It was another weekend full of Ohio State commits and targets getting after it under the high school lights.
Let's take a look at some of the highlights from the weekend, including a matchup between a pair of players in the 2023 cycle who have been offered but have not yet joined the Buckeyes' class.
Vernon vs. Styles
In their quest for a second consecutive state championship, Pickerington Central – led by former Buckeye 2021 target and Notre Dame receiver commit Lorenzo Styles Jr. and priority Buckeye 2023 target Sonny Styles – has been dominant all season.
On Friday night, though, the Tigers got all they could handle in a premier matchup against Mentor and priority Ohio State 2023 defensive end target Brenan Vernon, a likely future five-star prospect who was back at full capacity after playing limited action last week.
For the second straight year, Pickerington Central ended Mentor's season with a 38-31 win in the matchup that – for our purposes here – was highlighted by the showdown between the younger Styles and Vernon, who are almost certain to be Ohio's top-two recruits in the state over the next two-plus years.
Though there weren't many highlights from those specifically, the game provided some fireworks in the Tigers' victory, as Mentor stormed back from a 21-0 deficit to cut it to a 35-31 game with a little more than five minutes to play. But Pickerington Central responded with a field goal to extend the lead, and its defense held as the Styles brothers continued their run in the Division I playoffs. They will square off with St. Xavier at 7 p.m. on Friday in the state championship game at Fortress Obetz.
Ballard goes off
“People talk about a 50-50 ball. Is that really a 50-50 ball with Jayden Ballard? Probably not. It’s probably more of a 70-30 ball.
“What’s really elite about a guy like him – he’s got very good speed, he’s got very good length – but the thing that’s elite about him is his ability to track the ball and his ball skills. He’s really, really good there.”
Those are the words of Massillon Washington head coach Nate Moore from an interview with Eleven Warriors last season, discussing his star receiver – a 2021 Buckeye commit – after he hauled in a long touchdown in a playoff win to follow up a brilliant performance the week prior.
Flash forward a year later, and they're still apropos to what Ballard brings to the table. Probably even moreso in 2020 than in 2019.
That continued on Friday night, as the nation's No. 5 receiver – one who very well could end up as a five-star prospect by the time February hits – showed off his size, speed and all-around skillset that is nearly impossible for high school defensive backs to defend one-on-one:
Ballard, a 6-foot-2, 175-pounder who runs a sub-4.6 in the 40 and has been compared by 247Sports scouts to Chris Godwin, exploded again in the Tigers' 43-13 win over Perry to advance to the Division II Region 7 championship game.
He finished with seven catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns, including a 72-yard catch-and-run on a post route and a pair of jump balls in one-on-one coverage that he came down with in the end zone. It's become like clockwork for him.
Hicks the next elite Buckeye RB?
Last weekend, Ohio State 2022 outside linebacker commit C.J. Hicks showed off his receiving skills on a 70-yard touchdown on a go route, and he had a question for Buckeyes receivers coach Brian Hartline.
Because of an injury to his teammate, Hicks racked up more carries in the backfield in Friday's Division III regional title game against Ross, and his biggest highlight came on a punishing 56-yard touchdown run that broke open the game and helped Alter to a 35-21 win as the Knights advanced to the Division III final four.
“I didn’t really know what my role was going to be, but I knew one of our running backs wasn’t at full strength,” Hicks told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I just wanted to win. It didn’t really matter where I was playing.”
Here is a quick look at all of 27 commits in Ohio State’s 2021 and 2022 class and where they are playing this weekend, save for the ones who have opted out or do not have a fall season:
|Player (Class)||Team||Opponent||Day, Time (Record)|
|SDE JACK SAWYER (2021)||PICKERINGTON NORTH||SAWYER OPTED OUT|
|OG DONOVAN JACKSON||EPISCOPAL (TEXAS)||@ KINCAID||L, 27-14 (2-4)|
|RB TREVEYON HENDERSON||HOPEWELL (VA.)||SEASON PPD UNTIL SPRING|
|QB KYLE MCCORD||ST. JOSEPH'S PREP (PA.)||@ ROMAN CATHOLIC||W, 42-0 (4-0)|
|CB JAKAILIN JOHNSON||DE SMET (MO.)||CHRISTIAN BROTHERS||W, 54-21 (4-0)*|
|WR JAYDEN BALLARD||MASSILLON WASHINGTON||@ PERRY||W, 43-13 (9-1)*|
|DT MIKE HALL||STREETSBORO||SEASON FINISHED||FINAL RECORD: 8-1|
|CB JORDAN HANCOCK||NORTH GWINNETT (GA.)||PEACHTREE RIDGE||W, 27-0 (7-3)|
|LB REID CARRICO||IRONTON||RIDGEWOOD||W, 17-7 (10-0)*|
|RB EVAN PRYOR||WILLIAM AMOS HOUGH (N.C.)||SEASON PPD UNTIL SPRING|
|WR MARVIN HARRISON JR.||ST. JOSEPH'S PREP (PA.)||@ ROMAN CATHOLIC||W, 42-0 (4-0)|
|OG BEN CHRISTMAN||REVERE||SEASON FINISHED||FINAL RECORD: 4-3|
|S/CB ANDRE TURRENTINE||ENSWORTH (TENN.)||@ KNOXVILLE CATHOLIC||L, 43-20 (2-7)*|
|DT TYLEIK WILLIAMS||UNITY REED (VA.)||SEASON PPD UNTIL SPRING|
|ATH DENZEL BURKE||SAGUARO (ARIZ.)||IDLE||(3-1)|
|S JANTZEN DUNN||SOUTH WARREN (KY.)||GAME CANCELED||(5-0)|
|S/LB JAYLEN JOHNSON||CINCINNATI LA SALLE||@ WINTON WOODS||W, 35-10 (8-2)*|
|TE SAM HART||CHEROKEE TRAIL (CO.)||GRANDVIEW||W, 28-23 (3-2)|
|OT ZEN MICHALSKI||FLOYD CENTRAL (IND.)||SEASON FINISHED||FINAL RECORD: 7-3|
|P JESSE MIRCO||PROKICK AUSTRALIA||SIGNED WITH OHIO STATE|
|LB GABE POWERS (2022)||MARYSVILLE||SEASON FINISHED||FINAL RECORD: 6-2|
|ATH DASAN MCCULLOUGH||BLUE VALLEY NORTH (KAN.)||@ OLATHE EAST||W, 33-21 (5-2)*|
|LB C.J. HICKS||ARCHBISHOP ALTER||@ ROSS||W, 35-21 (8-2)*|
|CB JYAIRE BROWN||LAKOTA WEST||SEASON FINISHED||FINAL RECORD: 8-1|
|OT TEGRA TSHABOLA||LAKOTA WEST||SEASON FINISHED||FINAL RECORD: 8-1|
|TE BENJI GOSNELL||EAST SURRY (N.C.)||SEASON PPD UNTIL SPRING|
|TE BENNETT CHRISTIAN||ALLATOONA (GA.)||KELL||W, 30-15 (7-0)|
*Denotes playoff game