Ohio State's 2020 Running Back Picture Remains Cloudy As Five-Star Visitors Flock to Columbus, Athens and Austin

By Andrew Ellis on June 16, 2019 at 7:45 am
Tony Alford and the Buckeyes are still looking for a 2020 tailback.

Ohio State's 2020 tailback recruiting is still lacking clarity.

There are several things to watch over the next month. We'll all obviously be on the lookout for updates on Justin Fields' progress, the true freshmen who arrived in June, and really anything else pertinent to Ohio State's summer workouts. 

On the recruiting front, Tony Alford is in hot pursuit of two of America's top tailbacks, and that is the biggest story on the trail as the Buckeyes look to add even more firepower to an already star-studded 2020 offensive class. While California's Kendall Milton and Arizona's Bijan Robinson remain the top priorities, there has been plenty of activity across the country since we last looked at the running back landscape in May. 

Last month, Milton announced his final four schools and laid out his official visit plans. Meanwhile, the nation's top back – Houston's Zachary Evans – also listed Ohio State among his top schools. To make things even more interesting, both lists included Ohio State, Alabama, LSU, and Georgia. The odds of landing two five-star tailbacks in one class are fairly minimal, so the announcements appeared to give a bit of a glimpse as to how things may pan out.

Another interesting twist has been added to the running back picture and we've now got four elite guys to keep a close eye on over the coming weeks. Even though only two of them are seriously considering Ohio State (not counting Evans here), one piece falling into place for School A will have a ripple effect on Schools B, C, and D.

National Spotlight
Zachary Evans Houston, TX 5-foot-11, 200 pounds ★★★★★ No. 6  Bama, LSU, UGA, OU, OSU
Kendall Milton Clovis, CA 6-foot-2, 220 pounds ★★★★★ No. 21  Bama, LSU, UGA, OSU
Bijan Robinson Tucson, AZ 6-foot, 200 pounds ★★★★★ No. 22  Texas, UCLA, OSU
Jase McClellan Aledo, TX 5-foot-10, 201 pounds ★★★★★ No. 23 Oklahoma Commit (Visiting Texas)

That interesting twist came on Friday when news broke that Oklahoma commit Jase McClellan would be taking an official visit to Austin. He's been a part of the Sooners' class for nearly two years now, but Lincoln Riley recently landed another 2020 back in four-star Seth McGowan. If Texas were to flip McClellan, that could go a long way in helping the Buckeyes' pursuit of Bijan Robinson. 

As for the Arizona five-star, Ohio State and Tony Alford have Robinson on campus right now and they're obviously hoping to hit a home run. Texas looks like the prime competition and both the Buckeyes and Horns are also serious contenders for his four-star teammate Lathan Ransom. There's been some speculation that Robinson would prefer to stay closer to home, but Austin isn't exactly right down the road from Tucson. 

Ranked as the country's No. 4 back, Robinson doesn't have an exact decision timeline, but some of the Texas insiders are of the belief that he's close to committing to Tom Herman. Does the McClellan news change things at all? Can Ohio State do enough this weekend to take control of the recruitment? Robinson was spending time with J.K. Dobbins Saturday evening and the Ohio State junior could surely tell some tales about leaving the region for Columbus. 

For the last few months, we've looked at Kendall Milton as the more realistic option for Alford and the Buckeyes. The Cali five-star has pinpointed a few key areas in his recruitment and Ohio State has a lot to offer on both fronts. Milton is looking for the opportunity to play early and appears to be very interested in building a brand for himself. With Dobbins likely gone after 2019, playing time should be available and Ohio State's "BrandU" program is something few other universities can compete with.

The Buckeyes got the first of his four officials, then it was Baton Rouge, and now he's in Athens checking out the program that most expect to be right at the top of the list. Milton has family in Atlanta and his grandparents are also flying in from California for the trip. This has led to all kinds of pessimism from Ohio State fans, but I think that may be unfounded; at least at this point. 

The Bulldogs signed five-star tailback Zamir White and four-star James Cook in 2018. This year's class saw Kenny McIntosh as the latest addition to a talented backfield. Still, Georgia is clearly pulling out all the stops for one of its top 2020 targets.

Milton is scheduled to take an official to Alabama next weekend and then is expected to enter decision mode. Most are anticipating some sort of announcement to go down in July, but the family has been pretty meticulous throughout the whole process, so nothing would be a surprise with this one. 

Ryan Day and Tony Alford have done a great job building a relationship with Milton and his family, but it's never easy to fight through three weeks of SEC visits in the time leading up to an announcement. 

Ohio State needs a pair of backs for the 2020 class. Brian Snead's departure and Dobbins' potential early exit makes this a pretty important pursuit for the current cycle. If the staff is unable to land Milton or Robinson, then things could get a little dicey – albeit not catastrophic – at the position.

Four-star Akron native Deamonte Trayanum is a guy who can likely play tailback or linebacker in college. He's 6-foot and 215 pounds and while he may not be quite as athletic, there are some similarities to Jerome Baker's high school days. Most seem to prefer Trayanum on defense, but he appears to be fairly open on his ultimate position. 

Deerfield Beach, Florida's Jaylan Knighton is the country's No. 3 all-purpose back. At about 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, he's not someone who has the look of a backfield bell cow, but could be a nice complementary piece in the backfield. He's in Tallahassee this weekend and will then head to Columbus. A decision is expected in the next week or two.

Cincinnati (Winton Woods) three-star tailback Miyan Williams is another guy Ohio State was previously looking at. Still waiting for a Buckeye offer, he's scheduled to announce in July and obviously wouldn't bring the firepower of a Milton or Robinson. Dublin's Michael Drennen II and New Jersey's Jalen Berger are also out there, but they both look like athletes rather than true tailbacks.

There's still plenty to play out over the coming weeks as the national pieces slowly start to move into place. Ohio State's offensive recruiting has been exceptional under Day and his crew thus far, but running back remains the glaring need for the 2020 class. 

View 72 Comments