Heat Check: Holiday Cheers and Some Early Signing Period Fears on the Recruiting Front for December

By Andrew Ellis on December 11, 2018 at 1:15 pm
Jared Harrison-Hunte is likely down to the Buckeye and Nittany Lions.

Recruiting is all about momentum. Sometimes you're gaining it, sometimes you're losing it. What prospects are trending up with Ohio State? Let's take a look.

We've been updating our recruiting board on the first Tuesday of the month for the last year or so. Last week we were all set for the latest edition and then – around 7:30 in the morning – news broke that Urban Meyer would be announcing his retirement. Needless to say we had some bigger fish to fry last week amid all of the chaos.

Obviously Meyer's retirement has brought some changes and plenty of question marks surrounding Ohio State's recruiting efforts. Since the announcement, we haven't seen any decommitments for 2019 and four-star linebacker Tommy Eichenberg actually became commitment No. 16 when he made his intentions known last Thursday. The St. Ignatius product became Ryan Day's first commitment and gave the Buckeyes yet another big win over Michigan.

Ohio State is back up to No. 9 in the team rankings with the top class in the Big Ten. There's plenty more that is yet to unfold for Day and his staff, however.

ZACH HARRISON DE 1 1 ★★★★★ Michigan•Penn State
JORDAN BATTLE DB 2 2 ★★★★ Alabama•Oklahoma
DOUG NESTER OL 3 NA ★★★★ Virginia Tech•PSU•Georgia
NICK BROEKER OT 4 6 ★★★ Ole Miss (Committed)
JESTIN JACOBS LB 5 11 ★★★★ Iowa (Committed)
CAVON BUTLER DT 6 8 ★★★ Kentucky (Committed)
JADEN MCKENZIE DT 7 NA ★★★ North Carolina
D'VON ELLIES DT 8 10 ★★★★ Penn State•USC
TYLER FOSTER TE 10 NA ★★★ Ohio University (Committed)
DARNELL WRIGHT OT 11 3 ★★★★★ Tennessee•Alabama

*Last month's edition can be found HERE. 

Zach Harrison is expected to enroll early which means he's going to sign with someone during the early signing period. Michigan was trending a bit, then he returned to campus to meet with Larry Johnson, and then Ohio State demolished the Wolverines and killed their playoff hopes. The final round of in-homes are still being sorted out, but we should know of his intentions within the next week or so.

Jordan Battle holds steady at the No. 2 spot and it still feels like this one continues to come down to the Buckeyes and Crimson Tide. Alabama flipped two defensive backs this weekend and already has a pair of safeties and three corners in its class. I had flipped my crystal ball from the Buckeyes to Bama but that may have been a bit premature as Ryan Day could have this one back on track.

The Urban Meyer news seems to have shaken things up a bit with West Virginia's Doug Nester, and the Buckeye pledge is now expected to sign in February. Penn State, Virginia Tech, and Georgia are all on the picture and each school could be getting an official in the coming months. Nester was back in Columbus last weekend for his official but still seems uncertain following the trip. Keeping the coveted lineman in the fold is a top priority for Ryan Day and his staff.

Elsewhere in the trenches, Ole Miss commit Nick Broeker is fresh off his official visit and most seem to like the Buckeyes' chances of flipping the SEC commit. At 6-foot-6 and 288 pounds, the Illinois tackle plays at a position of great need. Five-star Darnell Wright falls all the way to No. 11 and is pretty close to coming off the board. Alabama and Tennessee are the favorites and the only reason there's even a slight glimmer of hope is because the country's No. 1 tackle is expected to take another round of visits before signing in February. 

Clayton Northmont's Jestin Jacobs also jumps up several spots following his official visit this weekend. The four-star linebacker was also in town for the Michigan game and Ohio State is doing its best pushing for another in-state flip. He's expecting in-home visits this week and will then make a final decision, sign next week, and enroll in January. This one seems far from a slam dunk as the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder has often cited his strong relationship with the Hawkeye staff.

We've now got four defensive tackles on our board even though there's still a real chance the Buckeyes only sign one. It's been an intriguing position throughout the cycle despite being far from a great need for 2019. There are lots of moving parts with this one, so let's try to sort everything out.

Cavon Butler still seems like the best bet to end up in Ohio State's class, but I'm starting to have some doubts as there may be a few academic hurdles to overcome. The Kentucky commit was in Columbus for the Michigan game and this is a player the Buckeyes will sign if they choose to do so. It's probably as simple as that with this one, but the fact that he didn't flip during or shortly after the visit means there are likely still some things holding him back.

D'Von Ellies and Jared Harrison-Hunte both may come down to the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions, and Ohio State isn't the frontrunner for either one at the moment. Ellies is tentatively scheduled to announce at the Jan. 19th Polynesian Bowl in Honolulu. He was in Columbus and State College last month for officials and most recently ventured out to Southern Cal. The 6-foot-2, 280-pounder got a nice ranking boost in the latest round of updates and now checks in as the No. 250 overall prospect. 

Harrison-Hunte's timeline seems up in the air and he's still contemplating signing next week. He's been to Happy Valley a half dozen times and most seem to like the Nittany Lions in this one. Michigan and Alabama both offered last week and if the the Middle Village, New York three-star holds off on signing then this one could go a number of different directions. He was most recently visited Ohio State on Nov. 24. 

Jaden McKenzie isn't someone we've talked too much about, but he's clearly a player that Larry Johnson has his eye on. A native of Wake Forest, North Carolina, the three-star was in town for the Michigan game and has been garnering plenty attention ever since. Most have him pegged to North Carolina, but new head coach Mack Brown will likely have to establish that relationship first. To no one's surprise, Johnson has been the point man for the Buckeyes. 

Last year around this time Ohio State offered and began pushing for a local prospect who was committed elsewhere. Then a West Virginia pledge, Pickerington's Alex Williams ultimately flipped and signed with the Buckeyes during the early signing period. Could something similar be in the works for 2019? 

This time around it's another Pickerington North product that may be worth keeping an eye on. Three-star tight end Tyler Foster has been committed to Ohio University since the summer, but he's a player the staff has been in contact with and he's been on campus multiple times in the last month. Cormontae Hamilton is already in the fold at the position, but it wouldn't be a shock if the Buckeyes try to snag another. 

Ohio State isn't exactly pressed for space right now and many have speculated that the staff won't even come close to a full class in 2019. The outlook for 2020 is a lot brighter, but I'd still be on the lookout for some late offers as the early signing period and February's traditional signing day are both around the corner.

As for the names we've removed since last update? Four-star offensive tackle Trevor Keegan has eliminated Ohio State from contention. He'll announce Friday and is likely to pick Michigan or Georgia. Strongsville guard J.D. Duplain plans on sticking with his Michigan State commitment. Cornerback Kaiir Elam was always a long shot, but he may not even be considering Ohio State with Meyer out of the equation. 

I think there were some immediate concerns (and understandably so) following last Tuesday's bombshell. However, Ohio State's handling of the situation is actually pretty commendable. It would have been a bad look for the head coach to announce his retirement just days or weeks after the early signing period, and Meyer himself even talked about how unfair that would have been to the recruits and their families. 

Thus far Ohio State has weathered the storm, though there are a few uncertainties still out there with Battle and Nester. Ryan Day and his staff have really tapped into the frequent flyer miles of late and that's to be expected with the bulk of the season now in the rearview mirror and the early signing period just a week away. 

During last week's presser, Meyer talked about how 92 percent of the recruits are now signing in December. I'm not sure if that number is totally spot on, but it certainly seems to be the way things are trending nowadays. Last year 21 of Ohio State's eventual 26 signees made things official during the early signing period. Day and Co. still have a lot of work to do by next Wednesday and plenty more before the first week of February. 

The next several weeks will be filled with bowl prep, recruiting news, coaching rumors, and hopefully a bit of holiday cheer. Enjoy it, folks.

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