Summer Shakeup: Resetting Ohio State’s Top Targets Following Flurry of June Commitments

By Andrew Lind on July 7, 2018 at 8:10 am
Zach Harrison

Zach Harrison

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With several one-day camps, Friday Night Lights and one enormous official visit weekend, June may have been the busiest month of the recruiting calendar for Ohio State. 

The Buckeyes landed four commitments from the Class of 2019 last month, including quarterback Dwan Mathis — whom the staff flipped from Michigan State — center Harry Miller, cornerback Jordan Battle and athlete Craig Young. 

Ohio State’s Dynasty ‘19 recruiting class now sits at 13 total pledges, which leaves room for as many as 12 more commitments. With that said, we’ve decided to reassess the staff’s remaining needs and their top targets at each position below.

QUARTERBACK - 1/1

COMMITS: Michigan four-star Dwan Mathis

TARGETS: None

After months of uncertainty at the position, Ohio State finally got its quarterback when Mathis flipped from Michigan State following an official visit for Friday Night Lights. 

The Buckeyes accepted a commitment from 2020 Arizona four-star signal caller Jack Miller III a little over one week later, so the position is set for the foreseeable future. Expect the staff to take two quarterbacks next cycle for depth purposes, however.

RUNNING BACK - 2/2

COMMITS: Georgia four-star Steele Chambers, Indiana four-star Sampson James

TARGETS: Florida four-star Noah Cain

Ohio State could very well be done with the running back position, but much of that depends on where Chambers ends up playing at the next level. He wants to play running back, but there’s a chance — albeit a small one — that he ends up at linebacker instead.

If that’s ultimately the direction the staff wants to go, Cain would be their top target to fill the void in the backfield. He’s holding off on making a decision until December, so there’s still plenty of time for the Buckeyes to contemplate the situation.

WIDE RECEIVER - 1/4-5

COMMITS: Texas five-star Garrett Wilson

TARGETS: Indiana four-star David Bell, Kentucky four-star Milton Wright, Missouri four-stars Marcus Washington and Jameson Williams, Texas four-star Elijah Higgins, Kentucky three-star Wandale Robinson

Wilson has done a tremendous job recruiting on Ohio State’s behalf, not only in his home state but also at the wide receiver position. He was already good friends with Higgins, but also grown exceptionally close with Washington and Williams in recent months.

At The Opening Finals earlier this week, all four openly discussed the idea of playing together at the next level. It would honestly be a shock if Washington and Williams didn’t ends up with the Buckeyes. It’s an uphill battle with Higgins, as he’s still considering Florida and Stanford, but his recent official visit gave him plenty to think about as he heads toward an August decision. 

If the staff misses out on Higgins — or any of the above-mentioned prospects, for that matter —  Bell and Wright may come back into focus as top-tier targets. As things stand, though, they’re currently on the outside looking in at the fourth spot in the class.

Robinson is the wild card, meanwhile, since Ohio State is recruiting him mostly for his capabilities in the return game rather than his receiving skills.

TIGHT END - 0/0-1

COMMITS: None

TARGETS: West Virginia three-star Brenton Strange, Tennessee three-star Cormontae Hamilton

With four tight ends already on the roster, the position doesn’t appear to be a significant need this cycle. The staff hopes that redshirt junior Rashod Berry and redshirt sophomore Luke Farrell and Jake Hausmann live up to their billing this fall, rather than Jeremy Ruckert jump to the front of the line as a true freshman. 

If that depth remains intact, I don’t anticipate Ohio State will take a tight end in 2019. But if that becomes an issue, a pair of camp offers in Strange and Hamilton become realistic options at the position.

OFFENSIVE LINE - 3/5-6

COMMITS: Georgia four-star center Harry Miller, Mentor four-star tackle Ryan Jacoby, West Virginia four-star guard Doug Nester

TARGETS: West Virginia five-star tackle Darnell Wright, Illinois four-star tackle Trevor Keegan, Dayton Dunbar three-star tackle Jonathan Allen, Virginia three-star guard Jakai Moore, Washington D.C. three-star tackle Walter Rouse

Ohio State is set to lose at least four offensive lineman following the 2018 season, so addressing that turnover is of the utmost importance. 

Offensive tackle sorely lacks depth, as is, and the fact that Nester is likely to play guard at the next level doesn’t help. Jacoby will remain at tackle, so the staff is hoping to add two or three more players at that position. The issue, of course, is now whether or not the talent is there for the taking.

A number of top targets have come off the board in recent weeks, which leaves Wright — who appears to be coming around to the idea of playing alongside Nester in college despite their high school rivalry — as the staff’s top priority. Landing his pledge would be (for lack of a better word) huge, though he’s nowhere near a decision. 

Keegan is trending toward Michigan, while Allen showed during three camp outings this summer that he’s still very raw and a developmental prospect more than anything at this point in time. That means Moore and Rouse, who both plan to visit in the coming weeks, could see their stock rise.

All that said, I’m not certain the staff will reach for a prospect in this class, given they already hold commitments from 2020 five-star tackle Paris Johnson Jr. and four-star Jake Wray.

DEFENSIVE END - 1/2

COMMITS: Mentor four-star Noah Potter

TARGETS: Olentangy Orange five-star Zach Harrison, North Carolina three-star Terrell Dawkins

Though his official visits to Ohio State and Michigan have him as confused as he’s ever been as he heads toward an August decision, Harrison is without a doubt the Buckeyes top target — regardless of position. Missing out on his pledge, especially to their biggest rival, would be devastating and without a doubt the biggest miss of the Urban Meyer era. 

But if that happens, the staff certainly has a backup plan in the form of Dawkins, who visited campus for the Spring Game and a one-day camp last month. He plans to take an official visit in the fall, so his slower timeline helps in that aspect. 

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the staff stretch the defensive end haul to three if that involves both Harrison and Dawkins, either.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE - 0/1

COMMITS: None 

TARGETS: Hawaii five-star Faatui Tuitele, Florida four-star Tyler Davis, Maryland three-star D'Von Ellies, Missouri three-star Etinosa Reuben, New York three-star Jared Harrison-Hunte

Much like the tight end position, defensive tackle isn’t a huge priority for the staff — especially with Ohio State’s ridiculous haul of five-star Taron Vincent, four-star Tommy Togiai and JUCO transfer Antwuan Jackson Jr. in the last class. There’s a good chance the Buckeyes take just one this cycle to offset the likely departure of starter Dre’Mont Jones next offseason.

Tuitele showed interest with his unofficial visit this spring, but Alabama is the heavy favorite because he is the cousin of quarterback Tua (and commit Taulia) Tagovailoa. Davis is the perceived top target, but there are concerns about his weight. Reuben took an official visit last month, but he’s nowhere close to making a decision. And last but not least, Harrison-Hunte just landed his offer following Friday Night Lights. 

There are a number of different ways Ohio State can go at defensive tackle, and it helps that the staff is looking for quality rather than quantity this cycle.

LINEBACKER - 2/2-3

COMMITS: Lexington four-star Cade Stover, Indiana three-star Craig Young

TARGETS: Tennessee four-star Kane Patterson

Ohio State has landed commitments from a number of prospects this cycle with the “athlete” designation, including the aforementioned Chambers and Young. That surely gives the staff a bit of versatility when it comes to the linebacker position. 

For this exercise, though, Young — who could ultimately play anywhere from defensive end to safety depending on how he develops physically — is considered a linebacker.Stover is in a similar position, with some projecting him to be a hybrid end at the next level, which means the Buckeyes still need to bring on a true middle linebacker. 

That’s where Patterson enters the picture. Most anticipate his recruitment to be a two-horse race between Alabama and Ohio State, but I give the Buckeyes the edge as he heads toward a late summer decision.

CORNERBACK - 1/2

COMMITS: Florida four-star Jordan Battle

TARGETS: Florida four-star Kaiir Elam, Pennsylvania three-star M.J. Devonshire, Texas three-star Peyton Powell

Throughout the spring, it was clear that Battle was Ohio State’s top target — an quite possibly the only cornerback in which they had significant interest. With his commitment last week, the staff is playing with house money as they look to find another athletic, lengthy and physical corner that will only add to what is arguably the deepest position on the roster. 

Elam has been to campus a handful of times, and his relationship with Meyer — who recruited his uncle to Florida — could pay dividends. The Gators are the favorite in his recruitment, however. Devonshire is someone we’ve discussed at length, but has always felt like an option late in the cycle. Powell, on the other hand, was blown away by his official visit last month. That and his trust in defensive coordinator Greg Schiano appears to have the Buckeyes on the verge of landing his commitment.

SAFETY - 2/2

COMMITS: New Jersey four-star “Rocket” Ronnie Hickman, Maryland three-star Bryson Shaw

TARGETS: Oklahoma five-star Daxton Hill, Florida four-star Brendan Gant

Hickman is also someone who could develop into an outside linebacker, but he’ll get his shot first and foremost at safety. Shaw was a bit of a surprise when he flipped from Wisconsin, but it’s clear co-defensive coordinator Alex Grinch likes what he brings to the table athletically — and this will be the assistant coach’s first real opportunity to prove his worth as an evaluator. 

With that, it would appear Ohio State is done at the safety position. Hill recently listed the Buckeyes in his Top 6, but it’s hard to envision him leaving the state, while Gant — who visited this spring — is likely to stay in the south.

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