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.
JOIN HIS FRIEND OR FORGE HIS OWN PATH?
When Ohio State landed a commitment from Austin, Texas, Lake Travis five-star wide receiver Garrett Wilson in late April, he immediately began to recruit other prospects from the Lone Star State to join him in Columbus. Among them, Austin Bowie four-star wide receiver Elijah Higgins, who took an official visit with the Buckeyes last weekend.
“It was great,” Higgins told Eleven Warriors during Nike Football's The Opening Finals. “I’ve been up there before, but it was more getting my parents up there and feeling it for themselves, making sure they’re comfortable. They loved it.”
The 6-foot-2, 221-pound Higgins — who is considered the 17th-best wide receiver and No. 103 prospect overall in the Class of 2019 — was born in Tampa, but lived in Columbus for three years when he was a child. His younger brother was actually born at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, so the family is quite familiar with the area.
During his official visit, Higgins spent time a considerable amount of time with offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ryan Day and wide receivers coach Zach Smith. They’ve grown exceptionally close in the six months since the staff offered.
“People always ask me, ‘Who is recruiting you harder or who do you have a better relationship with?” Higgins said. “Honestly, I like both of them. They’re both great dudes and I know they’re going to work me hard. I know that when I get there, they’re going to be real people, but they’re still going to work me to what I need to be and be on me like that. That’s the kind of coaching I like. Knowing someone really cares about you, but on the field, they’re not your friend.”
The Buckeyes rolled out the red carpet for Higgins and the six other official visitors last weekend, with head coach Urban Meyer hosting a pool party at his house that featured animals from the Columbus Zoo — like baby cheetahs and penguins. They also were the first prospects to take photos in full uniform inside Ohio Stadium, rather than a photoshoot in front of the locker room waterfall.
“It was a cool deal,” Higgins said. “They really threw it over the top. I know a lot of what they did for us, they’ve never done before.”
St. Louis four-star wide receivers Marcus Washington and Jameson Williams were also among last weekend’s official visitors, which is notable given Ohio State is only going to take two or three more wide receivers this cycle to complement the aforementioned Wilson. If the Buckeyes stretch it four total wideouts, there’s a very good possibility they’ll all play together in Columbus.
One thing that makes that intriguing is how Higgins, unlike the other three receivers, is a big-bodied prospect who uses his size and speed to create mismatches on the inside. He could honestly probably play tight end, too.
“We’re all different players,” Higgins said, pointing out how the four were chopping it up a bit during Saturday's practice session for The Opening's 7-on-7 tournament. “Garrett’s more of a shifty dude, Jameson is more of a straight burner and Marcus can move around. I’m just a bigger dude. I think that’s a good deal to have a different variety of receivers so that you can have different spots filled in. They’re not just throwing a bunch of dudes that can run routes on the field, they’re throwing guys that can work well together and do what their supposed to do.”
Higgins is set to trim his list of nearly 40 offers to only a handful of schools in the near future, with Florida, Ohio State, Texas and Stanford certain to make the cut. He’ll then make his college decision sometime in August, though it’s truly hard to get a read on his recruitment.
“Really just what they’ve done [stands out],” Higgins said. “Coach Meyer said something about a theory versus what is proven. He’s proven that he’s one of the best coaches in college football and he knows what he’s doing. It’s already an established dynasty, you could say. It’s really about whether I want to go do that or go somewhere that’s going to come up [to national prominence] and be a part of that.”
QUARTERBACK RECRUITING IS CUTTHROAT
When Ohio State extended a scholarship offer to Ocala, Florida, West Port three-star quarterback Brian Maurer last weekend following a strong performance at Friday Night Lights, he believed he finally found the place he wanted to go to college.
The only problem, however, was that four-star quarterback Dwan Mathis beat him to the punch by flipping his pledge from Michigan State on Sunday evening.
“That was definitely the plan,” Maurer told Eleven Warriors following The Opening Finals practice session on Saturday. “Sitting with coach Meyer, he told me he wanted me. At the end of the day, it is what it is. Dwan ended up committing, and that was the end of that.”
The Buckeyes’ quarterback situation this cycle had been complicated, to say the least.
The staff flirted with several different signal-callers, but could never quite find one they were entirely sold on. Given the dwindling options and the desire to have a quarterback committed at the start of the month-long recruiting dead period, all signs pointed to Maurer being the guy — especially after the staff extended a scholarship offer. But unbeknownst to him, the staff also invited Mathis to campus for an official visit last weekend.
“I was told I was going to be the only 2019 quarterback there,” Maurer said, noting he spent all of his time on campus with Meyer, Day and graduate assistant Corey Dennis and only found out Mathis was on campus when their paths crossed Friday night. “They were coming at me hard, and then all of a sudden, Ohio State was off my board.”
Things obviously didn’t work out the way Maurer had hoped, and I think the Buckeyes should have been honest and more forthcoming with him about their plan. That’s one downside to big-time college football recruiting.
“They told me they wanted me, and then a couple hours later, Dwan committed,” Maurer said. “I don’t know what the situation was there.”
At the end of the day, Ohio State got their quarterback while Maurer committed to Tennessee a few days later. The staff discussed the possibility of adding both signal-callers, but that was simply never going to happen.
“I talked with them a little bit and they said they still wanted me, but I’m not going to go to a school where I have to battle for the spot in the class,” Maurer said. “I want to be the guy.”
The Buckeyes ultimately went with Mathis, whom the staff has known for more than a year and has been trying to get on campus since they offered him a scholarship in early May. I honestly think they got the better quarterback and prospect with the higher ceiling, too. But with their careers forever intertwined, it’ll be interesting to look back years from now and wonder if Maurer should have been ‘the guy’ in Columbus instead.