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.
Bixby not stressing about losing key offseason
For the vast majority of high school prospects looking to raise their profiles and get recruited by big-time college programs, the most critical time comes during the offseason between their sophomore and junior seasons. That’s certainly the case for St. Edward (Ohio) High School four-star defensive end Trey Bixby.
From November and December all the way through July, that period serves as the best time for most to show their growth in camp circuits, get evaluated in person by college coaches, pick up offers and visit schools to get more acquainted with the program and whether or not it’s a good fit.
The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, is making it much harder for many prospects to get noticed, and when you’re set back further by an injury – which Bixby was this summer – it can complicate things further.
Bixby, who is up to 6-foot-5, 245 pounds and ranked No. 213 overall, No. 13 at strongside defensive end and No. 8 in Ohio, suffered a light shoulder sprain in a game last season, and he reaggravated that injury recently. Even though it’s a fairly tame injury, Bixby played it safe and decided to rest up. That meant, however, that he missed out on the Elite Underclassmen Camp on July 11 in Obetz, Ohio, where he could have increased his recruiting profile a bit more.
But speaking with Bixby, there’s really not much of a concern or frustration about not getting a normal offseason during this crucial time. He’s just worried about the next steps and controlling what he can control.
“I know this upcoming season I’m gonna perform well, and I know that’s gonna be enough for a lot of those schools,” Bixby told Eleven Warriors. “So not having those camps and stuff, it’s not really too concerning or too frustrating for me. It wasn’t really my focus this offseason. My focus was just being the best player for my team and being the best athlete I could be.”
And as far as any pressure to have a productive junior season to get on college teams’ radars, Bixby said, “I put pressure on myself to perform my best at all times so as long as I know I’m giving my all into my sport and into my offseason and my workouts, I know I’ll be fine.”
While Bixby has spent his only two high school seasons in the Cleveland area, he is not originally from Ohio. He was born in Minnesota, moved to Arizona, then moved to Wisconsin and eventually from Wisconsin to Ohio, where the plan is for him to stay until he finishes out his final two years of high school.
He still remembers the exact date he moved to Ohio – June 4, 2018 – because it’s his birthday. It also happened to be the day that football workouts began at St. Edward.
To make it an even bigger whirlwind experience, Bixby had a basketball tournament in Iowa the night before, so they actually took the moving van from Wisconsin to Iowa to play in the tournament and then drove through the night to get to Ohio.
“We were in the moving van, parked the moving van and then drove up to practice,” Bixby said of the experience. “I didn’t know anybody there. Didn’t know any of the coaches. It was definitely different.”
Two years later, he’s completely settled in, and he says he enjoys living in the state. He doesn’t, however, have the same type of familiarity or homegrown affinity for the Buckeyes as most in-state recruits do who grew up rooting for Ohio State. So he’s still in the process of learning what it’s all about.
“It’s really just been us trying to get to know each other and me getting to know the program more because I’m not from Ohio,” Bixby said of his conversations with Ohio State coaches, mainly Tim Hinton. “So I haven’t really been to the campus, and I don’t really know the culture. All I know is that they produce D-linemen like crazy.”
And though Bixby says the Buckeye coaches have not detailed exactly what it is they love about his game, we can glean what they might see as positive traits about him from coaches like Minnesota defensive line coach Chad Wilt, who was recruiting Bixby at Cincinnati before he joined the Gophers and who loves the athleticism and versatility of Bixby.
“I definitely have the ability to play 3-tech,” Bixby said. “That’s where my main position used to be. I used to be a 3-tech and offensive line. My first year at D-end was freshman year. I have experience at 3-tech, but a lot of them are looking at me as strongside D-end. But they know that if they want to, they can add weight to me and move me inside.”
Heading into his sophomore season, Bixby admits he had some big struggles with his run defense. So he spent his entire offseason focusing on improving that area of his game, though it might have been a bit of an overcorrection.
He lost some of his pass-rush moves and a little bit of his speed off the edge, so he says he’s “really trying to get (my pass rushing) back to where it was before, or even better. That’s what I knew the most. I was just dominating pass rushing, and they didn’t think that I was gonna be a good run defender. I had to make sure that they knew that I could be a run defender.”
Now that he’s gotten back some of that pass rushing, Bixby has added about 10-15 pounds this offseason with the goal to get up to about 260-270 pounds by the time he gets to college and with the goal to use that added muscle to break some school records.
“My goal since freshman year was to go down in the St. Ed’s record books as either having the most sacks, tackles or time on the field,” said Bixby, who racked up 75 tackles, 3.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and 13 quarterback hurries as a sophomore. “Any of those or all of those, I would be extremely happy accomplishing. And then the most important thing is a championship and the ring.”
“It’s really just been us trying to get to know each other and me getting to know (ohio state’s) program more because I’m not from Ohio. So I haven’t really been to the campus, and I don’t really know the culture. All I know is that they produce D-linemen like crazy.”– st. edward (ohio) defensive end Trey Bixby
As for Bixby’s recruitment, he says he is still continuing to hear from the same schools he has been hearing from for a while, including calls with Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State and Minnesota and interest from Michigan and Kentucky. He also took a visit to Minnesota on the family’s own dime and time, combining a trip to see family with a short campus visit.
As far as Ohio State goes, an offer does not appear imminent, as the coaches have “just said that they need to see a bit more film,” Bixby said.
“Camps this summer would’ve been a great opportunity to show them again, but it is what it is with quarantine and COVID,” Bixby said.
Bama/OSU battle for No. 1
Ever since Ohio State’s absurd spring recruiting run became a national storyline a few months ago, the strong belief has been that the Buckeyes were heading toward possibly the greatest recruiting class in the history of modern recruiting. Or, at the worst, that they would win their first-ever recruiting crown in program history.
Ohio State (305.37 points) is still the betting favorite to land the No. 1 class, with the betting line being something like -120 in this hypothetical Vegas oddsmaker scenario. But Alabama is hard-changing, having jumped from all the way back in the 60s to the No. 2 class in America (269.24 points).
Again, the Buckeyes still have a strong lead, but it’s a diminishing lead that appears as if it will shrink even further on Sunday with the impending commitment of five-star Belleville (Mich.) product Damon Payne, the nation’s 15th-ranked overall player and top-ranked defensive tackle, who is likely to join the Tide.
That would put Alabama’s total score at 280.65 points with just 16 commitments. There are still a handful of top-tier targets for both the Buckeyes and Tide to close on, so it looks like we could be headed for a tight race between the two programs for the recruiting title. That would have sounded crazy just a couple months ago, but that’s how quickly things have changed.
Texas moving forward with fall football plan
We recently touched on the potential for Texas to shut down the high school football season in the fall and the impact that would have on other states.
“If Texas doesn’t have high school football in the fall, the whole country probably won’t,” Ohio State running back commit TreVeyon Henderson, who won't play high school football in Virginia this fall, told Eleven Warriors at that time.
On Tuesday, however, the Texas University Interscholastic League announced via Twitter a plan to move forward with high school sports in the fall, with the first day of football practices for Classes 1A-4A beginning on Aug. 3 and practices for Classes 5A-6A beginning on Sept. 7.
Modified UIL Activities Calendar & COVID-19 Guidelines for 2020-2021 School Year— Texas UIL (@uiltexas) July 21, 2020
Press Release https://t.co/sv3boFOD43
Full COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Guidelines https://t.co/o3qFFIZxrF
More COVID-19 Information https://t.co/lE7fRyRbWY pic.twitter.com/vuWybpYVQ8
The schedule changes will only affect one current Ohio State commit, five-star offensive guard Donovan Jackson, who plays for Houston's Episcopal High School at the Class 4A level of the Southwest Preparatory Conference.
Top photo: Trey Bixby/247Sports