Heat Check: Piecing Together Our Inaugural Board for Ohio State's 2019 Recruiting Class

By Andrew Ellis on March 6, 2018 at 3:00 pm
Zach Harrison may be the No. 1 player in America. The pass rusher takes home the top spot on our first big board.

Recruiting is all about momentum. Sometimes you're gaining it, sometimes you're losing it. What prospects are trending up with Ohio State? Let's take a look.

Ohio State is already well on its way to another great recruiting class as Urban Meyer and Co. hold commitments from a pair of four-star prospects. The Buckeyes' class currently checks in at No. 32 in the country, but I have a sneaking suspicion that come February they'll have managed to surpass the likes of BYU, Colorado, and Minnesota. 

We unveiled the first 2018 recruiting board in March of last year, and it included our initial 11 names to watch throughout the process (or until a commitment/signing was made). While it's absolutely not a prediction of how the class will finish, I suppose it's worth noting that six of those 11 prospects did end up signing with Ohio State. 

In an effort to better keep up with the movement on the recruiting front, we will once again be releasing a monthly board to help monitor some of the more noteworthy occurrences from the previous 30-or-so days. 

A reminder of a few points to ponder:

  • This isn't based on any one particular factor. We consider it a combination of positional needs, reciprocated interest, player caliber, and how hard the staff may be pushing. It's absolutely not an exact science.
  • It's only March, and this is going to change a lot over the coming months. Prospects are going to commit to various schools and we've seen before how a single pledge can impact numerous programs across the country.
  • Keep in mind that as the season gets underway, we'll get a much better feel of the personnel – including players who could leave early – and what to expect beyond just 2018. That's certainly another variable to consider when looking at recruiting needs. 
  • Again, it's only March, and we only include 11 spots. Some familiar names we've frequently discussed may not be making an appearance now, but as signing day gets closer, it gets much easier to narrow things down.

Without further ado, the initial 11W board for the Class of 2019:

ZACH HARRISON DE 1 ★★★★★ Penn State•Notre Dame•Michigan
DARNELL WRIGHT OT 2 ★★★★★ Alabama•Clemson•Tennessee•Georgia
CADE STOVER OLB/DE 3 ★★★★ Notre Dame•Penn State
HARRY MILLER OL 4 ★★★★ Stanford•Notre Dame•Georgia
RONNIE HICKMAN ATH 5 ★★★★ Penn State•Michigan•Virginia Tech
NOAH CAIN RB 6 ★★★★ Texas•Miami•LSU
SAMPSON JAMES RB 7 ★★★★ Michigan•Notre Dame•Tennessee
DAVID BELL WR 8 ★★★★ Michigan•Notre Dame
DEVONTAE DOBBS OL 9 ★★★★★ Michigan State•Georgia•Michigan
GARRETT WILSON WR 10 ★★★★ Texas•Oklahoma
SHERIDAN JONES CB 11 ★★★★ Alabama•Tennessee•Clemson•PSU

Once again we have an Ohioan at the very top of our board. Last year we said that missing out on Jackson Carman would be disastrous for Ohio State, but then something funny happened. The five-star signed with Clemson during the early signing period, and all Urban Meyer did was turn around and bring home the country's No. 1 tackle in Nicholas Petit-Frere. 

Clearly the staff would have loved to have both – and tackle remains a huge need for 2019 – but missing on Carman didn't turn out to be the heartbreaker that we once thought it could be. Many pundits actually feel he may be better suited at guard at the next level.

Five-star Lewis Center defensive end Zach Harrison is a completely different story. 

One of the biggest freaks in the entire class, missing on a player of this caliber—who plays a position of great need at a high school 15 miles from the Horseshoe—would be damn near catastrophic. There's not another defensive end in America who has more talent, and losing on Harrison likely would mean a major victory for James Franklin and the Nittany Lions. 

There have been 13 crystal ball picks submitted, and all of them are in favor of the Buckeyes. Harrison has already built a great relationship with Larry Johnson, but he's also made multiple trips to Penn State in the last several months. Ohio State is in a tremendous spot, but I don't consider this one to be a slam dunk just yet. 

In a class that should feature 3-4 pass rushers, the other possibility on our board is Lexington, Ohio native Cade Stover. I'm a little surprised the state's No. 4 prospect hasn't hopped on board yet, but there's not a whole lot of doubt surrounding this one. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, he projects as an outside linebacker or defensive end.

After signing just one pure corner in 2018, the cornerback spot may end up with three signees in 2019. This position is hard to gauge right now, but Sheridan Jones appears to be one to watch. A former teammate of Teradja Mitchell, Ohio State is in a good spot for the Norfolk, Virginia corner. He recently reclassified to the 2019 class, and the Buckeyes are the crystal ball favorite.

We've only got three defensive players listed thus far, and that's primarily because the defensive back and linebacker boards are still anyone's guess. Combine that with defensive tackle and safety not being huge needs and it's understandable why we're so offense-heavy at the moment.

Switching over to the other side of the ball, let's first address the elephant that is not even present in the room. Yes, Ohio State is going to take a quarterback in the class. But right now the staff doesn't seem to be entirely honed in on one guy and it'd be tough to say the Buckeyes are in the driver's seat for any of them. Thus, we aren't including one on the initial board.

It's a different case when looking at the pass protectors. After signing just three offensive linemen, the next class is expected to be heavy in the trenches. The need for two or three tackles is pretty evident, and that's one of the reasons why five-star Darnell Wright checks in at No. 2 on our board. The Buckeyes appear to be the favorite here, but Alabama is going to be a threat until the 6-foot-6 West Virginia product puts the pen to paper. 

Harry Miller is No. 4 on our board while Belleville, Michigan's Devontae Dobbs sits at No. 9. I'm not sure if either one is a pure tackle, but Dobbs is the nation's No. 1 player at the position while Miller is No. 11. The Buckeyes are likely the team to beat for the Georgia native, and he's already got an official visit scheduled for April 13. Dobbs seems to be more wide open, but Michigan State may be tough to top.

Ronnie Hickman may be right up there with Stover when it comes to the likelihood of ending up in Ohio State's class. The New Jersey athlete who goes by the "Rocket" nickname is high on the Buckeyes' board and he clearly is pretty enamored with the folks in Columbus as well. Listed as the nation's No. 120 overall prospect, Hickman could end up at wide receiver or defensive back in college. 

Running back is hardly a glaring need, but it still wouldn't be a surprise to see the class end with a pair at the position. From what we're told, it's sounding like Noah Cain and Sampson James may be 1a and 1b on the staff's wish list. Tony Alford seems to have Ohio State out in front for James, an Avon, Indiana product who has some nice size at 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds. Notre Dame, Michigan, and Tennessee also look to be in the mix.

IMG Academy has two of the nation's best tailbacks on its roster with Cain and five-star Trey Sanders. Cain made the move to Bradenton from Denton, Texas, so it's not a total surprise that the Longhorns are the slight crystal ball favorite. Ohio State, LSU, and Miami are all pushing as well.

The options for #Zone6 are also difficult to sort through at the moment. After signing three receivers (and ATH Cameron Brown) for 2018, the Buckeyes are still likely to bring in three-or-so at the position for the current class. Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell, and Johnnie Dixon are all entering their final seasons. K.J. Hill is a redshirt junior, but he may have a decision to make come January. 

We've got Indy's David Bell slightly higher than Garrett Wilson for the time being. Bell was offered about a week before Wilson, but there's no question that these are two of the top wideouts in the country. Bell is the No. 13 player at the position and his recruitment is likely to come down to Ohio State, Michigan, and Notre Dame.

Wison (No. 14) is originally from Columbus but has since migrated to Austin, Texas. In speaking to some Lone Star folks, it sounds as though Tom Herman and his staff are pretty confident right now. The Buckeyes are set to host Wilson twice in the coming months, however, so this one is far from over. It doesn't hurt having his former quarterback – Matthew Baldwin – in Columbus already. 

There are several other high-caliber wide receiver targets on the board right now, so this really isn't an area of concern at the moment.

Overall, the offensive line and defensive end spots are going to be real priorities for 2019. Having two talented linemen in the fold already is a heck of a start, but Urban Meyer and the Ohio State staff should probably be looking to land upwards of three pure tackles between now and next February. 

The quarterback spot will surely be one to watch closely as new offers go out and the spring visits get underway. The new recruiting calendar is going to take some getting used to, and the Ohio State spring game is going to be more important than ever before; at least from a recruiting perspective. 

Deep-level sources tell Eleven Warriors that Urban Meyer is fairly good at this whole recruiting thing, and a fun-filled 2019 cycle is sure to make all of your dreams come true.

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