Heat Check: A New No. 1 Emerges Ahead of a Jam-Packed, Unprecedented Month on The Recruiting Trail

By Andrew Ellis on June 1, 2021 at 10:10 am
Earnest Greene has emerged as the top target along the interior offensive line.

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.

Brace yourselves, folks. The dead period is officially over and a recruiting bonanza is about to begin. June is going to be the busiest – and perhaps the most important – month we've ever seen on the trail. Ohio State is scheduled to host at least 51 official visitors this month, and it all starts this weekend when several top 2022 commits and targets will flock to Columbus. 

We've been updating the visitor list on our recruiting forum (LINK), but there's only so much left to say about what's about to take place at Ohio State and across the country. Simply put, it's going to be a month unlike any we've ever seen before. There are also plenty of questions heading into June. Is a school well-positioned if it's hosting a recruit right away or are most of these prospects looking to take multiple trips due to the lengthy wait? 

We'll have to wait a few weeks to really get a feel for how this all will play out, but there are a few things we do know heading into the month. Ohio State's 2022 class is holding strong with 12 commitments. Four of those pledges are of the five-star variety in a class that ranks No. 2 nationally behind only Georgia. Ryan Day probably has room for about 10-12 new additions in his quest for yet another fantastic haul. 

As for our 2022 recruiting board, we've got a new No. 1 and another new addition heading into a wild month of June.

CADEN CURRY DL 1 2 ★★★★ Clemson•Alabama•Oregon•ND
XAVIER NWANKPA SAF 2 3 ★★★★ Texas A&M•Notre Dame
AAMIL WAGNER OT 3 4 ★★★★ Notre Dame•Kentucky•Stanford
OMARI ABOR DE 4 5 ★★★★★ Oklahoma•Texas A&M•Alabama
KENYATTA JACKSON DE 5 6 ★★★★ Oklahoma•Clemson
ZACH RICE OT 6 8 ★★★★★ UNC•Alabama•Virginia•ND
DALLAN HAYDEN RB 7 7 ★★★★ Notre Dame
ENAI WHITE DE 8 9 ★★★★ Bama•Georgia•Florida•Clemson
ZION BRANCH SAF 9 10 ★★★★ USC•Oregon•Clemson•Alabama
EARNEST GREENE OL 10 NA ★★★★ USC•Alabama•Georgia
TORIANO PRIDE CB 11 11 ★★★★ Clemson•Alabama•Missouri
  • Last month's edition can be found HERE.

The long-time top target on our board has finally been scratched. At this point, Kiyaunta Goodwin probably won't be making another appearance unless he shows up on Ohio State's campus. Even if that does happen, the relationship with the Kentucky staff may be too strong to overcome. Goodwin had a seven-month run at the top of the list before things fizzled.

A different Hoosier State star has taken over the No. 1 spot on our 2022 board, but it's mostly been quiet on the Caden Curry front. His baseball season has prevented the four-star defensive lineman from lining up visits for the month of June. His Center Grove Trojans team just captured the sectional title yesterday evening, and the regionals are set for next weekend. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder is hoping to take some unofficials this month with the official visits to take place in the fall. Alabama and Clemson look like the top competition for the top-ranked player on our board. 

Iowa safety Xavier Nwankpa is up to the two spot, and this one continues to be an Ohio State, Texas A&M, and Notre Dame battle. The Buckeyes will host the nation's No. 1 safety (per 247 Sports) this coming weekend before he makes scheduled trips to College Station (June 11) and South Bend (June 18). Nwankpa is close with Buckeye wide receiver commit Kyion Grayes, but there's still work to be done in this recruitment. A timeline hasn't been set for the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder.

Sticking at the safety spot, Vegas's Zion Branch is now sitting at No. 9, and Kerry Coombs is looking to land at least one of the prized safties on our board. Branch is handling things a bit differently with some official visits coming in June (Ohio State, USC, Oklahoma) and a pair of heavy hitters in the fall (Alabama, Clemson). Right now this one feels like the Buckeyes or Trojans, but we'll certainly know more here in a few weeks. 

Aamil Wagner continues to climb the ranks as he can now safely be put in the must-get category. Coming off of his basketball and track seasons, it's going to be interesting to see what his body does once he's fully dedicated to football. At 6-foot-6, Wagner is reportedly around the 260-270-pound range, which is fine for someone heading into his senior season. Notre Dame should continue to be viewed as a real threat. He'll head to Columbus on June 4 and South Bend two weeks later. 

There's still absolutely no reason for optimism on the Zach Rice front, but the Virginia native will be making his official visit this weekend. Getting him on campus is obviously a big deal, but it's important to remember that the Buckeyes are probably sitting somewhere around fourth or fifth on his list. North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, and Notre Dame are the main contenders. Rice is at No. 6 on the board, but that's admittedly based more on positional need than anything. 

The newest name on our board also plays in the trenches and makes his debut at No. 10. Stop me if this sounds familiar: A talented lineman at California's powerhouse St. John Bosco program who plays left tackle even though he projects as a collegiate guard. Earnest Greene's path could be eerily similar to that of Wyatt Davis, and the Buckeyes are right in the thick of it for the nation's No. 2 interior line prospect. 

Greene will make an unofficial trip to Ohio State this month before returning this fall for an official. He's not scheduled to announce a commitment until the All-American Bowl, and it's not going to be easy to pluck another one from the West Coast. Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, and USC are among the other contenders for the 6-foot-4.5, 330-pounder. Ryan Day landed Kourt Williams from the St. John Bosco program back in the Class of 2020.

There hasn't been a whole lot of movement on the edge rusher front. Omari Abor and Kenyatta Jackson still appear to be the top targets, and Larry Johnson has Ohio State very much in the mix for them both. Abor's official visit is scheduled for this weekend, and hosting the five-star Texan is without question one of the month's biggest visits. He'll also be checking out Norman later on in the month. The Sooners could be the favorite right now, but it's never wise to bet against Larry Johnson.

As for Kenyatta Jackson, the Florida native will also be visiting Oklahoma and Ohio State this month. The trip to Columbus will be later in the month on June 25, and he also could check out Clemson this fall since Dabo Swinney doesn't allow spring/summer official visits. It would be great news if a decision has been made before month's end since the Tigers are perhaps the top competition. Again, it's worth remembering that Jackson's teammate and friend – cornerback Ryan Turner – committed to Ohio State in early May.

Five-star Enai White remains on the list as he's expected to be in Columbus later this month. The Buckeyes will give it their best shot for 247's top-rated edge defender, but I wouldn't get my hopes up on that one. It's shaping up to be more of an Alabama vs. Georgia battle. 

Tennessee's Dallan Hayden holds steady at No. 7 and continues to be viewed as Tony Alford's top target in the backfield. He'll visit Notre Dame on June 11 before heading to Columbus the following weekend. Our stance on this one hasn't changed in months. We expect Hayden to be the first – and possibly the only – running back in Ohio State's 2022 class. He's likely to announce his commitment in late June or early July.

Toriano Pride remains on the board at No. 11. Ohio State isn't the favorite right now, but he continues to be a priority even though Kerry Coombs already has three cornerbacks committed. Clemson is the safe pick for the St. Louis defender, but we'll see if the Buckeyes can shake things up during this weekend's official visit. 

This entire month is going to feel like the buildup to one of Ohio State's typical recruiting extravaganzas; whether it be the spring game, Friday Night Lights, or a night game against a ranked Big Ten foe in the fall. Florida State began welcoming recruits at its athletic facilities at midnight today. And while that's a little bit weird, it's also oddly refreshing because it's further evidence that things are returning to normal. 

Ohio State will host six five-star 2022 prospects this weekend alone as Quinn Ewers, Caleb Burton, and C.J. Hicks will all have on their recruiting hats. The month is also going to be an important one for the Class of 2023. Camps will be underway as prospects look to earn offers and Ryan Day and Corey Dennis expand their search for a 2023 signal-caller.

The Ohio State coaching staff wisely used some vacation time in May. There's not going to be much time for rest and relaxation over the next 30 days. They'll be busy giving countless prospects the red-carpet treatment much like Henry Hill at the Copacabana Nightclub.

For the record, I consider Goodfellas to be the second-best gangster movie behind only Casino.

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