National Signing Day 2018 is Wednesday, and 4-star OLB Javontae Jean-Baptiste is one of the biggest names left on the board. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound linebacker from Oradell, N.J., is considering Nebraska, Ohio State and Texas A&M.
Here’s the latest on Jean-Baptiste’s recruitment from the Land of 10 experts at Nebraska and Ohio State.
What’s the latest you’re hearing on Javontae Jean-Baptiste and your school?
Chris Bumbaca, Land of 10 Nebraska: I’m hearing that things between Jean-Baptiste and Nebraska are still on solid ground. That was before his visit to Texas A&M, though. Still, Nebraska seems to be in a great position with Javontae Jean-Baptiste. He is either the first or second overall target on the Huskers’ board heading into Signing Day. Jean-Baptiste values relationships, and he has a solid one with Scott Frost and the Huskers defensive coaches.
Ryan Donnelly, Land of 10 Ohio State: Ohio State was in a will-they-or-won’t-they dance with Javontae Jean-Baptiste for the last two weeks and the Buckeyes didn’t seem to commit to aggressively pursuing him as a recruit until after 4-star Ohio linebacker Christopher Oats canceled his planned official visit last weeekend. I think Oats’ decision to go elsewhere spurred Ohio State into an all-out pursuit of Jean-Baptiste, including a very successful in-home visit last Thursday, but I don’t think it will be enough to make up for lost time. While Ohio State was debating whether it wanted Jean-Baptiste in the fold (I’m told his weigh-in was a concern), Nebraska was busy building stronger relationships with the New Jersey star and I think it’s going to win them this recruitment.
What are Javontae Jean-Baptiste’s chances for early playing time at both schools? How would he fit into the depth chart?
Chris Bumbaca: Nebraska has a need for a pass rusher in this class, and Jean-Baptiste fits that mold. He’s got a ton of upside getting after the quarterback, something the staff noticed earlier than other schools. Jean-Baptiste could compete for playing time early in his Nebraska career. That’s not to say he can come in and start right away just by committing, but that’s a possibility. As far as where he fits on the depth chart, Nebraska and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander will begin targeting true edge rushers in a 3-4 scheme starting with this class, giving Jean-Baptiste another advantage.
Ryan Donnelly: Ohio State views Jean-Baptiste as a likely redshirt candidate who would take a year to develop his body and add muscle mass to his frame before seeing the field for the Buckeyes. He’s a gifted pass rusher, but he’s on the skinny side and would need to have that development to be ready to compete in the Big Ten. However, the Buckeyes depth chart is thin at defensive end this season. Ohio State’s 2018 roster will return juniors Nick Bosa and Jonathon Cooper and sophomore Chase Young, but that’s it. Ohio State signee Tyreke Smith will be a college defensive end. Signee Alex Williams and recent commit Tyler Friday have that potential, but could also play other positions down the road. Bosa will leave after his junior season and Young will be a three-and-done player as well, meaning Jean-Baptiste’s future outlook for playing time is tremendous.
You’re Scott Frost and Urban Meyer. Make your final pitch to Javontae Jean-Baptiste.
Chris Bumbaca (as Scott Frost): “Javontae, we have known each other for a while now. You want to win at the next level and I do, too. But even more than that, I want you to grow as a player and person. I think you will realize the best version of yourself at Nebraska. That’s not to say anything bad about the other schools after you right now. But you can be an early contributor for us and be a part of a turnaround near and dear to my heart. I want to make it happen with guys like you. Let’s go.”
Ryan Donnelly (as Urban Meyer): “I think at this point, the NFL does enough of a job of selling our program for us. We’ve had five defensive linemen selected in the five NFL drafts that have taken place since I arrived at Ohio State. Joey Bosa, a former Buckeyes star, may be the best young defensive lineman in the NFL. Cameron Heyward is an All-Pro. Hell, we’ll probably have three Buckeyes defensive ends drafted in the first three or four rounds in April this year. Our defensive line coach, Larry Johnson, churns out top draft selections and elite prospects every single year and you can join that group. You can be developed into a future pro player at one of the fastest-rising universities in America in one of its fastest-growing cities. You can do all of that while obtaining a degree from a top-level university, being exposed to enormous opportunities you won’t find anywhere else, and competing for national championships every single season.”
How serious of a threat is Texas A&M? They came in late with Jimbo Fisher, and he just visited College Station.
Chris Bumbaca: I don’t get the sense that Texas A&M is too big of a threat. Sure, the visit is a small cause for concern, but nothing to panic about. Once again, this recruitment will come down to relationships. Have Fisher and A&M had enough time to build one with Jean-Baptiste? Maybe, but definitely not to the level of other schools recruiting him. Unless there was something he saw on the trip that none of the other schools presented to him, I doubt he will commit there.
Ryan Donnelly: It’s hard to disregard Jimbo Fisher, an elite closer who has shown a track record of winning big-time battles for big-time prospects, but I don’t get the sense that Texas A&M has enough time to become a real threat here. Jean-Baptiste is very comfortable with both Nebraska and Ohio State and I don’t think A&M is the kind of program that will be able to change that. All due credit to Fisher for even getting Jean-Baptiste on campus, though, as he was resistant to the idea of taking a fifth and final official visit when being pursued by all of the other programs that came calling late.
Give your predictions on where Javontae Jean-Baptiste picks. How confident are you?
Chris Bumbaca: I predict Jean-Baptiste will wind up at Nebraska. The momentum is all there. The Huskers have already fended off an advance from the Buckeyes .There’s no reason to say it won’t continue again. I make this prediction with a confidence-level of 90 percent.
Ryan Donnelly: At this point, I’ll stick with my Nebraska prediction. I think Ohio State decided too late to push for Jean-Baptiste’s commitment and its decision to hold off Oats earlier in the process and focus on him late seems like it will ultimately cost them both prospects. I’ve learned to never be surprised if Urban Meyer turns up the heat late and pulls out a surprise victory — he’s built a pristine reputation for doing so — but it’s not something that I expect to happen in this case. Scott Frost and his staff hit home runs on their in-home and official visits with Jean-Baptiste, and the young defensive end and his family seem exceedingly comfortable and happy with what they can find in Lincoln. Relationships will win this one for Nebraska, in my opinion.
I would say my confidence level in that prediction would be a 7 on a 1-to-10 scale. Ohio State has a bit of a mystique for pulling off these late surprises under Meyer, but I don’t think it will happen here.
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