The Hurry-Up: Jaylen Johnson and Jayden Ballard’s “Friendship is Bigger Than This Game,” Buckeyes Offer Florida DT, Armani Winfield Top-Nine List

By Zack Carpenter on November 15, 2020 at 6:30 pm
Jaylen Johnson, Jayden Ballard

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.

“Our friendship is bigger than this game”

In the middle of a heated bout between two teams clawing at their chance to win a coveted state championship, Jayden Ballard walked over to help out a guy he didn’t yet know was going to be his future teammate.

Ballard, whose Massillon Washington team was trailing Cincinnati La Salle in the second half of a 2019 Division II state championship game it would eventually lose 34-17, still took time to go check on La Salle defensive back/linebacker Jaylen Johnson when Johnson went down with a minor injury. 

“It all started with me catching a cramp and him coming to help me up. That’s where we started becoming real good friends at, and after that the rest was history,” Johnson told Eleven Warriors.

That interview with us came after Johnson’s La Salle team dropped a heartbreaking 14-10 game to Ballard’s Tigers on Friday night, as Johnson and Co. bowed out of the season in the Division II state semifinals at the hands of the Tigers’ comeback in the final minutes.

The loss mattered to Johnson, obviously. But not when it came to how tight he is with Ballard.

As the Tigers enjoyed the semifinal victory with celebratory pushups, Johnson waited patiently for them to enjoy the moment and wait for Ballard before the two conducted a jersey swap near midfield. It was Part II in the series between the two future Buckeye teammates, with Ballard and Co. exacting a bit of revenge for the 2019 title bout, and it was a culmination of a friendship that really took off last November.

“That’s my guy. He’s always gonna be my guy,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a real good bond. Our friendship is bigger than this game, win or loss. I hope they go win state.

“It all started with the state championship last year and then I committed to Ohio State. We had that Buckeye Bash and we have the Buckeye group chat, and we talk every day so that bond is still there.”

Now that his season is over, Johnson wants Ballard’s to get polished off the right way – with the Tigers finally tasting a state championship after reaching the title game for a third consecutive year.

(I want them to) beat Hoban like they did last year,” Johnson said. “They are the best team in Ohio, numbers wise, for every year the past 50 years. So they need the ring. I want them to go get the ring and feel special like me.”

As for what the future holds for the defensive recruit Johnson and offensive recruit Ballard, Johnson says that they talk “almost every day” about what it’s going to be like when they face each other in Ohio State uniforms in practice. It’s an iron-sharpens-iron type of deal that won’t be anything like they have faced at the high school level.

“This doesn’t prepare us for Ohio State,” Johnson said. “Our offensive receivers are deadly. You have to pick your poison.”

Soon enough, Ballard will be part of that poison picking, and he’ll have all the respect in the world from Johnson.

“One thing is he can go deep,” Johnson said. “If he goes deep, you better hope you can jump because if you don’t, you’re gonna be on a highlight reel.”

Buckeyes offer Florida DT

Over the weekend, Ohio State dipped its toes back into the Kissimmee waters, extending an offer to its second Osceloa High School defensive line target.

John Walker, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive tackle, joined fellow 2023 prospect Derrick LeBlanc in announcing that the Buckeyes have come calling.

Walker and LeBlanc are very early five-star candidates and their recruitments will likely only continue to grow over the next year or two.

Walker has 14 offers, highlighted by Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Notre Dame, Texas A&M and USC. LeBlanc, meanwhile, holds nearly 40 offers, including offers from Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oregon, Penn State, Texas and USC.

Winfield top nine

Another weekend development was that of Texas four-star receiver Armani Winfield, a top-75 overall player and the No. 12 receiver in America’s 2022 class, who whittled his list down to nine schools.

That list features Ohio State, Arizona State, USC, Texas, Penn State, Florida, LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M. 

Winfield, badass-ly nicknamed The Route Doctor, was one of several names floated around when the 2022 class’ Twitter barrage hit, as Winfield is one of the Buckeyes’ main targets at receiver in the cycle in addition to fellow Texan Caleb Burton, California’s C.J. Williams, Chicago’s Kaleb Brown, Arizona’s Kyion Grayes and Oklahoma commit Luther Burden out of St. Louis.

Hamm top four

And now we get to some odd recruiting news, as three-star Wisconsin defensive end Isaac Hamm has included Ohio State in a final four list in addition to the Badgers, Penn State and Notre Dame.

Problem is, Ohio State has not offered among those four schools. Perhaps he’s just trying to push one to come his way.

“First of all, they produce defensive linemen and defensive ends into the league,” Hamm told 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong when discussing the Buckeyes. “My current role model Chase Young, I studied his game all through college and he plays for the Washington Football Team and I model my workouts after him and my game after him and how I eat after him. How I build my physique, how I train. Them having dudes like Chase Young and the Bosas and the list goes on and I know they have a great culture and tradition over there.”

Rice top 8

Five-star offensive tackle Zach Rice is one of Ohio State's top targets in the 2022 class, and the Buckeyes are in the race in Rice's latest update.

Rice, the No. 29 overall player and No. 2 offensive tackle in the nation, is down to Ohio State, Miami, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Florida, LSU and Virginia in his top eight.

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