So I dove into the comments this week for the Friday Mailbag and thought it would be absurd of me not to acknowledge some of the nice comments you guys and gals left for me down there, especially after Thursday's Hurry-Up.
I haven't taken much time in the past to acknowledge your guys' commentary outside of grabbing questions for the weekly mailbag. I really appreciate your readership and feedback (positive and negative), so thank you! It actually does mean a lot, and those aren't empty words (the sincerity just might not come off through the computer).
OK, enough sappiness and enough parenthesis (parentheses?). Let's get rockin'...
Yes, Alford is connecting
I chose this comment/question as the top mailbag segment because I think the criticism of running backs coach Tony Alford has been one of the most interesting, head-scratching cases since I joined the recruiting beat.
I understand that not landing a 2020 running back until late November is, to put it nicely, less than ideal. Alford was the lead man on getting those silent commitments from Bijan Robinson and Jaylan Knighton but ultimately didn't land them when each of them committed elsewhere.
I've talked with several recruits whom Alford is the lead man for in 2021, and I can say they hold Alford in extremely high regard.
Corey Kiner and Evan Pryor have an incredibly strong opinion of Alford, in particular. They talk to Alford every single day, typically multiple times a day. Kiner and his father are very close, and he told us back in October that one of the main things he looks for in his future running backs coach is a father figure ... essentially a football dad. He sees those same qualities in Alford, and it's one of the prime reasons Ohio State is one of the top options for Kiner.
Pryor has a similar relationship with Alford, dating back to his sophomore season, and that relationship continues growing by the day. Pryor has had nothing but good things to say about Alford, even defending Alford in the case of Robinson and Knighton choosing to go elsewhere after being silently committed.
If there's one thing Alford is doing right (and I think he's doing more than just one thing right) it's connecting with these players and building relationships. And once they get to campus, Alford has done a great job continuing that relationship.
But, I do think it's a legitimate, reasonable concern that Ohio State may not get a guy worthy of being a bell-cow back. I think the Buckeyes will figure out 2021 running back recruiting and land a top-tier guy who can be a hell of a playmaker in that role. But what if they don't? Would we see the offense have to shift to more of a 65-35 pass-run system? That's not how Ryan Day wants to build his program. He wants to keep his offense as perfectly balanced as possible, with a punishing run game opening up that passing game.
He'll only be able to do that if he gets the right offensive linemen and the running backs who can handle the workload, and that's why I think it's the most important position the program will be recruiting over the next year, as they are in good position with a handful of stout offensive linemen. Especially if there ends up being weight to the Alford-to-Colorado State rumors and he does depart, that makes it even more worrisome whether the program will land the right guy or guys (as I've said before, I think they're going to gun for a pair of running backs in this class).
Do I think they will do it and all will be right in the Buckeyes' world come National Signing Day in February 2021? Yes. I think now that recruits have seen an entire season's worth of Dobbins shredding apart Big Ten defenses en route to improving his draft stock to a potential high second-round selection, they know they would come here and tote the rock a billion times and get plenty of shine.
But do I think you have a right to be concerned that the Buckeyes won't find that high-caliber back worthy of that workload? Also yes.
But it absolutely will not be for a lack of Alford being able to connect with the players. That's a non-issue.
How many spots left in 2020 class?
None of the recruits have signed, but I know what you meant. As of right now, there are only one or two spots left in the 2020 class with the carry-over from Jake Seibert's grayshirt.
Around 10-12 plan to enroll early. But, unfortunately, I don't know which ones (if any; or all) will count toward the 2019 class.
Carlton commit possibility?
Van Fillinger, a top-15 strong-side defensive end in the 2020 class, decommitted from Texas last week. When comparing them physically side-by-side, there's not much comparison. Xavier Carlton is a bigger, longer prospect.
But rankings-wise, the two line up fairly similar, with Fillinger as the No. 248-ranked national prospect in 2020 and No. 12 SDE in the country, and Carlton as the No. 301-ranked overall and No. 15 SDE.
So if Fillinger does choose to join Utah, maybe it does give the Buckeyes a better shot at landing Carlton, as the two could be seen as on the same level in terms of where they would enter in the Utes' program hierarchy. Whereas at Ohio State, Carlton would be the best pass-rushing prospect in this class.
Why Michigan comps?
Really, that would be a question for Ryan Day and Mark Pantoni. They're the ones who have Michigan's recruiting board posted in an office at The Woody, and they say they live and breathe the rivalry every day, using the Wolverines' recruiting as one of the main measuring stick to see how they stack up.
But I agree with you. Ohio State's biggest rivals on the recruiting trail are the likes of Clemson, Alabama and Georgia. But the Buckeyes are never going to stray away from comparing their recruiting to the Wolverines. It's one of the ways they stop on top of the rivalry.
Karl Malone?! No ... just Tywone
Tywone Malone is the No. 1-ranked prospect in New Jersey's 2021 class, ranked No. 6 at defensive tackle and No. 37 overall. He would be a huge get for the Buckeyes, and he was in attendance for both the Penn State and Michigan games against Ohio State.
This question was about Malone comments following the Buckeyes' win over Michigan, of which Malone told 247Sports' Brice Marich of The Michigan Insider, "It was good. Michigan was fun for me to get a chance to visit and watch one of the biggest rivalries play out. I just had an amazing time out there and the atmosphere was incredible. You can see the fans just loves their football team so much."
Malone also told Marich he is contemplating playing both football and baseball in college, which he would be afforded the opportunity at Michigan, and he says he believes he "would help out the defense and would make an impact" if he chooses to go to Michigan.
Michigan doubtful to be a serious contender for Stroud
Ohio State and Georgia are the top two potential landing destinations for C.J. Stroud, especially after he chose to cancel last weekend's official visit to Oregon. That came shortly after his official visit to Georgia.
As for the possibility of him choosing Michigan, I don't think the Wolverines have much of a foot in the door because they got into the game so late due to JD Johnson's abrupt retirement. Obviously, relationships are the No. 1 key to landing commitments, and with Michigan having ramping up their recruitment of Stroud so late, I think that has them on the outside looking in.
Also, to answer this one quickly...it's possible USC offered Stroud weeks ago and that he just held back the news. Stroud has been known to keep an offer close to the chest and just has not announced it for weeks, so who knows? He may have been offered by the Trojans sometime in November.
But if it's true that USC had actually taken this long to offer him, then I don't really understand that one.
OSU vs. LSU receivers haul
We've talked so much about how fantastic this 2020 receivers class is, and that's more than well-warranted. That group is probably the best receivers class in Ohio State history.
But because of how great this group is, it's easy to forget that LSU also has an amazing group headed to Baton Rouge.
Overall, Ohio State's class is better, especially factoring in that Mookie Cooper didn't play this season and is still ranked No. 15. But LSU's haul is going to be lethal as well.
Darrion Henry has actually been going by Darrion Henry-Young since his commitment ceremony last spring, but on recruiting services it's still listed as just "Henry." I assume that at Ohio State, he will be going by "Henry-Young," which I didn't notice until about a month ago that he had changed his Twitter name to that. And when referring to players' names, I always at least try referring to their Twitter name for their full name, like in the instance of Michael Hall Jr.
Just wanted to clarify because there have been a handful of times I've seen questions about whether it's Henry or Henry-Young. It would be wise to go by Henry-Young from now on.
Crystal Balls full of salt
Sometimes, those predictions are made because reporters have in-depth knowledge of the situation and are supremely confident in their sources being correct about a player's decision.
Other times, it's just simply guesswork, educated or otherwise, and sometimes it's difficult to gauge which ones are grasping at straws or which ones are concrete.