Full steam ahead on the trail.
Ryan Day has the Buckeyes destined for a second-place finish in the 2021 recruiting rankings, and he's out in front with a big early lead for the 2022 class. We're sitting here in late January with no college football, waiting for next Wednesday's signing day, all the while wondering who will take over for Justin Fields this season.
It's been just over three weeks since Ohio State landed its most recent commitment. That came on Jan. 2 with the addition of five-star 2022 corner Jaheim Singletary. Kerry Coombs beat out the in-state Gators and basically everyone else in the country for the Jacksonville defender.
With every new pledge on the trail, the natural question is always who could be next? We really only know of one decision that's definitely on the horizon, but it's always wise to expect the unexpected. For now, we're looking at five names that are really worth watching.
Kyion Grayes • 2022 Wide Receiver • Chandler, Ariz. • ★★★★
We've had four-star wide receiver Kyion Grayes on commitment watch for some time now, and that time may be nearing now that the Buckeyes have reached the offseason. Brian Hartline has been recruiting at an elite level and rarely misses when zeroing in on a target. Grayes has been a priority for the Buckeyes for several months now dating back to the time he was still a three-star and before the rest of the country had noticed.
When speaking about his recruitment, he's almost come off as someone who's already committed to Ohio State. But teams like Oregon, Penn State, and Texas remain in the running with this one. It appears that he'd like to take visits before deciding, but it wouldn't be a surprise if something were to go down prior to those trips taking place. At 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, the Chris Olave clone was listed as one of the top performers at last weekend's 7-on-7 tournament in Miami.
The biggest question here may be whether or not the staff prefers to meet him in person prior to any sort of commitment.
We received these highlights of 2022 wide receiver Kyion Grayes of Chandler High School in Arizona. He has received offers from a number of Power 5 football programs. @KyionGrayes pic.twitter.com/gNCXtIylpj— Sports Stars of Tomorrow (@SportsStarsTV) January 20, 2021
Raesjon Davis • 2021 Linebacker • Santa Ana, Calif. • ★★★★
Set to sign with the school of his choice next Wednesday, this is the only name on our list that actually has a commitment date locked in. Following last weekend's trip to Columbus, the Buckeyes are in a real battle with USC for Mater Dei linebacker Raesjon Davis. We had basically written this one off in favor of the Trojans before the visit was scheduled, but Al Washington now has a real shot to steal one away from the West Coast.
The relationship between Davis and Washington has always been superb, but the pandemic long prevented him from getting back to campus with his family. He's only about 48 hours out of his visit to Columbus, and it's usually unfair to assess these situations in the midst of a post-visit high. The Buckeyes or Trojans will be getting a great one with the nation's No. 45 overall prospect. The next week will tell the tale here.
J.T. Tuimoloau • 2021 Defensive End • Sammamish, Wash. • ★★★★★
We've had Washington defender J.T. Tuimoloau at the top of our 2021 recruiting board for the better part of a year now. One of the more quiet recruitments in recent memory, the expectation has been that the five-star will likely take things beyond next week's signing day, but there's always a chance that he could end things on Wednesday.
Rated as the No. 1 player in the nation according to 247 Sports, Tuimoloau has said that he wants to take another round of visits before making a decision. That would likely include trips to Columbus and Tuscaloosa. The former teammate of Gee Scott Jr. has already visited Alabama. He has not made a trip to Ohio State. Could he pull a Denzel Burke and sign with a school he has yet to visit? It's certainly possible as Larry Johnson has done a fantastic job building that relationship. We'll see if anything happens to go down next week.
Dallan Hayden • 2022 Running Back • Memphis, Tenn. • ★★★★
There are three running backs that we're really watching for the Class of 2022, and I get the feeling Tennessee's Dallan Hayden may be fairly close to a decision. It would appear that Ohio State and Notre Dame are out in front thanks in part to the disastrous recent events in Knoxville.
Hayden reportedly wants to take some visits prior to announcing a decision before his senior season, but Tony Alford may try to lock up at least one back here in the coming months. The lack of visits makes this one a bit challenging, but Ohio State may very well be the leader in the clubhouse right now. We'll see what sort of coaching moves the Vols make and whether or not Notre Dame or Oregon can make things interesting.
Will Johnson • 2022 Cornerback • Grosse Pointe, Michigan • ★★★★★
About six weeks ago, I was convinced five-star Michigan cornerback Will Johnson would end up in Ann Arbor. Then Jim Harbaugh's future became uncertain, the Wolverine coaching staff was gutted, and Kerry Coombs did his usual thing on the trail. As we sit here in late January, this one seems to be completely up in the air.
The loss of cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich was a bit of a blow for Michigan, but Harbaugh has since made multiple hires that are working on building a relationship with Johnson. Former Baltimore Ravens' linebacker coach Mike Macdonald is the new defensive coordinator. Former Dallas Cowboys' defensive backs coach Maurice Linguist is now running the secondary and serving as co-defensive coordinator. Michigan also hired local high school coach Ron Bellamy as its new receivers coach.
Macdonald and Linguist can't match the relationship that Johnson already has built with Coombs, but the Bellamy move could be a difference-maker in the recruitment. His father being a Wolverine legacy also cannot be ignored. A decision in the near future seems like it would favor Ohio State, but most recent reports indicate that Johnson could be slowing things down a bit.
Note: 'Tis the season for watching the transfer portal, and Ohio State may very well be looking that direction for an immediate contributor or two. The obvious position groups would be cornerback and linebacker. Tennessee linebacker Henry To'oto'o has already entered his name, and Al Washington is paying attention even though the Buckeyes can't be viewed as the favorite. As for the secondary, we're still waiting to see if a certain LSU cornerback makes an appearance in the near future.