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.
Though he competed for the starting quarterback job this spring, redshirt junior Joe Burrow announced this afternoon that he intends to leave the Ohio State football program and complete his collegiate career elsewhere as a graduate transfer.
The Buckeyes now have just three scholarship signal callers on the roster in redshirt sophomore Dwayne Haskins, redshirt freshman Tate Martell and true freshman Matthew Baldwin, which means the staff’s search for a quarterback this recruiting cycle becomes that much more important.
That need doubles if Haskins — the presumed starter — sets the world on fire this fall and leaves for the NFL Draft after one season, meaning the staff would be forced to seriously consider bringing on two quarterbacks in 2019.
Now, if only they could settle on one first…
Both head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ryan Day have admitted this year’s group of signal callers is not particularly deep, but three names in particular seemingly stand out above the rest: Houston St. Pius X four-star Grant Gunnell, Michigan State four-star commit Dwan Mathis and Wisconsin four-star pledge Graham Mertz.
Gunnell is about a month away from a decision, while Mathis and Mertz both publicly remain firm in their respective commitments. It’ll be interesting to see if Burrow’s departure makes Ohio State more enticing, as he’s one less obstacle in the way of playing time.
That said, it’s hard to imagine a situation where the Buckeyes end up with more than one of the aforementioned prospects. Even if Gunnell — for example — feels he’s the best of the bunch, it’s likely competition from Mathis or Mertz wouldn’t sit well (or visa versa).
The staff would have to find a delicate balance when taking two quarterbacks in the same cycle, with a lower-ranked prospects with a lot of upside complementing the elite, top-rated target. And that’s where names like Kettering Archbishop Alter three-star Connor Bazelak and Florida three-stars Brian Maurer and Hayden Wolff come into play.
The staff might also try to fill the gap in the short term by targeting a graduate transfer this summer — though I'm not sure what fourth- or fifth-year player would willing transfer to a program to be the third-string quarterback.
Baldwin, you may recall, had knee surgery in the spring and could miss some of fall camp or the season as he continues rehab. If Haskins goes down or Martell is injured while playing in certain packages, that would thrust walk-on Kory Curtis or incoming freshman walk-on Danny Vanatsky into the backup role. And as talented as they may be, that’s far from ideal.
If Ohio State ultimately bypasses those options and/or Haskins returns for at least one more season — he has three years of eligibility remaining — the staff would surely look to take two quarterbacks next cycle.
Though the Buckeyes are currently considered the favorite to land Arizona four-star Jack Miller II, the staff also has offers out right now to California four-stars D.J. Uiagalelei and Bryce Young; Georgia four-star Harrison Bailey; and Texas four-star Hudson Card. Of course, it may be too early to project who Ohio State ends up with in 2020 given everything stated above. But that’s where things stand as of this moment.
RESTOCKING THE RUSHMEN
Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson was in Wichita, Kansas, on Tuesday to check on Northwest four-star defensive end Marcus Hicks. We first reported the news this morning and he confirmed it this afternoon.
— Marcus Hicks (@harcus_micks) May 8, 2018
The 6-foot-5, 236-pound Hicks is considered the 20th-best weak-side defensive end and No. 258 prospect overall in the Class of 2019, as he recorded 59 tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks to lead the Grizzlies to the state semifinals last season. He included the Buckeyes in his Top 12 in mid-March alongside Florida, Kansas State, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Texas and Washington.
Hicks has been on Ohio State’s radar since he attended a one-day camp last summer. Johnson offered him a scholarship in November and the two have become exceptionally close in the months since.
Hicks returned for an unofficial visit one week after he trimmed down his list of nearly two dozen offers, so there's plenty of interest on both sides. But that said, the Sooners are the overwhelming favorite in his recruitment at this point in time.
Though Ohio State was once considered the favorite in his recruitment, Chandler, Arizona, three-star tight end Brayden Liebrock committed to Texas on Tuesday afternoon.
— Brayden Liebrock (@LiebrockBrayden) May 8, 2018
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Liebrock is considered the 13th-best tight end and No. 382 prospect overall in the Class of 2019, as he hauled in 39 catches for 600 yards and five touchdowns to help the Wolves to the state championship last fall.
The Buckeyes offered Liebrock a scholarship in early February and he made his first and only trip to Columbus one month later. But a pair of trips to Austin — including an official visit this past weekend — quickly turned things in favor of the Longhorns.
Ohio State remains in the running for a number of other tight ends, including Illinois four-star Jahleel Billingsley; California four-stars Isaiah Foskey and Jude Wolfe; and South Carolina three-star Luke Deal, but the position isn’t a top priority this cycle. In fact, I’m not even sure the Buckeyes end up with one.
FILLING KERRY COOMBS' SHOES NICELY
Ohio State cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson was among the more than 100 college coaches who attended a scouting showcase in West Bloomfield, Michigan, on Monday afternoon. And afterward, he offered a scholarship to four-star safety Makari Paige.
— MAKARI PAIGE (@makaripaige) May 7, 2018
“It feels great to be offered by The Ohio State,” Paige told Eleven Warriors. “It’s a blessing.”
The 6-foot-3, 182-pound Paige is considered the eighth-best safety and No. 189 prospect overall in the Class of 2020. He holds double-digit offers from programs like Boston College, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Purdue.
Paige visited campus for the first time a few months back with several of his teammates, including four-star linebacker Lance Dixon.
“We spent the whole day down there,” Paige said. “We viewed the facilities, watched practice and had a photoshoot. It was a good time.”
Paige hopes to return again for a camp this summer.
Ohio State also extended a scholarship offer to Oak Park, Michigan, four-star athlete Enzo Jennings following an unofficial visit on Sunday. He made the trip to campus with several of the state’s top prospects, including his teammates, four-star offensive guard Justin Rogers and the aforementioned Mathis.
— EnzoJennings (@_enzoj) May 6, 2018
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Jennings is considered the 18th-best athlete and No. 190 prospect overall in the Class of 2020. He holds more than a dozen offers from programs such as Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Tennessee.