference schools, and is bound to see his recruitment pick up even more during the camp circuit this spring and into the summer.
Lewis has never been to campus, but speaks with the aforementioned and Johnson — who's taken over the departed Kerry Coombs' duties as the Detroit area recruiter — almost daily. That said, I imagine the Buckeyes will extend an offer when he visits next month.
“It would mean the world to me,” Lewis said. “Ohio State has always been high on my list. It's such a great program and also a great academic school. Besides how good they are in football, they have a lot of great things [outside of] football.”
AGAINST THE GRAIN
Penn State has become Ohio State’s biggest obstacle on the path to a Big Ten title, and its recent success under head coach James Franklin has made it more difficult than ever before to recruit in Western Pennsylvania — which has long been considered one of the most talent-rich regions of the country.
On the other hand, it’s hard to argue with the path New Castle’s own Malik Hooker took. Instead of becoming a Nittany Lion, he chose the Buckeyes and developed into a first-round pick in Columbus. And that’s the exact pitch the staff will make to prospects like Monroeville Gateway safety Derrick Davis Jr., to whom they offered a scholarship on Monday night.
— Derrick Davis (@D_Dav1s) February 20, 2018
“I was so happy. I was really excited,” Davis told Land of 10 recruiting analyst and Gateway alum Ryan Donnelly. “That was a dream school that I grew up watching and I’m a big Urban Meyer fan, even when he was at Florida with Tim Tebow. I was just totally thankful for the offer.”
The 6-foot, 176-pound Davis is only a freshman and programs aren't sure whether he'll stay at safety or develop into a linebacker, but he already holds offers from schools like Baylor, Penn State, Pitt, Temple and West Virginia.
Davis — whose father played at Michigan State — is from the same high school as former Buckeyes Corey “Pitt” Brown and Dorian Bell. He plans to attend a practice this spring.
TRYING TO GAIN AN ADVANTAGE?
Only a sophomore, Cincinnati St. Xavier four-star offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. is already among the most sought-after prospects in the country. He holds more than two dozen offers from programs like Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Penn State and Stanford.
One school in particular made a move this week that could help their chances of landing his commitment, however.
On Tuesday, Paris Johnson Sr. announced on Twitter he has become Pittsburgh's new assistant director of player personnel, replacing Da’Vell Winters, who took the same job with Oregon last month.
This isn’t to say the elder Johnson isn’t qualified for the position; in fact, one could argue he’s overqualified, given that he comes to Pitt from the Savannah State staff, where he coached safeties last season, an on-field role. He spent the four years before that at Michigan State, as a defensive graduate assistant and then in the recruiting department.
It’s fair to at least wonder if, on some level, Narduzzi is taking a page out of Jim Harbaugh’s book — the one that’s gotten the controversial Michigan coach criticized several times in the past few years for hiring fathers, high school coaches and a mother of top prospects before the NCAA cracked down on such moves. Essentially, Harbaugh took heat for adding these people to roles with Michigan football, but not one of his nine assistant coaching spots, giving the implication they were hired only for their connections to elite players.
As the author points out, a rule that was included in the proposal for the introduction of the Early Signing Period states that a school cannot hire someone with a prior relationship to a prospect — be it their parent, family member, coach, etc. — to a non-coaching position for two years before their “anticipated enrollment” or two years after their “actual enrollment.” However, Pittsburgh would still be allowed to recruit the younger Johnson as long as he chooses to enroll in Summer 2020.
It's also entirely possible Johnson Jr. doesn't even consider playing his college ball in the Steel City, which would render this entire conversation moot. But such is life when you cover recruiting for a living.
THEY'VE CAST A WIDE NET
Rivals.com released its first batch of post-National Signing Day rankings for the Class of 2019 this week, and a number of players with offers from Ohio State were listed among the Top 250 players nationally.
— Rivals.com (@Rivals) February 21, 2018
The Buckeyes' only pledge, four-star offensive tackle commit Doug Nester, comes in at No. 117 overall. The rest of the rankings are as follows:
- No. 1 – North Carolina five-star running back Quavaris Crouch
- No. 2 – West Virginia five-star offensive tackle Darnell Wright
- No. 3 – Texas five-star wide receiver Theo Wease
- No. 8 – California five-star athlete Horace “Bru” McCoy
- No. 9 – Virginia five-star running back Devyn Ford
- No. 11 – IMG Academy five-star running back Trey Sanders
- No. 15 – Olentangy Orange five-star defensive end Zach Harrison
- No. 21 – Georgia four-star linebacker Owen Pappoe
- No. 24 – Texas four-star cornerback Erick Young
- No. 25 – Georgia four-star defensive end commit Nolan Smith II
- No. 29 – Michigan four-star offensive tackle Devontae Dobbs
- No. 31 – Tennessee four-star cornerback Woodi Washington
- No. 36 – Maryland four-star linebacker Shane Lee
- No. 41 – Florida four-star wide receiver John Dunmore
- No. 44 – Oklahoma four-star safety Daxton Hill
- No. 50 – Tennessee four-star wide receiver Trey Knox
- No. 53 – Virginia four-star defensive end Brandon Smith
- No. 55 – Tennessee four-star wide receiver Lance Wilhoite
- No. 56 – Georgia four-star offensive tackle Harry Miller
- No. 60 – IMG Academy four-star running back Noah Cain
- No. 64 – Texas four-star wide receiver Jalen Curry
- No. 88 – Texas four-star wide receiver Garrett Wilson
- No. 92 – Indiana four-star wide receiver David Bell
- No. 96 – Michigan State four-star cornerback commit Julian Barnett
- No. 99 – Florida four-star running back Kenny McIntosh
- No. 102 – Georgia four-star safety Jaylen McCollough
- No. 105 – Michigan State four-star quarterback commit Dwan Mathis
- No. 107 – Cincinnati Walnut Hills four-star defensive tackle Jowon Briggs
- No. 110 – Michigan four-star offensive guard commit Nolan Rumler
- No. 118 – Virginia four-star cornerback Sheridan Jones
- No. 132 – Lexington four-star linebacker Cade Stover
- No. 139 – Rhode Island four-star offensive tackle Xavier Truss
- No. 158 – Indiana four-star running back Sampson James
- No. 161 – Columbus St. Francis DeSales four-star offensive guard Rodas Johnson
- No. 172 – New Jersey four-star athlete “Rocket” Ronnie Hickman
- No. 188 – Kentucky four-star wide receiver Milton Wright
- No. 214 – Kansas four-star defensive end Marcus Hicks
- No. 226 – Cleveland St. Ignatius four-star linebacker Tommy Eichenberg
- No. 229 – St. Thomas Aquinas four-star cornerback Jaden Davis
- No. 231 – Georgia four-star wide receiver Ramel Keyton
- No. 243 – Wisconsin four-star quarterback commit Graham Mertz
- No. 248 – Tennessee four-star defensive end Ani Izuchukwu
Obviously, this list will be narrowed down as Ohio State's top targets come into focus. Until then, there are a lot of names to keep in mind for the Buckeyes' #DYN19STY recruiting class.