The Hurry-Up: Ohio State a Finalist for Evan Pryor, Jager Burton Chooses Five Official Visits, Kaden Saunders' “Heart is on the Offensive Side of the Ball”

By Zack Carpenter on February 13, 2020 at 6:30 pm
Evan Pryor
Evan Pryor (Don Callahan, 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.

Pryor releases final six

Williams Amos Hough (N.C) 2021 four-star running back Evan Pryor released his list of top six schools on Thursday, and there were no major surprises on it. 

Ohio State, Georgia, Penn State, North Carolina, Oklahoma and USC were all present, as the nation’s No. 5-ranked running back begins preparing for the next step in his recruitment, looking toward the spring when the recruiting dead period ends. He is most likely to make an unofficial visit to Ohio State in March, though he may elect to wait until the April 11 spring game. There’s still time to hash out the date he visits and whether it ends up being an unofficial or official

“I haven’t scheduled any spring visits yet,” Pryor told Eleven Warriors. “I will take one (to Ohio State) in the spring. Just haven’t figured out a date yet.”

Pryor visited North Carolina and Georgia in back-to-back January weekends, but he has not visited any of the other programs on his list. He has not visited Ohio State since his November visit for the Penn State game.

Tony Alford, however, visited Pryor during the second week of the January contact period (in addition to visiting five-star North Carolina running back Will Shipley of Weddington High School, though Shipley is looking more every day like a Clemson or Notre Dame lean), and Brian Hartline visited the following week. Both of those visits came weeks after Kevin Wilson visited Pryor during the December contact period.

It’s noteworthy that so many coaches are visiting Pryor, since the Buckeyes have become known for a kitchen-sink approach with the recruits who they are the most serious about and the recruits they believe have a good chance of committing to Ohio State. 

It’s also noteworthy that Hartline visited Pryor, as the junior is seen as an every-down back who can be utilized in an offense like the Buckeyes’ as a slot receiver or even being split out wide. From Ohio State, Georgia and Penn State – the three programs that have long been expected to be Pryor's top three – his usage has been part of their recruiting pitch.

“Their pitch is how versatile I am,” Pryor said. “Being able to do it all and how they need a back like that in their systems. (They say) I can make an impact at their programs.”

Pryor mentioned that those three programs “all share similar qualities, but what makes them stand out are my relationship with the coaches and the quality in the NFL.”

North Carolina, however, is another program making a strong push for Pryor. 

“Ohio State and UNC have definitely contacted me the most,” Pryor said. “I have really strong relationships with (Penn State running backs coach Ja’Juan) Seider, Alford and (North Carolina running backs coach Robert) Gillespie. 

“The things each coach presents are very similar. They are all great guys, and I would play for either one of them.”

Again, no major surprises with Pryor’s list, though I was a little taken aback that USC made it and that LSU and Oregon did not make the cut. 

It's not totally surprising that Oklahoma made the list, even though it did not offer Pryor until Jan. 10. A few days before that offer announcement, Pryor said he had settled on five schools. A little more than two weeks after that, on Jan. 27, the Sooners hired former star DeMarco Murray – a former NFL Offensive Player of the Year who holds four all-time records at Oklahoma, including most touchdowns (65) – to be their new running backs coach. 

Perhaps Murray and the Sooners will make a strong run for Pryor – pun intended – as his recruitment moves forward, but the good bet here is that it’s down to Ohio State, Georgia and Penn State at this point in time, with UNC still in the picture.

Saunders' “heart is on the offensive side”

Looking briefly toward the 2022 class, one of the most talented players in the state of Ohio – one who is bound to be ranked in the top 10, potentially the top five, among the state’s best players – is 5-foot-10, 172-pound athlete Kaden Saunders of Westerville South High School. 

At this past weekend’s Best of the Midwest camp, Saunders was the fastest player in attendance, clocking a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash en route to winning MVP of the receivers group. But Saunders does not yet have an offer from Ohio State, and a big part of that is because the Buckeyes look at him as a cornerback. Saunders is hoping to play on offense at the next level.

“My heart is on the offensive side of the ball,” Saunders told Eleven Warriors. “I will play defense if I absolutely have to, but I like offense a lot more. … OSU hasn’t said anything about an offer or when they would.”

It’s also possible that the Buckeyes have not offered Saunders because they've signed four top-100 receivers in the 2020 class and have two receivers with at least one more coming in the 2021 class.

“I talk to (Ohio State) some, not as much as other schools,” Saunders said. “But as (for) offering, I would think that is the reason why, or they might want me at DB and not receiver.”

It’s possible that the situation with Saunders – who is currently projected as a heavy Penn State lean and also has early offers from Notre Dame, Michigan and Indiana among his 10 total offers – could end up turning into a similar situation as the one with 2020 signee Cameron Martinez, who could still end up on either side of the ball at Ohio State.

Going forward, Saunders is planning on keeping his head down and continuing to grind and improve as a player as more programs continue to offer.

“The recruiting process is going well,” Saunders said. “I think it’s playing out really smooth. A couple that are standing out are Penn State, West Virginia, Indiana, and Notre Dame.”

When asked if Penn State is his No. 1 choice as of right now, Saunders said, “they are up there, for sure. I’m super close with all of their coaches, also. I talk to them pretty regularly.”

Burton narrows to five official visits

When we spoke in Januarywith Jager Burton, the country’s No. 6-ranked offensive guard in the 2021 class, Burton had his schools of choice narrowed down to seven. 

That list is now at five, as Burton told Eleven Warriors’ Mick Walker on Sunday that Ohio State, Clemson, Kentucky, Oregon and Alabama are the schools that he will be officially visiting before he makes a college commitment in August – possibly on his birthday, Aug. 24. 

Penn State was one of the programs Burton previously told us – in January – that he was confident would be getting an official visit from him. That is no longer the case.

Burton is another recruit who is getting the full-court press approach from Ohio State's coaches. Burton told us in January he was getting daily texts from Ryan Day, Greg Studrawa and Matt Barnes, and those three have apparently been continuing with that approach.

Carrico ranked No. 1

Reid Carrico, the Buckeyes' only linebacker commit in the 2021 class thus far, received a ratings bump on Wednesday, and he is now the No. 1-ranked inside linebacker in the class.

That boosts Carrico up about 30 spots in the overall rankings, from No. 121 to No. 92, gives the Buckeyes the top four-ranked juniors in the state (Notre Dame receiver commit and Pickerington Central's Lorenzo Styles Jr. is ranked No. 5) and extends the program's lead over Clemson just a tad for the No. 1 class.

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