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.
Kiner would love a combo with Edwards
We’ve talked almost endlessly about the 2020 running back situation, what the Buckeyes’ plans are there and who they hope to land.
But what about the 2021 running backs?
It’s my feeling Ohio State is going to make running back its biggest priority in the next class going forward and will attack that position’s recruitment vigorously.
Even though running back is right up there with quarterback as position it that it's important to get a commitment in every class – and even with J.K. Dobbins most likely set to declare for the NFL Draft after this season – I don’t believe that if Ohio State fails to land a 2020 running back that it would be quite as devastating as most people seem to think.
That’s mainly because Master Teague III is an emerging stud back there, and I'm not sold on any of the Buckeyes' realistic 2020 targets (outside of EJ Smith) being more talented than any of the guys behind Teague on the depth chart.
It's a different story in two years.
If the Buckeyes get one or zero running backs in 2020 and then don't get two running backs in 2021, there's probably going to be an issue. If they don't get at least one running back, though, it'll be time to hit the panic button.
I don't think it comes to that. This Buckeyes staff knows how hard it will have to attack the position, and it's my belief they put in the work to land a top-10 national guy. Maybe two top-10 guys.
Those are the three guys at the top of the Buckeyes' board, perhaps in that order, and I think they are in good shape right for at least one in Kiner (more on that in a second) with Edwards strongly in the fold.
I don't think Ohio State is in great shape for Pryor, and I wouldn't get too infatuated with Pryor's game or highlight tape if I was a Buckeyes fan hoping to see him in their future backfield.
It's early, but it's sounding like Georgia has a big leg up on the No. 5-ranked junior running back. It wouldn't be a surprise if he stays closer to his North Carolina home three hours away in Athens and becomes the latest Bulldog from the Tar Heel State. That's especially if there's any credence behind Zachary Evans potentially landing at Texas A&M instead of Georgia.
Back to Kiner...
The Buckeyes' recruitment of Kiner and Edwards from Michigan's West Bloomfield High School is interesting in that each of their recruitments seems to be lining up as an Ohio State vs. Michigan one-on-one battle.
Kiner told Eleven Warriors it's still early in the process, but it could be shaping up to come down to the Buckeyes and Wolverines.
"It's not really a battle yet because I still like them both equally. But (it could be) soon, probably, as soon as I narrow it down," said Kiner, who says he's heard he and Edwards are two of the top running backs atop the Buckeyes' recruiting board. "I still gotta go on a couple more visits because I don’t wanna make a decision before seeing everything first."
Edwards visited for the Michigan State game and loved the electric atmosphere in the 'Shoe. He has been to both Columbus and Ann Arbor several times, and so has Kiner.
They are both high on Ohio State and Michigan, and each could end up at the same school. Whether it's scarlet and grey or maize and blue, Kiner would welcome the opportunity to be on the same depth chart as Edwards.
"I’ve met at him at Michigan. He’s a cool person," Kiner said. "I would love to be on the same team with him. If you have two of the best running backs in the same class on the same team, think about how intense practice would be. Plus, the older running backs from their class, that would be an intense practice. The best person’s starting, and the second-best person could possibly go to another team and start, and he’s on your team. That’s just stacking the running back room.
"He has his own favorite colleges and his own favorite things about Ohio State, and I have my own favorite things. I can’t really speak on his recruitment. If he went to Ohio State, and I felt like Ohio State was the best place for me, too, then we both would be at Ohio State. It wouldn’t hurt to have two of the best running backs in 2021 at the same school."
And what would it take to excel on a roster with that many talented players?
"It would just take patience," Kiner said. "In a room full of leaders – I think Donovan’s a leader – nobody’s complaining about anything because they know what they have to do to get better so we’re just gonna all make each other better."
But still, in a stacked running back room, early playing time would be hard to come by. That doesn't seem to hinder Kiner's decision.
"The worst thing you can do is go into a college game a year after high school into a situation where you don’t know what’s going on," Kiner said. "I’m in high school right now. Those are grown men, especially at the running back position because that puts a beating on your body. If I have to sit out a year and take a year to get bigger and stronger, faster, then that’s what I’ve gotta do."
Kiner is a respectful, intelligent kid who works hard in the classroom and is well-spoken outside of it.
He can play a little football, too.
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound junior out of Cincinnati's Roger Bacon High School is ranked the No. 10 running back nationally in 2021, and he is Ohio's No. 7 overall prospect.
Kiner has been the team's varsity starter at running back since he was a freshman, and this season he broke the program's all-time rushing yards and rushing touchdowns marks at 3,842 yards and 54 touchdowns (and counting).
He possesses the athleticism programs desire in their running backs (he's been able to dunk since throwing one down on a fast break in eighth grade, and he effortlessly jumped up to smack the field goal post during pre-practice), and he has the speed, too. At that practice, Kiner ran a 4.44 in the 40-yard dash (unofficially, of course) to showcase his hooves.
His recruitment, however, he's taking a little slower than the 100-meter dash he runs in the spring for Roger Bacon's track team.
"I see them all (the coaches and schools) on the same level right now because I don’t wanna pick any favorites right now," Kiner said. "I’m only a junior, and I have a lot of time to make a decision. Once I make a decision, I don’t wanna go back on my decision. That wouldn’t be fair to a school."
Kiner previously has said he wants to make a decision before his senior year, but "because college is a very big deal," he says he wants to "make sure that's where I wanna live and where I wanna be for possibly the next 4-5 years."
Kiner is waiting to see how the coaches' view of him progresses or regresses based on how he performs. He knows that if he does what he's supposed to do and continues to grow on the field, his recruiting profile will continue to rise.
If he continues on his current upward trajectory, Kiner's offer sheet will also certainly rise from a list that includes Ohio State and Michigan as the frontrunners with Louisville and Notre Dame right up there with them.
Kiner visited Columbus for the Minnesota game last season and the 2019 spring game and Cincinnati game this season. He loves the atmosphere at Ohio stadium, and he couldn't heap enough praise on Tony Alford.
"Coach Alford, if not the best, he’s one of the best running backs coaches in college football," Kiner said. "I’ve taken things that he’s told me and started doing them in my game now. He’s as good as advertised."
Kiner visited Louisville two weekends ago, and it was one of his favorite visits as his relationship with Cardinals running backs coach Norv McKenzie grew further, and he visited Purdue last weekend to see running backs coach Chris Barclay.
Alford, McKenzie, Barclay and Michigan running backs coach Jay Harbaugh are some of Kiner's favorite coaches, and he has all of them at an equal level right now.
"They're all in the same category as Coach Alford," Kiner said. "I try to look for my father in most of the coaches because being coached by my dad was fun so being coached by my dad again would be fun."
With Kiner's blend of attitude, work ethic and budding potential (more on that later this week) it seems Kiner and Ohio State would be a perfect fit for each other.
But time will tell if the lifelong Buckeyes fan who grew up idolizing Terrelle Pryor, Ezekiel Elliot, Carlos Hyde and Jalin Marshall decides he wants to attend his dream school or if he decides another program – whether it's Michigan, Notre Dame, Louisville or elsewhere – is the best place for his own future athletically and academically.
"Dream school and reality are two different things," Kiner said. "(Ohio State) could be my dream school. I could see myself playing there, but is it the best place for me? That’s what I’m looking for."
Carroll another candidate at RB
There is also the possibility of the nation's No. 8 running back Lovasea Carroll coming to Columbus after decommitting from South Carolina and reopening his recruitment on Sept. 1.
Carroll may end up loving Ohio State and make it his new college choice, but he could be the second running back taken in the class based on timing.
Carroll told Lettermen Row's Jeremy Birmingham that he isn't planning on visiting Ohio State until next summer.
With how the bottom fell out during the Buckeyes' 2020 running back situation a few months ago, it seems in the program's best interest to secure at least one commitment before the 2020 summer hits. Obviously, that will hinge on the timetable of the other 2021 running backs' decisions.
But if two of three players in Edwards, Kiner and, yes, Pryor (in case he decides Columbus is a better fit for him than Athens) tell the Buckeyes they want to commit, they likely can't wait on Carroll.
I'm not trying to say Ohio State would be desperate if such a situation arose, but they can't afford to risk another class without a running back or two this late and settle for a guy (s) ranked much lower on their board. Not with the way Ryan Day wants to use his running backs in his offense.
ESPN ranks Fleming No. 1 overall
Tom VanHaaren and Tom Luginbill of ESPN explained their decision to jump Fleming to the top spot in the class:
It's rare to see a wide receiver ranked No. 1 overall as the talent pool at that position is much deeper. However, Fleming comes from a different mold. He is a big, explosive target who blends a dangerous combination of size and athleticism. He's a matchup nightmare for smaller corners and will win the speed matchup against safeties and linebackers. Beyond his measurables and playmaking ability, Fleming also has demonstrated impact tools without the ball in his hands as a blocker and team leader.
The Buckeyes have 16 commits ranked in the top 300, the second-most by any school with Alabama (19) having the most.