Heat Check: Reshuffling The Recruiting Board After Nick Saban Caused Some Problems for the Buckeyes in June

By Andrew Ellis on July 7, 2020 at 10:10 am
Five-star tackle Tristan Leigh is a new addition to the 2021 recruiting board.

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.

Ohio State came into the month of June with 19 commitments and a commanding lead in the 2021 team rankings. Now that we've reached July, that number is down to 18, but it's still a commanding – and perhaps insurmountable – lead at the top.

There's no getting around it: Nick Saban got the best of the Buckeyes last month. Five-star tackle JC Latham was No. 2 on our previous big board and had been viewed as a heavy Buckeye lean. The IMG Academy product committed to the Tide on June 12 and delivered a nice little blow to Ryan Day and Greg Studrawa's offensive line efforts. 

Cincinnati corner Devonta Smith decommitted from Ohio State and quickly announced his pledge to Alabama. That one didn't sting quite as much and I don't think anyone is too worried about Kerry Coombs and the defensive backfield. Still, Smith is a fine player and I fully expect he'll do big things in Tuscaloosa. Saban reportedly had him way up toward the top of the board despite his three-star ranking. 

The NCAA dead period will now go through at least August, and that's continued to make things difficult for programs across the country. For the Buckeyes, things have quieted down a bit after the spring commitment barrage, but that tends to happen when a class only has six or seven spots remaining, no on-campus visitors, and over five months until the December early signing period. 

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

*Last month's edition can be found HERE. 

The defensive line has officially taken control of the top spots on the board. J.T. Tuimoloau holds steady at No. 1 and there continues to be very little movement on that front. The nation's No. 2 prospect is nowhere close to a decision and is still looking to take visits when permitted to do so. Larry Johnson and the Buckeyes remain in control of both the crystal ball and the Rivals FutureCast

Tywone Malone moves up to No. 2 and the biggest question here still revolves around baseball and how big of a factor it will be in this recruitment. His desire to play both sports won't rule out the Buckeyes by any means, but it may give an assist to southern programs like Florida State and Texas A&M. Much like Tuimoloau, a late decision seems to be the plan for the New Jersey defender. 

Five-star wide receiver Emeka Egbuka is now batting third as Brian Hartline battles the Sooners and Huskies for the country's best player at the position. We touched on Oklahoma landing the nation's top quarterback on Saturday and how that may (or may not) impact this recruitment, but Ohio State remains at the top and I personally don't see that changing.

If the dead period gets extended any further, could Egbuka announce a decision without another round of visits? I think that's definitely in the cards for the early enrollee, and he's already been on Ohio State's campus twice. The number of trips to Norman thus far? How about nada. 

Two cornerbacks remain on the board and this is still a lingering need despite four defensive backs already being committed. Kerry Coombs needs another pure corner, and that need was only enhanced with the loss of Devonta Smith. Clemson commit Jordan Hancock has been the top guy for a while now, and he continues to have strong communication with the Buckeye staff and commits. Obviously getting him on campus again would be a major deal. 

If it weren't for the Smith news, Jaylin Davies likely would have come off the board. We're moving him to the No. 11 spot for now, however, as he's a guy I could see the Buckeyes getting back in on if Coombs gets the vibe that Hancock will stick with the Tigers. The Mater Dei corner is a player that wanted to end up in Columbus, but Ohio State was doing a bit of slowplaying throughout the spring. He committed to Oregon on June 19.

The biggest addition to the board is five-star tackle Tristan Leigh. Ohio State appears to be in the top three and this is a recruitment that is going to go into the fall. Clemson, LSU, and Oklahoma look like the top contenders, but Leigh has stated he wants to make several more visits before deciding. He visited Columbus in November and has a strong relationship with Greg Studrawa.

There's no reason for too much optimism at the moment, but Leigh is perhaps now the top target at a position that still needs to be addressed. His crystal ball is all over the place and it sure feels like there's time for any one of his top schools to rise to the top and land the country's No. 3 tackle later in the process. 

Ohio State got some good news when four-star guard Jager Burton pushed back his decision. This one has been trending toward Kentucky lately, so some additional time could give the Buckeyes a big boost once visits pick back up. With the August announcement seemingly off the table, Ohio State will look to once again surge back to the top of his list. Kentucky appears to be out in front at the moment with Alabama and Clemson also in the picture. 

We've still got JC Latham on the board, though he's taken a dive down to the eight spot. This wasn't a situation where he suddenly committed to Bama out of the blue. Things had been trending that way for a while and there's really no reason to expect him to flip down the road. Still, he's got family in both Chicago and Milwaukee and Ohio State is certainly going to keep trying. 

Back on the defensive side of the ball, Pennsylvania safety Derrick Davis Jr. would likely be a bit higher if it weren't for some other more pressing needs. It's still looking like an Ohio State/Penn State battle with a few other big-time programs lurking. PSU recruiting coordinator/cornerbacks coach Terry Smith was running the show at Davis's high school from 2003 until 2012.

Raesjon Davis is up to No. 9 as Al Washington continues to quietly put in work for the nation's No. 3 outside linebacker. We'll have to see if the LSU commit is able to make it to Columbus, but he remains a name to watch as we move forward. The same can be said for Maryland pledge Demeioun RobinsonThere's no reason to think he'll back off his commitment to the in-state Terps, but another disastrous season could make things interesting. 

In a way, the lack of visits has actually made things even more difficult to keep up with. Since there's not much going on, it's really a matter of waiting to see who's willing to wait things out and who's ready to make some sort of decision. In the early stages of the COVID-19 situation, there were decision dates and news happening seemingly every day. That's no longer the case as we prepare for the dog days of summer.  

Ryan Day is likely shooting for a class of 24-25 signees, and nearly half of our board now consists of prospects that are committed to other schools. None of the other names seem to be all that close to deciding and we could be in store for a bit of a slowdown as the NCAA attempts to figure out the recruiting calendar and of course the 2020 season as a whole. 

The Buckeyes are set to begin required workouts on July 13. But with the pandemic outlook seemingly changing by the day, it would hardly be a surprise for some sort of news to drop by week's end. With so much at stake, no one's going to make a hurried decision in regard to campus visits or the upcoming season.

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