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.
Christian breaks down top three
As a quick refresher that we’ve hit on dozens of times – after the Buckeyes’ plans of bringing in two tight ends to the 2020 class went by the wayside, that plan was moved to the 2021 cycle.
That plan could still be in place, as we’ve been told the coaching staff is still recruiting tight ends to bring alongside Sam Hart in 2021, but after Hudson Wolfe’s commitment to Tennessee, it increased the likelihood Ohio State will wait to bring in two tight ends until 2022.
In that class, the Buckeyes have already offered four tight ends. The top two targets are Donovan Green (ranked No. 72 overall, No. 1 at the position and No. 14 in Texas) and Benji Gosnell (ranked No. 248 overall, No. 10 at the position and No. 8 in North Carolina).
We caught up with Christian, Green and Gosnell earlier this month, but Wednesday brought with it a bigger update for Christian. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound tight end, who does not yet have a composite ranking but is rated as a three-star by 247Sports, released a list of top-three schools that features Ohio State, Penn State and Tennessee.
Christian told Eleven Warriors why each school made his final list, including some family connections to the Volunteers and Nittany Lions.
Ohio State: “The main reason is because they’re such a winning program. I really love Coach (Kevin) Wilson. All the coaching staff up there is amazing. It’s really one of those schools I’m interested in going to down the road. It’s one of those schools where I’d have a really good chance at winning a national championship and getting that ring there. There’s that winning aspect but not only that, the coaching staff is amazing. Just the feel of Ohio State football is it’s really a family thing. I’ve gotten the vibe of that recently. So now that I’m getting closer to making a decision, that’s one of those schools I might go with moving forward.
“Really, from the start of my conversations with Coach Wilson and the staff there, they said, ‘Bennett, listen, man. We’ve got about five guys in your class,’ and they said, in our opinion, you’re our favorite right now. Truly, it’s because I can do both in catching and blocking. That’s what they really like about me is I can block and run routes. That’s the main thing is how I’m really complete.”
Tennessee: “My dad played (as a defensive end) there under Coach (Johnny) Majors in the 70s, and my mom was a two-time All-American cheerleader there. Outside of those connections, it was the relationships I have with the coaches. I love the offense they run up there, and I could see myself fitting in there pretty well. Really, I love the fans. The fans are awesome, and it was just one of those things where you can feel the connections.”
Penn State: “My uncle played (as a defensive end) at Penn State a little bit before my dad did. I have a lot of family that are Big Ten fans. Coach (Tyler) Bowen is awesome. Penn State is also one of those really, really good tight end schools, and they can really develop the tight end.”
Christian has never made a visit to Ohio State or Columbus, but he says he and his family are planning on getting up there soon on their own dime for a campus tour, without being in contact with any of the coaches.
“I’m getting up there soon,” Christian said. “We were just talking about that, actually. What we’re gonna do is head up there with my dad, view campus and just see for myself how I could fit in and just get an overall campus feel of where I’d be staying. I’m planning on doing that within the next month, and I’m gonna do that with Penn State and Tennessee within the next two months.”
As for a decision date, Christian doesn’t have one. Instead, he’s just taking the process as it comes.
“It could be any time,” he said of a decision date. “It could either be tomorrow or a year from now. Whenever I know, I’ll know, and I’ll make the decision then.”
New offers for 2023 prospects
The mini offer spree to prospects in the class of 2023 has continued from Ohio State, with a pair of young men in the Florida trenches receiving official interest from the Buckeyes.
Osceola High School’s Derrick LeBlanc, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound strongside defensive end out of Kissimmee, added Ohio State to a list of nearly 40 offers that is highlighted by Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, Oregon, Texas, Texas A&M and USC.
Dr. Phillips High School’s Payton Kirkland, a 6-foot-7, 310-pound offensive tackle out of Orlando, has interest from a lot of the same schools. He has nearly 25 offers highlighted by Arizona State, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Penn State and Tennessee. But there might not have been a bigger, more impactful offer than the one he got from the Buckeyes.
“Coach (Tony) Alford and (Greg) Studrawa offered me. It’s a life changing experience to be able to see the smile on my mother’s face,” Kirkland told Eleven Warriors. “She was amazed. It brought her to tears. She could not hold her excitement in.”
#AGTG I am truly blown away that I have an opportunity to announce that I have earned an ffer from THE Ohio State University! #GoBuckeyes @CoachTonyAlford @CertifiedDawgAG @trenchmenAC @coachleggins pic.twitter.com/lMrL8nApr2— PaytonPKAYKirkland (@paytonkirk55) July 29, 2020
Kirkland seeing his mom’s reaction to the offer added to a relationship between them and the Buckeye coaches that began in January when they came to Dr. Phillips and spoke. And that relationship has continued to grow as Kirkland discovered how real the coaches were to him.
“I feel like they’re the most genuine coaches I’ve met within recruitment so far,” Kirkland said. “They told me from the beginning that they’re not going to offer me (yet) so I wouldn’t get my hopes up. We built a relationship, and here we are now.”
Though he appears destined for a tackle position, Alford and Studrawa have not specified the exact spot on the offensive line they like him at.
“I’m not sure yet,” Kirkland said when asked what position they project him to play. “I'm open to playing anything. They told me that they know I'm an athlete and I can play, but the determining factor was what type of person I was.”
It’s still incredibly early in the process, so Kirkland says he does not have any leaders in his recruitment, “but Ohio State will most definitely be in my top five!”
Stockton eliminates Buckeyes
In another bit of recruiting news from the past 24 hours, Georgia five-star prospect Gunner Stockton, one of just four quarterbacks Ohio State has offered in the 2022 class, has eliminated the Buckeyes from contention.
Want to thank my family, my teammates, my coaches and every school that has recruited me for the last two years. With that being said I am down to my final two schools, so I can focus on my junior season at Rabun County. Please no interviews at this time. Thank you and God Bless! pic.twitter.com/lyXBXDQXNE— Gunner Stockton (@GunnerStockton) July 30, 2020
Stockton released a final two of Georgia and South Carolina, leaving the Buckeyes to focus on other options at the position. They have offered three other quarterbacks in the class of 2022: five-stars Quinn Ewers (the No. 1 overall player in the country, who the Buckeyes have reportedly been recruiting better than any other program) and Maalik Murphy, plus New Jersey’s Steven Angeli.
Top photo: Bennett Christian/Rusty Mansell – 247Sports