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.
Last January, during his senior season at Lake Travis (Texas) High School, five-star receiver Garrett Wilson was pitted against two fellow Ohio State signees for the All-American Bowl Man of the Year award.
Wilson wound up beating out defensive end Zach Harrison and center Harry Miller for the award, and there’s a chance history could repeat itself this upcoming weekend.
Throughout this year, and especially on Dec. 18 to kick off the Early Signing Period, Ohio State’s coaching staff has routinely and consistently talked about getting high-character kids into the program.
Having five finalists for this award in two years join the program seems to be indicative of that – the All-American Bowl Selection Committee’s official press release describes the award’s nominees as those who “epitomize a high standard of excellence in community service and athletic distinction.”
The six finalists are Johnson, Williams, offensive lineman Gus Hartwig (Purdue signee), cornerback Ayden Hector (Stanford signee), kicker Jack Olsen (Michigan State signee) and defensive tackle Clyde Pinder Jr. (North Carolina signee).
Going back to his Early Signing Period press conference, head coach Ryan Day spoke with fervor about Johnson, touching on his loyalty to the Buckeyes.
“Paris Johnson, the No. 1 tackle in America, he's been with us all along,” Day said. “He helped us in recruiting. He and his mom Monica were a huge part of this thing. I owe them everything because they've kind of kept this thing together for us. They've been a huge part of it, and he's going to have an unbelievable career here.
“But again, that was a position of need going into this class, and I thought we hit a home run there.”
When Johnson committed to the Buckeyes, he committed to Urban Meyer’s program, not Day’s. So Johnson instantly became one of Day’s biggest priorities when he took over.
“Paris, we sat down with he and Monica and just said, ‘Listen, we want to just kind of start from scratch,’ and we kind of just literally wiped the slate clean and started from scratch and just got to know each other and spending time with each other and getting to another each other on and off the field, and over time that relationship and trust grew to where it is right now,” Day said. “We had a conversation, emotional conversation early (Wednesday) morning just talking about how we're finally here and we made it, and again, I just thanked them for their loyalty and all that.”
Day then went on to talk about Williams and the immense potential he comes to Columbus with after the linebacker/safety hybrid, recruited for the bullet position, helped St. John Bosco (Calif.) Prep to a 49-28 state championship game win over De La Salle with a team-high seven tackles and one tackle-for-loss.
“First off, Kourt, I'll be surprised if he's not a captain when he's here,” Day said. “I've said that to he and his parents a million times. They're probably tired of hearing me say that. But state champ in California, which is not easy to do. He comes from a great program, same program as (Ohio State offensive lineman) Wyatt Davis, and the coaches at Bosco do an unbelievable job. To go and win the way they did in the state championship, play the way that they played, he's playing at a high level, and he's got a lot of versatility.
“He can do a lot of things. So we're going to find different ways to get him on the field, like you said. He kind of has – he's a little bit different style than Simmons. Simmons is a little bit longer. Kourt is maybe a little bit more compact and bigger, but the same idea, thought. You can use different things with them, and those are the kind of guys you want.”
At Thursday’s Fiesta Bowl Media Day, the Ohio State coaches voiced their praise of Williams and other 2020 signees to Eleven Warriors.
“They’re high character kids,” said linebackers coach Al Washington when asked about Williams, Cody Simon and Mitchell Melton. “They love their teammates so I think they’re able to engage with their teammates, and they’re high achievers, man. On and off the field. That usually correlates to being captain material.”
“First off, Kourt, I'll be surprised if he's not a captain when he's here. I've said that to he and his parents a million times. They're probably tired of hearing me say that." – Ryan Day on Ohio State signee Kourt Williams II
Co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison was just as enthusiastic when asked about those three players.
“For one, I think they come with great character,” Mattison told Eleven Warriors. “They have great families. For me, that’s where it all starts. They decided to come to be Buckeyes. That’s a big thing. When they decided, they did it so solidly that you know they’re committed. Therefore, when they get here, you know you’re gonna have guys that wanna be great, and we’re excited about that.”
In addition to the Man of the Year award nomination, Johnson was also named one of four finalists for the Anthony Muñoz Offensive Lineman of the Year Award, selected by the All-American Bowl Selection Committee. He will be going up against defensive lineman Bryan Bresee (Clemson signee) and offensive linemen Andrej Karic (Texas signee) and Peter Skoronski (Northwestern signee) for the honor.
Buckeye target nominated for POY
Another notable nominee is Jahmyr Gibbs’ candidacy for the All-American Bowl’s Player of the Year Award. The Dalton (Ga.) High School running back, one of Ohio State’s final top targets in the 2020 recruiting class, has been committed to Georgia Tech since May 25 but has not yet signed.
Though the Buckeyes already have a 2020 running back signed (Miyan Williams), they would still welcome in the 5-foot-11, 195-pound senior who rushed 2,554 yards and 40 touchdowns on 233 carries this season (good for an 11.0 yards per carry average and 232.2 yards per game) and hauled in 15 catches for 138 yards. In his three-year varsity career, Gibbs has rushed for 4,882 yards and 70 touchdowns on 530 carries.
Gibbs, the country’s No. 16-rated all-purpose back, is one of six finalists for the POY award, pitted against Bresee, linebacker Justin Flowe (Oregon signee), tight end Arik Gilbert (LSU signee), quarterback DJ Uiagalelei (Clemson signee) and quarterback Bryce Young (Alabama signee).
Each award will be presented on Friday in San Antonio, the night before the All-American Bowl is played at the Alamodome.