Heat Check: April Brings Some Movement at Running Back and an In-State Target Finally Makes the Cut

By Andrew Ellis on April 6, 2021 at 8:35 am
Four-star cornerback Toriano Pride makes his debut.

Recruiting is all about comfort and relationships. Sometimes you're gaining momentum on the trail, sometimes you're losing it. How are some of Ohio State's key prospects trending? Let's take a look.

Ohio State's spring practices have been off and running, which means we're finally getting some actual football updates and even some on-site observations as we approach the April 17 scrimmage. The spring festivities have led to a bit of a slowdown on the recruiting trail, but it's all in preparation for what's going to be the busiest June we've ever seen. 

Ryan Day's 2022 class is still ranked No. 1 in the country with 11 commitments, but a recent surge by Kirby Smart (12 commits) has Georgia right on his tail. The latest bit of Buckeye-related news has mostly dealt with what it's expected to take place in June. Assuming the NCAA dead period comes to an end on May 31, we're going to see a flurry of official visits this summer as prospects can finally head to campuses to meet with the coaching staffs that have been in hot pursuit. 

Some of those players already have the dates lined up, but we'll certainly have a much clearer picture as we get to the latter part of the spring. There are a number of targets that the Buckeyes absolutely need to get on campus, and one of those remains at the top of our 2022 recruiting board.

KIYAUNTA GOODWIN OT 1 1 ★★★★ Kentucky•Alabama•Clemson
CADEN CURRY DL 2 2 ★★★★ Clemson•Alabama•Oregon•ND
XAVIER NWANKPA SAF 3 3 ★★★★ Clemson•Notre Dame•LSU
ZACH RICE OT 4 4 ★★★★★ UNC•Virginia•ND•Alabama
ENAI WHITE DE 5 5 ★★★★★ Alabama•LSU•Tennessee•PSU
DALLAN HAYDEN RB 6 7 ★★★★ Notre Dame•Tennessee
NICHOLAS SINGLETON RB 7 8 ★★★★ Penn State•Notre Dame
OMARI ABOR DE 8 10 ★★★★ Oklahoma•Alabama•Texas•TAMU
KENYATTA JACKSON DE 9 9 ★★★★ Clemson•Bama•Florida•FSU
AAMIL WAGNER OT 10 NA ★★★★ Notre Dame•Kentucky•Stanford
TORIANO PRIDE CB 11 NA ★★★★ Clemson•Alabama•Missouri
  • Last month's edition can be found HERE.

Buckle up. The next 4-6 weeks should be a pivotal time in the Kiyaunta Goodwin sweepstakes. The No. 1 player on our board has long talked about his desire to take visits, and if Ohio State can make it to June – when those visits will hopefully be permitted – then there should still be some optimism. He's been in constant contact with Ryan Day and Greg Studrawa, but he just hasn't been able to sit down and meet with them face to face.

The problem here is that Kentucky seems to be trending for the mammoth tackle. Assuming he waits until the dead period ends, Ohio State, Alabama, and Clemson should all have a say in his recruitment. And those programs will likely remain involved even if he does pledge to the Wildcats. Vince Marrow deserves a lot of credit here as he appears to have Kentucky out in front over all of the national powers. I'd say we're at about a DEFCON 4 at the moment, so it's not quite panic mode just yet.

There aren't any changes with the next four spots on our board. We're still feeling great about two of the top defensive targets in Xavier Nwankpa and Caden Curry. I'm of the belief that both of these recruitments would be over by now if it weren't for the dead period. Nwankpa is set to make his official visit to Columbus on June 4 with a trip to South Bend coming two weeks later. Clemson and Notre Dame still appear to be the top competition.

It's looking like Ohio State, Alabama, and Clemson could all host Curry in June, but the Buckeyes are still viewed as the favorites for the four-star defensive lineman from the Hoosier State. He's done virtual visits with his top contenders and it's never wise to count out the Tigers or Crimson Tide. Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman is also working to keep the Fighting Irish in the mix for the state's No. 3 prospect (behind only Goodwin and Ohio State commit Dasan McCullough). 

It's a bit of a different story for a pair of five-stars. Zach Rice and Enai White remain high on our board, but there's no one who truly believes the Buckeyes are the team to beat right now. The Tar Heels still appear to lead for Rice while White remains a bit more open in his recruitment. He's made trips to Chapel Hill despite the dead period, and we'll see if Rice makes it to June before announcing a commitment. Some schools like White as an outside linebacker, but Larry Johnson wants him at defensive end. He plans on making visits prior to deciding before his senior season. I'd probably give the edge to the SEC right now, but Ohio State and Penn State are firmly in the mix. 

We do have a few changes at running back. June is going to tell the tale for Tony Alford as both Dallan Hayden and Nicholas Singleton will be making their official visits. Hayden is set for June 18 while Singleton is scheduled to be in town the following weekend. I still tend to believe that Ohio State will end up edging out the Irish for Hayden. That would leave Penn State and Notre Dame as the likely landing spots for the Singleton.

It's going to be interesting since the Buckeyes could actually lead for both right now. James Franklin will be fighting to keep this Pennsylvania star from leaving the state as so many recent recruits have done. As for Hayden, he made trips to both Columbus and South Bend last month. The Volunteers appear to have faded for the state's No. 5 prospect.

We've mentioned it before, but there's still a very real chance that Alford takes two backs in the class. Damari Alston is no longer on the board even though he'll remain an option moving forward. Ohio State offered four-star North Carolina tailback Omarion Hampton last month, and the 6-foot, 215-pounder has been putting on a show during the state's spring season. Despite being a recent offer, I'd have him ahead of Alston in the pecking order right now. The Tar Heels may hold an edge at the moment, but Hampton will be checking out Columbus on June 25. 

Outside of Enai White, we've got the same pair of defensive ends on the board. Texas's Omari Abor jumps up a couple of spots to No. 8 as the Buckeyes and Sooners battle it out for the nation's second-best edge rusher. Ohio State may very well be the co-favorite right now along with Oklahoma. If that is in fact the case prior to him even visiting – which will happen on June 4 – you have to think Larry Johnson may be able to pull this one off. Abor remains one of the very top priorities on the defensive side of the ball. 

There hasn't been much movement on the Kenyatta Jackson front. Ohio State, Clemson, and the Florida schools are all in the mix for the four-star from the Sunshine State. One interesting side note to this recruitment may be the pursuit of his teammate—four-star cornerback Ryan Turner. He recently visited Ohio State and Clemson, and it seems like it may come down to the two powers. We'll see if his situation has any impact on that of Jackson. 

Our 2022 recruiting board made its debut back in November. For the first time in six months, an in-state target has emerged. Wayne's Aamil Wagner was offered on March 9, and the Buckeyes were immediately viewed as the favorites for the 6-foot-6, 260-pounder. This is likely to be a battle with Notre Dame, but I've got Ohio State winning this one. It's probably fair to say Wagner is more likely than Goodwin at this point. He's scheduled to visit both programs in June before making a decision. This would be a nice win for Studrawa even though he'll likely need some time to develop. 

The other new addition comes at cornerback. Last month we decided to include Texas's Austin Jordan, but after a little bit of digging, I believe there are at least two corners ahead of him on the list. Toriano Pride appears far from the Clemson lean that was once thought, and Kerry Coombs has Ohio State in a tight race with the Tigers. Rated as the country's No. 124 prospect, he'll visit both programs in June and a decision will come shortly thereafter. After landing Jakailin Johnson last cycle, Coombs is hoping to strike once again in St. Louis. 

The focus has understandably been on spring practice rather than the trail, but we all know that recruiting never truly stops. Mark Pantoni and Co. have the Buckeyes set up for a huge month of June that will absolutely bring an uptick in recruiting news. Ohio State has landed two commitments so far this calendar year. That number could triple by the time we reach the end of June. The next few months will simply be the calm before the storm.

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