The Hurry-Up: Ohio State Remains in Pole Position for Five-Star Defensive End J.T. Tuimoloau, Blake Miller in Wait-and-See Mode During Dead Period

By Zack Carpenter on October 5, 2020 at 7:15 pm
J.T. Tuimoloau

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.

Buckeyes still sit at No. 1 for Tuimoloau

As anyone who follows Buckeye recruiting closely knows fully well, it's rare to hear a public update on Washington's J.T. Tuimoloau. So that's why it was a bit surprising to see the Eastside Catholic star release a top seven list on Thursday night.

Despite the surprise release, what wasn't surprising was to see Ohio State crack that list. The Buckeyes have been considered the favorite (albeit a slim favorite) for Tuimoloau since at least the spring.

That stance has not changed for 247Sports national recruiting editor Brandon Huffman, the lead expert in Tuimoloau's recruitment who said on the latest episode on the 247Sports Football Recruiting Podcast that Ohio State is still “sitting in the pole position” for the five-star defensive end.

Huffman doubled down on that report with a follow-up story diving deeper into Tuimoloau's top seven:


That said, the Wolverines biggest rival, Ohio State, has a lot of momentum, too. They have 92% of the Crystal Ball votes for the No. 1 prospect.

The Buckeyes recent track record with pass-rushers (Chase Young, Joey Bosa and Nick Bosa) plus defensive line coach Larry Johnson's long history of defensive linemen is something that Tuimoloau has long acknowledged as a big reason for his interest in the Buckeyes.

They also have a familiar face on the roster in good friend and former Eastside Catholic teammate Gee Scott Jr., now a freshman receiver for the Buckeyes.

The only thing the Buckeyes have lacked is the ability to get Tuimoloau on campus — he had planned to this spring, but that was obviously put on hold.

Still, Buckeye fans may have the most reason for hope for Tuimoloau.

Interestingly enough, on the podcast, Huffman said he believes that Washington is trailing fairly substantially in Tuimoloau's recruitment and that Michigan is actually a legitimate contender. That comes as a surprise, but Huffman says that:

  1. Tuimoloau and his family have a terrific relationship with Wolverines defensive line coach Shaun Nua.
  2. Tuimoloau and his family have been long-time San Francisco 49ers fans and that helped create a strong relationship with Jim Harbaugh, whose career they have followed since his 49ers days.

Miller in wait-and-see mode, focused on improvement

When the Buckeyes offered Blake Miller in April, everybody and their brother expected Miller – who was ranked as a three-star prospect in the 2022 class at the time of that offer, is from nearby Strongsville (Ohio) High School and has strong parental ties to the school – to pull the trigger on committing to Ohio State.

Most, myself included, thought it was going to be a situation similar to 2022 prospect C.J. Hicks, who was finally offered by Ohio State on April 7 but remained that adamant that he was going to take his time before making a decision. Well, truthfully, he had already made his mind up and officially committed less than a month later.

Miller has been far from the same scenario. And even though the Buckeyes do seem to be the eventual pick whenever he does decide, it doesn't look like he will be making that decision in the near future.

On Friday night, Miller spoke with Eleven Warriors' Colin Hass-Hill and said that he's essentially in a wait-and-see approach in his recruitment and that he doesn't want to go full-steam ahead in his recruitment until after the season is over.

“I try to tell coaches my main focus is being with my team,” Miller said. “My main focus is on being with the team; players and coaches. Just making the time with them count as much as humanly possible as I can because nothing’s guaranteed. It can be taken away in an instant.

“You really gotta cherish the time you have. Everything can change in an instant. Just knowing that, you’ve gotta savor every moment you have with your teammates just ‘cause it can be taken away at any moment. It’s no longer guaranteed, so you’ve just gotta really appreciate the time you have with your dudes.”

Miller's comments came after he and his Strongsville team dropped a 41-7 decision to Mentor in the final game of the regular season.

While Strongsville didn't have a great game all-around, Miller said he believes he and the rest of his offensive line teammates played well and that he was able to flash some of the things he's worked on in the offseason.

“I think we came out and, as an O-line unit, I feel like we played a really tough, smashmouth game of football. If we do that against Medina, I feel like we’ll do a lot better,” said Miller, who will be getting a second matchup with Drew Allar and the Bees in the first round of the playoffs this week. “I feel like I played pretty well. I worked on things this offseason, and I think I’ve definitely made an improvement upon those. It’s not saying I’m satisfied with where I am. I’m never satisfied with where I am. I always wanna be better. I just wanna continue to improve, continue to spend time with my dudes and try to prolong the season as long as we can.”

One of the areas of his game that he worked on ahead of his junior season was getting to the second level of the defense.

“This offseason, I wanted to work on getting up to blocking linebackers in space, so I feel like I did pretty well on that,” Miller said. “We ran a couple plays where I had to go up on a linebacker, and there was one play where I drove him 10 yards back. But there’s still improvement I need to do. I can never be satisfied.”

That mentality, and improving his ability to block in space at the second level, are both aspects of an offensive lineman that Ryan Day, Greg Studrawa and assistant offensive line coach Kennedy Cook will be happy to see. As of now, Miller says he's continuing to carve out comfort and familiarity with those three coaches.

“I text with Coach Day, Coach Cook and Coach Stud pretty much every day,” Miller said. “Just continuing to build a relationship with them as much as I can during COVID.”

TE prospect Evans no longer a target

Just a small item here: It’s become more and more apparent, and we’ve been reporting on this for months, that Ohio State is very unlikely to bring in a second tight end in the 2021 class to go alongside Sam Hart. Instead, the Buckeyes are likely pushing that back to the 2022 cycle with Bennett Christian and my pick to join Christian in North Carolina’s Benji Gosnell.

In the 2021 class, one of the Buckeyes’ tight end targets they were interested in for a little while was Mitchell Evans, a 6-foot-7, 240-pound three-star prospect out of Wadsworth (Ohio) who is committed to Notre Dame.

Evans, whom Ohio State was also interested as an offensive line prospect at one point, told Eleven Warriors that the Buckeyes had shown interest in him previously. Now, however, that interest has dissipated as Ohio State has backed off of recruiting Evans. Just another small sign that the Buckeyes are likely pushing the two-tight end approach to 2022.

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