So far, so good for Ohio State on the recruiting trail in the 2018 class.
The Buckeyes are ranked No. 2 in the country in this recruiting cycle with 10 commitments, trailing an unlikely leader — the Miami Hurricanes, who have 18 verbal pledges. According to the 247Sports composite rankings, the Miami lead is just under 40 “points,” which sounds substantial but isn’t. In fact, if Ohio State were to add a commitment this Friday from linebacker Teradja Mitchell, the Buckeyes would cut that lead by almost half.
The bottom line? If things go well for Ohio State from here — and there’s no reason to suspect they won’t — the Buckeyes could be looking at a class that rivals its epic 2017 signing day haul and could finally overcome Alabama as the nation’s recruiting champion.
To get there, things will need to shake out in a positive direction between June and February. There’s always a concern that players in this class today may not be there in a few months. Not only do you need to find the best prospects, but once you land them you have to maintain the hold on them.
We’ll take a stab with this story, and another next Tuesday, at predicting who will sign with the Buckeyes on signing days (yes, there are two, remember?). Today we’ll start on offense, where Ohio State has four players pledged.
Ohio State has Emory Jones committed here and has for almost a year. Jones was one of the Buckeyes’ top two targets at the position in the 2018 class and they locked him up early.
That doesn’t mean there haven’t been hiccups. Jones, a 5-star prospect ranked as the country’s second-best dual-threat quarterback, is being courted by all the big boys of SEC football (as well as Florida State) and there are likely some visits to other schools on the horizon.
Ultimately, I don’t think those visits will prove to be anything serious and Jones will sign with Ohio State.
Prediction: Emory Jones
This is one position where things may get a little wild.
The Buckeyes have one commit I consider a college running back, and that’s Brian Snead. Yes, Jaelen Gill is a high school running back (and a real good one) but I think he projects as a slot receiver/hybrid at the next level.
With Snead, who committed to Ohio State in July 2016, in the fold, there’s little panic from Ohio State when it comes to adding another tailback. That said, I do believe they’d like to sign two players at that position in this cycle, but only if the player complementing Snead is a special, special talent. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, there is one of those guys out there and he’s very high on Ohio State.
That player? Zamir White. The country’s top-ranked running back from Laurinburg, N.C., has visited Columbus three times in the last year with his mother, and each time the “feeling” has been more positive for the Buckeyes. Though most still believe Georgia will be his landing spot, I believe that White himself prefers the notion of being a Buckeye. Earlier on Tuesday, I put in a 247Sports “crystal ball” to validate my claim, and right or wrong, this one is a lot closer than some people believe.
As of today, let’s call it Snead and White. Of course, there will be those who begin to worry about the strength of Snead’s commitment (which has been entirely resolute) if a player of White’s caliber joins the fray. That’s a worry for another day.
Prediction: Brian Snead, Zamir White
As mentioned, I’m including Jaelen Gill at this position, so that means Ohio State has one commitment at wideout.
Who is next? Another Ohioan, L’Christian Smith, is a likely candidate. Urban Meyer has made sure that “Blue” feels at home in Columbus and has made up most of the ground lost by the Buckeyes after rumors of a potential position change — internet speculation and “negative” recruiting from other schools, mostly — had muddied the waters.
Beyond Smith, a player to watch closely remains Kamryn Babb. Missouri’s top wide receiver cut his list of schools from 30 to nine on Monday night and Ohio State remains the favorite to land him. He’s the country’s seventh-ranked wide receiver and sources close to the Buckeyes feel confident that they’re in a good position.
Prediction: Jaelen Gill, Blue Smith, Kamryn Babb
After signing three tight ends in the 2016 class, Ohio State did not sign any in 2017. That means it’s a priority position in 2018.
As far as this group goes in 2018, there’s Jeremy Ruckert, followed by a large gap and a few potential prospects sprinkled along the periphery. Ruckert, from Lindenhurst, N.Y., emerged as the top player at this spot last summer after camping at Ohio State’s Friday Night Lights, and the Buckeyes have never taken their eyes off the prize. I believe that will pay off, but Michigan, Notre Dame and Wisconsin will try to play spoiler.
If Ohio State were to add a second tight end in the class, which has been discussed, Zach Sheffer, a 3-star prospect from Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., has a good chance to be that guy.
Prediction: Jeremy Ruckert
If there’s one area that is still wide open in this class, it’s the offensive line.
Ohio State has a commitment from Max Wray, a 4-star tackle from Franklin, Tenn., which is a good start for a group that needs five players in 2018. The most important one is clearly Jackson Carman, a 5-star prospect from Fairfield, Ohio, who is the nation’s top-ranked tackle.
From there, things get murky. A ton of names keep popping up, such as Fredrick Scruggs, William Barnes, and Jake Kradel. But beyond “Juice” Scruggs and Kradel, it’s hard to get a read on most of the prospects. Darrell Simpson, a 4-star prospect from Justin, Texas, has Ohio ties, but Oklahoma looks to be the favorite. And no matter how hard Ohio State pushes for 5-star guard Jamaree Salyer, it’s highly unlikely they’ll convince him to leave his home state of Georgia. Scruggs has Ohio State and Penn State at the top of his list, and Kradel was expected to commit to the Buckeyes in early June. He’s since backed off a planned commitment date.
Verdis Brown, a native of Chicago at Florida’s IMG Academy, has been very high on the Buckeyes for months and is a name to watch this summer. Kentucky commit Darian Kinnard remains a mystery to many, but the Cleveland St. Ignatius star was one of the best linemen in the Midwest this spring. If the Buckeyes were to offer, could they swing him from the Wildcats?
Another interesting name to keep watching: JUCO lineman Badara Traore, a 6-foot-8 mountain of a prospect from ASA College in New York. Ohio State went the junior college route in 2016 and signed another star from New York in Malcolm Pridgeon.
There’s zero doubt that this group is the most difficult to narrow down, but we think the Buckeyes will end up with a very good five-man class.
Prediction: Max Wray, Jackson Carman, Juice Scruggs, Verdis Brown, Darian Kinnard