The Hurry-Up: Next Steps for Ohio State Following Hudson Wolfe’s Commitment to Tennessee

By Zack Carpenter on June 15, 2020 at 6:30 pm
Hudson Wolfe

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.

Wolfe commits to Vols

For the second time in a four-day span, the Buckeyes have officially lost out on a priority recruit who they had seemingly been in the lead for – and when you throw in Troy Stellato’s pledge to Clemson 10 days ago, that’s three consecutive priority targets Ohio State has seen announce a commitment to a southern program. 

After five-star offensive tackle JC Latham committed to Alabama on Friday, four-star tight end Hudson Wolfe made it official as well, announcing his commitment to Tennessee on Monday morning as he will play his college ball less than five hours from his Hardin County (Tenn.) High School’s campus. 

After Alabama was the early favorite in Wolfe's recruitment, Ohio State seized momentum via multiple visits during the January contact period. The Buckeyes offered Wolfe, the No. 9-ranked tight end and No. 225-ranked overall player in the country, as part of a flurry of offers in mid-September, and he became their top target at the position. 

A visit for their win over Michigan State in early October got the ball rolling on Wolfe's opinion of the program, and that picked up steam over the next few months. It gained the most steam during January and February after Kevin Wilson visited Wolfe twice during the January contact period. That was followed up by a visit from Ryan Day that went a long way for Wolfe and his family. 

Wolfe had planned on making an unofficial visit to Ohio State in late March during Hardin County's spring break, and an official visit was likely to be set up for April before a summer commitment. The recruiting visit cancellations put an abrupt end to all of that, however, and though the Buckeyes have benefitted in a major way from the recruiting dead period implemented in March – becoming the hottest team on the recruiting trail for a six-week stretch in March and April – the recruitment of Wolfe went the opposite way. 

In late April and in late May, according to those we spoke with involved in Wolfe’s recruitment, Ohio State was still in a terrific position with the young tight end. But once the dead period was extended through the rest of June, combined with Wolfe wanting to end his recruitment in June, Wolfe and his family being unable to visit Columbus again allowed Tennessee to move into the pole position. 

The Vols seized momentum back over the last three weeks and have now secured their second pure tight end in a 2021 class that is now within a few decimal points of Clemson for No. 2 in the country. 

With that, the Buckeyes’ No. 1 tight end target has come off the board, and they will now be looking at where to take the next steps – both in which tight end targets to go all in on (if any) and the 2021 class as a whole.

Why it hurts Ohio State

To hit on real quick: Not getting Wolfe in the class is certainly not back-breaking for the Buckeyes, but it still hurts because he has the hands to be used as an outside receiver, and he has valuable versatility with sound technique as a tremendous run blocker.

When looking at the future depth chart is where it could sting a bit more. 

Obviously, losing Latham to Alabama is tougher because Latham is a five-star first-round talent – which we got into a bit on Friday – but offensive tackle star power and depth is not something Ohio State is lacking. 

At tight end, however, it’s a different story as it stands today. Tight end depth is one of the Buckeyes’ greatest strengths going into 2020, but heading into the 2021 season, the projected depth chart is Jeremy Ruckert, Cade Stover and Joe Royer as the top-three tight ends. In the 2022 season, the projected depth chart is Stover, Joe Royer and Sam Hart as the top-three tight ends. 

Colin Hass-Hill detailed the long-term projections of the position a couple weeks ago, which you can take a look at here. As he touches on, it’s crucial for Wilson and the Buckeyes to get Stover and Royer experience this season in order to prepare them for bigger roles in 2021 and beyond. That lack of depth is the No. 1 reason why bringing in a player with the upside of Wolfe would have been a good win for the Buckeyes. 

Where the Buckeyes go from here

In the 2020 class, the widely held belief was that Ohio State was gunning for two tight ends, but when the cycle ended with Royer as the lone man in the class, it appeared that plan was being shelved for the 2021 class.

After Colorado’s Sam Hart joined the fold in late December, the hunt was on for a second tight end, and after January had concluded, Wolfe had emerged as the clear-cut top target whom the Buckeyes appeared to be leading for. With him now off the board, there are three targets Ohio State could pursue in the 2021 class and an initial group in 2022 it has its eye on.

I would say that Michael Trigg is the No. 1 target remaining for the class, and Eleven Warriors spoke with him last week when he put the Buckeyes in his top 10.

“I really like Ohio State,” Trigg said, adding that the Buckeyes were likely to make a soon-to-be-announced top five. “I talk to the coaches pretty much every day or I try to. … They said (the offense) would be different if they had a tight end with my skill set because I’m more of an athletic tight end, and they don’t really have tight ends like that up there.”

The Buckeyes could also elect to make a run at in-state Hilliard Bradley star Jack Pugh, who committed to Wisconsin in May and is yet to receive an Ohio State offer. Dametrious Crownover is another tight end who put Ohio State in a trimmed list in May, and we will see if the Buckeyes could sneak him out from the arms of the Big 12. 

North Carolina’s Bryson Nesbit – who recently put the Buckeyes in a trimmed list as well – and Kentucky’s Jordan Dingle are two additional outside options to keep in mind, though at this point I highly doubt they find their way into the class.

A final name to keep track of is another in-state player, Mitchell Evans, a three-star prospect out of Wadsworth High School. Evans, a 6-foot-7, 240-pounder, is ranked No. 501 overall, No. 21 at tight end and No. 16 in Ohio. His offers include Michigan State, Indiana, Louisville, Iowa State and UCF.

With all that being said, there are many who believe Ohio State may decide to not pursue a second tight end in this class after all, instead again tabling the two-tight end goal for the 2022 cycle, and that’s a realistic scenario that we detailed recently. When looking at the projected depth chart beyond the 2020 season, that appears risky, but might ultimately be the move.

In 2022, the clear-cut top target on the board is Texas’ Donovan Green, the No. 1-ranked rising junior in the nation. After Green, there is a trio of tight ends whom the Buckeyes offered on June 2 to keep an eye on in Benji Gosnell, Holden Staes and Bennett Christian

Hudson Wolfe photo courtesy of Kenneth Cummings/The Jackson Sun

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