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.
Payne releases Top-10
One of the most important players in the 2021 class for Ohio State is for one of the cycle's quietest players (at least in terms of staying quiet about his own recruitment).
Belleville (Mich.) High School star Damon Payne is the No. 5-ranked defensive tackle in the country, the No. 31-ranked overall player and is the state of Michigan's top-ranked player. Payne and his 6-foot-3.5, 297-pound frame would fill a major need at defensive tackle for the Buckeyes in the junior cycle, one that lessened with the commitment of Michael Hall Jr. but one that will remain huge.
On Tuesday afternoon, Payne released his list of top 10 schools, a list that features Ohio State, Alabama, Michigan, Penn State, Arizona State, USC, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Oregon and LSU.
These are my top 10. Please Respect My Decision... pic.twitter.com/wP0oprHLvt— Dame (@DamonPayne2021) February 4, 2020
Payne was offered by the Buckeyes in early April of 2018, and he's made the three-hour trip to Columbus several times since then. That included an unofficial visit for the Buckeyes' 62-39 win over Michigan in November of his sophomore season, one that served as a momentum-builder, of sorts, in his recruitment.
Payne made his second gameday visit to the Shoe for the Buckeyes' win over Michigan State on Oct. 5, and from there rumblings began that he was a shoo-in to commit to Ohio State.
But then Payne went quiet on the recruiting front, which included not making a scheduled visit for the Buckeyes' win over Wisconsin. Instead, he began focusing on a junior season in which he led Belleville to a 12-1 record as the team's top defensive tackle and offensive tackle.
We haven't heard much from Payne on the recruiting trail so this should serve as a nice update, even if it's nothing that comes as a surprise.
For the past few months, the rumblings have been that Payne doesn't want to stay in Michigan and that Ohio State and Alabama will be the top two programs competing to land him.
Georgia a top contender for Pryor
As Andrew Ellis pointed out in his Heat Check piece today, this might be every team's worst nightmare, and that certainly would include Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford:
We've said it a lot, and we're going to keep saying it ... running back is the most important position for Ohio State in the 2021 recruiting cycle. It's incredibly important for the Buckeyes to get at least one RB, possibly two, and it starts with Donovan Edwards and Evan Pryor as the top two targets, each of whom took an unofficial visit to Georgia this past weekend.
Getting either of those RBs would be a slam dunk for Alford and the Buckeyes. But seeing them both go to Georgia would be crushing.
While it sounds like Michigan is Ohio State's top contender in Edwards' recruitment, with a healthy mix of Georgia, LSU, Alabama and Notre Dame, the Bulldogs (along with Penn State) have been shaping up as the Buckeyes' top contender for Pryor for a while.
Ever since Georgia's home game against Notre Dame back in September, Eleven Warriors has been writing about Pryor having a strong love for Georgia. He liked what he saw on the field and the atmosphere of that game itself.
"That was a great game," Pryor told Eleven Warriors in November, harkening back to that environment. "That light show; it was amazing. I was set up right next to the student section as well so the end of the third quarter when they do the light show, the whole stadium began to jump, and it was just a crazy environment. No one sat down the whole game, and the entire place was just going crazy. It was a great atmosphere."
That game, though, was a cherry-on-top situation more than anything, Pryor says. Georgia had already been a frontrunner for a little while.
Missing the game https://t.co/TKA6ZlMmsb— Evan Pryor (@evanpryor3) January 29, 2020
He said his ultimate goal (like most star high school football players) is to make it to the NFL. That's why programs like Georgia and the other SEC schools in his top 10 made it onto that list.
"I’d say definitely one of the main reasons is the amount of backs that they have and the production they do in college and in the NFL, I feel that’s the main reason I’m interested in Georgia," Pryor said. "I mean, it’s great and all to play in the red lights and stuff like that, but I’ve gotta keep my eyes on the ultimate goal and that’s to make it to the NFL.
"(Those SEC schools) have a great record of putting running backs in the league. You see good Florida backs, amazing Georgia running backs, great Bama backs, good LSU running backs in the league as well. So I look at that from the outside saying, 'Hey one of those backs could be me, and I could get my shot at my ultimate goal of making it to the NFL.'"
Down to 5 ..— Evan Pryor (@evanpryor3) January 6, 2020
One of the main programs that can compete with the Bulldogs and those SEC schools when it comes to making the NFL is, of course, Ohio State, and Pryor knows that.
Aside from "the whole family environment" the Buckeyes have and his strong relationship with Alford, one of the main things he has mentioned to us of why Ohio State is a main option is having seen what former running backs have done in the NFL, plus what J.K. Dobbins and Master Teague III have done as of late.
And as for the potential for taking two running backs in the class, Alford told Pryor that taking two RBs is "definitely" a possibility. Pryor is well aware that could end up happening, and he says he welcomes to the competition.
"It doesn't bother me at all," he said.
After this recent weekend's visit to Georgia, Pryor spoke at length with Dawg Nation's Jeff Sentell, detailing what he liked about the visit (first-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken's system being one of the main takeaways), and he said Georgia, Penn State and Ohio State will all be getting an official visit from him.
Pryor said a few weeks ago that he would be trimming his list down to five, but that could possibly be six now.
Nichols adds OSU offer
In case you didn't get enough of a Georgia fix from the section above, here's some more on the Peach State:
Last week, Ohio State dished out another offer in the 2022 class, offering 6-foot-5, 270-pound offensive tackle Addison Nichols, a sophomore from Greater Atlanta Christian School in Norcross, Ga.
By 247Sports' own metrics, Nichols is ranked as a four-star offensive lineman in the sophomore class. He's ranked as the No. 6 offensive tackle, No. 89 overall player and No. 7 player in the state of Georgia in the 2022 cycle.
Some of his other major offers are from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee and USC.