Yesterday, Ryan Day and the Buckeyes held their first junior day of the off-season. These events don't always offer immediate results in the form of commitments, but they can go a long way in helping the program to reel in talent for the next few recruiting classes; in this case the classes of 2020 and 2021.
This weekend's event brought plenty of local talent to Columbus and the Buckeyes remain in a great spot for the state's top prospects—something Ryan Day emphasized heavily when he spoke with the media during December's early signing period.
For the Class of 2019, Ohio State signed just two of the state's top-five prospects while it landed four of the top five in both 2018 and 2017. It's been a common discussion point of late as some folks prefer more of a local flavor while (most) others just want the best prospects the program can sign.
These two things are likely going to go hand in hand for the 2020 class as the state sees an uptick in talent and the Buckeyes have a great shot at landing each of its top-five prospects.
Paris Johnson Jr. • Offensive Tackle • Cincinnati (St. Xavier) • Nat. Rank: No. 6 • ★★★★★
St. Xavier's Paris Johnson Jr. committed to Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes back in June of 2018. Ohio State was certainly thought to be one of the favorites – along with Notre Dame and Stanford – but the commitment did catch a lot of folks off guard. The five-star and his family had built a tremendous relationship with Meyer and he's now spent numerous weekends on campus helping with the recruiting efforts.
Following Meyer's departure there were some small concerns as the Cincinnati native made trips to Notre Dame and Tennessee, but everything continues to look solid with this one as Johnson is on track to be the cornerstone of Ryan Day's first recruiting class. The state's best player also plays a major position of need, so that certainly makes his early pledge all the more important.
Darrion Henry • Defensive End • Cincinnati (Princeton) • Nat. Rank: 46 • ★★★★
Cincinnati hasn't been the easiest area for the Buckeyes to recruit over the years, but things certainly have gotten better dating back to the start of the Meyer regime. For Ryan Day, winning the state is likely going to mean that his first class will have a heavy Southwest Ohio feel to it.
Skyline Chili is great and so is the 2020 crop of talent in the Queen City. Princeton's Darrion Henry checks in as the state's No. 2 prospect and he holds offers from all of the Midwest powers along with some national programs like Clemson and Tennessee. Listed as a defensive end, he's already 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds and some feel he may end up as an interior lineman at the next level.
The Buckeyes are the overwhelming crystal ball favorite and Henry was in town yesterday for the junior day festivities.
Michael Drennen II • All-Purpose Back • Dublin (Coffman) • Nat. Rank: No. 182 • ★★★★
Dublin's Michael Drennen II certainly isn't far from Ohio State's campus, but at this point the 2020 all-purpose back hardly seems like a lock for the Buckeyes. At 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, most view him as a bit of a hybrid/H-Back at the collegiate level. Some schools seem to be recruiting him as a running back while others prefer him as a wideout, so a lot of this could come down to positional preference.
The Coffman star holds offers from Michigan, Penn State, Notre Dame, Georgia, Florida State, and plenty others. He recently made the trip to South Bend and the Fighting Irish seem to have left a solid impression on the four-star. The Buckeyes already have one tailback in the fold in Darvon Hubbard and this may be a matter of how hard they elect to push. Michigan could be the beneficiary if Drennen ends up outside of his home state.
Jaheim Thomas • Outside Linebacker • Cincinnati (Princeton) • Nat. Rank: No. 255 • ★★★★
Ryan Day is going to be seeing a lot of Princeton High School as Jaheim Thomas is another one of the top in-state prospects for the next cycle. This one is a bit different since Ohio State has yet to extend an offer, but I have a feeling that's going to be happening sooner rather than later.
This has a bit of a Christopher Oats feel to it from about a year ago. Both prospects play outside linebacker in Cincinnati and both have/had the frame to play defensive end at the next level. Ohio State didn't really push for Oats and he ultimately signed with Kentucky where he had a productive true freshman season at linebacker in 2018. He recorded 27 total tackles with a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
Thomas checks in at 6-foot-5 and about 220 pounds so he's definitely a player who could grow into a pass-rushing specialist. Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Tennessee have all offered, but an Ohio State offer will be tough to turn down.
DeaMonte Trayanum • Outside Linebacker/Running Back • Akron (Hoban) • Nat. Rank: No. 284 • ★★★★
The recruitment of Akron's DeaMonte Trayanum could also be an interesting one as I get the vibe that he just might want to play running back in college. The 6-foot, 215-pounder was all over the field as a junior and has played tailback, linebacker, safety, and even corner thus far in his career. The versatile Hoban standout currently checks in as the state's No. 5 prospect.
Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Penn State have all offered and other programs like LSU and Clemson have shown interest. He's planning on taking all of his officials this spring and wants to get a decision out of the way before his senior season kicks off. The safest bet seems to be that Trayanum ends up at linebacker, but he may just be one of those athletes that gets brought in and then put wherever he best fits.
It's worth mentioning that these rankings are certainly going to change a lot over the next year, but for the time being Ohio State is in good shape with the state's top prospects. Ryan Day has two Ohioans in the fold already with Paris Johnson Jr. and fellow Cincinnati lineman Jakob James. At this point it's safe to assume the Class of 2020 will have a much stronger local presence than some of the recent hauls.