Finding the right fit for your college football program isn't just about what happens on the field, but off it as well. Today, Ohio State added a key piece. How will that commitment impact the Buckeyes?
Ohio State landed a commitment this evening from Brandenton, Florida, IMG Academy four-star defensive back Lejond Cavazos, which gives the Buckeyes their sixth pledge from the perennial powerhouse program in the last five years.
Let's take a closer look at what Cavazos – the No. 197 prospect overall in the Class of 2020 – brings to Columbus.
ON THE FIELD
The 6-foot, 186-pound Cavazos — whose first name is pronounced "lej-end" — is certainly underrated by most recruiting services as he recorded just eight tackles and one interception in backup duty (two starts) with the Ascenders last season, a number that will surely rise as he sees his role expand on the field this fall.
Cavazos’ testing numbers back up that statement, too, as he clocked a sub-4.5-second 40-yard dash at Ohio State’s one-day camp earlier this month. He also posted a 4.38-second shuttle, 43-inch vertical leap and tossed the power ball 37 feet during Nike Football’s The Opening Dallas Regional back in April, despite dealing with a strained hamstring.
A two-sport athlete, Cavazos ran a 7.97-second 60-meter hurdle and a 13.80-second 110-meter hurdle during the the New York New Balance Indoor Nationals this spring, both exceptional times for a high school athlete.
Cavazos is a phenomenal athlete who excelled when working with Buckeyes co-defensive coordinator Alex Grinch and cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson during the aforementioned camp. He showed great instincts, change of direction and explosiveness in and out of his breaks in individual drills, while his long arms and closing speed made him disruptive in one-on-one matchups with wide receivers.
Although the physical attributes are there, Cavazos is still very raw from a playing-time perspective and in terms of knowledge of defensive positioning and schemes. His potential is through the roof, however, which is a big reason why he’s already one of the most sought-after prospects in the country.
IN THE CLASS
Cavazos becomes just the second member of Ohio State yet-to-be-named 2020 recruiting class, joining Georgia four-star offensive tackle Jake Wray.
The two have grown extremely close over the last year and change, and they — along with Arizona four-star quarterback Jack Miller III — were practically inseparable during their visit last season for the thrilling win over Penn State. It’s no surprise that Miller, who appears to also be on the verge of committing to the Buckeyes, called Cavazos one of his top targets during his visit for Friday Night Lights this past weekend.
“I want to commit soon just so I can start building on my class,” Miller said.
Cavazos may have beat him to the punch, but the point remains: This trio will undoubtedly be the face (or rather, faces) of Ohio State’s next recruiting class.
As for how Cavazos fits into the Buckeyes’ plans at cornerback moving forward, that remains to be seen. The position is among the deepest on the roster at them moment, but starters Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette will have run out of eligibility by the time he arrives on campus. Highly-touted cornerbacks Jeffrey Okudah, Shaun Wade and Marcus Williamson will all be able to enter the NFL Draft following the 2019 season, as well, which leaves just three other scholarship players (freshmen Tyreke Johnson, Sevyn Banks and wide receiver-turned-corner Cameron Brown) on the roster.
Ohio State remains the favorite to land Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas four-star Jordan Battle, who took an official visit this past weekend and is expected to announce his commitment in the coming days/weeks. He should be joined by at least one more cornerback in this cycle, with Florida four-star Kaiir Elam; Tennessee four-stars Adonis Otey and Woodi Washington; Pennsylvania three-star M.J. Devonshire; and Texas three-star Peyton Powell among the staff’s various options.
Given the insane amount of talented at the cornerback position waiting in the wings in the next recruiting cycle, though, I’d be surprised to see the Buckeyes add more than two players at the position in 2019. Texas five-star R.J. Mickens; Florida four-stars Miles Brooks and (Miami commitment) Henry Gray; and Texas four-star Jaylon Jones (Cavazos’ former teammate) are all among those rising juniors who have shown early interest in Ohio State.
When Ohio State lands a commitment from a top-rated prospect, we often talk about how their relationship with the staff goes back several years. It’s pretty rare for a commitment to be decades in the making, though.
Such is the case for Cavazos, whose father has known head coach Urban Meyer for more than 20 years. Meyer, once the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame, recruited players at Dallas' Carter High when the elder Cavazos was an assistant there in the late-1990s.
“Urban was a young, white man recruiting black kids. We have been friends since then,” C.J. Cavazos told Eleven Warriors. “[It's] crazy that he now wants my son.”
The family is also quite familiar with new cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson, who was also a graduate assistant with the Fighting Irish in 1999. Those relationships, plus the staff’s ability to develop top-flight defensive backs, put the Buckeyes in the drivers seat early in the process.
“I trust my career in their hands,” Lejond Cavazos said.