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.
Burton announces decision date
For several months now, since before the recruiting shutdown and five-plus-month dead period, Frederick Douglass (Ky.) High School four-star offensive guard Jager Burton has maintained he was going to wait until he took all five of his official visits before he made a commitment.
But with the incredible amount of uncertainty centered around the dead period and no one knowing when visits will be allowed again, Burton announced Thursday he will be making a decision before he's able to make visits.
The top-125 overall player and No. 8 offensive guard in the nation will be making his college commitment at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Burton is down to Ohio State, Kentucky, Clemson, Alabama and Oregon as his final five schools. The Crystal Ball predictions have him set to choose Kentucky, and it's been more than a month – really, since our visit with him in July – that we've believed Kentucky and Ohio State were Nos. 1 and 2 in that order.
We will find out in a few days what the official word is, but since Burton hasn't been able to visit Ohio State again – which would have been his first visit to Columbus since late November – it's not looking like good news for the Buckeyes, who are now down to Tristan Leigh as their top remaining uncommitted offensive line target on the board. Assuming Burton comes off the board, it's probable we'll see one or two more names emerge going forward.
Here is a look back at Burton's dissection of his final five schools that he detailed to Eleven Warriors in July:
“For a long time, Ohio State was No. 1. You go to a place – that was one of the last places I visited game-wise – and I’ve always been one of those people that I go to a game, and I wanna go to that school. And then the next week, I go to another game, and I wanna go to that school. I think that’s why, but it’s always been like that. One week, Texas will be my No. 1 school and then not even in my top five. It’s just confusing, especially now, because you can’t even go look at anything. I kind of know everything, but the most important thing for me has always been talking to players, and I haven’t been able to do that. That’s what officials are for, basically, and to spend the night there and see how it feels.
“With Ohio State and all my schools, I’m just waiting for my official visits. But what draws me there is if you wanna live in Columbus after your career’s over – which I’m not sure I wanna do yet – but if you do wanna live in Columbus, you’re set for life. That’s the way it is with most of my schools. It’s a good Plan B to fall back on if the NFL doesn’t work out. It’s just the big city vibe. And, obviously, you’re probably gonna win a national championship if you’re there.”
“You grow up in Kentucky and you see all their games. I’ve seen the growth with Joker and Stoops and all that and how much it’s changing. Where are they gonna be in another five years if they’ve already come this far in two or three? Just think about that and then obviously all my friends are gonna go there. Just staying local.
“I definitely wanna respond to this, too – I’ve never responded to this on Twitter – but everyone will be like, ‘why is Kentucky in this group? Kentucky doesn’t fit in with this group.’ But if you really look at the numbers and you look at the best O-line classes, one of the best O-line classes in the rankings is Kentucky. They’re one of the best O-line schools. If I wasn’t an O-lineman then it’d be different. Kentucky is on the rise, and they’ve been in the top 25 for about three years now. So I just wanted to say something about that.”
(Burton was likely referencing this list by Pro Football Focus, in which the Wildcats were listed as the fifth-best line in college football’s 2019 season. All five schools in Burton’s final list finished in the top seven.)
“Oregon was my dream school growing up. When I was little, I think I just liked the uniforms. But they’re basically the only school with an O-line head coach with Coach (Mario) Cristobal, and then I have Coach (Alex) Mirabal, so basically two O-line coaches – two of the best O-line coaches. And I think the job security is great there. I don’t think they’re going anywhere, so if I go there, you know they’re probably gonna be there the whole time.”
“If anyone’s ever been to Clemson, you understand why someone would wanna go there. It’s South Carolina. It’s perfect weather all the time. There’s lakes everywhere. I’m a Christian, so the Christian aspect plays into it all for me. And it just kind of feels like Lexington, in a weird way.
“(Former teammate and now-Clemson offensive tackle Walker Parks) was always a Kentucky fan, and his dad played for Kentucky. But I think, once you go there, you understand why people wanna go there like, ‘OK. This makes sense now.’ And just how nice the people are there. It’s crazy how nice they are. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place like that where just everyone is so genuine and nice. They don’t really care who you are. They just care that you’re there to see what it’s all about.”
“Alabama’s definitely one of my top schools. Just having the opportunity to play for a coach like Coach (Nick) Saban, who’s coached for so long. In my opinion, he’s probably the best coach in college football, just over time. And then, obviously, seeing what they did with (Jedrick Wills), who’s five minutes away from me. I talk to him about what he’s had to go through in the recruiting process. It’s easy to see myself playing out the same way as Jed and just going there and being successful. Plus, it’s not too far from home. Ohio State’s closer, but Alabama’s a little bit closer than Clemson. It’s a good distance away if I do wanna leave home. And then the tradition and playing in games like the Iron Bowl every year and Alabama vs. LSU.”
Next steps after Williams commitment
Williams fills a big need at nose tackle for the Buckeyes, and we hit on how it impacts the recruiting rankings and Ohio State's battle against Alabama for the recruiting crown.
As for what he brings to the Buckeyes' class non-rankings wise, he now pairs with one of Ohio State's best – and perhaps most underrated – recruits in fellow defensive tackle Mike Hall.
Hall and Williams provide the Buckeyes with a pair of stout defensive tackles, with Hall likely to be a 3-technique and Williams having the ability to play 1-tech or 3-tech.
Ohio State's remaining top targets along the defensive line are Washington five-star J.T. Tuimoloau and New Jersey four-star Tywone Malone. If the Buckeyes can land just one of them, this will be the best defensive line haul in the country.
Commits push for Alston
We've reported in the past that Ohio State is likely seeking two running back commitments in the 2022 class, and a couple Buckeye commits in the 2021 cycle have made it clear who they want to bring into the class as one of those backs.
Four-star running back target Damari Alston – who plays his football at Georgia's Woodward Academy – got some subtle recruiting pitches on Twitter from fellow Georgian Jordan Hancock and from Ohioan C.J. Hicks on Wednesday.
buckeye soon??? https://t.co/4YdEybJFcB— jordan hancock (@jordanhancock_7) August 26, 2020
Alston was bumped up from three-star status into four-star territory this week. He jumped from No. 35 at running back to No. 27 at the position and from No. 28 in Georgia to No. 25 in the state. He has emerged as one of the Buckeyes' top targets at the position and is worth monitoring heading into the fall.
“We've been in contact for a while,” Alston told Eleven Warriors shortly after he was offered on August 11. “Coach (Tony) Alford loves me as a person and the way I run the ball and ability to do it all – blocking and catching. OSU is one of the biggest programs ever, which means and shows a lot. Coach Alford and the staff have put many backs in the league, and the athletics program has always been top-tier.
“(Alford) likes my lean and ability to be powerful and break tackles. Also my elusiveness and ability to make someone miss.”