Realistic Fiction: What the No. 1-Ranked Recruiting Class in 2021 Would Look Like for Ohio State

By Zack Carpenter on November 7, 2019 at 2:15 pm
Jack Sawyer, Tunmise Adeleye, Landon Jackson
247 Sports

On Tuesday, we talked about Ohio State's 2020 class and which commits are the best candidates to make an early impact in big games next season. 

Today, we shift to the 2021 class and also look ahead to make some potentially outlandish predictions, which was inspired by this comment from my guy or girl who's presumably representing Illinois with me.

Question 1

I saw this comment last Friday while working on the weekly mailbag Hurry Up and then I proceeded to spend the next hour fiddling with 247Sports' class calculator grinding through scenarios that may never happen. It was the same as using ESPN's NBA Trade Machine, except slightly more plausible.

The question I asked myself after seeing this comment was What's a fairly realistic dream scenario that could play out that would land Ohio State the No. 1 recruiting class in 2021?

So I went through and made a list.

A list? A list!

As Eleven Warriors' own Colin Hass-Hill detailed last Friday, Ohio State football is looking flawless right now on and off the field. That includes earning the No. 1 ranking in the initial College Football Playoff rankings for the first time ever.

So it's time to think even bigger, and that could mean the top-ranked class in 2021. If the Buckeyes get these 22 players, it would give them a points rating of 319.50, their highest all-time total just ahead of 2018 (317.06) and 2017 (312.14), each of which finished second overall. 

That 319.50 rating* would be higher than the average rating of the No. 1 overall class for the last 11 years (including 2020) of 314.52, and it would eclipse the No. 1 overall ranking of six of those 11 while tying one.

The following isn't going to happen.

But it could.

I mean, it won't.

But it might.

So let's call this realistic fiction:

Quarterback: Kyle McCord (★★★★)

Running back: Will Shipley (★★★★★), Corey Kiner (★★★★)

Receiver: Emeka Egbuka (★★★★★), Marvin Harrison Jr. (★★★★), Jayden Ballard (★★★★), Troy Stellato (★★★)

Tight end: Jordan Dingle (★★★★), Terrance Ferguson (★★★★)

Offensive tackle: Ben Christman (★★★★), Donovan Jackson (★★★★)

Strong-side defensive end: Jack Sawyer (★★★★★), Tunmise Adeleye (★★★★★)

Weak-side defensive endLandon Jackson (★★★★★)

Defensive tackle: Damon Payne (★★★★), Michael Hall Jr. (★★★)

Inside linebacker: Reid Carrico (★★★★)

Cornerback: Tony Grimes (★★★★★), Jakailin Johnson (★★★★)

Safety: Derrick Davis Jr. (★★★★), Kamren Kinchens (★★★), Jaylen Johnson (★★★)

*If you add JC Latham, it gives this class a 322.33 rating (third-highest of all-time), and substituting Latham for Donovan Jackson would give the Buckeyes a 318.99 rating. Latham and Jackson are both interesting, because I don't think Ohio State is necessarily seeking three offensive tackles (though it certainly wouldn't hurt) ... but both guys have pretty strong Ohio connections (Latham is at IMG Academy, and the Texas native Jackson's father and mother are from Cleveland and Cincinnati, respectively, and have family still in Ohio. And both are being actively recruited by current Buckeye commits).

So that would obviously be an All-Star haul for Ryan Day and his All-Star assistants, and maybe at first glance it seems like a bunch of random names. But it does, however, check off a bunch of boxes:

  • Seven Ohio recruits (equaling the 2020 in-state haul), another year of getting at least one Florida recruit, another Texas recruit to keep that pipeline going, one Michigan recruit and one Washington recruit for the second straight year, as Brian Hartline starts to open the gates to that state.
  • Four receivers, five defensive backs, two (TWO!) running backs and two tight ends.
  • Fills an awesome dream scenario for the Buckeyes in getting three five-star defensive linemen.
  • Lastly, it gives Ohio State its most five-star recruits ever (six) and would tie the program with the second-most five-star prospects a program has ever landed (Georgia's seven in 2018 are the most).

Since it's fun, and because we love top-five lists here in Eleven Warriors' recruiting coverage, let's take a closer look at those five uncommitted five-star prospects, with apologies to Jack Sawyer for being left out:

Tunmise Adeleye

Nuts and bolts: 6-foot-3, 260 pounds; No. 25 nationally, No. 3 SDE, No. 5 Texas

Key recruiter: Greg Mattison

Buckeye comparison on current depth chart**: Tyreke Smith. Exact same height and weight; both with strong hands but learning how to use them; position versatility as defensive tackle or weak-side defensive end; consistent with high upside.

Recruiting update: The last time Eleven Warriors spoke with Adeleye, he couldn't stop raving about Ohio State as his interest in the Buckeyes was at an "all-time" high. That hasn't changed, and he's set to visit for the Nov. 23 game against Penn State after previously saying he probably wouldn't get back to Columbus until the spring (he's already visited once previously). Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa visited Katy, Texas last week, presumably with Adeleye as one of the targets he saw. Adeleye is scheduled to visit the LSU-Alabama game this weekend, so it'll be a challenge for the Buckeyes to compete with that environment. But they'll have their shot.

247Sports scout eval: Stout defensive lineman who could potentially provide position flexibility. Thick core and thin-ankled. Possesses adequate to above average height and solid build. Owns virtually college-ready size as a four-man end, but could slide inside with added bulk. Flashes impressive strength at the point of attack. A bull in the phone booth who can drive offensive linemen into the pocket. Consistently gets hands inside blockers to steer where he wants. Shows power to punch and shed in the run game. Plays with good pad level and leverage. Strong tackler. Active, violent hands, but still learning how to use them. Can be more consistent in get-off quickness. Can also improve body control, particularly in pursuit. Potentially position- and scheme-versatile defensive lineman who could fit multiple roles and fronts. Legitimate high-major recruit with long-term potential to reach top half of the NFL draft.

**Comparisons are the current Buckeye at his time of enrollment vs. how each 2021 prospect stacks up right now

Landon Jackson

Nuts and bolts: 6-foot-6, 240 pounds; No. 24 nationally; No. 2 WDE; No. 4 Texas

Key recruiter: Larry Johnson

Buckeye comparison: Zach Harrison. Tall and elite length; strong pursuit; explosive speed bursts off the line; athletic and versatile (Jackson was dominating as an offensive tackle in a game two weeks ago, and Harrison's scout evaluation had him as talented enough to be a receiver).

Recruiting update: We briefly updated Jackson's mindset for you guys early last month, and he told Eleven Warriors that mindset hasn't changed. He still has Ohio State high on his list, even though the Buckeyes were not in Jackson's top 10 that he released in July. Johnson has come on strong in the last couple months, though, and Ohio State can't be counted out in this recruitment (even though I still think Texas A&M and Alabama, two programs which he saw square off against each other last month, have the upper hand).

247Sports scout eval: Elite-framed defensive end prospect who owns outstanding height and length with a ton of space to continue adding bulk. Lean through the core and must add bulk and strength, particularly in the lower body, to stand up against larger opponents in college. Long-levered with straight-line speed. Natural pass-rusher who flashes impressive quickness off the line. Shows encouraging collection of pass-rushing moves – speed rush, inside counter, rip, etc. Knifes through gaps to make plays. Closes fast in pursuit. Dangerous from the back side. Plays with a high motor. Big, strong tackles can neutralize his quickness at the line by overpowering him at the point of attack. Suffered season-ending knee injury that cost him the playoffs (six games) of sophomore campaign. Among the top defensive prospects in Texas for the 2021 class. Possesses long-term early-round NFL Draft potential.

Will Shipley

Nuts and bolts: 5-foot-11, 198 pounds; No. 21 nationally, No. 1 APB, No. 2 North Carolina

Key recruiter: Kevin Wilson

Buckeye comparison: J.K. Dobbins and Master Teague, but neither of them on their own. Shipley's skillset is unique, and he is different than all of the Buckeyes' 2019 running backs. He does, however, blend Dobbins' pass-catching and versatility to be used in the slot, and Shipley's 4.46 time in the 40 is similar to the speed of Teague's in high school (4.50). Those long runs you've grown to love where Teague breaks through the offensive line and gallops untouched up the field? I can easily picture in my head Shipley making those same breakaway runs.

Recruiting update: Ohio State was firmly behind in Shipley's recruitment against schools like Stanford, Notre Dame and Clemson until two weeks ago when he visited for the Wisconsin game. Shipley was blown away by the atmosphere, the Buckeyes' offensive dominance despite the rain and (most importantly) the usage of Dobbins in the passing game. He and his father loved the experience enough to the point Shipley told Lettermen Row's Jeremy Birmingham that they want his mother to visit with them the next time he comes to Columbus. So it looks like Shipley is enthusiastically, genuinely wanting to visit again.

247Sports scout eval: None available.

Emeka Egbuka

Nuts and bolts: 6-foot-1, 190 pounds; No. 9 nationally, No. 1 ATH, No. 2 Washington

Key recruiter: Brian Hartline

Buckeye comparison: Garrett Wilson. But bigger and faster, which is scary. Wilson (36.1) and Egbuka (35.1) have identical verticals, while Egbuka (4.42) has a better 40 time than Wilson (4.64). Both have strong hands, ability/competitiveness to win one-on-one contested passes, versatility to play X, Z or slot receiver, elusiveness in the open field and polished route running. They're very similar prospects, and Egbuka might be better. According to the Tacoma News-Tribune's Jon Manley, Egbuka is putting together one of the best careers the state of Washington has ever seen, and he has a real shot at leaving as the state's career receiving leaders in state history. It's bananas how good this kid is already.

Recruiting update: Ohio State should be considered in the top three or four to land Egbuka, right up there with Clemson, Stanford and Washington, with Oklahoma as an outside potential destination. Have to love the Buckeyes' chances, especially adding that Columbus was the first (and will probably be the only) school Egbuka chose to visit outside of Washington for a game this season. He loved his time here, Hartline seems to have more momentum than any other recruiter in the country right now, and the program is a perfect place for what Egbuka wants for his life after football. Of the five-stars on this list, I'd say he's the most likely to end up a Buckeye.

247Sports scout eval: Has elite size and strength to go with speed. Plays to his size and shows good physicality. An elite two-way prospect, he answered any questions about his speed with a 4.4 laser time at the All-American Combine. Tremendous body control, can adjust to any throw, going up and getting in traffic. A physical and aggressive runner after the catch and elusive in the open field. Also a stellar return specialist. Projects as immediate Power 5 starter and future first-round NFL draft pick.

Tony Grimes

Nuts and bolts: 6-foot-0, 180 pounds; No. 10 nationally, No. 1 CB, No. 1 Virginia

Key recruiter: Al Washington

Buckeye comparison: Jeff Okudah. It's an obvious, easy selection here based on how Okudah was similarly ranked coming out of Texas, but it's the best comp. Both have versatility in having played multiple positions and excelling (specifically safety, but Grimes also is his high school team's best receiver), can blanket receivers one-on-one on the outside using length and pure coverage skills, track balls well in the air and are eager open-field tacklers with outstanding vision. 

Recruiting update: Grimes is set for an unofficial visit for the Penn State game, and he'll be able to do a 1v1 comparison of two schools heavily gunning for him and thick in the race to get him. He loved the environment of Penn State's White-Out against Michigan, and he'll get to see the Shoe's atmosphere compete. Grimes can pick and choose where he wants to go to school, and he told Eleven Warriors in October that he's planning on taking all five of his official visits before making a decision. 

247Sports scout eval: Wide shoulders and good length. Frame of safety with cornerback skills. Instinctual player with high skill level. Physical and smooth. Tracks ball well and has great timing. Opens hips and runs with ease. Long strider who can cover on long crossing routes and deep throws. Strong upper body helps re-route receivers with jams. Comfortable in backpedal and explodes forward out of it. Good tackler and asset in run defense. High IQ on and off field. Leadership qualities. Must get stronger in lower body. Ready to play at elite program when he steps on campus. First round NFL draft pick potential.

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