Heat Check: Updating Our 2021 Board Ahead of the Season and Following Ohio State's Latest Addition in the Trenches

By Andrew Ellis on October 6, 2020 at 8:36 am
J.T. Tuimoloau remains at No. 1 on our 2021 recruiting board.

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.

Ryan Day and the Ohio State staff are busy preparing for the Oct. 24 kickoff against the Huskers. In the midst of the practices and film study, the Buckeyes did pick up a commitment from three-star tackle Zen Michalski on Saturday. The latest addition brings the class up to 20 commits, and it's sitting at No. 2 in the nation behind Alabama.

The names of the top remaining targets are basically the same prospects we've been talking about for months now. And with only a few more commitments expected, our board is becoming increasingly difficult to piece together. We'll see how the next month goes, but we may soon be moving forward to the Class of 2022. 

We're doing things a bit differently this time around. The way I see it, Ohio State has four clear-cut, top-of-the-board targets right now. Then there's a group of guys the staff would love to flip and a separate group of prospects who would love to be offered. We'll look at each tier, where things stand in early October, and where things may be headed. 

J.T. TUIMOLOAU DL 1 1 ★★★★★ Alabama•Oregon•USC•Washington
EMEKA EGBUKA WR 2 2 ★★★★★ Oklahoma•Washington
TRISTAN LEIGH OT 3 3 ★★★★★ LSU•Oklahoma•Clemson
DERRICK DAVIS JR. SAF 4 5 ★★★★ Penn State•LSU•Georgia
RAESJON DAVIS LB 5 6 ★★★★ LSU Commit
JUSTUS BOONE DE 6 7 ★★★★ Florida Commit
JC LATHAM OT 7 10 ★★★★★ Alabama Commit
DARRYL PETERSON DE 8 9 ★★★ Wisconsin Commit
TERRENCE RANKL OT 9 8 ★★★ Pittsburgh Commit
MARKUS ALLEN WR 10 NA ★★★ Wisconsin•Cincinnati•Penn State
PAUL RODRIGUEZ OT 11 NA ★★★ Kentucky Commit

*Last month's edition can be found HERE. 

The Top Targets

The board remains mostly unchanged at the top. I'd say Ohio State has a great shot with two of them, a decent shot at another, and one can be filed under the long-shot category for the time being. Four-star defensive tackle Tywone Malone has been removed after the Buckeyes were left out of his top six. If Ryan Day can reel in two from the top group, then the 2021 class should be viewed as a roaring success.

J.T. Tuimoloau is still sitting at No. 1, and the Washington five-star actually made a public statement of sorts when he announced his top seven last week. The list didn't include any real surprises as we still believe Ohio State, Alabama, and likely Oregon are at the top. He's in no hurry to make a decision and has yet to make a trip to Columbus, but we continue to love where Larry Johnson has the Buckeyes in this recruitment. Tuimoloau is still looking to make his decision in February. 

Nothing has really changed in the recruitment of Emeka Egbuka. The five-star wideout wants to play his senior season next spring, and that – along with the changes to the recruiting calendar – have significantly changed his plans. Brian Hartline has the Buckeyes at the top of the list, and the other contenders will need to make a move. Oklahoma continues to be the school to watch; especially if a trip to Norman takes place. There's no real decision timeline, and a return trip to Columbus likely isn't even necessary. 

The Zen Michalski commitment hasn't changed anything in the pursuit of five-star tackle Tristan Leigh. Unfortunately, Ohio State has a lot of ground to make up on Oklahoma and LSU. The Virginia native has talked about taking a visit on Oct. 24 for the planned commitment-orchestrated gathering. If that happens, then the Buckeyes may be right back in the thick of it. For now, we're not loving the good guys' chances despite his recent choice of apparel. 

Ohio State's 2021 defensive back class is the best in the country, but four-star safety Derrick Davis Jr. is perhaps the one guy they'd still like to add. I think Kerry Coombs was poised to steal one from Penn State, but the pandemic prevented Davis from making multiple return trips to Columbus and has shaken things up in a big way. It's looking like the Nittany Lions right now,  but James Franklin has a knack for missing out on talented in-state prospects. 

The Long Shots 

In a perfect world, Greg Studrawa would have landed five-star tackle JC Latham and Ohio State's offensive line recruiting would be done and over with. That obviously didn't happen as Latham is now one of a pair of five-star tackles heading to Tuscaloosa. There's absolutely no reason to think anything is going to change here. But again, he's a Wisconsin kid who fell in love with Columbus not too terribly long ago, so we're keeping him on the list as a long shot. 

There's a similar sentiment for another pair of SEC commits. Al Washington was all over Raesjon Davis and had the Buckeyes in line to potentially get the LSU commit on campus. Here again, the COVID-19 saga has thrown things for a loop and it's tough to imagine any sort of visit taking place for the California native. Could he make a trip to Columbus on his own dime? Perhaps. But it's far from likely which is precisely why Davis is in the long-shot category. Several other schools are vying for a flip on this one as well.

Four-star Gator defensive end commit Justus Boone has expressed an interest in making some visits. Ohio State got in on this one late as the offer didn't even come until August. With Boone expected to sign in December, it's highly unlikely this one gains any traction unless a surprise visit takes place. If Florida doesn't end up being the choice, Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks would be the likely beneficiary. 

The Hopefuls 

The final four names on our list all have a few things in common. Each one of them hails from the state of Ohio and they've yet to earn an offer from the Buckeyes. With the class now expected to be a little smaller than what we initially thought, there's a shot none of these players even enter the picture. The state allowed high schools to play six games with the playoffs starting this week, so there should at least be some new film for the Buckeye staff to look into. 

Akron's Darryl Peterson and Massillon's Terrence Rankl both remain on our board after debuting last month. I think Peterson can play at Ohio State, and I know he's a guy the staff has at least been watching. If things go south in the Tuimoloau sweepstakes, perhaps the Badger commit gets a more serious look. Another thing to consider is that missing on Tywone Malone could potentially open up another spot in the trenches. 

Rankl is still committed to Pittsburgh and is viewed as another project type at tackle. The Michalski news makes this a bit more unlikely, but he's another offer candidate if the Buckeyes can't make a move with Tristan Leigh. Moving down to the southwest part of the state, Mason's Paul Rodriguez is a Kentucky commit and another tackle to watch. At nearly 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds, he's got plenty of MAC offers (in addition to Purdue and Iowa State) and is at least worth monitoring as we move forward. 

Wide receiver is not a major need for Brian Hartline and the Buckeyes. Emeka Egbuka has been the focus for nearly a year now, but a one-time Michigan commit is another candidate for a late offer. Clayton Northmont's Markus Allen backed of his Wolverine pledge about a month ago, and Wisconsin, Cincinnati, and Penn State appear to be the main contenders right now. Allen isn't a freakish athletic specimen like Egbuka, but he's got the look of a bigger, more physical wideout. The numbers game and depth in the receiver room certainly aren't working in his favor. 

Folks, we could be in for a bit of a lull on the recruiting front. We're expecting another two or three commitments between now and February, but the coaching staff's focus has switched over to the Oct. 24 kickoff. A bit of a recruiting slowdown in exchange for the 2020 season finally getting underway? I think most are perfectly content with that trade-off.

Ohio State is still battling Alabama for the nation's No. 1 recruiting class, but I'd be a little surprised if the Buckeyes come out on top. Nick Saban is expected to end up with a bigger class and that obviously means more points for the additional commitments. Ryan Day still holds the edge in terms of average rating per commit, and I can definitely see him coming out on top in that category.

Consider this your annual reminder that October is the best month on the calendar even in a year that’s been quite the oddity. And this time around, it brings with it the start of the Ohio State football season and the pursuit of yet another playoff berth. 

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