Heat Check: Washington Pair Takes Over on Top, Defensive Tackle Slides Following Larry Johnson's Latest Addition

By Andrew Ellis on September 1, 2020 at 10:10 am
Four-star Florida commit Justus Boone received an Ohio State offer in August.

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.

August was a whirlwind of a month. We were hit with the devastating news regarding the Big Ten football season, protests took place in Chicago and Columbus, and all the while three of the nation's power conferences just kept chugging along toward the 2020 season. 

As we await some sort of plan for the season and when it may get underway, Ryan Day and the Ohio State staff continue to sit atop the national recruiting rankings. And as we all know by now – even in the midst of a pandemic – recruiting simply never stops. 

The loss of four-star defensive lineman Tunmise Adeleye was an unfortunate bit of news in August, and that helped Alabama to briefly take over the No. 1 spot in the rankings. That was short-lived, however, as Larry Johnson answered with a commitment from four-star Virginia tackle Tyleik Williams. We had briefly talked about Williams in the past, and he didn't waste much time announcing his decision after getting the green light from the Buckeye staff.

Ohio State's class is sitting at 19 commitments, and I think there's some uncertainty as to how many more additions we'll see. The NCAA is going to need to announce how some of the new eligibility rules will be handled moving forward (as it pertains to the 85 scholarship total) as this could have a direct impact on a program's recruiting efforts.

The aforementioned August developments – in addition to Kentucky guard Jager Burton electing to stay in his home state – have once again led to some changes to our 2021 board. 

J.T. TUIMOLOAU DL 1 1 ★★★★★ Washington•Alabama•USC•Oregon
EMEKA EGBUKA WR 2 3 ★★★★★ Oklahoma•Washington
TRISTAN LEIGH OT 3 4 ★★★★★ LSU•Oklahoma•Clemson
TYWONE MALONE DT 4 2 ★★★★ Ole Miss•TAMU•Rutgers•FSU
DERRICK DAVIS JR. SAF 5 6 ★★★★ Penn State•LSU•Clemson
RAESJON DAVIS LB 6 7 ★★★★ LSU Commit
JUSTUS BOONE DE 7 NA ★★★★ Florida Commit
TERRENCE RANKL OT 8 11 ★★★ Pittsburgh Commit
DARRYL PETERSON DE 9 NA ★★★ Wisconsin Commit
JC LATHAM OT 10 8 ★★★★★ Alabama Commit
JORDAN DINGLE TE 11 10 ★★★ Kentucky•Virginia Tech

*Last month's edition can be found HERE. 

First, it was the in-state Huskies. Then it was USC. Then things shifted over to Oregon. Now, it's supposedly Alabama posing the biggest threat for the No. 1 player on our board. The fact of the matter is this: when the second-place team keeps changing, it's usually a good sign for the frontrunner.

J.T. Tuimoloau doesn't appear to be anywhere close to a decision and likely won't announce until February. The biggest question here is whether or not he'll actually be able to visit Columbus. The five-star has visited the other top schools – including Alabama – and I suppose that's at least slightly concerning given the current COVID state of affairs. Don't expect Tuimoloau to say a whole lot in the coming months, but I think Ohio State is still the safe pick here. 

I know wide receiver is hardly the team's biggest need, but Emeka Egbuka has long been Brian Hartline's top priority. He didn't make the trip to Norman in August, and who knows if he'll ever get to check out the Sooners prior to making an announcement. The now No. 2 player on our board changed his plans due to the pandemic and Washington pushing its season back to the spring, but the Buckeyes should still be viewed as the heavy favorite. A decision may come as soon as the NCAA announces that visits are a no go for the rest of the year.

Adding an offensive tackle continues to be one of the top priorities to close out the class. We've moved Tristan Leigh up to No. 3, but it's almost entirely based on positional need rather than things trending in the right direction. Leigh is one of the few prospects who seems totally fine with taking visits right now. He was recently at Oklahoma and plans on returning to LSU in the next month or so. He's grown close with Greg Studrawa but will need to make a return trip to Columbus for the good guys to really have a chance. 

The Tyleik Williams commitment means there are now two defensive tackles in the class. Do we think that will slow down the pursuit of Tywone Malone? Absolutely not. But right now, I think I'd probably take the field over the Buckeyes in that race. This is yet another slow recruitment that's expected to go into the next calendar year. Malone is down to No. 4 on the board, but he remains a priority target for Larry Johnson. It's worth noting that two Rivals FutureCast picks were submitted last week. Both were in Ohio State's favor.

Each of the Davises moves up a spot this month, and Ohio State's chances with the Pennsylvania version continue to be far better than his West Coast counterpart. I've said it before, but I don't think Kerry Coombs necessarily needs another defensive back. But stealing one of the country's best from Penn State would be quite satisfying. It still feels like a Big Ten battle for Derrick Davis Jr. We'll see if a potential trip to Baton Rouge can shake things up.

California linebacker Raesjon Davis is the top-rated commitment for Ed Orgeron and the Tigers. Davis has expressed an interest in visiting Ohio State and the in-state Trojans despite his pledge to LSU. There's nothing to get excited about here unless the four-star is able to get to Columbus. The good news is that he's not enrolling early, so if things do open back up then maybe a round of visits can take place. Davis seems to be the only remaining 2021 linebacker Al Washington is really pushing for at this time while the 2022 class already has a trio in the fold.

The Adeleye decommitment means the Buckeyes may have some more space to play around with on the defensive line. Perhaps that already helped Tyleik Williams out with his decision, but another pass rusher to complement Jack Sawyer and hopefully J.T. Tuimoloau would be ideal. South Carolina's Justus Boone has been a Gator commit since February, but he seems interested in checking out the Buckeyes when able to do so. There have already been some rumors of his commitment not being the most solid, so this one should at least be worth watching.

Massillon tackle Terrence Rankl moves up a few spots to No. 8 despite still not holding an offer. There are a handful of in-state linemen who could earn offers in the coming months, and I get the feeling the Pittsburgh commit could be at the top of the list. We're keeping JC Latham on the board as well just in case the Milwaukee native and his family decide they'd prefer he sticks to the Midwest for his college days. But that's nothing more than a pipe dream at the moment. If I had to guess on the other tackle to close out the 2021 class, Rankl would be the guy right now.

Akron's Darryl Peterson is in a similar situation as Rankl. The Badger commit doesn't hold a Buckeye offer but is very much a player the staff will continue evaluating. At 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, he's got an impressive offer list and is another one to watch as a possible late in-state addition. We've long had Maryland defensive end commit Demeioun Robinson on the board, but there just hasn't been any traction on that front. We'll see if Larry Johnson may have room for the Archbishop Hoban three-star. 

Ohio State has one 2021 tight end committed in Sam Hart. The Buckeyes appear to be on the verge of landing Bennett Christian when the 2022 prospect announces his decision tonight. North Carolina tight end Benji Gosnell is also extremely high on Kevin Wilson and the Buckeyes. I think Ohio State lands a pair for the 2022 class, but we're continuing to watch Kentucky's Jordan Dingle for the current cycle. A likely addition? Nope. Worth monitoring? I'd say so. 

We had once projected the 2021 class to end up with 24-26 signees. No one knows exactly what's going to happen with visits moving forward, but I think that number may need to be lowered a bit. There really aren't a whole lot of players out there right now who are no-doubt-about-it, realistic targets. And I can't see the staff extending too many new offers to kids they have little to no relationship with and are unable to get on campus.

The chase for the recruiting crown will almost assuredly come down to Ohio State and Alabama. With the Crimson Tide expected to take as many as 27-28 signees, it's going to be a tall task for Ryan Day and Co. to come out and top. At this point, I'd say adding Egbuka, Tuimoloau, and a tackle (Rankl) is a fairly likely scenario, and everyone should be entirely happy if that's how things end up. 

It's obviously been a strange six months, though, and it'd hardly be a surprise if some more strange occurrences go down between now and February; especially when you factor in the coaching carousel that we always see with the start of a new calendar year.

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