Let’s get the obvious caveat out of the way.
Losing the commitment of five-star quarterback Dylan Raiola from the 2024 class is an unexpected blow to a class that was shaping up nicely. On Wednesday, top-rated 2024 wideout Jeremiah Smith committed to the Buckeyes, giving OSU the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked players committed to its class, albeit for less than 72 hours. The recruiting gods giveth and they taketh away.
The reason for Raiola’s sudden decommitment appears unknown to all but those close to him. Late Friday evening, Raiola removed all references to him being an Ohio State commit from his Twitter bio and deleted his commitment video. Nebraska and USC are among the schools expected to be in the mix to land Raiola now that he’s back on the market.
“We have a lot of respect for Coach Day and the Ohio State program,” Raiola’s father Dominic told 247Sports. “Everything is back on the table. His process is almost like it's restarting. It's not closed off to anybody.”
Now that Raiola has reopened his recruitment, though, the Buckeyes must move forward without him, sending them back to the drawing board to find a new quarterback in the 2024 class.
So, where does OSU go from here?
Well, there’s really no replacing Raiola from a pure talent standpoint. His arm strength and ability to throw on the run and change arm angles made him the top-rated prospect nationally in the first place, and there’s a reason Ryan Day and OSU preferred him to any other prospect.
But that’s not going to stop Ohio State from trying. Nobody is going to feel sorry for the Buckeyes and they certainly won’t for themselves. Raiola was OSU’s first commit of the 2024 class, but now the Buckeyes will be in the market for another one to anchor their class. And good news, the Early Signing Period next week is for the 2023 class, not 2024. Better for it to happen now than a year from now, right?
As such, we’ve broken down some options OSU could consider pivoting to – eight quarterbacks in total, broken down into two tiers. The first tier consists of quarterbacks the Buckeyes have been connected to in the past, while the second tier is highly touted uncommitted quarterbacks who may be worth OSU exploring in the future but haven’t been connected to the Buckeyes much.
- Five-star Jadyn Davis: Back in the spring, one of the biggest recruiting questions surrounding Ohio State was whether the Buckeyes would zero in on Davis or Raiola. Obviously, the answer to that question was Raiola, but before the No. 1 prospect in 2024 committed to the Buckeyes, there was plenty of mutual interest between Davis and OSU. With Raiola no longer part of OSU’s 2024 class, could the Buckeyes re-engage with the North Carolina prospect? It seems certain they’ll at least reach out, but it’s a fair question to wonder how much interest there will be on Davis’ end considering he wasn’t OSU’s first choice. Davis also has four 247Sports Crystal Ball projections in favor of Michigan, so there’s a distinct possibility Davis ends up in Ann Arbor and the Buckeyes are left without a five-star signal caller for 2024.
- Four-star Colin Hurley: Hurley wouldn’t be an easy recruitment for Ohio State considering he’s already committed to LSU. The Florida prospect camped with OSU this summer and picked up an offer the same day. At the time, Hurley was a 2025 prospect, but reclassified to 2024 when he committed to LSU on Nov. 4. Considering his reclassification, OSU made little sense in Hurley’s recruitment at the time considering Raiola’s recruitment. Would he reconsider Ohio State now that there’s an open spot? “Ohio State’s always been a dream school of mine, they’ve been so successful so they’re definitely in the top list of mine right now,” Hurley said shortly after receiving his OSU offer in June. “They’re definitely up there, one of the top schools I’m looking at.”
- Four-star Adrian Posse: Like Hurley, Posse is no longer an uncommitted prospect, as he committed to Auburn in July. Of course, there’s since been a coaching change at Auburn, but Posse has publicly supported the hire of Hugh Freeze. Posse visited OSU several times before committing to Auburn and could be a flip candidate should the Buckeyes decide to re-engage with him.
- Four-star Mabrey Mettauer: Of the four prospects on this list, Mettauer is the only one that does not hold an Ohio State offer. But the Texas prospect visited Columbus in the 2021 season for a game against Purdue, so the two had been linked at least to some degree in the past. “I like the way coach Day has the quarterback airing out the ball almost the whole game. That's an important part of what I’m looking for in a football program,” Meattauer told Eleven Warriors after the visit. “I love the air attack and the way the quarterback really throws the ball a lot.”
Honestly, you could probably just list any quarterback from the top 20 rankings in the class of 2024 as a realistic target at this point with the Buckeyes going back to the drawing board. But we’ve highlighted a few uncommitted quarterbacks that might make the most sense.
- Four-star Air Noland: Noland does not yet have an offer from Ohio State, but he is the high school teammate of 2023 OSU tight end commit Jelani Thurman. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Noland is drawing significant interest from the likes of Auburn, Arkansas, Miami and Texas A&M. Nolan helped lead Langston Hughes (Fairburn, Georgia) to an undefeated 15-0 record in his junior season, completing 236 of 323 passes for 4,095 yards, a whopping 55 touchdowns and four interceptions. The top-150 prospect also ran for five touchdowns this season.
- Four-star Elijah Brown: Outside of Davis (and now Raiola), Brown is the highest-ranked uncommitted quarterback in the 2024 class. The near-top-50 prospect has received offers from most of the college football blue bloods, including Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, USC and Tennessee. Brown led Mater Dei to a 12-1 record this season, completing 184 of 270 passes for 2,785 yards, 31 touchdowns and four interceptions while also running for four touchdowns.
- Four-star Jake Merklinger: Merklinger is the teammate of four-star 2024 OSU tight end target Michael Smith at Calvary Day High School (Savannah, Georgia). The top-100 prospect has offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Tennessee and others. In 12 games this season, Merklinger completed 97 of 145 passes for 1,987 yards, 32 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He also ran for 283 yards and four touchdowns.
- Four-star Michael Van Buren: Last week, Perry Eliano offered four defensive backs from St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Maryland). When he makes a return trip in January, maybe he’ll give their teammate Van Buren an offer. Van Buren has no shortage of notable offers, including Alabama, Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State and Wisconsin.
Is there any silver lining to the decommitment?
It’s obviously never a good thing no matter how you spin it when a team loses a commitment from the No. 1-ranked national prospect in a recruiting class. But there is one avenue where this could work in Ohio State’s favor: 2025 quarterback recruiting.
Even with the Buckeyes presumably going to take a quarterback in 2024, no one they land will be as highly touted as a prospect as Raiola, which could make Ohio State an easier sell to upper-echelon 2025 quarterback recruits.
It’s probably no coincidence that the top-rated quarterback in 247Sports’ composite rankings for 2025 was on Ohio State’s campus the same day that Raiola decommitted. Five-star Michigan quarterback Bryce Underwood attended Ohio State’s bowl practice Saturday and picked up an offer from the Buckeyes. Underwood is the No. 3 overall prospect in 2025 and holds offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Kentucky, Cincinnati and others.
Underwood is the second quarterback the Buckeyes have offered in the 2025 class, joining Ohio’s Ryan Montgomery. Montgomery has held an offer from the Buckeyes since his freshman season and has long been considered a priority target for OSU. Montgomery, the brother of OSU commit Luke Montgomery, visited Columbus twice this fall.
With the future at quarterback more uncertain, selling Underwood or Montgomery on joining OSU seems a much simpler task than it did before Saturday. Depending on how things play out in the 2024 class, landing a top quarterback in 2025 could also become a much bigger priority.