The Hurry-Up: Ohio State and Oregon at Top of Demon Moore's List, Penn State Commit Kaden Saunders Still Listening to Other Schools

By Zack Carpenter on February 17, 2021 at 6:30 pm
Kaden Saunders

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.

Moore's top four

We spoke plenty on Monday about Kiyaunta Goodwin's Alpha Dog performance over the weekend as the potential five-star offensive tackle's recruitment becomes the national battle Eleven Warriors predicted it would become back in the fall.

But there was even Moore recruiting news from the Best of the Midwest Combine on Sunday. Demon Moore, that is. Sorry. It's only Wednesday, but it's been a long week. Will show myself out.

Moore, a 2022 prospect out of R. Nelson Snider (Indiana) High School, released a top eight list late last month that features Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State and Arizona State among his key schools.

On Sunday, however, after Moore put in a standout performance at the combine, he listed a pair of schools as the two biggest frontrunners in the race to land him:

“It’s still really the same,” Moore told 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong. “It’s still Ohio State and Oregon at the top of my recruiting list for the moment but I’m still waiting to go on visits before I make a final decision.

“I’m supposed to go to Oregon on an official visit and Ohio State on an official visit.”

Moore is just like a number of players who we listed in Tuesday's Hurry-Up that are waiting on a decision until after the dead period is over (thus reopening visits). Until then, the nation's No. 6 offensive guard and No. 290 overall player in the 2022 class is maintaining contact with the schools in his top eight, led by the Buckeyes and Ducks:

Regarding Ohio State: “I love Coach (Greg) Stud(rawa) and I like how they’re National Contenders every year and they always put the most offensive linemen in the league so it’s like why not. I talk to Coach (Ryan) Day a lot and I talk to Coach (Kennedy) Cook he’s an assistant o-line coach. Coach Day is really cool I’m not going to lie, he’s so nice.”

Regarding Oregon: “What really stands out is how far it is from home it’s on the other side of the country. I like Coach (Alex) Mirabal he’s super nice and seems like a super genuine coach.”

Though the big fish as far as Ohio State's interior offensive line targets in 2022 go is St. John Bosco (California) guard Earnest Greene, Moore is still a top prospect Ohio State is looking at.

As we touched on in today's ranking of the remaining positional needs for the Buckeyes to target this cycle, landing an interior O-lineman like Moore is imperative. Donovan Jackson, Luke Wypler, Harry Miller and Enokk Vimahi are some of the top guys who will be in place beyond the 2021 season, but Studrawa, Cook and Co. still need to add a talent like Moore or similar.

Saunders on the rise

Another standout performer from the combine on Sunday was Westerville South's (Ohio) Kaden Saunders, a four-star prospect in 2022 ranked No. 130 overall, No. 18 at wide receiver and No. 5 in Ohio.

Saunders, a 5-foot-10, 170-pounder, ran a 4.31-second 40-yard dash on Sunday, the fastest time of any prospect at the competition. He also reportedly played some cornerback, too, where he locked down some of the offensive players across from him.

Ohio State has not offered Saunders, and an offer may not be around the corner given how effectively the Buckeyes have recruited receiver in 2021 and 2022. Saunders could be a great addition in the slot, but throughout his recruitment – prior to his commitment to Penn State in July – Saunders had said that the Buckeyes evaluated him as a cornerback and not an offensive guy.

“Ohio State has been saying they want me to play defensive back, but I love wide receiver,” Saunders told us previously. “It was a dream of mine when I was little.”

If Ohio State offers him down the line, it would mean it's going to give him a shot at being a slot receiver but with a likely caveat of him being at least willing to make the switch to cornerback later in his career if he's not developing the way they want him to.

In the meantime, Saunders has his name in the Nittany Lions' class, though there's been some scuttlebutt that his commitment does not stand on the firmest of grounds.

Saunders told Wiltfong he is still listening to other schools, led by the trio of Florida State, Notre Dame and Oregon, and he will continue to communicate with other programs throughout the rest of his process. Saunders' father told 247Sports' Tyler Donohue some important background on why the family is continuing to stay in touch with other programs:

Kaden's older sister, McKenna, was a softball star at Westerville South and earned early collegiate interest. The 2018 recruit committed to a school in 2017 but, as Signing Day neared, that program underwent a coaching change and, according to Mr. Saunders, the new regime did not honor that commitment — a dynamic we unfortunately witness on an annual basis in college football recruiting. McKenna ultimately signed with Colgate, a Division I competitor, but that experience was digested as a lesson within the Saunders household.

"After she went the entire summer between junior and senior year with 'committed' next to her name, we were caught in a serious bind," Anthony said. "This is why we still talk to other staffs."

This may not collectively calm the nerves of Nittany Nation, but it provides some additional context and serves up a reminder that each family's progression toward big-time college football is unique with underlying factors that can influence overall approach. It's also worth mentioning that Saunders — and his parents — have actively promoted Penn State's 2022 recruiting efforts, playing a role in building relationships and creating some familiarity, which is not an easy task in this virtual age.

Buckeyes first on list for LeBlanc

When Ohio State offered Florida 2023 strongside defensive end Derrick LeBlanc in July, it blew the potential top-100 prospect away with excitement.

“I’ve been talking to Coach Johnson for a long time so for this to happen right now – because I thought they didn’t offer freshmen – so I was surprised,” LeBlanc told us. “It means a lot because that means they’re really trying to get me early. So that’s just big.”

That communication between LeBlanc and Ohio State's staff has continued to evolve, and he now says that the Buckeyes are likely the first team he will make a visit to once the dead period is lifted, he told's Kayla Harvey:

“I want to visit Ohio first because with Larry Johnson, I’ve been talking to him since the end of freshman year and I’ve always wanted to meet him in person. I was going to go before COVID happened but I never got the chance to. I just want to go there first and see how it is. I watch a lot of video on them,” LeBlanc said.

Header photo: Kaden Saunders

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