Following Impressive Two-Year Run in 2020 and 2021, Ohio State Patient and Focused on Elite Group of Five Receivers in 2022 Cycle

By Zack Carpenter on May 27, 2020 at 8:35 am
Luther Burden
Luther Burden (Twitter)

In the 2020 and 2021 classes, Ohio State has an embarrassment of riches at the receiver position, and that’s without Emeka Egbuka having yet made a decision about whether he wants to play in Columbus, Clemson, Seattle or Norman.

Land Egbuka, and the Buckeyes will complete what might be the most impressive two-year run of receiver recruiting ever.

Even if the Buckeyes do not land Egbuka, receiver will still be the No. 1 position they have the luxury of being patient with in the 2022 class. It’s a position of importance in any class, obviously. But because of the job Brian Hartline, Ryan Day, Keenan Bailey and others have done in recruiting the position recently, they can sit back and focus on a small group of sophomore targets for now, even as they look to land three receivers in the class.

That list features the five receivers Ohio State has already offered – an elite group of talents that Ohio State will be looking to continue building relationships with as the process extends into June.

In order of their 247Sports national overall rankings, we take a closer look at those five receivers below.

1. Luther Burden: No. 23 overall, No. 3 WR

Burden is not only the highest-ranked of this bunch but is also the receiver myself and most recruiting analysts who cover Ohio State believe the Buckeyes have the best relationship with right now and is the one most likely to find himself in scarlet and gray.

Burden hails from Cardinal Ritter College Prep in Missouri, the same school that produced Buckeye receiver Jameson Williams. The St. Louis pipeline has been kind to Ohio State of late with the 2021 commitment of cornerback Jakailin Johnson from DeSmet High School and the 2020 signing of receiver Mookie Cooper from Pattonville High School. The city has also given the Buckeyes a running back named Ezekiel Elliott, as well as Kamryn Babb and Cameron Brown.

As sort of an aside, here’s a cool story done by Missouri’s KSDK News about Burden and his father that I had been meaning to drop into a Hurry-Up piece:

2. C.J. Williams: No. 31 overall, No. 4 WR

Williams hails from Mater Dei High School, the national powerhouse program that Ohio State is hoping to crack open and build a pipeline with in the future. I’ve also been told he is pretty tight with California quarterback Maalik Murphy, one of the Buckeyes’ top quarterback targets in 2022, and that the two are hoping to play together at the next level.

3. Kaleb Brown: No. 35 overall, No. 5 WR

Brown is a slot receiver who can also play running back and has tremendous speed out of the backfield. He has ideal size (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) for a slot receiver and should be considered Ohio State’s top target at the position right now in addition to the next player on this list. Shortly after Brown caught our eye, he caught enough of the Buckeyes’ attention to earn an offer. 

“I like how they run their organization, from what I see,” Brown told Eleven Warriors previously. “The three coaches make me feel comfortable. I like that they eat and sleep football.

4. Caleb Burton: No. 37 overall, No. 6 WR

Burton was incredibly enthusiastic about receiving his Ohio State offer from Hartline in late March. It hasn’t taken long for the former Buckeye star and NFL standout to make his impression on the Texas four-star prospect. 

“(Hartline) believed I was very good kid who wants to be the best on and off the field,” Burton told Eleven Warriors previously. “He said he loved my family and my dad and how we approach things. 

“He just said there’s no better place, and the offense they run is perfect for the WR core. All the people he has coached and sent to the league just shows he knows what to do.”

5. Armani Winfield: No. 90 overall, No. 13 WR

The lone player on this list to not receive his offer directly from Hartline, the Texas four-star Winfield got his Ohio State offer from Day in late January. He’s of no relation to former Buckeye star Antoine Winfield, but Ohio State was nonetheless Armani’s dream offer, he told Eleven Warriors. 

He also told us he had visited Oklahoma, Texas, TCU and Texas A&M multiple times and that he had planned to visit Ohio State before the shutdown. Expect an important visit from Winfield to happen whenever he’s able, and that could serve as a turning point in this recruitment.

Other targets

While Hartline and the Buckeyes have that luxury of being able to stay patient with the receiver position, because of the logjam of blue-chip talent that will be on the depth chart over the next few years, there will always remain the possibility of there being an odd man or two left out of the rotation and that a transfer or two may happen – especially with the likelihood of the NCAA granting immediate transfers in the next year or two.

So continuing to zero in on high-caliber receivers will remain critical if they want to continue to be a stable that breeds NFL-worthy talent on the offensive side of the ball that leads to multiple Big Ten championships and College Football Playoff appearances this decade.

It appears that search will start with that elite five-man group, but that does not necessarily mean it will end there. 

While the focus for the next few months will be on those five, there are a few others at the position that Ohio State has its eye on and will continue to build relationships with as evaluations of the 2022 crop of receivers deepens. 

That includes in-state slot receiver Kaden Saunders, a four-star athlete out of Westerville South who is ranked No. 166 overall by 247Sports and No. 4 in Ohio. For now, the Buckeyes like Saunders at cornerback, but his recruitment could end up being somewhat similar to Michigan’s Cameron Martinez. It’s clear that Ohio State likes Martinez best as a defensive back, likely a safety, but he is a player whose talent level and athleticism can’t be understated so Day was adamant on National Signing Day that Martinez will be given a shot at playing on both sides of the ball.

Also in the running for a potential offer is Oregon receiver Darrius Clemons, a four-star outside receiver ranked No. 140 overall and No. 18 at receiver nationwide. Clemons is Oregon’s top-ranked prospect but has strong roots in the Midwest. Ohio State has never signed a player from the state of Oregon in the modern recruiting era. 

From what I’m told, an offer to Clemons is still in the cards, but it would likely come further down the road as the Buckeyes continue building their relationship with him while focusing on the five elite players they have offered thus far.

If he is not offered, keep an eye on Clemons to potentially become a Buckeye opponent in the future. Penn State has been coming on very strong in Clemons’ recruitment, as the Nittany Lions’ April 5 offer was a product of a years-long evaluation process by James Franklin and Co. That process dates back to Clemons’ eighth-grade year, as one one of Franklin’s former players during his time at Kansas State told him to keep an eye on Clemons in the years to come.

Clemons and Saunders are candidates to end up with Ohio State offers, but those will likely have to wait as the recruitments of Brown, Burden, Burton, Williams and Winfield – a full house with Bs full of Ws – continue to ramp up.

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