Ryan Day is in the midst of his first season as the head man in Columbus, and things continue to go quite well on the field and on the recruiting trail. The unbeaten Buckeyes got some great news on Sunday when four-star defensive back Ryan Watts made his intentions known and likely completed Jeff Hafley's 2020 backfield reload.
With 24 commitments now in the fold, Ohio State's class continues to sit at No. 3 in America behind only Clemson and Alabama. The team is entering its most challenging stretch of the season, and while the focus is going to be on scheming for opponents like Wisconsin and Penn State, Day and his staff also are looking to wrap things up for 2020.
Barring something unforeseen from five-star LSU commit Elias Ricks, the defensive back recruiting is probably finished. The same can be said for linebacker, wide receiver, tight end, and most likely the offensive line. That leaves quarterback, running back, and defensive end as the remaining priorities, and one of those units continues to stand out above the rest.
The Search Continues for Tony Alford
Running back continues to be the hot topic as there are three or four legitimate targets that we continue to watch. While it now looks like Alford and Day will settle on just one tailback, there's still a chance they make room for a pair depending on attrition and available scholarships.
After Kevontre Bradford made his official visit for the Michigan State game, there weren't too many of the warm and fuzzy vibes that are typically permeating following a trip to Columbus. We're still thinking that Wisconsin or LSU are the more likely destinations, but it's been a wild cycle at the position and stranger things have certainly gone down. The Texas four-star will bring some serious speed to whichever backfield he chooses.
There's been very little news on the Miyan Williams front since Ohio State offered in late-September. This one actually should be pretty simple to follow. If the Mr. Football candidate makes the trip to Columbus with his family, then things will officially reach the "serious" category. Until then, it's best to just plan on the three-star Iowa State commit ending up in Ames.
Georgia Tech commit Jahmyr Gibbs is probably the hottest recruit in the country right now. A three-star in the composite rankings, he recently shot all the way up to No. 132 overall on 247Sports. For the Buckeyes, the issue here is two-fold because he's already committed elsewhere and now the SEC powers are sniffing around.
Florida has already offered and now he's caught the eye of programs like Alabama and Georgia as well. Gibbs is scheduled to unofficially visit Ohio State for the Maryland game, and if he gets back to town for an official then that would certainly be good news for Tony Alford and Co.
Gator legacy E.J. Smith is still scheduled to make officials to Ohio State and Stanford, but right now he seems to be a bit further down the pecking order. The same can be said for Dublin's Michael Drennen II. A four-star prospect capable of playing multiple spots, he doesn't have the look of an every-down back at the next level, but someone will be getting a talented athlete when he does make a decision.
Those hoping for a late flip from Kendall Milton or Bijan Robinson shouldn't be holding their breath. What about Florida State commit Jaylan Knighton? Perhaps a slightly different story as the Noles are having another rough go at it and just yesterday had a decommitment from longtime cornerback pledge Jalen Harrell. I'd say Knighton is at least worth monitoring.
There's no obvious answer on the horizon, and there's also no question that running back recruiting continues to be the biggest mystery surrounding Ohio State's 2020 class.
C.J. Stroud and the Quarterback Room Reload
When speaking with the media on Monday, Ryan Day made it pretty clear that Ohio State's quarterback room isn't where it needs to be right now. Justin Fields' play has been phenomenal thus far, but the depth behind him remains a lingering concern.
Day also spoke on the transfer portal and the challenge of keeping a well-stocked quarterback room when only one guy can be the clear starter.
"Unfortunately, that's hard right now. And so I've come to grips with that. As much as we'd like to have four, we're going to keep working on getting four and keep recruiting four and work as hard as we can to make sure we have those guys in here."
The good news for Day and Mike Yurcich is that the Buckeyes already have a good one in the fold in Scottsdale's Jack Miller. The other bit of good news is that the quarterback situation — unlike running back — is pretty well-defined at the moment as Ohio State searches for its second 2020 signal-caller
C.J. Stroud was on campus for the Michigan State game and will now look to return to Columbus for an official visit later in the year. The Buckeyes have been in contact for several months now and his crystal ball currently reads 100 percent in Ohio State's favor. The Rancho Cucamonga four-star has been a big-time riser in the rankings and is also considering Baylor and Oregon.
Day and Yurcich may have to wait a while to get their answer, but the Buckeyes are in a great spot for yet another one of America's best quarterbacks. We'll have to see if other national powers (most notably Georgia) enter the sweepstakes.
Adding to the Edge
Larry Johnson has three defensive linemen committed in Darrion Henry, Jacolbe Cowan, and Pickerington's Ty Hamilton. The trio will bring plenty of versatility and the potential to play along the interior and on the edge. But make no mistake about it, there's no Zach Harrison types in this group. That's not a knock on either of the three, but none of them has the look of a pure collegiate edge rusher.
With Jonathon Cooper in his final season and Chase Young set to be a millionaire come April, adding another defensive end is important even though it's far from a real pressing need. This is a position to keep a close eye on in the coming months as some new targets may emerge once more senior film becomes available.
For now, Tennessee's Tyler Baron remains the top option as the Buckeyes battle it out with Tennessee and Kentucky. He made his official visit two weeks ago and things have been fairly quiet since the trip to Columbus. We've talked about his father being on the Volunteers' staff, but things continue to be pretty bad for Jeremy Pruitt in Knoxville.
Four-star Draper, Utah defender Xavier Carlton is another one to keep an eye on. He and his family have moved back and forth between California and Utah, and most believe he'll stay out West for his college years. There's no reason for any optimism here, but the 6-foot-7, 262-pounder is one of the few offered edge rushers currently on the staff's board. We'll see if he ever makes the trek to the Midwest for a visit.
Ryan Day has 24 commitments in the class, and with kicker Jake Seibert expected to grayshirt, we're expecting three (and perhaps up to four) additions before February's national signing day. The early signing period again rolls around in December and most of the work will be done by the time the new year hits.
For the 2019 cycle, the Buckeyes added Dawand Jones and Enokk Vimahi after the early signing period. In 2018 there was even more late action with Nicholas Petit-Frere, Tyler Friday, Tyreke Smith, Chris Olave, and Javontae Jean-Baptiste all signing in January or February.
Day and his staff have done a tremendous job keeping the recruiting train rolling as there's been little to no drop-off since Urban Meyer's departure. Midway through his first season and with the bulk of the 2020 class already committed, they'll now have a few months to put together a solid finish on the trail while pursuing a spot in the College Football Playoff.