Dotting the ‘Eyes: Examining Ohio State’s top offensive targets in a talent-rich 2018 recruiting class
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We’re just about five months away from the end of the 2017 recruiting cycle. With the country’s top-ranked class and a handful of big-time 2017 prospects still thinking Buckeyes, Ohio State is in position to end Alabama’s reign at the top of the recruiting charts. The names that remain on Urban Meyer’s big board in 2017 are pretty well known by now, because we talk about the same handful of players repeatedly. Running back Cam Akers, defensive tackle Jay Tufele. Linebackers Baron Browning and Anthony Hines III. Defensive backs Jeffrey Okudah, Shaun Wade, Darnay Holmes and Lamont Wade.
Those are the names you know. Tonight, in lieu of our regular recruiting notebook , we’ll move ahead a little bit and start looking at a few more of the names to know for 2018. Sound good? Let’s get started by looking at the primary targets on offense. We’ll dive into the defense next Friday.
- Target Number: 1
- Top Targets: Emory Jones
- Committed: Emory Jones
Ohio State has its man in 2018. Emory Jones, the country’s top-ranked dual-threat quarterback, committed to Ohio State in July and the 6-foot-2, 195-pound, 5-star prospect is the perfect fit for Urban Meyer’s offense.
As it stands, Ohio State should have a redshirt junior in Joe Burrow, a redshirt sophomore in Dwayne Haskins Jr. and potentially two redshirt freshmen at quarterback when Jones arrives on campus, so there’s no need right now to consider bringing in two for 2018.
- Target Number: 2
- Top Targets: Jaelen Gill, Zamir White, Maurice Washington, TJ Pledger
- Committed: Brian Snead
The Buckeyes were caught a little off-guard when Tampa’s Brian Snead committed following Friday Night Lights in July. The country’s sixth-ranked running back had been feeling Ohio State for a while and is a favorite of running backs coach Tony Alford. The reality is that – as with any Florida prospect who commits as early as he has – it’s hard to consider that Snead’s recruitment is over and, because of that, the Buckeyes are going to pursue other players as hard as they can, namely 5-stars Jaelen Gill and Zamir White. Gill, from South High School in Westerville, Ohio, and White, from North Carolina, are two totally different running backs and a perfect complementary pair.
Even if Ohio State finds a way to land 5-star Cam Akers and 4-star J.K. Dobbins in the 2017 class, I’d expect them to try and take two in 2018. If Mike Weber’s career goes as expected, he’ll be heading to the NFL following the 2017 season and that would mean the roster would have only three running backs if they land two in 2017. Two players for 2018 is absolutely necessary.
- Target Number: 4
- Top Targets: Jalen Hall, Brian Hightower, Jahan Dotson, Xavier Williams, L’Christian “Blue” Smith, Kamryn Babb
Here’s the reality of Ohio State’s recruiting plan at wide receiver as of today: if you’re not a potential first-round talent, it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to be recruited by the Buckeyes. In 2015, Torrance Gibson and K.J. Hill have that ability. In 2016, both signees – Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor – do as well. In 2017? Two 5-star prospects, Trevon Grimes and Tyjon Lindsey, are committed. Forget recruiting Ohio, forget recruiting the areas where Ohio State has had an established presence, the only thing that matters now for Zach Smith and “Zone Six” is this: are you one of the country’s best wide receivers? That’s the standard.
That’s why Los Angeles’ Jalen Hall was among the first players the Buckeyes reached out to on Sept. 1, and that’s why stars like Jahan Dotson and Xavier Williams are going to be highly recruited as well. Why four players in 2018? Johnnie Dixon, Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell, James Clark and Noah Brown will all certainly be gone from the roster, and there’s certainly a chance Gibson and Hill will be as well.
Ohio State could enter 2018 with Mack, Victor, Grimes and Lindsey only as scholarship players, and there’s a good chance Mack could turn pro after that season if he’s as good as advertised. There will be a handful of new names added to the list as the evaluation periods come and go, but this is a position of high importance in the 2018 class.
- Target Number: 2
- Top Targets: Jeremy Ruckert, Trenton Gillison, Zack Kuntz, Malcolm Epps, Mustapha Muhammad
The Buckeyes will look for two tight ends in the 2018 class and right now there is no doubt that the leader in the clubhouse is Lindenhurst (N.Y.) 4-star prospect Jeremy Ruckert. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Ruckert visited Ohio State this summer and put on a show for Ed Warinner and Urban Meyer at Friday Night Lights, standing out among a very talented group in attendance that included Kuntz, the Pennsylvania 5-star ranked as the country’s best tight end.
While Ruckert is the primary target with an offer, it’s Pickerington Central’s Trenton Gillison that is being watched very closely among the players that don’t currently have one. Gillison, 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, is the country’s ninth-ranked tight end and, like most Ohio prospects, is being courted at a slightly different pace than his out-of-state counterparts. Despite that, I fully expect him to be one of the tight ends in Ohio State’s 2018 recruiting class.
- Target Number: 5
- Top Targets: Jackson Carman, Darrell Simpson, Jamaree Salyer, Richard Gouraige, Nicholas Petit-Frere, Blaine Scott, John Dirksen
If there’s one position where the majority of the 2018 names aren’t really clear yet, it’s the offensive line. There are a few you know for sure, starting with Fairfield, Ohio’s Jackson Carman who is a top priority for Ohio State, but, beyond him, tight end is unpredictable and problematic. The Buckeyes like to see offensive linemen in camp, getting a chance to work directly with Ed Warinner and Greg Studrawa, and, because of that, a lot of the current offers sit in that gray area between “we really want you” and “we think you could be someone we’d want if we can see you at camp sometime.”
Simpson, from Justin, Texas, has Ohio roots and has been near the top of the list since this past spring. He visited over the summer and is a player to watch closely. Beyond Carman and Simpson, Ohio like Blaine Scott and Marion Local’s John Dirksen do not yet have scholarship offers but have the talent and frame to be worth one, especially if they have strong junior seasons.
The Buckeyes offensive line heading into the 2018 season will have a number of potential holes, and that’s why it’s vital they sign five – or even more – players in that class, especially if they stick with three (Josh Myers, Wyatt Davis and Jake Moretti) in 2017.