The Hurry-Up: Ohio State Battles Out Oklahoma For Another Defensive Back, Nicholas Singleton is the Buckeyes’ “Main Priority” at 2022 Running Back

By Zack Carpenter on April 20, 2020 at 6:30 pm
Nicholas Singleton
Nicholas Singleton (Brad Fedie, 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.

Outdueling the Sooners

Over the past several days, it was déjà vu all over again for Ohio State and Oklahoma in recruiting wars for defensive backs.

Ryan Watts had been committed to the Sooners' 2020 class since April 2019, but by getting him on campus in the summer for a secret visit, Jeff Hafley and the Buckeyes got the wheels spinning for a flip to Ohio State that was further bolstered by his official visit in September.

This time, in the recruitment of Jantzen Dunn, it happened much, much faster than that flip. Dunn was all but locked up to join the Sooners' 2021 class on Saturday night before a last-minute effort from the Buckeyes flipped his decision. It won't go down in the books as a true flip – since there was no public announcement – but for all intents and purposes, that's what it was.

What was said to Dunn during the Buckeyes' final efforts may never be made public. It's possible there had been a miscommunication between the two sides, and that Ohio State made it known how badly it wanted Dunn in the class.

Let me remind you: The following is hypothetical, and we don't know if the following was a direct pitch to Dunn.

We will get into this more later in the week at Eleven Warriors, but former Buckeye players' successes in the NFL is obvious and is a story you've heard plenty of times before. 

When it comes to defensive backs' successes in the NFL, especially recent ones, Ohio State outshines programs like Oklahoma, and we wanted to highlight some of the numbers that make that so.

It's not hard to imagine – especially after Ryan Day said last week that the Buckeyes' propensity for developing so many NFL-ready, pro-caliber players is “a big part” of their recruiting pitches – that Ohio State laid down the following pitch at some point during Dunn's recruitment, whether it was on Saturday or at some other point in the process.

According to Over The Cap, four of Kerry Coombs' five first-round cornerback have NFL contracts right now, and Eli Apple's still going to get paid at some point this offseason. Those four are among the NFL's highest-paid at the position in guaranteed money, the most important aspect of an NFL contract: Denzel Ward ($29 million guaranteed), Bradley Roby ($19 million guaranteed), Marshon Lattimore ($15.3 million guaranteed), Gareon Conley ($9.9 million guaranteed).

Since Coombs' first year at Ohio State in 2012 through his last in 2017, Oklahoma has only had three corners drafted. Only one of those three (Aaron Colvin) has an NFL contract listed on Over the Cap, which is at $805,000/year ($0 guaranteed) from his 2019 season with the Washington Redskins, though Colvin is a free agent right now.

Coombs did not directly coach the safeties during his first tenure at Ohio State, but during that time span (2012-2017) the Buckeyes had two safeties taken in the first round. Both of them – Malik Hooker ($12.6 million guaranteed) and Von Bell ($3 million guaranteed) – have contracts that dwarf the guaranteed money of Oklahoma's lone safety with a listed NFL contract, Steven Parker, who has a total value of $1.08 million with $0 guaranteed.

Now, we don't know if Dunn is going to be a cornerback or a safety. But either way, money talks. At either position, the numbers indicate that Ohio State is a better destination than Oklahoma if you are wanting to get paid in the pros at either position.

Perhaps that's risking oversimplifying the recruiting process, since there are so many factors that go into each and every individual recruitment, but we've come to realize that NFL money and NFL development is an overarching theme of most 2021 players' recruitments.

“Main priority” at RB

Running back recruiting in the 2021 class went about as great as it could have for the Buckeyes, and when you include landing transfer Trey Sermon, it was as perfect of a bounce-back that Tony Alford could have had after the 2020 fiasco.

Alford is already off to a good head start in the 2022 class, too, by targeting guys like Emeka Megwa, Kaytron Allen and Dillon Tatum early in the process and jump-starting communication and connections with each of them.

But we would like to introduce you to a player that Alford loves and who is very likely to be a frequent mention in Hurry-Ups over the next several months.

Pennsylvania's Nicholas Singleton is the No. 8-ranked running back in the sophomore class and the 84th-ranked player overall, per 247Sports' own scouting system. The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder out of Govern Mifflin High School is the state's fourth-ranked sophomore prospect, he is Ohio State's second-highest ranked running back offer in the class (behind Colorado's Gavin Sawchuk), and he says he has emerged as the Buckeyes' top target at the position. 

“(Coach Alford) has been saying I’m their main priority in the 2022 class of running backs,” Singleton told Eleven Warriors. “After Coach Day came to my school to offer me (in January), Coach Alford came just to talk, and he gave me his number and also my coach. So every time he wants to talk to me, he would just text my coach, telling me to call him.”

Singleton says he and Alford have now been talking once a week “just to stay in touch with each other,” and the two are having “good conversations” about ”the school, academics and the football team.”

Alford “says he likes my build and speed and vision on the field,” as Singleton's measurements – 4.59 speed in the 40, 4.08 in the shuttle and 36.4-inch vertical – are all combined with adept cut-back ability, decisiveness in hitting holes and elusiveness that led to him rushing for 1,690 yards and 32 touchdowns as a sophomore.

Singleton's communication with the staff also featured a recent Zoom meeting between him and his family and some of the Buckeye coaches that went well. 

“I’ve been impressed with everything about the school,” said Singleton, who is still very early in his recruiting process and will have plenty of programs join the 22 schools on his current offer sheet that includes Notre Dame, Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, USC and Virginia. “It’s been good just taking it all in right now. Trying to learn more about the programs and just trying to get to know the coaches more.”

Including the 2021 class, Ohio State has landed four players from Pennsylvania: Marcus Hooker (2018), Julian Fleming (2020), Kyle McCord (2021) and Marvin Harrison Jr. (2021), and it has four additional offers out to Pennsylvania standouts, including Derrick Davis Jr. and Nolan Rucci.

Singleton, who says he met Fleming at last year's The Opening Finals in Dallas but has not yet met Davis, and linebacker Anthony Johnson are the only two players the Buckeyes have offered thus far from Pennsylvania in the 2022 cycle.

Rucci cuts list

Five-star offensive tackle Rucci – the nation's 13th-ranked overall player and third-ranked OT in 2021 – announced a trimmed list of nine schools on Monday morning.

Ohio State, Wisconsin, Alabama, LSU, Stanford, Notre Dame, Clemson, Michigan and Penn State are those nine, but we don't believe there is much momentum for Rucci to join the Buckeyes at this point.

Rucci, a 6-foot-6, 290-pounder from Pennsylvania's Warwick High School, broke down his finalists with 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong – a breakdown that focused only on Penn State, Wisconsin, Clemson, Michigan and Notre Dame.

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