Dotting the ‘Eyes: Bama commits talking about Buckeyes, next longsnapper lining up, Darnay Holmes and Michigan and more
Recruiting never stops, and if you take a day off, you fall behind. Join us every night for a daily recap of Ohio State recruiting news, insight on what’s happening behind the scenes, and for a glimpse at what’s coming next.
Alabama linebacker commitments and Ohio State?
Let’s get it right out in the open, OK? Recruiting is a little bit weird and there are things that happen every single day that make close to zero sense. Care for an example?
You may – if you follow national recruiting closely – be aware of Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) defensive end/linebacker VanDarius Cowans. A 6-foot-4, 230-pound monster of a teenager, Cowans, an Alabama commitment, has been absolutely instrumental in helping build the Crimson Tide’s second-ranked 2017 recruiting class and has been as solid as any commitment in the country. At The Opening in early July, Cowan made headlines when he told SECCountry.com’s Chris Kirschner that he wasn’t impressed with the Buckeyes recruiting class and that Bama’s class was comprised of more “savages” than Ohio State’s class — or anyone else’s, for that matter.
“I’m not even worried about Ohio State, so don’t even ask me any questions about Ohio State. That’s ranked off of all those stars and junk, but we’re talking about Alabama having goons and savages in this class,” Cowan said. “I’m talking about boys who want to play and give it their all. I’m telling you all of my boys that are committed are savages. We are straight dogs.”
So why is Cowan telling 247Sports.com’s Bill Kurelic that he plans to take an official visit to Ohio State? Why is Cowan — again, solid as any commit in the country — going to take five official visits, including to Bama’s biggest rivals, like LSU and Georgia?
— VanDarius Cowan‼️❄️ (@vandarius98) August 7, 2016
I was first told about Cowan back in the spring when he was visited by Ohio State’s wide receivers coach, Zach Smith, but there’d been little communication between the two sides since. In recent weeks, sources have told Landof10 that it’s actually been Cowan reaching out to the Buckeyes and linebackers coach Luke Fickell, not Ohio State initiating the contact. Why would he do that?
Like most recruits these days, it’s just about taking full advantage of the opportunity to see the country and make sure he’s making the absolute right decision.
“I’m 150-percent committed to Roll Tide. I’m just taking visits checking out places because you only get one chance to (experience this),” Cowan told Landof10. “I want to visit Ohio State. Chase Young told me it’s great up there and after talking to coach Luke Fickell, he also would like to get me on campus. Just hearing about that school over the years makes me want to visit.”
The decision by Young to commit to Ohio State when he did has helped keep the Buckeyes on the list. Cowan said there must be something about the school that’s worth seeing for a player like Young to commit to Ohio State just one day after spending many hours with him in Tuscaloosa.
“The fact that he was with me his whole visit at Bama,” Cowan said when asked exactly what Young said or did that piqued his interest in the Buckeyes. “Then committed to Ohio State the next day.”
Maybe Cowan thinks there are some “savages” in Columbus after all?
Apparently another Bama linebacker commitment does. Gary Johnson, the country’s top-ranked JUCO linebacker is also pretty excited about his recent offer from the Buckeyes.
— I Hate QB's & RB's‼️ (@_GaryJohnson) August 8, 2016
Johnson, a 6-foot-1, 225-pound inside linebacker who has the best Twitter name around, hasn’t really been in the Buckeyes plans for long. Why the offer now? Although Ohio State likes where they stand with Plano (Texas) 4-star prospect Anthony Hines III, if he were to end up elsewhere, the Dodge City Community College star would be an interesting option in the middle as a potential replacement for Raekwon McMillan in the 2017 season.
There is a long way to signing day and Ohio State and Alabama are jockeying for the nation’s top-ranked 2017 class, so it will be very interesting to see how the two trade jabs over the next few months. We’ve speculated for some time that Shaun Wade, a 5-star cornerback committed to the Buckeyes, could flip to the Tide, but is there now a chance Ohio State could return the favor at linebacker?
Darnay Holmes’ Michigan visit
If Ohio State were to lose Shaun Wade to Alabama, one of the top potential replacements for him in their class would be Calabasas (Calif.) 5-star cornerback Darnay Holmes, who has visited Columbus multiple times in the last year.
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, the race for the commitment of Holmes — the country’s second-ranked cornerback — has gotten a little bit more challenging following his weekend visit to Michigan. On Friday evening, we speculated that the trip to Ann Arbor would change things in Holmes’ recruitment and it seems that has come — at least a little bit — to fruition.
From Scout.com’s Greg Biggins:
“I loved everything about it. I can’t think of a single thing that I didn’t love out there,” Holmes said. “I loved the campus and the school itself and academically, Michigan is the No. 1-rated public university in the country, so that’s huge. I want to major in business/finance and the connections there at Michigan are tremendous.”
Holmes will visit Michigan again on Sept. 17 for an official visit with the Wolverines and will make his next trip to Ohio State on Nov. 5 for the Buckeyes’ home game against Nebraska. If Greg Schiano and Ohio State want to land the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Holmes, they’ll have to come up with a unique way to sell him on what the Buckeyes can offer that Michigan, UCLA, Nebraska and — yes – Stanford, do not.
2016 tight end class drawing rave reviews
We normally talk the next class of players coming into Ohio State but after the Buckeyes’ first practices of the 2016 fall camp, we received a few text messages about what to expect from one important group that comes from the 2016 recruiting class.
“This tight end class,” one source close to the Buckeyes shared, “may be the best in the country. If they’re not the best, they’re really close.”
That class, of course, consists of three true freshmen from Ohio: Cincinnati Moeller’s Jake Hausmann, Perry’s Luke Farrell and Maple Heights’ Kierre Hawkins.
“Did you see Hausmann?” the source asked. “He has worked so hard to get where he is, physically. He’s up to 245 pounds and looks better than any freshman tight end I’ve ever seen. It’s going to be hard to keep these guys off the field.”
The Buckeyes return two tight ends from last season’s roster — redshirt junior Marcus Baugh and redshirt freshman A.J. Alexander — and that pair, while talented, has no iron-clad lock on playing time because of productivity or off-field goodwill, so the freshmen certainly have their chance to shine.
“I’m telling you,” the source added for good measure, “if the offense evolves like we think it can, this group could change the way the tight end position is viewed at Ohio State.”
Long Snapper U?
One of the “fun” things that has become commonplace over the last few years is the proclamation that So-and-So School is actually “Position U.” Ohio State lays claim to a few of those titles: Wide Receiver U, Linebacker U, Defensive Back U, etc.
Maybe the Buckeye should start announcing themselves as “Long Snapper U?” Jake McQuaid and Bryce Haynes handled that job dutifully from 2008-2015 and now it’s redshirt freshman Liam McCullough – he of the super cool T-shirts and a very entertaining Twitter feed – who will handle that most important special teams responsibility.
So maybe it’s too soon to start looking for McCullough’s eventual replacement, but we talk recruiting in this column and with it, irrationally premature, next-man-up hypothesizing.
At least with this particular long snapper, there may not be a need to look too far for his replacement. Meet Roen McCullough, Liam’s younger brother. Roen, 6-foot-2 and 225-pounds as a junior at Kilbourne (Worthington, Ohio), may be actually be a little bit ahead of where his Buckeye brother was at the same point in his career.
“They’re actually very similar,” Mike McCullough, their father, told Landof10. “Liam is a ‘no-look snapper’ whereas Roen is a ‘look snapper,’ but they are both equally fast and accurate and both snap mid-to-low 0.6 (seconds) for punt snaps. Anything under 0.75 seconds is very good.”
The nuance of special teams is lost on even the most ardent football fans, so clarification about exactly what those times mean can be necessary.
“Point-75 seconds,” McCullough shared. “That’s the time it takes from first movement of the ball to hitting the punter’s hands at 14 yards. Roen finished the Rubio Top 12 invite-only specialist camp hosted at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in July. He came in second in the finals competition, competing against the best 2017 and 2018 snappers in the country. He lost out to Thomas Fletcher, the No. 1-ranked 2017 long snapper. He’s committed to Alabama.”
So the question is, with four years of eligibility left for Liam but only two years left of high school for Roen, is he the natural pick to be the next long snapper at Ohio State? Those discussions are underway.
“We’ve been in dialogue with Ohio State about the potential for succeeding Liam,” Mike said. “Roen camped there early in the summer and performed well. Roen, being a rising junior, will likely grow 1-2 more inches and projected to be 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4. He’s dropped down below 230 pounds and looking to play both fullback and linebacker as well, because colleges are looking for snappers to be able to run and cover on punts so he’s focusing on mobility and speed.”
Unless otherwise noted, all rankings come courtesy of 247Sports.com.
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