The Hurry-Up: More on Devonta Smith’s Decommitment, Recruiting Dead Period Extended, Catching Up with Ohio State Commit Jyaire Brown

By Zack Carpenter on June 25, 2020 at 6:30 pm
Jyaire Brown

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.

More on Smith decommitment

The biggest news of the day came this afternoon when three-star Cincinnati La Salle cornerback Devonta Smith announced his decommitment from Ohio State.

In March, Smith detailed to Eleven Warriors the behind-the-scenes details of how his commitment came to be and how Kerry Coombs reacted when he gave the fellow Cincinnatian the news. And two days before his March 16 commitment, Smith told us of the emotions he went through when he got his Ohio State offer and what it meant to commit to his home state school.

“We got off the phone, and I cried in front of my boys, man. It was crazy,” Smith said. “It was a great moment, man. It was really a blessing, just knowing the work I put in paid off. I’m just ultimately blessed. I give all glory to God and my mom for everything that she’s done. That’s just been that.”

However, Smith's teammate and best friend, 2021 Ohio State defensive back/linebacker commit Jaylen Johnson, told Eleven Warriors that Smith had “been stressing over this decision” for the past four months.

Johnson says he's known about Smith's decision for a while: “Just hope he makes the best out of it. ... His life; his choice.”

Ohio State's large defensive backs class in 2021 played a factor in Smith choosing to decommit, as the Buckeyes already have Jakailin Johnson, Andre Turrentine, Denzel Burke and Jantzen Dunn – plus Jaylen Johnson if you include him as a defensive back – in the fold. And Coombs is still looking to add at least one more to the mix. 

Safety Derrick Davis Jr. is far and away the top remaining uncommitted defensive back target. Cornerback Tony Grimes is set to make a decision next week, but the Buckeyes look to be trailing substantially in that recruitment and I don't believe they will be able to make up enough ground on North Carolina and Georgia without getting another visit from him. Cornerback Jordan Hancock is the other top target, but pulling him from Clemson will be a very tall task. Perhaps we will see some other in-state targets get pulled into the mix as well.

As for Smith, it appears as if Alabama has pulled into the pole position for his commitment, with eight Crystal Ball predictions flying in on Thursday for the Crimson Tide to land him. Smith told us, prior to receiving his Ohio State offer and subsequently committing, that he had planned on taking an unofficial visit to Alabama in the spring and that he had hoped to get to Oregon as well. 

After those two programs offered, the Buckeyes soon followed with their offer, and it appeared to seal Smith's college decision until he officially made the choice to reopen his recruitment on Thursday.

Dead period extended

It's not exactly a surprise, but it became official on Thursday evening that the NCAA has extended the recruiting dead period through August 31.

Once again, that means there will be no official or unofficial visits in July or August. There had been a bit of optimism that we may begin to start seeing visits allowed in August, though the likeliest restart of visits has been September for a while now. 

We have continued seeing the effect that visit suspensions have had on decision timelines, such as Jager Burton, who on Sunday announced that he would be pushing back his planned Aug. 24 commitment date until he had a chance to take all five of his official visits. 

We have also seen the recent effects the dead period has had on Ohio State, as the inability to get JC Latham, Hudson Wolfe and Troy Stellato on campus this spring and summer played roles in each of them committing elsewhere. 

Background on Brown's commitment

From when he was in elementary school up until today, rising junior Jyaire Brown had always rooted for Ohio State, watching the Buckeye games on TV in his father and stepmother’s home in New Orleans. 

He was always a big backer of Urban Meyer, and he says he’s a huge fan of Marshon Lattimore – a fellow cornerback with similar size coming out of high school (6-foot, 175 pounds) compared to Brown (6-foot, 165 pounds) and, like Brown, a native of Ohio who had moved to New Orleans. Then he rooted for Jeff Okudah and now, Justin Fields. 

When Brown moved away from his Cincinnati home at 4 years old, he was moving away with his dad and stepmom, but all of his immediate family remained in Ohio, as did his grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. So Brown made a promise to himself as he grew into a prominent player in Louisiana.

“Playing football over the years, I’ve always said I was gonna get back home so I can get a chance to play in front of my family because they never got a chance to see me play,” Brown told Eleven Warriors. “Ohio State’s always been my dream school, so when I got (the offer), I knew. And me and Coach Coombs developed our relationship, and it was just curtains from there.”

When Brown was offered by Ohio State on April 17, the four-star Warren Easton High School cornerback could barely contain his excitement, telling us that the “unreal” offer “means everything to me and my family” and that it was more impactful than any of his other offers. Bigger than Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma and even LSU. 

He even started talking as if he had already committed to the Buckeyes, letting slip that he “can’t wait to play under Coach Coombs.”

In his heart, he already knew where he was going to play his college ball the moment he got the offer. But still, he got some pushback from his older brother, Lonnell Brown Jr., a former standout slot/nickel cornerback at Indiana State and team MVP under Tom Bolden at Colerain High School. Lonnell wasn’t upset with the decision to commit so early. He had just been hoping his little brother would take some more time and be patient with the process. 

But Brown didn’t want to wait any longer, and after talking extensively with their father, Lonnell Sr., he knew he had to pull the trigger on making his “dream school” a reality. 

“I just had it in my head that it was my decision, and I talked to my dad and he supported it. That’s all I needed,” Brown said. 

He woke up on April 22, just five days after getting that offer, not knowing that he was going to be the day he committed, but he couldn’t hold off any longer, becoming the Buckeyes' first commitment in the 2022 class.

“I had a virtual tour with basically the whole staff about facilities, academics, basically everything about the school,” Brown says of that day. “It was with almost the whole coaching staff – Coach (Ryan) Day and everybody. After I got off the visit, I FaceTimed with Coach Coombs. We were just talking regular, and my dad was like, ‘You wanna do it? You wanna commit?’ I was just like, ‘Yeah.’ 

“I asked Coach Coombs, ‘Are y’all taking commitments right now?’ And he said, ‘Hell yeah.’ I just said, ‘Well I wanna commit,’ and he got all excited. I talked to his wife and stuff. It was really cool.”

Bringing versatility

Less than 12 hours before Brown’s commitment, Kerry Coombs detailed in a teleconference what he and the Buckeyes target in a defensive back recruit. The key word when it came to on-field traits was versatility.

“We’re looking for guys that can play at multiple spots,” Coombs said. “I think that’s really important because that gives you a lot of opportunities to play more guys and play them in different situations.”

Therein lies perhaps the main reason Brown’s commitment was accepted. Ranked in the top 125 overall in the 2022 class and in the top 20 at his position, Brown brings physicality on the outside and lateral quickness on the inside. 

“I think it’s my ability of being very versatile,” Brown said when asked why Coombs was so ecstatic about his commitment. “I can play in the slot as a nickel corner, and I also can play as an outside corner. I have the footwork to be in the slot to cover the smaller, quicker receivers, and that helps me when I go to the outside and cover the taller and, not slower, but not as speedy receivers.”

Moving to Ohio; life since committing

We will get into this more on Saturday, but Brown recently transferred from Warren Easton to Lakota West High School, so his return home is taking place two years sooner than originally planned.

First, though, he has to actually make the move. He spent about a month-and-a-half back in Cincinnati in May and June, but he is now back in New Orleans preparing for a move. Some relaxation and fun is the first step, with a going-away pool party planned for Friday before he makes the move to Cincinnati beginning Sunday. 

He will be moving in with his brother first, as his father and stepmother put together final plans on moving into a new place, with one possibility being a neighborhood about five minutes from Lakota West. Close enough that he could backpedal to school each day.

Despite a busy and sometimes hectic move, Brown says life has been “comfortable” and “smooth” since he made his commitment. 

“I’ve just been continuing working and doing what I needed to do to get me there. Just working every day,” Brown said. 

As far as recruiting goes, he says, “it’s slowing down a little bit, but it’s still there,” as he talks “from time to time” with schools such as Tennessee, Mississippi State, Texas, Penn State and TCU.

When it comes to his recruitment, he says he wants to keep options open just in case something funky happens down the road.

“My mindset’s that I’m gonna keep listening to what they have to say and keep being open-minded because with me having two years left of high school, anything can happen so I just listen to what they have to say,” Brown said. “But Ohio State, I’m all in with them. At the end of the day, I’m still gonna be a Buckeye.”

Mark Pantoni, the Buckeyes’ director of player personnel, has said that one of Ohio State’s top one or two objectives in recruiting is to recruit their committed players as if they are still uncommitted. Brown says he’s felt that approach since April. 

“I talk to them almost every other day,” Brown said. “They definitely are still busy recruiting me.”

The fans have been, too.

“I get nothing but love from Ohio State fans,” Brown said. “They’re one of the best fan bases in the nation.”

Jyaire Brown photo: Scott Springer/The Cincinnati Enquirer

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