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.
Saunders' recruitment picking up
There is a long way to go in the recruitment of Kaden Saunders, as the 2022 athlete from Westerville South High School – the same school as current Buckeyes receiver Jaelen Gill – has at least another year before he trims down an offer sheet that will continue growing along with his reputation.
As of now, Saunders’ list contains Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, with the Nittany Lions being the frontrunner early in the process.
Saunders visited for Penn State’s White-Out victory over Michigan last weekend, and he loved it. He told 247Sports’ Bill Greene, “I am really high on Penn State, and I think they are the favorite school for me right now.”
He will be going back to visit Penn State for its game against Indiana, which is part of the reason a very early Crystal Ball prediction was recently put in for Saunders to the Nittany Lions.
Now, with all that being said, Saunders is still an early name to keep an eye on for Ohio State, and Saunders will be able to compare everything about the environments of Beaver Stadium and the Shoe this weekend when he visits for the Buckeyes’ bout with Wisconsin.
“I am real excited to get back on campus. I haven’t been for a while,” Saunders told Eleven Warriors. “I’m looking forward to catching up with some coaches and seeing a good game in the Shoe.”
Ohio State this weekend— Kaden Saunders (@KSaunders03) October 23, 2019
The Buckeyes have yet to offer Saunders, as they undergo their normal patient approach when it comes to offering in-state prospects.
“They haven’t really talked about an offer, but if I got one this weekend I would be really excited and surprised,” Saunders said.
At 5-foot-10, 160 pounds, the sophomore is an undersized prospect but makes up for it with a 4.43 time he was clocked at in February at the Best of the Midwest combine in Indianapolis.
That speed and explosiveness is something the Buckeyes like about Saunders, who is listed as an athlete but is best at wide receiver – though he probably translates into the slot, where Ohio State will probably have plenty of depth in the future. That’s partially why Ohio State – a dream school for Saunders as a kid – is expected to recruit him at a different position.
“Ohio State has been saying they want me to play defensive back, but I love wide receiver,” Saunders said. “It was a dream of mine when I was little. I will find out later.”
Saunders has made three visits to Penn State and one each to Michigan State, West Virginia, Cincinnati and Texas, visiting with former Ohio State running backs coach and family friend Stan Drayton (currently the Longhorns’ coach at the same position).
Big weekend at the Shoe
Saunders is one of many who prospects who will be visiting this weekend for the tilt versus the Badgers in Ohio State’s second of three huge recruiting weekends following the primetime Michigan State game and preceding the Penn State matchup.
The headliner is Emeka Egbuka, who told Eleven Warriors he will be coming for an unofficial. The fact he is coming all the way from Washington on his own dime is not insignificant and is the latest example of how it’s reasonable to expect Ohio State to be high on his final list of schools.
Egbuka’s team plays on Thursday this week, making it more convenient for him to fly across the state for the noon kickoff.
A bit more inconvenient, however, is getting another potential headline-worthy visit from five-star running back Will Shipley. But despite the noon kickoff, Shipley is still expected to get to campus, making the trip up from North Carolina.
Other big-name 2021 targets expected to make their way to Columbus this weekend include Damon Payne, Hunter Washington and Darian "Duce" Chesnut, according to a list compiled by 247Sports’ Bill Kurelic.
Also, Jack Miller will be back on campus, making an official visit.
Transfer portal for Holmes or others?
This is a question I didn’t get to in Sunday’s Mailbag, but I wanted to touch on it here.
Rumors began swirling last week that five-star cornerback Darnay Holmes from the 2017 class is considering transferring from UCLA. As pointed out, Ohio State was one of the final teams in the last sprint for Holmes’ commitment before he chose the Bruins.
Holmes’ father shot down those rumors last week, so it’s not looking like he will going anywhere unless it’s the NFL.
But those rumors still brought up a good talking point about the transfer portal and how Ohio State plans to use it going forward.
Ryan Day was asked last week about the transfer portal, and he said that it’s something new to the entire staff but that he, Mark Pantoni and the rest of the coaches “are watching it all the time, and the minute somebody goes in, we do our research, looking at film or finding out more about the individual.”
There have been other questions asked – especially by you guys – if the Buckeyes’ answer at running back for 2020 may lie in the transfer portal.
It’s an option that cannot be ruled out, but even if it could save Ohio State depending on the quality of the player transferring, that would have to be a last-ditch effort so it’s impossible to bank on that.
“No, no,” Day said when asked if they hold a roster spot for a potential transfer. “If it works out that way, great, but we try to recruit high school guys to fill those spots.”
It could end up happening, but the Buckeyes aren’t looking at that as a primary option right now.
“We do not have somebody assigned to just looking at players out of their teams,” Day said when asked if the Buckeyes monitor recruits they missed out on in past classes. “I don’t know if that’s going to be the next – we’re going to talk about that in the offseason and figure out if that’s the right thing to do. It’s kind of a scary road to go down.
"But right now we’re not doing that, and if somebody pops into the portal, we’ll do our research and find out, but right now we’re not doing research on guys who are on anybody’s team.”