The Hurry Up: First Edition of the Friday Mailbag Addresses Elias Ricks, Lorenzo Styles Jr. and the Future at Slot Receiver

By Zack Carpenter on October 11, 2019 at 7:44 pm
Mookie Cooper
Mookie Cooper

The Hurry Up is your nightly dose of updates from the Ohio State football recruiting trail, keeping tabs on the latest from commits and targets from around the country.

Welcome to the first edition of the Friday Mailbag! 

I’ve loved mailbag columns ever since Bill Simmons got me hooked on them in high school and got me pumped for a career in sports writing with his As always, these are actual emails from actual readers reminder.

So I’m excited about potentially bringing this to you every week – albeit with next week's Northwestern game pushing it to another day – with at least three questions answered, which may or may not substitute for me answering questions on Hurry Ups throughout the week – though I may still do that. I’m not sure yet! This idea is in beta as I continue workshopping it.

I know that sounds a lot like when someone you’re casual friends with invites you to a party that you 40 percent want to go to and you tell them, “Yeah sounds fun! I’ll try to stop by. Who’s all gonna be there?”

But work with me here.

Enough rambling. Let’s get to it with some low-hanging fruit, shall we?

Who's the next slot?

Question 1

The H-back role in Ryan Day's offense is more and more going the way of the buffalo. That spot has turned into a slot receiver/Y receiver role, so the Buckeyes are focusing their recruitment on slot receivers and running backs who can be used more to, well, run. 

With K.J. Hill and C.J. Saunders gone after this season, it opens one of the most interesting questions about next year's offense.

Who will be the slot receiver?

There are the two scenarios I like the most:

1) Putting sure-handed Chris Olave in the slot, putting a guy who's going to be a one-on-one jump-ball monster (Garrett Wilson) as the X receiver and putting speedster/home-run threat Jameson Williams at the Z. 

2) Putting Williams (who, as one reader correctly pointed out, I left off the crowded receiver room list this week) at slot to put speed in the middle of the field, with Wilson and Olave lining up opposite each other at X and Z.

Julian Fleming is probably going to get the most early playing time out of the incoming freshmen, and this is where Mookie Cooper comes in. 

Fleming, Gee Scott Jr. and Jaxon Smith-Njigba are each expected to play outside, but Cooper fits the mold of that slot. I think he'll be perfect down the road, though maybe not right away. 

Even if Cooper isn't the answer in the 2020 season at slot, I still think he at least provides some depth the Buckeyes will need behind either Olave or Williams at the position, which is why a transfer isn't necessary at the slot along with Jaelen Gill. 

And I told you last weekend I thought a commitment was coming from Troy Stellato. It didn't happen last weekend, but don't be surprised if it still happens soon.

Stellato is next in line at slot in the 2021 class, so getting him in scarlet and grey would strengthen the Buckeyes' future at the position.

Despite the de-emphasis on the H-back, I do hear you. Getting an all-purpose back to add some versatility would still be nice. The answer there could be getting a Jahmyr Gibbs flip.

Gibbs, his high school team's shutdown corner, has the footwork, ability to catch consistently and the shiftiness to eventually thrive at the position.

It's an interesting comparison between both Gibbs and Kevontre Bradford

Bradford is an exciting big-play threat. He's got nice burst, acceleration, and he's a long-legged strider. Despite those attributes, I'm not sold on his ability to separate from college defensive backs who have superior foot quickness and lateral movement.

Bradford will be better as a pure running back in college, and Gibbs is the better fit at slot in the 2020 class, but Cooper still has the leg up on both of them.

Impact of new rules

Question 2

I don't think there's any question that it's become part of the recruiting pitch. What better sell job than "Listen, we're deep at (fill in position) already. Come here and show us what you got right away. If you've got the right stuff and you produce, you'll get more burn."

The four-game redshirt rule (I assume that's what you're addressing here) is perfect for recruiting and perfect for the coaches if they want to use it. 

I'm sorry to keep harping on the receivers here, but I think that's one position where the rule will absolutely come into play here next season. With four guys coming in, there's going to be at least one – probably two – odd men out who take redshirts. 

The Buckeyes, though, will need to use at least one of them – again, I think it's Fleming – to play right away to provide depth behind Olave, Wilson, Gill and Jaylen Harris.

With the four-game rule, Brian Hartline is given a perfect avenue to figure out which guy, or guys, they can use as freshmen.

Same thing in 2021, when the Buckeyes will bring in three (probably four) more receivers.

I don't have this on good authority, but I'd be kind of shocked if that rule wasn't at least discussed during the recruiting pitches of the four 2020 receivers.

Making room for Ricks

Question 3

I've already made my opinion clear that I don't think the Buckeyes getting Elias Ricks. But let's say I'm wrong (don't count that out since I'm coming off an Astros moneyline loss with Justin Verlander on the mound, which felt like as sure of a thing as there is).

The answer, in my opinion, is yes, and I don't think it's as complicated as it seems.

If Ricks walks into Day's office and says "I want to be a Buckeye," Day and his staff will do just about whatever it takes to get him on the roster.

I say "just about" because I don't believe this staff would strip a scholarship away from a player. With everything we keep hearing about these coaches from the Buckeye players themselves, that just wouldn't line up with what they say about each coach's character, and even getting a five-star guy as talented as Ricks wouldn't be worth that making that move.

There are 19 scholarship seniors on the roster, which will leave 22 open spots out of the 85 available scholarships with the assumption of Chase Young, Jeff Okudah and J.K. Dobbins going pro.

With Jake Seibert grayshirting, those 22 open spots are filled right now for next year.

But other current players could also consider going pro (e.g. Shaun Wade) and there will most likely be a few who transfer, which is what this staff expects to happen like it does every year. That's why they are still pursuing Ryan Watts III, Tyler Baron, Bradford and C.J. Stroud, to name four.

Not counting Seibert, I'm hearing that this staff believes 27 is a safe number to bring in due to the pro/transfer assumptions. So let's say they get Watts, Baron, Stroud and (insert Bradford, Gibbs or Miyan Williams), that leaves one final slot. They'll most likely fill it with another running back or a defensive back, but it can also be used as an emergency for a Ricks flip.

Again, doubtful Ricks flips, but there is an avenue to make it work.

Styles destination?

Question 4

This question is about Lorenzo Styles Jr., who is visiting Notre Dame this weekend.

If I was Styles, I would go to Notre Dame. I would want to expand my horizons and live in another state to get more experiences being outside of the area I've lived in for so long.

I'm not Lorenzo Styles, but I still believe that's the option he chooses. 

My gut tells me that if Styles wants to be a receiver, South Bend is the best place for him. Combined with a stacked 2020 class and what will be a strong 2021 class, there will be more opportunities for him, especially combined with the rumblings that Ohio State wants him to play defense. 

The Irish have four receivers committed in the 2020 class, three of whom are ranked substantially lower in their class than Styles is in his own. 

In the end, my gut tells me Styles will commit to Notre Dame, and this weekend could be the one that has an impact on his decision going forward if all goes well in South Bend.

Next 2020 commit?

Question 5

Watts. I'm hearing he's a shoo-in. I would be shocked if he commits elsewhere.

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