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.
Linebacker shuffle coming for Ohio State?
Let’s just throw it all on the table: Changes are coming. Recruiting is about to get weird in a lot of ways, and one of the places it’s going to get the weirdest is likely at linebacker.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend I know exactly how it will all unfurl, though I have my suspicions and theories. One of the newer dominoes – Indianapolis’ Pete Werner – decommitted from Notre Dame early Tuesday. Ohio State is quickly becoming the school to beat for his services. Werner, the country’s 17th-ranked outside linebacker, visited Ohio State on Saturday, and Luke Fickell was in Indiana to meet with him on Monday night. He will visit Ohio State officially the weekend of Dec. 10.
His decommitment comes as quite a shock. Even well-connected Notre Dame sources believed, as recently as Monday afternoon, that his visit to Ohio State seemed perfunctory at best. That was obviously not the case. Werner’s potential addition to the Buckeyes recruiting class is interesting because he’s capable of playing all three linebacker positions, and it’s worth saying – and repeating – his addition would have zero affect on the chase for Baron Browning. Zero.
Now, the next question is: Who would it impact? On that front, I am not going to state anything definitive, but for months the rumors of a potential flip from Antjuan Simmons were on the table. Simmons visited for the game against Michigan and seems as solid as ever, but it’s unclear how he’d react to two more linebackers being taken.
Now, on to Browning. The 5-star from Kennedale, Texas, delayed his college decision – it was scheduled for Tuesday night – and there’s now no specific date picked out to announce a choice. Some folks are saying it could be Wednesday, or Thursday, or weeks from now. What is evident is that Ohio State’s efforts on his official visit didn’t go unnoticed. After speaking to sources close to his recruitment on Monday night, it seemed that something changed on the trip.
“When he got to the game, it was in the second quarter,” the source said. “He wasn’t himself when (Ohio State) saw him after the game. To be honest he had been different since the ‘Bama trip, but by Sunday morning, it felt like he was himself again. Things were back to normal, laughing, joking around like he does.”
Here’s what I think: Browning is coming back around to the Buckeyes, and Werner, too, will end up in Columbus. This is why recruiting can be so challenging to cover. Things change, literally, every day.
Shaun Wade and Alabama
Monday night, I mentioned that the race for Shaun Wade may be coming into the homestretch. The country’s fourth-ranked cornerback made an official visit to Tuscaloosa over the weekend. On Monday night, he was visited by a handful of Ohio State coaches, including Tim Beck and Kerry Coombs. Beck was in Jacksonville, Fla., the entire day Monday.
Following the visits, I am going to reiterate what I’ve said for some time: I believe Wade prefers Ohio State, but he’s done the right thing by taking some trips and experiencing the totality of the recruiting process. I believe Wade would like to maintain his commitment to the Buckeyes. Alabama has an edge in proximity to home, but beyond that, everything else – more importantly the relationships between the coaching staff and the Wades – leans toward the Buckeyes.
This past weekend was a “good” trip to Alabama, and that’s expected. The Crimson Tide are the country’s top-ranked team and a well-oiled recruiting machine. They hosted a number of their top targets, in their biggest rivalry game of the season. Still, somehow, someway, the reports out of Alabama are that the Crimson Tide may not have really “blown away” the family. That’s very, very big for the Buckeyes.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve grown more and more optimistic that Ohio State can hold on to Wade, and I believe it more today. It’s not over, of course. There are at-home visits ahead for all the other contenders, but Alabama has been, and remains, the real concern. Still, as an early enrollee looking to finalize his plans, something will have to break sooner rather than later.
Bolden crystal ball
In September, I put in a 247Sports.com “crystal ball” prediction for Las Vegas (Bishop Gorman) defensive back Bubba Bolden to Ohio State. I based that decision on the current intel and conversations I had with people close to Bolden and the Buckeyes.
Tuesday, after speaking again with people close to the situation, I’ve flipped it to USC, where Bolden was previously committed. As things continue to shake out for the Buckeyes, and some of that is the feeling that Wade will stick with the Buckeyes, I just think Bolden will stay closer to home. If he wanted to commit to Ohio State, knowing how tight numbers were on his trip, I think he would’ve made that decision by now.
He’s a Southern California kid who dreamt of playing in the Coliseum. And, as the Trojans program seems to be back on the right track, I believe that’s where he ends up.
New 2018 offer excited by Ohio State opportunity
Ohio State hosted three of its top 2018 tight ends on Saturday, and on Tuesday, they offered another. Meet Zach Sheffer, the nation’s 15th-ranked player at his position. The Buckeyes scholarship offer is his 23rd. He visited Michigan for its home game against Indiana on Nov. 19. Tim Beck has been recruiting Sheffer and extended the offer.
“(The offer) is special for several reasons,” Sheffer told Land of 10. “(Ohio State has) great tradition, is always playing for championships, they have a stable coaching staff in a great conference. It’s a great school and a great fit offensively for what I do as a player.”
Sheffer, at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, has seen a number of his top schools already. Ohio State is not one of those school, but he plans to make a trip to Columbus in the spring.
“I’ve visited Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, LSU, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech and Michigan,” he said. “I’m trying my best (to visit everywhere). I still have several schools that have offered that I want to see in the spring, but I’m starting to get a good idea of what what I want. I’ll head up (to Ohio) in the spring. I’m excited to see the facilities and the campus.”
Sheffer is out of Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. That’s the alma mater of Tim Tebow, so you can be sure Sheffer knows at least a little bit about the Ohio State program.
“I’m familiar with their program,” he said. “Our offensive system is very similar. (Urban) Meyer is one of the best. I’m thrilled with the offer.”
Country’s top 2018 defensive prospect transfers to IMG
It’s the end of the high school season, and that means players from all over the country are beginning to explore their options, and I don’t mean just for college. No, it’s IMG Academy’s big recruiting season, and Monday night, the Bradenton, Fla., school reeled in a huge fish.
— Xavier Thomas 1️⃣9️⃣ (@atxlete) November 29, 2016
That is Xavier Thomas, the country’s top-ranked 2018 defensive end and the No. 2 overall prospect. He will now line up alongside Taron Vincent, the country’s top-ranked defensive tackle, on the defensive line for the Ascenders. It means little for the Buckeyes pursuit of him, but it does mean Larry Johnson Sr. won’t be traveling to Florence, S.C., anymore. Ohio State was at IMG visiting on Monday, but it seems like a place they’ll try to check out even more than normal now.