The Hurry-Up: Name, Image and Likeness and Personal Branding Already Becoming a Recruiting Pitch for Ohio State, Recently with Las Vegas Safety Zion Branch

By Zack Carpenter on May 5, 2020 at 6:30 pm
Zion Branch

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.

Branch pitched branding

Other than coronavirus, the most-talked about news in college sports last week was centered around the NCAA Board of Governors putting forth its support for rule changes to allow NCAA athletes to profit off of their name, image and likeness. 

Like most powerhouse programs, Ohio State football’s recruiting team had already made its personal branding opportunities a major staple of its program and a major staple in recruiting pitches. We can expect that to pick up even further in the future, and as pointed out by Eleven Warriors’ Colin Hass-Hill last week, that has already started with Ohio State coaches on Twitter.

And with 2022 recruits, those recruiting pitches have already been made, with one of the most recent examples coming when Las Vegas safety Zion Branch got on the phone with Matt Barnes on Friday and then had a conference call with several other coaches, including Ryan Day and Kerry Coombs, later that day.

“(My dad and I) spoke to the head of social media and personal branding,” Branch told Eleven Warriors. “We spoke about Chase Young and The Predator, on how they started branding him early.

“We talked about what the school itself has to offer, so the academics and also the business and brand marketing side. Coach Coombs and Coach Barnes are really cool guys, for the first time meeting them I made a great connection with them.”

Those aspects of the conversation left an impression on Branch, a top-75 overall player and the nation’s No. 3-ranked safety in the 2022 cycle, who says the Buckeyes are now firmly on his radar.

“I know how big of a school Ohio State is athletically, but more importantly how big of a school they are academically,” Branch said. “They offer some important things that a lot of schools don’t offer, which is talking about life after football. They really impressed my family and I. Ohio State will definitely be a school that I consider when it comes down to making my final decision.”

Nevada’s No. 3-ranked sophomore, Branch was offered by Ohio State during those talks with the coaches. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder has a list of more than 20 offers, including from Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State, Texas, Texas A&M and USC.

Branch, who attends Bishop Gorman High School, says he does not have any family ties to Ohio or Ohio State. But Bishop Gorman alumni Tate Martell and Haskell Garrett – whom Branch has spoken with before – each chose the Vegas-to-Columbus route, and one of the program’s top assistants, David Hill, has strong connections with the Ohio State staff. 

That’s the connection between Branch and the Buckeyes, and that’s how they wound up targeting the talented athlete, whom 247Sports analyst Blair Angulo analyzed in March:

Strong frame with projectable length. Carries 190 lbs. with ease and should be able to tack on muscle. Highly physical defensive back with good ball-tracking skills. Well rounded defender that can cover, make plays on ball and impact the run game closer to the line of scrimmage. Versatility to fit at various spots, with chance to help out in the box. Natural feel in space and roams the secondary with confidence. Reacts quickly, closes on ball carriers and wraps up well. Displays top-notch instincts and motor, with the range to cover ground. Could improve overall fluidity and athleticism in man situations. Potential multi-year Power Five starter, All-Conference type performer and NFL Draft Day 2 selection.

That skillset is what makes Branch a top target in the next class as another Andre Turrentine type of player, whom the Buckeyes landed a commitment from in the 2021 class.

“They are recruiting me to play DB,” Branch told us. “If it’s corner, safety, nickel, I can do it all. They told me they like how I play the game, but our call (on Friday) was about the school itself and what the school has to offer for me as a student-athlete. We haven’t had much football talk yet, but I could fit in at both nickel corner and safety.”

Williams gets first vibe from coaches

Duncanville (Texas) High School offensive tackle Cameron Williams is a three-star prospect who was offered by Ohio State last week, receiving a call Friday night that the Buckeyes were interested. 

Williams, a 6-foot-6, 320-pound sophomore, is ranked No. 31 at offensive tackle and No. 54 in Texas overall, according to 247Sports. He has more than 20 offers, highlighted by Auburn, Baylor, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas A&M and Utah.

Williams told Eleven Warriors that the conversation he had with the Ohio State coaches on Friday, which included talks with Greg Studrawa and Kennedy Cook, was the first time talking with the staff so far. Those talks should increase going forward.

“I don’t really know a lot about them, but I plan on getting to know them,” Williams said. “(Studrawa) said that he likes the way I finish plays, and I like their offense.”

Williams’ teammate at Duncanville, Jaylen Early, is another top offensive lineman who the Buckeyes have offered in the 2022 class. Early is ranked No. 224 overall, No. 20 at offensive tackle and No. 27 in the state of Texas. He has offers from Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Penn State and Texas, among 19 total.

Clemson punches back

After Ohio State became the hottest recruiting team in the nation and following the decommitment of Korey Foreman, we knew it was only a matter of time before Clemson punched back. The Tigers did so in a big way on Tuesday, landing the commitment of five-star running back Will Shipley out of North Carolina.

Shipley, who was recruited a bit by Tony Alford and the Buckeyes early in his junior year, is the No. 1-ranked all-purpose back in America and the No. 24-ranked overall player in the nation. His commitment pushes Clemson over Florida for the No. 4-ranked class in the country, and if Foreman recommitted today – just to use a hypothetical to illustrate the point that Clemson isn't going anywhere – it would shoot all the way back to No. 2.

For months, Shipley's recruitment was a one-on-one game of Clemson vs. Notre Dame. The Irish couldn't take Shipley out of Clemson's backyard, and Notre Dame's The Athletic beat writer Pete Sampson mapped out how Shipley's decision to choose Clemson could affect Notre Dame in this thread.

Zion Branch photo courtesy of Blair Angulo/247Sports

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