The Hurry-Up: Jayden Ballard Makes Huge Jump in Recruiting Rankings, Christian Leary Comes Off the Board

By Zack Carpenter on June 17, 2020 at 6:30 pm
Jayden Ballard

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.

Ballard makes huge jump in rankings

Ohio State’s group of six receivers in the 2020 and 2021 classes will go down as one of the best two-year stretches of talent collection at the position in recruiting history once the rising seniors sign – and especially if Emeka Egbuka joins the fold.

The forgotten man in that group has often been four-star Massillon Washington (Ohio) wideout Jayden Ballard, and he’s often one of the last players mentioned because 1) He’s an in-state player whose commitment provides no hassles 2) He committed so early in the process. 

“When the national guys talk about the upcoming guys, you don’t hear (his name often),” Massillon head coach Nate Moore told Eleven Warriors previously. “In fact, I remember one specific one that mentioned five or six guys, and they didn’t mention Jayden’s name.

“That’s OK. He’s the in-state guy. Maybe he’s not as glamorous as some of the other guys who, for whatever reason, have higher ratings and what not. But he’s gonna be a really good receiver for Ohio State. If it wasn’t a good fit, that’s a conversation we would have, but I think it’s a great fit.”

Those comments from Moore came back in November. This week, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound receiver got some major recognition nationally, as Ballard was bumped 63 spots in the latest Top247 rankings released by 247Sports on Wednesday, jumping from No. 108 overall to No. 45 in the 247Sports rankings. In the composite rankings, he is now ranked No. 49 overall, No. 4 at receiver and is No. 2 in Ohio, behind Jack Sawyer and just ahead of Mike Hall (No. 55 overall).

The Buckeyes now have seven commits ranked in the top 50 of the composite rankings in the 2021 class and four in the top 25, both of which are the most in the country:

Henderson is the No. 1-ranked running back in the composite rankings, and he is ranked No. 10 overall by the 247Sports metrics.  

On another note, offensive line commit Ben Christman, who we've written about before as being able to play either tackle or guard, is now listed as an offensive guard. He is ranked No. 114 overall, No. 7 at OG and No. 6 in Ohio.

While Ballard was the biggest riser in the rankings for the Buckeyes, their biggest faller was fellow receiver commit Marvin Harrison Jr. The Philadelphia wideout fell from No. 59 overall to No. 89 overall in the composite rankings after dropping 91 spots in the 247Sports rankings, from No. 96 to No. 187.

Jayden Ballard

Why Ballard was boosted

Ballard’s size and speed make him an elite prospect, as he’s a big-bodied player who can win one-on-one battles and high-point passes, and he has a registered time of 10.89 seconds in the 100-meter dash as a sophomore, which is better than 96 percent of 2021 prospects, according to the Tracking Football database. That time, according to 247Sports, is 0.04 seconds behind the mark that Chris Olave clocked in at in 2017.

“He’s got very good speed, length and elite ball skills,” Moore said of Ballard. “When we call our offense, we’re not going out there trying to target any one person or anything like that. We’re gonna call what’s there. Especially in the playoffs in Ohio, we’re gonna be running the football. But at the same time, that’s a guy that creates matchup problems.”

On the latest episode of the 247Sports Football Recruiting Podcast, a podcast I highly recommend if you enjoy following recruiting closely, 247Sports analyst Charles Power was asked what makes Ballard special and why he has the potential to be a playmaker for Ohio State. His thoughts echoed those made by Moore. 

“Jayden Ballard was one that a couple of us independently came upon when looking at the receivers that we were just kind of thinking, ‘Oh, man. We might have him too low,’” Power said. “Since we last did the rankings, he put a little more film together, and it was a little more to go to. Really digging in on his background, there were some track times we didn’t have on him previously. He’s a guy that runs in the 10.8 range, and his video is really, really strong. 

“We really like how he can get vertical, and he separates really well and can make some plays as a downfield receiver. Highly productive. Really good basketball player. There really just wasn’t a whole lot to knock on him as a guy who we really thought should be going up, relative to some of the other receivers. With Ballard, there was just a lot more information this time around than when we last addressed him in February or March.”

Leary commits to Tide

We have continually discussed Alabama needing to make a move at some point and that it probably wouldn't be long before the Crimson Tide started building its 2021 class. Nick Saban's program is starting to heat up, as five-star offensive tackle JC Latham was joined in the class late Tuesday night by four-star Florida receiver Christian Leary.

After being ranked in the 40s two weeks ago, Alabama's class is now ranked No. 23 in the nation, and it officially (well, unofficially until these players sign) put to bed any outside shot for the Buckeyes to bring in four receivers to the 2021 class – one of the possible scenarios we mentioned before. 

Other than Emeka Egbuka, Leary was the only other receiver whom the Buckeyes were targeting in this class, and he is now off the board.

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