Heat Check: Ohio State's Trench-Heavy Focus Continues Into June As Players Return and the Dead Period Lingers On

By Andrew Ellis on June 2, 2020 at 10:10 am
Five-star wideout Emeka Egbuka remains the top priority for Brian Hartline.

Recruiting is all about comfort and relationships. Sometimes you're gaining momentum on the trail, sometimes you're losing it. How are some of Ohio State's key prospects trending? Let's take a look.

The extended dead period still hasn't been able to slow down Ryan Day's recruiting express as the Ohio State is up to 19 commitments for its top-ranked 2021 class. The Buckeyes maintain a comfortable lead over Tennessee, Clemson, USC, and Mack Brown's Tarheels.

The month of May actually included two surprising additions in Australian punter Jesse Mirco and four-star cornerback Denzel Burke. The Mirco pledge came out of nowhere as Aussie punters have been on a commitment flurry of late. Burke had been on the radar as one of a handful of cornerbacks looking join forces with Kerry Coombs, and the Buckeyes decided he was too good to pass up on. 

Unfortunately, the would-have-been-massive June 12 visit weekend won't be happening, but we're still expecting some more good news this month. Let's take a look at our updated board for the Class of 2021. 

J.T. TUIMOLOAU DL 1 1 ★★★★★ Washington•Alabama•USC
J.C. LATHAM OT 2 2 ★★★★★ LSU•Alabama•Oklahoma
TYWONE MALONE DT 3 3 ★★★★ Rutgers•Ole Miss•TAMU•Tenn
EMEKA EGBUKA WR 4 5 ★★★★★ Washington•Oklahoma•Clemson
DERRICK DAVIS JR. SAF 5 6 ★★★★ Penn State•Clemson
JAGER BURTON OG 6 9 ★★★★ Kentucky•Alabama
HUDSON WOLFE TE 7 11 ★★★★ Tennessee•Alabama•Ole Miss
JORDAN HANCOCK CB 8 NA ★★★★ Clemson Commit
JAYLIN DAVIES CB 9 7 ★★★★ Arizona State•USC•Oregon
DEMEIOUN ROBINSON DE 10 7 ★★★★ Maryland Commit
RAESJON DAVIS LB 11 10 ★★★★ LSU Commit

*Last month's edition can be found HERE. 

If you prefer to flip-flop our top two names on the board, you won't get much of an argument from me. There's not a whole lot of doubt that J.T. Tuimoloau and J.C. Latham are the top remaining targets at two positions of great need. The Tuimoloau recruitment has been quiet as ever and we're probably not going to know much until visits resume. For now, we're expecting a late decision and it seems the Buckeyes and Trojans are at the top. 

We've got Latham at No. 2 and that's partially because Ohio State already has a future left tackle committed for the 2022 class in West Chester's Tegra Tshabola. Now obviously from the staff's perspective that has absolutely no bearing on this situation as Latham has been a priority for nearly a year now. Unlike with Tuimoloau, there have been some rumblings on this front, and some of them haven't been all that positive. 

Are we buying into Alabama being the leader for the five-star IMG Academy tackle? Absolutely not. Are we ignoring the Crimson Tide's presence here? Absolutely not. It sure seems like the Buckeyes' top competition supposedly keeps switching back and forth between Alabama and LSU, and that may simply mean that the SEC foes are fighting for the runner-up spot.

Ryan Day and Greg Studrawa need to get Latham back on campus once things settle down, but we're still nowhere near the point of panic. The crystal ball continues to echo that sentiment with all of the picks favoring the good guys.

Fellow lineman Jager Burton makes the move up to No. 6, and it continues to be an Ohio State/Kentucky battle for the four-star guard with Alabama still lurking. The dead period has thrown a wrench into his timeline, and right now the Buckeyes probably need to get him back on campus or else the Wildcats could be in for some good news. An Aug. 24 decision had been the plan, but that may get pushed back until visits can be made.

Back on the defensive side, Tywone Malone's decision timeline could be on the same path as Tuimoloau's as this one is nowhere close to being done. There's not a lot of news on this one either as the same four or five schools seem to be the primary contenders with upwards of 10 or so firmly in the mix. He's planning several more visits before announcing his decision toward the end of the year, but Malone is no doubt the top remaining interior line target.

You're going to be hearing a lot about Oklahoma rising toward the top of the list for Emeka Egbuka, and I'd advise you put little stock into those reports; at least not right now. 

Yes, the Sooners have hosted him for Zoom meetings and of course Lincoln Riley and his staff have been in constant contact, but any competent college football staff is going to do that for the nation's best wide receiver prospect. Last month he announced a final four that also includes Clemson and the in-state Huskies.

At this point, the key questions revolve around whether any team can come close to the relationship he has with Brian Hartline and when and if Egbuka will be able to make some more key campus visits. Is there a chance he makes a decision before the visits are allowed to take place? I think that's a real possibility, and Ohio State continues to be the team to beat for the Washington five-star. 

You'll notice that four-star Fort Lauderdale wideout Troy Stellato has been removed from the board. He's still talking about getting back to Columbus, but I'd venture to guess a commitment to Clemson should go down in the near future. Fellow Florida pass-catcher Christian Leary is a name that could surface down the road if we get the feeling Hartline wants to add another. Right now it's an Alabama/Oklahoma race for the slot wideout. 

Tight end Hudson Wolfe jumps up to No. 7 on the board, and the four-star could be next in line to make a decision. With an announcement expected to come this month, this feels like a real battle between the Buckeyes and in-state Volunteers. There seems to be a bit of rising confidence on the Tennessee side of late, but for now, the family remains in decision mode. 

Let's take a moment to try and sort things out in the secondary. Kerry Coombs has five commitments including several athletes who could play safety or corner. Right now we see things as follows: Jakailin Johnson (cornerback), Denzel Burke (cornerback), Devonta Smith (cornerback), Jantzen Dunn (safety/corner), and Andre Turrentine (safety). 

Even with defensive backs being a major 2021 need, the Buckeyes could simply sign all the guys they have committed and be all set for the class. I still think the most likely option is for another player to join the fold, and perhaps even two more if they can strike gold on the right duo. That's exactly why we've still got three names remaining on our board. 

Safety Derrick Davis Jr. moves into the five-hole with the Buckeyes battling Penn State and Clemson for his services. He's an interesting prospect since he could potentially play outside linebacker as well (and is listed as such on Rivals). He's got plans to make a return trip to Clemson, but the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions look like the safer bets right now. 

Clemson pledge Jordan Hancock is probably a total pipe dream since the Tigers rarely lose commitments and his friend/teammate Barrett Carter is also now committed. Still, he had been the Buckeyes' top target in the secondary and was actually on track to commit to Ohio State before Clemson did its thing. Let's see if he happens to make a trip to Columbus this fall. 

Some have speculated that the Denzel Burke pledge could put an end to the pursuit of Jaylin Davies. I don't necessarily see that being the case and the Buckeyes will likely keep that one warm for a while and see how he performs this fall (assuming he's allowed to do so). I'd call it unlikely at this point and Arizona State seems to be the favorite, but it's still worth keeping an eye on; especially considering that loaded roster at Mater Dei. 

The more likely addition if Ohio State pushes? Davies. The preferred addition? Clearly it's Hancock as he's been a priority for several months. And that's why we've got the country's No. 7 corner slotted one spot higher on the board. 

The final two names are carryovers from last month and both are prospects Ohio State would be thrilled to flip. We'll see how the Terps fare in 2020, but Demeioun Robinson will continue to be highly sought after by Larry Johnson and Co. LSU commit Raesjon Davis has gotten close with Al Washington and a visit is a possibility, but we'll see if that ends up coming to fruition down the road. 

It's looking like another weird month across the country and within the world of sports. There are, however, some positive steps being made that perhaps signify that things will slowly return to some sense of normalcy. Ohio State's coaches returned to the WHAC and players will be arriving back on campus as the facility is set to re-open on June 8. 

Obviously there are much bigger non-sports issues going on right now, but the extended dead period is really going to make June look far different than what had been expected; though I suppose that's been a common theme dating back to March. The Zoom meetings and phone calls linger on as we await more word from the NCAA. 

Meanwhile, the summer is nearly here and at least the warm temperatures have provided some positivity during these bleak days. Stay safe out there as the time continues to fly by.

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