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.
Three different skillsets in 2020 LB class
We talked about the 2021 linebackers in Sunday’s Hurry-Up, but what about the here-and-now? What about the Buckeyes’ 2020 linebackers class?
All three (Cody Simon, Mitchell Melton and early enrollee Kourt Williams II) have signed onto the program, and all three bring something different to the table.
Simon, a 6-foot-1, 218-pound New Jersey native, seems like he could fit at either mike linebacker or on the outside, with outside linebacker seeming to be where he would fit best in the future.
It’s of intriguing note, however, that Simon was listed as an outside linebacker throughout most of his recruitment, but 247Sports just recently switched him to inside linebacker, where he’s ranked No. 8 in America at the position. Sounds like scouts at the All-American Bowl saw Simon during drills throughout the week and now believe a move inside fits his skillset.
“Cody’s so physical and he’s so sudden in his hitting, and that’s something we don’t get a lot to where this guy’s strong and physical,” co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who also coaches the linebackers, told Eleven Warriors at Fiesta Bowl media day. “We don’t know (which position he’s gonna play). That’s gonna always be – he’s always gonna play where he’s best and he knows that.
“We look at our Sam, Mike and Will (linebackers) all being the same. We’ve been fortunate to be able to recruit athletes that we haven’t had to use the bullet because our guys can play the same things a bullet would play.”
About to kick off day three of practices at the #AllAmericanBowl— Rivals (@Rivals) January 2, 2020
Get our recap of the EAST team and see how Cody Simon (#30 in video) made a big splash during 7on7 drills on day two.
ARTICLE: https://t.co/3MmFrS0wwT@joshhelmholdt @adamgorney @rivalswoody @samspiegs @AABonNBC pic.twitter.com/3cLguCbypV
Melton projects as a guy who could end up playing with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end, but linebackers coach Al Washington said that may not be the case.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Washington told Eleven Warriors at Fiesta Bowl media day. “His plan is to be a linebacker with the ability to rush situationally. We are counting on him to be a linebacker for us and have the ability to rush the passer. He’s another guy you have in your room that can do multiple things so I’m excited about that.”
When asked about Melton, Washington’s eyes widened, and he got noticeably more enthusiastic discussing the 6-foot-3, 235-pound three-star recruit, ranked No. 542 overall, No. 36 at OLB and No. 19 in the state of Maryland, where he starred for Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic High School.
“I recruited Mitchell so I got to know him very well,” Washington said. “He’s another guy that’s versatile. Where Kourt is more back end to the middle, Mitchell is more front end to the middle. He’s athletic enough to play linebacker, and he’s got a knack for rushing the passer. I think he set the school record for sacks this past year at Good Counsel, which is saying something. I’m very excited about Mitchell. He’s very dynamic in his own right.”
I knew the tackle couldnt really block me I was going past him every time, Mitchell Melton said of his strip-sack after Good Counsel's 21-7 win over Spalding. So I just hit him with a speed rush. I saw my opportunity and took it.— WashPost HS Sports (@WashPostHS) September 21, 2019
Kourt Williams II
Williams, meanwhile, is the most versatile in a group of versatile guys. Recruited to play the Bullet position, Williams is a physical, big-bodied presence who loves to hit people, but he also possesses the savviness and athleticism to guard receivers on passing downs.
“Kourt being that bullet, back-end type, … I think he’ll be a guy to help us there, for sure,” Washington said. “Cody, obviously being a backer, I think both of those guys are gonna be good additions to our defense.
“Because offenses now, they put you in situations where they’ll spread you out. It’s similar to those hybrids – those tight end hybrids. I think their ability to play on the perimeter and in the box forces defenses to have to match up with them. Big Ten teams that can run the ball, you need guys that can run too.”
At the All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Williams told Eleven Warriors he is familiar with the Buckeyes’ usage of the Bullet during the 2019 season.
Williams watched to see, “just how he’s utilized and the type of guy that they see playing it. Just how he’s using the defense.
“Me playing in high school, it was more of an all-around type thing. I didn’t really play one position. I played safety and linebacker. It was all-around. I didn’t know what the bullet was used for. It’s kind of like a down-safety, like a hybrid guy – a linebacker and a safety who can do both things, which I’ve done in high school. I feel like I’ll be able to do that at the next level, which is why I think that position’s good for me.”
Mattison agrees, as he sees Williams being able to fill the same type of role as Werner, whom Williams has seen plenty of game film on
“No question,” Mattison said when asked if Williams could fill the Bullet position. “We’ve been so happy with Pete Werner being able to do both. (Williams) can do the same thing. Now, you’ve got a guy who we can say can do a lot of things – he can go out wide and cover a tight end. I think it’ll all work out good that way.”
Ryan Day said he would be shocked if Williams doesn’t end up being a captain at Ohio State, and Simon is another who’s seen in the same vein.
Simon, Williams and Melton all come from “great families,” says Washington. “Those qualities mean a lot, so we’re really excited about all three of those.
“(They’re) high-character kids. 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.”
When Washington flips on the game tape of those guys, he says he instantly sees their versatility, ability to play in space, knack for making plays on the perimeter and consistency in wreaking havoc in the box.
“I think all three, their Hudl highlights, all three of them have plays that make you say ‘wow,’” Washington said. “From that point on, when you get to know who they are, it makes you even more excited. All three of those guys, they’re all high character. They’re all program guys, meaning they care about the team. They all work hard and have a high expectation to perform on the field.”
When Washington was first hired to the Ohio State staff last January, the first player he became familiar with was Melton, having been familiar with Good Counsel and the program’s coaches. He then soon got to build relationships with Williams and Simon, and their recruitments soon took off in a positive direction for the Buckeyes.
“From that point on, we just started building a relationship, man,” Washington said. “It’s all about fit. They’re looking for what we have to offer, and we’re looking at what they can give us.”
Buckeyes drop in new rankings
This week, Rivals released its new Top 100 rankings for the 2020 class. Ohio State receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba was the only 2020 Buckeye signee in the top 100 to receive a boost in the rankings, moving up 12 spots to No. 20 overall. Smith-Njigba got his fifth star back in early December. Linebacker Cody Simon stayed put at No. 43.
Dropping in the latest rankings, however, were receiver Julian Fleming (down eight spots to No. 14), offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. (down 14 spots to No. 21), quarterback CJ Stroud (down 10 spots to No. 51), receiver Gee Scott (down 21 spots to No. 57), receiver Mookie Cooper (down eight spots to No. 58) and linebacker Kourt Williams II (down two spots to No. 89)