Ohio offensive linemen Deontae and Devontae Armstong have committed to Ohio State's class of 2024.
It's going to be a Zoom-filled fall.
We're now less than four months away from December's early signing period. The pandemic hasn't slowed down the Buckeyes and the rest of the recruiting powers as most of the usual names can be found atop the 2021 recruiting rankings.
While the rankings may look fairly typical, the next four months are going to be far from it. Right now, we're looking at a recruiting cycle where high school prospects likely won't be able to make official visits to college campuses. We know the dead period will run through at least September, but it seems unlikely that the NCAA will open things up anytime soon.
Thus far, Ohio State hasn't run into too many issues on the trail. Alabama is closing in for the top spot, but the Buckeyes still have a handful of long-time top targets waiting to make their intentions known. Last week, we talked about how Ryan Day and Mark Pantoni have a bit of a strange and unexpected opportunity since – as of now – three of the Power 5 conferences will be playing football this fall. The fact that Ohio State will have even more time to focus on its recruiting efforts is perhaps the only positive stemming from this whole ordeal.
The NCAA has said very little about any changes to the recruiting calendar, and Ryan Day has already made it clear that he doesn't want things changed. That should mean that the bulk of the 2021 class will sign in December, and the next four months will be of the utmost importance for Day, Mark Pantoni, and the rest of the Ohio State staff.
Zoom meetings have become a regular occurrence across the world dating back to March, and it's been no different for the Buckeyes. Ohio State has gotten several prospects to commit without stepping foot on the campus. That includes five-star running back TreVeyon Henderson and four-star cornerback Denzel Burke. These virtual visits have paid off in a big way, but will they be enough to help reel in the remaining big fish on the trail?
Got another boom coming soon... #GoBucks— (@MichaelHallJr_) August 24, 2020
There are a few more truly elite targets that Ohio State is hoping to land. While the lack of an on-campus visit didn't change the Henderson recruitment, I think it's going to make things especially tough for a few of the remaining prospects. There's always a chance the families could make a trip on their own dime much like we saw at Oklahoma this past weekend, but one has to remember that we're still in the middle of a pandemic. And who knows what the next few months will even look like?
If Ryan Day's key remaining prospects are unable to make it to Columbus before a decision is made, then the Buckeyes could find themselves in a bit of a unique fight for each of the top targets. And in some cases, the lack of fall and winter visits could potentially be a deal-breaker.
Emeka Egbuka • Wide Receiver • Steilacoom, Wash. • ★★★★★
The apple of Brian Hartline's eye has already been to Columbus multiple times. Oklahoma is the main competition, and Egbuka has yet to set foot in Norman. The Buckeyes got a nice bit of good news when he didn't make the trip for last weekend's Sooner Summit, and who knows if he'll be able to get to Oklahoma at all before announcing.
The five-star hasn't laid out a timeline for a decision and seems to be unsure if he'll enroll early in January (as originally planned) or stick around for the spring high school season in Washington. The Egbuka family is supposedly wanting to make a trip to Norman at some point, but I can see a scenario where those plans never come to fruition and a decision being made in the next few months.
- Impact Meter: Minimal
J.T. Tuimoloau • Defensive Line • Sammamish, Wash. • ★★★★★
Ohio State is battling it out with Oregon, Washington, USC, and Alabama for the country's No. 2 prospect. Tuimoloau is a little bit like Zach Harrison in that he doesn't do much on social media and doesn't say a whole lot about the recruiting process. This situation is a bit different than others since the five-star has always planned on making a late decision and is now wanting to play his senior season this spring. His timeline seemingly makes it a bit more likely that he'll be able to check out some campuses before signing with his school of choice.
Tuimoloau has been to several of his top schools, and most feel Ohio State is the team to beat despite having yet to make a visit. Larry Johnson's player development and NFL Draft success may be the most important factor in this recruitment. Still, the hope continues to be that Tuimoloau will be able to check out Columbus at some point prior to February. I do think there's at least a bit of trepidation that the pandemic could ultimately favor the local schools, but there's no reason for too much concern at this point.
- Impact Meter: Significant
Tristan Leigh • Offensive Tackle • Fairfax, Va. • ★★★★★
Ohio State is probably running third in this one behind both LSU and Oklahoma. The nation's No. 3 tackle was in Norman last weekend and is already planning a return trip to Baton Rouge. Leigh and his family are clearly willing to check out campuses despite the weird times we're living in, and another visit to Columbus is of the utmost importance if Ohio State wants a legitimate shot at the five-star.
- Impact Meter: Critical
Tywone Malone • Defensive Tackle • Oradell, NJ • ★★★★
Ohio State defensive tackle target Tyleik Williams is now set to make his commitment on Thursday, and Larry Johnson sure seems to suddenly be pushing for the Virginia four-star. It could be totally unrelated to the recruitment of Tywone Malone, but I have a feeling the Buckeye staff knows that they're in for a real battle for the two-sport star from New Jersey.
Malone has never been in a hurry to make a decision, but baseball has always been a major factor in his recruitment. He's visited Ohio State before and certainly has been in contact with Larry Johnson, but some of the southern programs like Texas A&M and Florida State may have the edge right now. The good news with this one is that there's still for the Buckeyes to make another move, but Johnson may soon have two defensive tackles in the fold.
- Impact Meter: Significant
There's been some talk of Jack Sawyer and the other commits arranging a gathering of sorts sometime this fall. Much like what Oklahoma and Georgia did this past weekend, the coaching staff wouldn't be able to have any involvement if and when the prospects do make it to Ohio State's campus.
We'll see if that comes to fruition, but the expectation right now is that Zoom visits and other forms of technology will continue to pave the way for the next four months as the Buckeyes look to fend off Alabama and hang on to the No. 1 spot in the 2021 recruiting rankings.