To become the pre-eminent program in college football, you’ve got to beat Nick Saban and Alabama. You’ve got to beat them on the field and you’ve got to beat them in the living room. Although the Crimson Tide have won the national title game once in the last three seasons –they’ve watched Ohio State and Clemson claim it the other years – Saban’s bunch has remained the standard-bearer on the recruiting trail.
Ohio State finished second in the national recruiting rankings in 2013 and again in 2017, but no one has finished higher than the Tide since 2010 when a coach named Urban Meyer led the Florida Gators to the country’s best class.
So far, in 2018, Alabama is lagging behind with only three commitments and the nation’s 46th-ranked group, while Ohio State and Meyer – at No. 4 nationally – sit with nine verbals.
But brace yourselves, because there is no doubt that Alabama – like winter – is coming.
How can Ohio State maintain its lead on the Crimson Tide and overtake Miami (17 commitments), Penn State (13) and LSU (15)?
As it stands, the Buckeyes have two 5-star commitments in DT Taron Vincent and QB Emory Jones. There there are five other players on the market, all 5-star prospects, who I think can make the biggest difference in the Buckeyes finally passing the Crimson Tide in February.
The Buckeyes are working overtime on a lot of 5-stars, trying to reel in the biggest of the big fish in the recruiting waters. But, can they land this fab five?
Micah Parsons | DE | Harrisburg (Pa.) | National Rank: 3 | Position Rank: 1
There was no shortage of flirtation between Ohio State and Micah Parsons when he was committed to Penn State ― he visited a handful of times in the last year ― and now that the 6-foot-3, 235-pound lineman is free of that verbal commitment, expect things to ratchet up a few more notches with the Buckeyes.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson has been all over Parsons for a while now, offering his prodigious NFL success and his unique ability to help shape young men as the reason for Parsons to choose Ohio State. There have been off-and-on rumors that off-the-field concerns have caused some schools to back off their efforts, but Johnson and the Buckeyes have shown no signs of a slowdown.
Don’t expect a decision from Parsons until signing day. Today, Ohio State is considered the most likely landing spot for the country’s third-ranked prospect. The Buckeyes will need the help at defensive end in 2018 and beyond with three big-time losses at the position upcoming.
Zamir White | RB | Scotland County (Laurinburg, N.C.) | National Rank: 5 | Position Rank: 1
While Georgia remains the favorite to land Zamir White, people close to his recruitment continue to beat a drum that is at least encouraging for Ohio State: the Buckeyes are the program that he prefers.
However, Ohio State does not appear to be the school his mother prefers, and that’s where things get messy. For the Buckeyes to pull off this coup, White’s mom must come on board. And they need to move fast with their courtship. White has said he will announce his college decision on his mother’s birthday, June 27.
The odds are low that White chooses against her on her birthday. Meyer and running backs coach Tony Alford must get to work on understanding why she apparently favors the Bulldogs over the Buckeyes.
Jackson Carman | OT | Fairfield (Ohio) | National Rank: 8 | Position Rank: 1
If you want to validate that you’re the biggest recruiting force in the country, the first thing you must do is land the best players from your home state. While losing the other players on this list would be tough for the Buckeyes, not landing Jackson Carman would be a devastating blow. He truly is a “must get.”
Ohio State needs offensive tackles, and the country’s top-ranked player at the position is just down the road from the university. Somehow, Clemson, after one visit by Carman in March, has pulled even in the chase. Meyer is handling most of this recruitment on his own, but offensive line coach Greg Studrawa and the rest of the Buckeyes coaches are involved as well.
This is team effort and again, a simple must get. Carman has said he will decide his college choice in December. Although other schools ―Southern Cal, Alabama and Florida State ― will try to get involved, it seems to be a two-team race to signing day.
Anthony Cook | CB | Lamar (Houston)| National Rank: 10 | Position Rank: 2
Ohio State has pursued Anthony Cook for much of the last year, and the Buckeyes were among his top schools even before he made a visit to Columbus. In April, that first trip happened. From this point, the Buckeyes can make their big push to land the 5-star cornerback.
Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs has been nothing short of magic on the recruiting trail, and his recent run of NFL cornerbacks enhances his profile every time he walks into a high school.
Cook is close friends with 2017 Ohio State signees Baron Browning and Jeffrey Okudah, and while that’s not going to mean much for his ultimate decision, it means he’s at least getting the perspective of an Ohio State player. That can counteract whatever Tom Herman, Stan Drayton and Tim Beck – all former Buckeyes assistants now at Texas – are lobbying to try to sway him to the Longhorns.
This likely will be the first real battle between Herman and Meyer since Herman took over at Texas following the 2016 season.
Brennan Eagles | WR | Alief Taylor (Houston) | National Rank: 23 | Position Rank: 4
There are other, higher-ranked wide receivers on Ohio State’s board, but what Brennan Eagles could bring to the Ohio State offense is just a bit different. Combining him with commit Jaelen Gill and maybe 4-star Kamryn Babb would be a home run for wide receivers coach Zach Smith and the Buckeyes.
At almost 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Eagles is not just a big receiver – Ohio State has those in Binjimen Victor, Trevon Grimes, Jaylen Harris and Ellijah Gardiner now – but he’s physical, too. He’s an outside presence because he can really run, and he’s got the potential to be a major factor in the Buckeyes’ run game as well because of his strength and physicality.
Texas, LSU, Clemson and Ohio State are among those schools on Eagles’ top-10 list. He’s never been to Columbus, but he insists he’s still wide open in his recruitment. If the Buckeyes can get him to campus and showcase how they’ve put twice as many wideouts into the NFL as any other school the last two NFL drafts, they could make a push.