The Hurry-Up: Ohio State Recruiting Denzel Burke “Hard“ at Cornerback As He Includes Buckeyes in Top Five

By Zack Carpenter on May 14, 2020 at 6:30 pm
Denzel Burke

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.

Burke releases top five

Ohio State is looking for one final player to round out its 2021 defensive backs haul. That number could be two if it’s the right player, but one more is the no-doubt number we can safely know the Buckeyes are going to bring into the class.

Two candidates are off the board.

Texas cornerback Hunter Washington committed to Florida State on Tuesday. Washington was a longshot to become a part of the class, anyway. Kerry Coombs had been on the job for three full weeks and had not yet held a conversation with Washington by the time the second week of February had rolled around. So that was a strong indicator that Ohio State’s interest in Washington – interest that was fairly strong from Jeff Hafley in the summer and fall – had probably subsided. 

From what I’m told, Kamar Wilcoxson is also not going to be pursued any further by the Ohio State staff, and that was true even before he had committed to Tennessee.

That leaves five defensive back targets left for the Buckeyes, with Tony Grimes and Clemson commit Jordan Hancock leading the way, followed by safety Derrick Davis Jr. (a possible bullet candidate), Jaylin Davies and Denzel Burke

Ohio State will continue looking to bring in versatile athletes in the secondary – guys who can play multiple spots, whether it be outside corner, slot corner or free safety – so that it can 1) be more situational with its defensive looks and 2) move them around like chess pieces based on their development in their first and second years. 

But with that being said, the last remaining goal for the secondary is to land a commitment from a pure cornerback. (As an aside, Davis would be a take no matter what because the Buckeyes would not pass up a player like him who has the total package of physical talent, versatility and character, even though he translates to safety or possibly outside linebacker.)

On Tuesday night, we got an update from a player who has not seen a ton of space in our past Hurry-Ups but one who has become a key guy to keep an eye on. 

There has been increasing momentum for Burke, a 6-foot, 190-pound junior out of Arizona powerhouse Saguaro High School, to possibly join the class, and Burke recently released a top five list of Colorado, Ohio State, Oregon, USC and Washington. 

Back when Eleven Warriors first spoke with Burke in late February, the No. 9-ranked athlete in the nation told us that Ohio State saw him as either a wide receiver or a cornerback. We can wipe out the former as an option. Burke told us on Tuesday night that the Buckeyes are recruiting him as a cornerback, and the communication with the staff has stayed at a consistent level since Jan. 27, when Ryan Day officially offered him.

“Ohio State has been recruiting me hard ever since they offered me, and I have a good relationship with the coaches that are recruiting me such as Coach Coombs and Coach (Corey) Dennis,” Burke told Eleven Warriors. 

Burke is absolutely a candidate to become the Buckeyes’ final cornerback commit in the class (or, at least the next cornerback commit in the class), but the catch is he has never visited. Burke says he “won’t be committing until I know I’m ready,” and it’s likely that if he does wind up committing to Ohio State, he will wait until he has visited Columbus in person. 

Things change quickly, though, so perhaps we will find ourselves in a situation down the road where the Buckeye coaches move off their stance of needing a visit from Burke – or Davies – in order to accept a commitment.

Dead period extended

Throwing a foreseen wrench into potential visits guys like Burke, Davies, Grimes and plenty others is what became official on Wednesday night.

The NCAA Board of Governors extended the recruiting dead period through at least June 30, which wipes out the mega recruiting weekend Ohio State was planning for June 12-14. At least four priority uncommitted targets were expected to visit that weekend (including JC Latham, Troy Stellato, Jager Burton and Hudson Wolfe), and at least 10 commits in the class of 2021 were set to be in attendance (including TreVeyon Henderson’s first visit). 

The NCAA did give schools some leeway with minor recruiting rules changes last week, allowing for multiple uncommitted prospects to get on the same video calls with college coaching staffs. Something I suggested before is getting all the players expected to make visits that weekend on the same Zoom call. That was just an idea to toss out because, who knows, it could lead to some awkward situations depending on how a situation like that would be handled/chaperoned/moderated by the coaching staff.

No matter what, it won’t be nearly the same thing as getting all of them on campus in person, and not having the best recruiting strategy at their disposal (recruits-recruiting-recruits) is a major negative. Having that genuine, in-person experience with the guys in your class to build camaraderie in the group is a big deal, and it’s one of the underlying reasons Ohio State has had success in past recruitments. 

The recruitment of C.J. Stroud is the first that jumps to mind, as an Elite 11 reunion between Stroud, Julian Fleming, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Gee Scott Jr. and Lejond Cavazos during Stroud’s official visit for the Michigan State game in October served as probably the biggest momentum boost in that recruitment. 

While this shutdown affects every program in America, it might affect Midwest teams like Ohio State the most. While the Clemsons, Alabamas and LSUs of the world were able to hold big recruiting weekends in January with warmer weather, Ohio State was waiting for its moment in the spring and summer. 

The Buckeyes have had plenty of success the past two months despite the recruiting shutdown, so maybe they’re able to capture that same magic again. But if guys like Emeka Egbuka, Latham and Burton – top-tier recruits who are still on the fence but look like probable Ohio State commits if they are able to visit again – can’t visit, I think it helps the cases of Ohio State’s competition (Alabama and LSU for Latham; Washington and Stanford for Egbuka; Kentucky for Burton). 

In two weeks, we will find out whether or not the NCAA decides to extend the recruiting dead period even further.

Dellinger and Spindler updates

Two star offensive linemen out of Michigan’s Clarkson High School released recruiting updates this week, as four-star offensive guard Rocco Spindler announced that a final-five list is coming soon, and four-star offensive tackle teammate Garrett Dellinger released a final-four list of LSU, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. 

We expect Ohio State to make that list for Spindler, in addition to Michigan, Notre Dame and Penn State, and I like LSU’s chances of sliding in there. Either way, this feels like a three-team race between Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State. 

As for Dellinger, he is another player whom the Buckeyes would have benefited from bringing in for a visit in the spring, as Dellinger and Spindler were possibly going to visit Ohio State together this spring. LSU appears to have the momentum for Dellinger.

Denzel Burke photo courtesy of Blair Angulo/247Sports

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