Heat Check: Big-time Changes to the 2020 Recruiting Board As an In-State Defender Rises to the Top Spot

By Andrew Ellis on May 7, 2019 at 2:15 pm
Cincinnati defender Darrion Henry takes over the top spot on 2020 recruiting board.

Recruiting is all about comfort and relationships. Sometimes you're gaining momentum on the trail, sometimes you're losing it. How are some of Ohio State's key prospects trending? Let's take a look.

April was a busy month with the Ohio State spring game, more action in the transfer portal, and the start of official visits for the Class of 2020. The Buckeyes added Lejond Cavazos and his re-commitment is the first on the defensive side of the ball. We're focusing more on the current class, but last week's pledge from 2021 Philly native Kyle McCord was another big one given some of the recent turmoil in the quarterback room.

The 2020 class currently has eight commitment in the fold and is sitting at No. 10 in the team rankings; three spots behind the Big Ten-leading Nittany Lions (who have 10 commits). A few targets came off the board last month, with the most noteworthy one being five-star wideout Rakim Jarrett (LSU). Still, the Buckeyes remain in great shape for several top targets with a pivotal month already underway. 

There are some big-time movers this month and a familiar in-state defender now finds himself in the top spot.

DARRION HENRY DL 1 2 ★★★★ Tennessee•Georgia•LSU
KENDALL MILTON RB 2 NA ★★★★★ Oklahoma•USC•Bama•Georgia
BIJAN ROBINSON RB 3 4 ★★★★★ UCLA•Texas•Arizona
JULIAN FLEMING WR 4 5 ★★★★★ Clemson•Penn State•Georgia
CLARK PHILLIPS CB 5 NA ★★★★ Notre Dame•Oregon•UCLA
HENRY GRAY CB 6 7 ★★★★ Clemson•Georgia•Miami•PSU
MICHAEL CARMODY OT 7 8 ★★★★ Notre Dame•Penn State •VT
MARCUS ROSEMY WR 8 6 ★★★★ Georgia•FSU•Miami•Auburn
MEKHAIL SHERMAN LB 9 1 ★★★★★ Georgia
LATHAN RANSOM SAF 10 11 ★★★★★ Notre Dame•LSU•Texas
CAMERON MARTINEZ ATH 11 NA ★★★ Michigan•Northwestern

*Last month's edition can be found HERE. 

Mekhail Sherman joined the likes of Jackson Carman and Zach Harrison when he debuted at the No. 1 spot on our annual recruiting board. Sherman is an incredible talent, but his time at the top has come to an end early in the process. The change brings Cincinnati (Princeton) defensive lineman Darrion Henry to the top and the state's best uncommitted prospect continues to be a must-get for Ryan Day and Larry Johnson. 

So why the drop for Sherman? While Ohio State and Georgia are his final two schools, we've got no reason to believe the Buckeyes are going to be victorious in this race. Urban Meyer's retirement was a big blow that I just don't see the good guys overcoming. The Washington, D.C. five-star made back-to-back officials to Athens and Columbus and it could just be a matter of time until he joins forces with Kirby Smart.

We've still got Sherman on the board, but it's looking like a longshot for the time being. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes remain in tremendous shape for Henry, but there's a small bit of concern regarding the folks down in Baton Rouge. He'll head back to the bayou this weekend for visit No. 2, and LSU is recruiting as well as anyone not named Clemson at the moment. 

I'm quite interested in seeing how the running back situation unfolds, and Tony Alford has the Buckeyes right in the thick of it for two of America's best. Whether Kendall Milton or Bijan Robinson ends up being the guy, there shouldn't be any complaints whatsoever as both are special players at the position. I made the mistake of removing the Clovis, California star from the board but he's resurfaced again and is all the way up to No. 2. 

Georgia and Oklahoma are two prime contenders for Milton, and this one is bound to be a battle moving forward. The Sooners have a five-star back in the fold and they're in a fight with Notre Dame for another five-star in Chris Tyree. If Lincoln Riley nabs Tyree then one has to assume that would spell good news for the Buckeyes or Bulldogs. Regardless of what goes down in Norman, most seem to believe Ohio State is either tied at the top or perhaps even the outright leader following April's unofficial visit.

Robinson's recruitment is moving at a slower pace and it'd be hard to identify a frontrunner right now. The general consensus is that Ohio State, Arizona and UCLA are at the top of the list, but this one really hasn't even gotten started yet. There's not a lot of info out there at the moment and the Buckeyes will certainly need to get him on campus. For now, I'd say the odds on landing Milton are a bit higher.

Unless Georgia works some mysterious SEC magic that Kirby Smart has been known to do, the country's top wideout is going to end up at Ohio State, Clemson, or Penn State. The Buckeyes and Tigers look like the co-leaders for Catawissa, Pennsylvania's Julian Fleming, and right now I genuinely think the Buckeyes are going to win this battle.

Is it a slam dunk? Far from it, but Brian Hartline has developed one heck of a relationship with his prized target. Fleming has made an official to Alabama and will hit up Athens in a few weeks. He'll then look to make another visit or two and hope to decide before his senior season kicks off. He's at No. 4 on our board and an argument could be made for the top spot if the Buckeye didn't already have two wideouts in the fold.

Fort Lauderdale's Marcus Rosemy (St. Thomas Aquinas) remains on the board, though that recruitment has grown eerily silent of late. Most seem to believe it will be Ohio State or Georgia for the nation's No. 6 wideout. He was in Athens last month and the Buckeyes' staff will need to get him back in town at some point. His crystal ball is still 100 percent in favor of the good guys despite the recent trip to SEC land. 

Four-star Miami corner Henry Gray remains firmly in the mix as one of the staff's top cornerback targets. The former Hurricane pledge doesn't seem all that close to a decision, and it's definitely worth noting that the Crimson Tide extended an offer just yesterday. Clemson had looked like the top competition but the Tigers' push has slowed following the commitment from five-star Buckeye target Fred Davis II

La Habra, California's Clark Phillips III is a name we've contemplated including for a while now, but his recruitment had been off to quiet start despite his standing as the country's No. 46 overall prospect and fourth-ranked corner. Ryan Day and Jeff Hafley are tag-teaming this one and the Buckeyes are firmly in the mix for the four-star who was in Columbus back in late-March. Cal, Oregon, UCLA, and Notre Dame round out his top five and one has to think that's a battle Ohio State can win.

Lathan Ransom is at the No. 10 spot as one of the top options at safety. I'm not entirely sure how to read this one at the moment, but it does look as though Ohio State, Notre Dame, and LSU are the top choices right now. The Tigers and Sooners are both receives officials and the Buckeyes will have their chance on June 21st. There may be no real favorite in this one; at least not for the time being.

I'm getting the vibe that Muskegon's Cameron Martinez has become a real priority for the coaching staff despite his three-star status. He's a versatile playmaker who could excel at wideout or defensive back, and right now this is a battle that I think Ohio State ends up winning.

Michigan's High School Player of the Year received Florida State and Notre Dame offers last week and there should be more big ones on the way. This is another recruitment that could come to a close by summer's end with Jim Harbaugh and Pat Fitzgerald also in contention. 

There surprisingly wasn't a ton of action in April despite the spring game and all that it entails. The class is still very much coming together – especially on the defensive side of the ball – but Ohio State genuinely is in a great spot with the majority of the names on our 2020 board.

Throw in a few other standouts like Dublin's Michael Drennen II and Cali's L.V. Bunkley-Shelton and there's plenty to be on the lookout for in the coming months. Adding another tackle, securing Darrion Henry, and adding to a will-be depleted secondary remain some of the top priorities between now and signing day. 

Remember that this is a new-look defensive staff and it takes some time to establish relationships that had been built with the previous regime. I'd suggest a little bit of patience as we move forward and deeper into the 2020 cycle. 

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