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.
LAY OF THE LAND
Ohio State is set to host Monroe, North Carolina, Sun Valley four-star quarterback Sam Howell for a two-day unofficial visit beginning Sunday. It’s a rather important visit, too, as the 6-foot-1, 217-pounder is among the Buckeyes’ top targets at the position this recruiting cycle.
“Obviously, coach [Urban] Meyer has had a great career and a program like Ohio State has a chance to win a national title every year,” Howell’s father, Duke, told Eleven Warriors. “I think all quarterbacks dream of that.”
Howell — who is considered the fourth-best pro-style quarterback and No. 154 prospect overall in the Class of 2019 — has built a strong relationship with offensive coordinators Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day, which precedes January’s offer and dates back to his lone trip to Columbus for a one-day camp last June.
“This trip, we’re bringing mom with us, as well, so she can get a feel for it and look at the things she needs to look at,” the elder Howell said.
During his last visit, Howell was joined fellow quarterbacks Jack Miller, Garrett Shrader and Grant Tisdale in an exclusive group who worked directly with Day inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. This time, he’ll be afforded the opportunity for one-on-one interactions and is looking forward to sitting down with the staff and analyzing how he’ll fit within the Buckeyes’ offense, which has typically targeted dual-threat quarterbacks rather than pro-style signal callers.
“They’re looking at him and [Texas four-star quarterback Grant] Gunnell, so there’s obviously something changing,” Howell — who is also the Spartans’ offensive coordinator — said, noting his son has thrown for 10,175 yards and 109 touchdowns and rushed for 2,229 yards and 43 scores in his three-year varsity career. “They classify him as ‘pro-style’, but he’s an excellent runner, too. He prefers to throw first, and I think all quarterbacks do. But we’re interested in seeing what the changes are within their offense, and I know coach Day want to show what their plans are and see how Sam will fit that.”
Howell currently holds more than three dozen offers from programs such as Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Oregon, South Carolina and Virginia, but the Tigers are considered the favorite in his recruitment thanks to proximity. Distance isn’t really a factor, though.
“I don’t think Sam would take the time to go back to Columbus if he thought that was too far away,” Howell said, noting relationships are far more important in his son’s decision-making process. “I think it’s just getting comfortable with the staff and if it’s a good fit. Those types of things.”
Howell recently visited Clemson, and trips to Gainesville and Tallahassee are on the docket. Tuscaloosa is under consideration, as well, but it’s certainly crunch time in his recruitment.
“I know he wants to make a decision before summer,” Howell said. “I think he’ll take a few more trips. We haven’t really planned out past this month, maybe some spring games in April.”
Ohio State is set to take only one quarterback this cycle, though how the quarterback battle plays out this spring could ultimately change that plan. But as things stand now, Gunnell and Howell are priority 1A and 1B. It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out over the next few weeks, with both looking to commit to a school in the next two months or so.
THE BEST OPTION
On Tuesday — a little more than a week after he landed an offer from Ohio State — Chicago Phillips Academy four-star tight end Jahleel Billingsley included the Buckeyes in his Top 7 alongside Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Ole Miss, Penn State and TCU.
“He’s got high interest in Ohio State, as does any kid,” Billingsley’s father, Charles, told Eleven Warriors. “They’re a winning school, [and] the diversity and the relationships you’re going to have after [you’re done] playing football, all of that matters.”
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Billingsley — who is considered the ninth-best tight end and No. 260 prospect overall in the Class of 2019 — has built a strong relationship with the aforementioned Wilson and is set to make his first trip to Columbus next weekend.
“He just wants to sit down and talk and see how everything goes,” the elder Billingsley said.
Ohio State will also welcome Arizona three-star tight end Brayden Liebrock on March 23, and staff could very well bring on two players at the position in 2019. But neither that nor the fact that the Buckeyes signed five-star Jeremy Ruckert will impact Billingsley’s eventual decision.
“Jahleel is just concerned with what goes on between the lines,” Billingsley said of his son. “He’s going to challenge anybody once he gets between the lines, so it’s not going to matter.”
Illinois is viewed as the biggest threat to Ohio State’s chances with Billingsley, which is understandable given the proximity. And in case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of buzz surrounding the Illini right now, as they just picked up a commitment last weekend from their first Top 100 prospect in over a decade (Texas four-star cornerback Marquez Beason) and are considered the favorite to land St. Louis five-star quarterback Isaiah Williams.
That said, a few solid commitments aren’t going to influence Billingsley’s decision.
“To come from a high school where he’s been winning, why go backwards? You go to a losing program, it’s not good. You’re a winner, you’re used to winning,” Billingsley said, noting his son hauled in 14 receptions for 243 yards and three touchdowns to help the Wildcats to the state title last season. “I understand the legacy of playing for the home school, but it’s not about that. It’s about your future.”
That certainly sounds like it plays into the Buckeyes’ favor.
TOO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM
Metuchen, New Jersey, St. Joseph four-star offensive tackle John Olmstead listed Ohio State in his Top 10 on Friday afternoon alongside LSU, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Penn State, Rutgers and Wisconsin.
I am truly thankful to every school that has offered me a chance to continue my academic and athletic careers. It has been an honor to meet all of the coaches who recruited me. After many conversations with my family and much prayer, I will be considering these ten schools. pic.twitter.com/VWo7qGQvlP
— John Olmstead (@JOHNNYO_72) March 16, 2018
The 6-foot-6, 290-pound Olmstead is considered the 19th-best offensive tackle and No. 172 prospect overall in the Class of 2019, as he paved the way for the Falcons to rack up more than 3,400 yards of total offense on the way to their second-consecutive conference title. He’s also a gifted student-athlete who dead lifts more than 500 pounds and squats more than 400 pounds while maintaining a 4.1 grade-point average.
The Buckeyes offered Olmstead a scholarship last May and he made his first and only trip to Columbus for the win over Penn State in late October. Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa and defensive coordinator and area recruiter Greg Schiano also dropped by his high school to watch him play the night prior to the Rutgers game, which he also attended.
Ohio State already holds commitments from a pair of offensive tackles in four-stars Doug Nester and Ryan Jacoby — though one or both could eventually slide to guard at the next level — but hopes to take as many as six linemen this cycle. The pool of potential candidates to fill that need is extremely large as a result, and includes higher priority names like five-star Darnell Wright; four-stars Quinn Carroll, Devontae Dobbs, Harry Miller, Michael Tarquin and Xavier Truss; and three-star Andrew Kristofic.
Olmstead doesn’t plan to make a decision until the Early Signing Period in December, though, so there’s plenty of time for prospects to come off the board before then.