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.
Baer a punishing blocker, recruitment builds
Going into the July 11 Elite Underclassmen Camp at Fortress Obetz, the star of the show when it came to offensive linemen was Tegra Tshabola. Ohio State’s four-star commit out of Lakota West was the one most came to see when it came to that side of the trenches.
But Eastlake North offensive tackle Ryan Baer made a strong showing at the camp as well alongside Tshabola. And though Baer did not steal the show from Tshabola – who we believe moved pretty well and looked really good – the 2022 three-star prospect showed improvement and promise.
On Thursday night, Eleven Warriors’ Colin Hass-Hill trekked over to Chagrin Falls to see Baer and his North teammates face Kenston in a northeast Ohio battle, and Baer’s physicality as a run blocker and the improvements he’s made to his body were both on full display in game action as well.
“They were in the B gap, so it just had me down-blocking on the guy,” Baer said. “They were going at my legs so I was just laying on him. Usually, I do a lot more scooping and taking them to the outside. But with the way they played, we had to change it around and I had to do what I had to do.”
Baer says North’s offensive style helps accentuate what he likes to do as a run blocker, as he’s able to tee off on defensive linemen and linebackers.
“I love it,” Baer said. “You get to just fire out at a guy for four quarters straight. It’s just old-school football.
“Our offense is just grinding clock. We don’t try to make big plays – obviously, with Chris Molica at quarterback, we get ‘em – but we wanna grind the clock and wear out the defense.”
Though Baer’s strength comes as a run blocker, he’ll have to improve his lateral mobility and athleticism if he wants to eventually make a name for himself at the college level. So that was one of the things he really focused on this offseason. That started with fine-tuning his body and cutting soda out of his diet (he’s a self-proclaimed lover of pop but hasn’t had one in five months), in addition to conditioning and working on his footwork and agility with his brothers and cousins.
He believes working out with his family members “got me right,” and now he’s a faster and leaner 305 pounds while still standing at 6-foot-7. And he’s improved his 40 time from 5.8 seconds last year to a 5.28 this year.
“I knew what I had to do to make myself the best I could be,” said Baer, who admits he had a bit of a belly last year that he’s gotten rid of. “I was grinding every day over quarantine. I didn’t take any days off, and it’s definitely showing on the field. My endurance is showing. I’m firing off the ball a lot harder. Kenston’s a good team and it’s good to get the dub again.”
Baer’s own improvement is a key cog in helping North achieve some of its biggest goals this season.
“First of all, as a team, we wanna show them that we’re not the same old North,” Baer said. “Three years ago, we made the playoffs for the first time in school history. The last couple seasons haven’t gone the way we want it to. This year is kind of our revenge tour. We’re showing them we’re not the same old team. For my personal goals, I’m not the same kid I was last year. I didn’t move as well as I wanted to. I didn’t hold my weight as well as I wanted to, so I really made it a priority to get myself going, and I think I did.”
As for Baer’s recruitment, the three-star product is currently ranked No. 433 overall, No. 39 at offensive tackle in America and No. 12 in the state of Ohio. On the same day that he helped North to a 26-14 win over Kenston, Baer had earlier in the afternoon announced an offer from Indiana, his 13th total offer thus far.
“It’s always great to get the phone call, especially the day before a game to get your adrenaline going,” said Baer, a prospect who is continuing to gain momentum in his recruitment now that September 1 has hit and coaches are able to contact him directly through texts and calls.
“I was a nervous wreck when I called them (before September 1). I was like, ‘What if I’m interrupting them?’ Because I didn’t know when to call them so I was just calling them and hoping they could answer. Now, it takes a lot of stress off knowing when to call them and all that stuff.”
Cincinnati, Purdue, Michigan State, West Virginia and Ohio State are the five programs Baer listed as who he’s created the best relationships with. The Buckeyes are the lone program of those five who have yet to offer, but Baer is firmly on their recruiting board. They are continuing to keep an eye on him as a prospect who could receive an offer down the road in the 2022 cycle.
“I’ve actually talked to a couple of coaches. Coach (Greg) Mattison, (Greg Studrawa), (Kennedy) Cook, Coach Ed (Terwiliger) and Coach (Tim) Hinton,” Baer said. “They’ve all kind of reached out to me. Me and Coach Stud and Coach Cook, we have a really good relationship going. I get a daily text from them, something about Jonah Jackson or Michael Jordan in the league.”
Inside look at Egbuka and community
It’s nothing close to a secret how important high school football is to the communities of Ohio, especially the small towns that essentially shut down each Friday night to watch the action under the lights.
In Steilacoom, Washington – the home of Ohio State priority receiver Emeka Egbuka – that’s no different, as it’s a tight-knit community of about 6,400 people, and football is gigantic in the state. That was on full display when Egbuka’s offensive firepower led Steilacoom to within inches of the school’s first-ever state championship in 2019.
That small-town community (and the chance to deliver that community a state title) is a big reason why Egbuka has already decided he will not enroll early at Ohio State, Oklahoma or Washington (or Clemson) in January. Instead, he’s intent on playing at Steilacoom in the spring to break some records and win a ring.
Sports Stars of Tomorrow took an exclusive look at Egbuka and the community around him in a video feature last week:
“No secrets here. Talk gets around quick,” Egbuka said. “But we’re all friends, and we’ve all grown up in the same spot. That’s what I like about it.
“Especially since it’s a small town, I do get a couple people stopping me and talking about me and just congratulating me. That’s what I like about it. Everybody’s so nice and stuff like that, and I’m happy to take a second out of my day and talk to them about it.”
It’s very reminiscent of Ohio State linebacker commit Reid Carrico and how he feels about the small, football-crazy community in Ironton. Maybe Carrico and Egbuka will get to bond over that as Buckeyes one day.
Also of interesting note in that video is when Egbuka discusses how baseball has helped carve him into the nation's No. 1 receiver.
“Baseball is probably the hardest sport I've ever played, especially mentally,” Egbuka said. “It gets your mind stronger, especially if you're going 0-for-3 on a day, it can really tear down your confidence. But that's what I like about it. It keeps your head way stronger, and I'm able to track the ball way better in football because of my center field skills. And I'm able to keep my head way better when somebody's talking trash on the field.”
Burden top five
Even though signs are pointing to Luther Burden picking Oklahoma – and that's where the Crystal Ball predictions are pointing – the Buckeyes remain in the hunt for the five-star receiver.
Burden, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound ranked No. 14 overall, No. 2 at receiver and No. 1 in Missouri out of Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School, released his top five on Saturday.
That list consists of Ohio State, Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama and Missouri. The day before he released that list, Burden had announced on Instagram that he was planning to commit soon, but those plans apparently changed to just a trimmed list.
Williams becomes No. 10
It's been coming for a little while, but on Sunday Ohio State defensive tackle commit Tyleik Williams made it official – Williams became the Buckeyes' 10th commit in the 2021 class to announce he is going to play in the All-American Bowl.
I will be de-committing from the Under Armour All - American Game and committing to the Adidas All - American Game ! pic.twitter.com/AiOjryoEVJ— Tyleik T5 William (@tyleikk) September 20, 2020
Ohio State had nine commits play in the game from the 2020 class, so the Buckeyes' 2021 group has now passed its predecessor.