The Hurry-Up: Donovan Jackson's Commitment Could Be First Domino to Fall As Buckeyes Pursue OL JC Latham, Tristan Leigh and Others

By Zack Carpenter on January 8, 2020 at 7:00 pm
JC Latham, Tristan Leigh
JC Latham (Andrew Ivins, 247Sports), Tristan Leigh (Steve Wiltfong, 247Sports)

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.

Jackson commits, what's next?

After signing a six-man offensive line class in 2020, Ryan Day is putting forth another heavily concerted effort into building his second full recruiting class around his offensive line. 

It was the 2019 group that paved the way for an offense that finished third in points per game (46.9) and fifth in yards (529.9), led by a rushing attack that finished fifth in rushing yards per game (266.8) and sixth in touchdowns (39). 

Day is looking for the next round of slobs to be an athletic bunch, and he added to that 2021 class with the commitment of Donovan Jackson on Wednesday, giving the Buckeyes a second ferocious offensive lineman to pair with Ben Christman

That's a hell of a two-man start to the Buckeyes' next recruiting class, one that has ambitions of finishing what it has started and becoming the program's first consensus No. 1-ranked class in the modern recruiting era. 

The Buckeyes are far from done, and they have a chance at adding at least two more top prospects in the trenches for a star-studded O-line haul. 

Two of the big targets for Ohio State up front are four-star talents JC Latham and Tristan Leigh.

Back in November, we talked about how Jackson, Latham and 2022 offensive tackle Tegra Tshabola are lining up to be three of the foundational pieces of the Buckeyes' next two O-line classes. With Jackson now in the fold, Latham could be next.

Latham, a 6-foot-6, 285-pound four-star OT, was born in Mississippi, moved to Wisconsin in third grade and transferred to Florida's IMG Academy last January. He has family in Akron and visited those family members following his unofficial visit to Ohio State's victory over Penn State in late November. 

He told Eleven Warriors soon after that visit that his top two options are LSU, which he still plans on visiting, and Ohio State, which he plans on visiting for a third time this spring. 

At both schools, Latham feels a strong, comfortable connection with the coaches and players. At Ohio State, Latham says he could see himself developing into an NFL prospect and being set up for life after football.

He's certainly on an upward trajectory right now, as he was recently named one of the Top Performers at the Under Armour Future 50 by 247Sports' Greg Biggins:

Latham plays on both sides of the ball but worked out with the offensive lineman and that’s where we really like him as well. He has a natural tackle frame, moves very well and had some dominant wins. He’s a natural athlete who’s still raw in some areas technique wise but his upside is very high. His game should take a big jump once he can focus solely on one side of the ball. LSU will get an official visit and Ohio State, Michigan, Oklahoma, Miami and Florida State are also involved.

One of the reasons for Latham's continued improvement was his transfer to IMG, where the coaching staff helped turn him from a defensive line prospect into a talented but raw offensive tackle recruit who is now ranked in the top 15 nationally at the position.

"I wanted to maximize all my potential and I wanted to be ready for college so I felt like being at IMG would really help with that," Latham told Eleven Warriors in November. "You’re not really under the wing of your parents anymore. You’re really on your own so it kind of forces you to grow up. You can’t really rely on your parents or anything so it makes you a man. You’ve really gotta grow up and mature and just make the best decisions."

It's at IMG Academy where Latham continued building on his competitive nature, alongside players such as 2020 Buckeyes signee Lejond Cavazos.

"On the field, I’m never gonna give in or give up. No matter what the situation," Latham said. "I’m never gonna give up. If I’m unfortunate to lose, it’s gonna make me work even harder. I don’t like to lose. If I lose, it shows that me, as a person, I wasn’t good enough. I wanna work twice as hard. The very next day, I’m gonna be working out and getting my work in. 

"I try to always be better the next day and try to be the best out there. I never wanna settle for third, fourth or fifth-best. I wanna be number one, and if I’m not number one, it’s not OK. If I’m number one, I wanna be the best to ever do it."

If Latham ultimately decides on coming to Ohio State, it would give the Buckeyes as good of a three-man start along the offensive line as you will find in the 2021 class. 

For what it's worth, it sounds like Michigan is on Latham's final list, but it might not necessarily be in the upper echelon of his options. Over the weekend, Latham told 247Sports' Allen Trieu that Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, the Wolverines' former defensive line coach, has been making his case for OSU over UM.

“When I first went to Ohio State back in the spring time for practice, [Coach Mattison] was the first guy I talked to because I knew him right off the bat,” Latham explained. “He was telling me how different Ohio State's program was and how their facilities, practices, culture, all that was a lot better at Ohio State than Michigan. He was really telling me at their school, it's a business and they ran it strict to a T. He was telling me, ‘if you're here, I can see you getting developed ten times better than I could see at any other school.’ So he was kind of really just breaking the ice with me when I first visited.”

Leigh explodes, recruitment will soon heat up

Another one of the Buckeyes' major targets along the offensive line is Leigh, a 6-foot-5, 275-pound four-star offensive from Robinson Secondary (Virginia) School.

Ohio State offered Leigh back in late September and began building a relationship with him that grew during Leigh's visit for the Penn State game in late November.

“I would say I was more excited than surprised [to get the offer],” Leigh told Eleven Warriors shortly after announcing his Ohio State offer. “It feels great because they are one of the best schools at getting linemen to the next level, and that is my ultimate goal.”

Leigh might go to a school with "secondary" in the name, but fast forward three-and-a-half months later, and Leigh is far from being any sort of secondary option as a recruit. 

He is ranked right now as the 23rd-best offensive tackle in the country and the No. 168th-best overall recruit in 2021, but those rankings will rise following the weekend he had in San Antonio. 

At the All-American Bowl National Combine on Friday, Leigh dominated his competition and earned Alpha Dog honors from the 247Sports staff, plus an invitation to next year's All-American Bowl.

Leigh’s performance inside the Alamodome on Friday earned him a return to San Antonio in a year from now, with Leigh garnering Alpha Dog honors and an invitation to the 2021 All-American Bowl. Even before the linemen got to 1on1’s, he was impressing, showing good footwork in drills, quickness and natural knee bend. Leigh showed reactive quickness and kept his defender at bay, in both the running game drills and in pass rushing. Leigh, at 6-5, 275, has the optimal body type for an offensive tackle, with good length and an ideal frame. His top schools are LSU, Ohio State, Penn State and Clemson among others. He’s a four-star in the industry-generated 247Sports Composite Rankings and the No. 5 prospect in Virginia.

Following the 2020 All-American Bowl itself, Leigh stood on the Alamodome turf and was all smiles when discussing with Eleven Warriors the incredibly successful weekend he had just put together.

“It's been a crazy week," Leigh said. "It's been a big step in my recruitment. Just learning new things. It's been a lot. It's been fun.

"I worked a lot and learned a lot about hand placement and matching your hands with your hips. That was very effective. I started getting in a groove, and I started feeling more effective."

For many underclassmen – and, really, upperclassmen too – the All-American Bowl can serve as a great barometer for where you stack up against the elite tier of high school talent.

"I’ve never felt like I didn’t belong (in that top tier). I always felt like I belong on this stage," Leigh said. "Now I feel like I’ve placed myself there."

The next step? The attention from college coaches that's about to be paired with the performance. Tennessee, Michigan State and Georgia Tech all came calling Leigh with offers this week, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. There will soon be plenty more, and Leigh's ready for it.

"I mean, it is what it is," Leigh said. "I just gotta stay humble, keep working and not gonna get complacent, you know what I’m saying? I just gotta take this whole pace slow and figure out my final list of schools and where I’m gonna take my official visits."

One of those official visits could very well be to Ohio State, a place he enjoyed during his unofficial visit for the win over the Nittany Lions. During that weekend, Leigh built good relationships with both Jackson and Christman, and he saw up close what Buckeyes offensive line coach Greg Studrawa can do in developing offensive linemen.

Leigh has plenty of time to figure out his commitment timeline, and he says he's taking the whole process slowly.

"I’m just gonna find out my five and just take it from there," he said.

Keep tabs on Burton, Spindler

There are a handful of other 2021 offensive linemen to keep an eye on moving forward, but two others to pay close attention to at this moment are Jager Burton and Rocco Spindler

Burton and Spindler each visited for the Ohio State-Penn State game as well, and both have strong relationships with the Buckeye coaches and fellow recruits.

Spindler, from Clarkston, Michigan, has a good bond with Mattison dating back to Mattison's time at Michigan, and Burton, a native of Lexington, Kentucky, grew tighter with Christman and Paris Johnson Jr. during his November visit.

Burton put Ohio State on his list of top-seven schools last week.

Commitments from Latham and Burton would give Ohio State a total of two tackles and two guards in this class, giving the Buckeyes what could potentially be the top offensive line haul in the 2021 class.

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