Early Grades: Breaking Down Each Position Group Following the Early Signing Period for the Class of 2020

By Andrew Ellis on December 19, 2019 at 3:05 pm
Ryan Day is bringing a star-studded 2020 class to Columbus.
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Our grades are in for the early signing period.

With the vast majority of America's top prospects making things official during the early signing period, Ohio State's 2020 recruiting class is nearly complete. Ryan Day signed 24 new Buckeyes yesterday and will now have the next six weeks to add another prospect or two to his first class in Columbus. 

The class's biggest needs have mostly been addressed, but there are still two or three position groups that could see some new additions between now and February. 

Quarterback: A+

Signees: (2) Jack Miller, C.J. Stroud

It's rare for a team to sign two talented quarterbacks in a single class. Given the recent transfers, Ohio State needed to do just that for 2020. Ryan Day and Mike Yurcich delivered in a big way with two of the country's very best at the position. 

Jack Miller has been a long-time Buckeye pledge and was an early top target for the staff. He has been banged up a bit, but when he's on the field his talent is undeniable. Adding California's C.J. Stroud to the mix yesterday was a massive win for Ohio State. After his rise toward the top of the national recruiting rankings, Stroud sided with the Buckeyes over the likes of Georgia and Michigan. 

Key Misses: None

Running Back: C

Signees: (1) Miyan Williams

Tony Alford and his recruiting efforts have been a hot topic dating back to the summer months. Ohio State really wanted a pair of tailbacks, and for a long while, it looked like it was going to happen. After a number of big-time misses and a bit of a rough stretch, Alford still managed to land one of the state's most prolific rushers in Cincinnati's Miyan Williams.

The former Iowa State commit is a strong, physical back who appears to be quite angry when he's toting the rock. He rushed for nearly 6,000 yards and 68 touchdowns during his time at Winton Woods High School. Even without the star power, this was a big pickup for Alford and Co.

Our grade isn't so much a testament to Williams' skills or lack thereof. It's more so due to the misses and lingering need at the position. A player like Jahmyr Gibbs would be an ideal complement, but it really seems like the Georgia Tech commit will remain in the Southeast.  

Key Misses: Bijan Robinson (Texas), Kendall Milton (Georgia)

Wide Receiver: A+

Signees: (4) Julian Fleming, Gee Scott Jr., Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Mookie Cooper

This is the easiest grade to dish out as Brian Hartline assembled what may be the most impressive group of wideouts we've seen in a single class. Julian Fleming is rated as the No. 1 wideout in America and both Scott Jr. and Smith-Njigba are in line to possibly earn their fifth stars. 

Mookie Cooper's recruitment has been fairly quiet since he wasn't able to play during his final season due to high school transfer rules. The one-time Texas commit is one of the country's top slot wideouts and brings an entirely different skill set than the other three signees. 

The best news? All four receivers will be enrolling in January. 

Key Misses: None

Tight End: B+ 

Signees: (1) Joe Royer

Ohio State went back and forth on a pair of in-state tight ends, but the staff ultimately decided to pursue Cincinnati's Joe Royer. Grandview Heights' Luke Lachey also ended up in a tremendous spot, however, as the local product signed with the Hawkeyes yesterday. 

Royer finished with 1,258 yards and 15 touchdowns in 15 games as a senior. He suited up against some high-end competition while leading the Elder offense. Royer fought during the spring and summer months to earn his offer before committing to Ohio State on July 2. 

Key Misses: None

Offensive Line: A-

Signees: (6) Paris Johnson Jr., Luke Wypler, Grant Toutant, Josh Fryar, Jakob James, Trey Leroux

Greg Studrawa's reload has long been one of the key areas for the 2020 class. Fortunately for Ohio State, things got off to a roaring start when Paris Johnson Jr. and Luke Wypler hopped on board during the summer of 2018. The commitments gave the Buckeyes the country's best tackle and one of the top interior prospects as well. 

There are certainly a few projects in the group as Jakob James and Trey Leroux will each take some time before being ready to play at the next level. Grant Toutant looks like a potential right tackle and Josh Fryar brings all sorts of versatility to the trenches. 

Key Misses: Turner Corcoran (Nebraska), Michael Carmody (Notre Dame)

Defensive Line: B

Signees: (3) Jacolbe Cowan, Darrion Henry, Ty Hamilton

Larry Johnson brings in three versatile defenders with two of them hailing from the state of Ohio. Jacolbe Cowan was a big pull from North Carolina and it will be interesting to see how the 262-pounder develops in the trenches. At 250 pounds, Pickerington's Ty Hamilton is listed as a defensive end but seems likely to move inside. Darrion Henry is an early enrollee and is also expected to line up at tackle. 

While all three are talented prospects, the issue here might be the lack of a pure outside pass rusher. Obviously Zach Harrisons don't grow on trees, but I think the Buckeyes could have used another edge rusher. It was a bit of a down year across the country at the position, and there really weren't any realistic/priority targets the Buckeyes missed on.

A guy like five-star Tarheel signee Desmond Evans had been mentioned but was always a pipe dream. Still, this is another unit that may look different come February as Larry Johnson searched for a true pass-rusher.

It's also important to note that Jack Sawyer – who is one of the best linemen in the country regardless of class – is already on the board for 2021. 

Key Misses: None

Linebacker: A-

Signees: (3) Cody Simon, Kourt Williams, Mitchell Melton

Al Washington brings in three talented linebackers with very different skill sets. Simon is the purest backer of the group while Williams and Melton should bring some versatility. Williams could likely play linebacker or safety, but at 215 pounds the former seems more likely. Melton doesn't quite have the athleticism of the other two, but at 235 pounds he could end up as a pass-rushing specialist. 

Key Misses: Mekhail Sheman (Georgia)

Defensive Back: B

Signees: (3) Lathan Ransom, Ryan Watts, Lejond Cavazos

Dealing with coaching turmoil can be difficult, and that was the case for Ohio State's secondary this go around. Jeff Hafley's departure no doubt had an impact on four-star corner Clark Phillips III and his decision to flip from Ohio State to Utah. To make matters worse, the cornerback spot was one of the class's more pressing needs after signing zero players in 2019. 

Despite the loss of Phillips, the Buckeyes bring in some major talent here. Lathan Ransom is one of the nation's top safeties and both Ryan Watts and Lejond Cavazos add some serious size and length to the cornerback room. Cavazos has played both safety and corner, so it'll be interesting to see how he's utilized in Columbus. There aren't too many 6-foot-3 corners, so the Watts addition was a big one for a soon-to-be depleted secondary. 

Don't be surprised to see Ryan Day look toward the transfer portal as an option as the expected losses of Jeffrey Okudah, Damon Arnette, and Shaun Wade make it necessary to add another corner. Most of the country's top prospects are off the board, but Ohio State will certainly be on the lookout for another addition a corner.

We're still in wait-and-see mode for four-star Michigan athlete Cameron Martinez. A star on offense in high school, he's expected to play safety for the Buckeyes. I'm of the belief that Day can hang onto his commitment assuming a new coach is hired in the near future. He will sign with his school of choice in February. Northwestern is the key competition for the Buckeye pledge.

Key Misses: Clark Phillips III (Utah), Elias Ricks (LSU)

Special Teams: A

Signees: (1) Jake Seibert

Ohio State needed to find Blake Haubeil's replacement, and it did just that with Cincinnati's Jake Seibert. Ranked as the No. 2 kicker in the country, he's expected to take a grayshirt before taking over in 2021. 

Key Misses: None

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