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Ohio State at top for blue-chip safety
To say that Nick Cross had a huge day Sunday would be an understatement. The blue-chip 2019 safety from Maryland powerhouse DeMatha Catholic earned an invite to The Opening finals and the Army All-American Game after posting the best athletic testing numbers at The Opening regional in New Jersey, including a 4.41-second 40-yard dash.
Cross is a major Ohio State target at safety and he recently visited campus for the first time. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound prospect is ranked as the No. 10 safety nationally and No. 184 recruit overall in the 2019 class, per the 247Sports composite.
The Buckeyes offered Cross in January — one of more than 30 offers — and the relationships have only grown stronger. While his former DeMatha teammate, sophomore defensive end Chase Young, had told him plenty about Ohio State, confirming those reports during a visit on April 2 was eye-opening for Cross.
“That was my first visit. I really got to see and do everything. It [lived up to what Young told him]. They hold you to a high standard and really care about your life after football,” Cross explained. “That resonated with me, it’s important to me. I have good relationships there and I talk to Coach [Alex] Grinch all of the time.”
It’s more than fair to say that the Buckeyes made a tremendous impression on Cross.
“I think Ohio State’s up around the top,” he told Land of 10.
One intriguing aspect of his visit was a slideshow presentation that Ohio State gave to the elite recruit showcasing how the program could grow his personal brand.
“They did a really cool presentation on promoting my brand and they even gave a sample of what mine could look like with a logo and everything,” Cross said.
It was critical for Ohio State to bring Cross to campus during the spring, as his recruitment won’t last much longer. He has a few more visits scheduled in the coming weeks, but after that he’s hunkering down into decision mode.
“I want to commit before the season starts so I can devote all of my time to trying to win a championship. I’m taking an official visit to Florida this weekend [April 13]. I should be going to Stanford on May 12,” Cross said. “I’m taking visits to Auburn, Florida State, LSU and Oklahoma, too, and then I’ll start winding down. Auburn and Oklahoma are probably going to be officials. Hopefully I can get back to Ohio State, too.”
With Cross’ standing as one of the top safeties in the country, an elite track athlete and a well-rounded young man with strong academics and strong character, he has plenty of options. His offer list is among the best in the country and Cross knows he can be selective when evaluating and, ultimately, eliminating programs.
“The academics have got to be strong. I’m looking for big-time football — I’ve got to have a shot at a national championship and getting to the NFL. I want a staff that cares about you genuinely, beyond football. I want a great environment with guys who have the same mindset,” Cross said.
Some of the top programs competing for Cross’ services are Alabama, Notre Dame, Penn State, Stanford and Florida, although other programs remain in the mix. I think the Buckeyes likely have the best odds of any program, but it feels too early to count out some of those other schools.
More notes on top Ohio State safety target
Cross certainly is one of Ohio State’s most important defensive back targets, but he’s not the only blue-chip safety the Buckeyes have targeted. The Buckeyes are widely considered the leader for Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas product Jordan Battle by many recruiting analysts, myself included.
Battle spent the weekend in California for the adidas 7-on-7 National Championships with his South Florida Express team. He was scheduled to take an official visit to Ohio State on April 7, but that has been pushed back one week to coincide with the Buckeyes spring game.
“He’s coming back up to Ohio State for the spring game,” a source close to the recruitment shared. “They’re definitely his leader, but I don’t think he commits this weekend. I think his dad is going to want him to see some more schools.”
The tournament, which was won by Battle and his teammates, featured many of the best recruits in the country. Familiar faces to Ohio State fans, such as Garrett Wilson, Grant Gunnell, Jalen Curry, David Bell, Sam Howell and many other elite recruits, competed in the event.
My source shared that Battle was as good as nearly any player competing in California over the weekend. That certainly seems to line up with the evaluations of analysts such as 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong, who identified Battle as one of his top defensive performers.
“He was one of the best guys out there, for sure. I’ve been beating the Jordan Battle drum for a long time,” my source said.
Battle, a 6-1, 187-pound 4-star prospect in the 2019 class, is ranked as the No. 30 safety in the class and No. 353 recruit overall, but that certainly seems due for a bump after a strong offseason. The spring game visit for Battle could be a telling sign in his recruitment, even if he does hold off on a commitment.
Buckeyes offer elite local freshman recruit
It’s difficult to earn an in-state offer from Ohio State, no matter how far along a recruit is in his development. But to land an offer from the home-state school as a freshman? That takes a special, special caliber of recruit and it almost never happens.
Of course, Pickerington North athlete Jack Sawyer is already a mold-breaker. Not many freshmen are 6-5 and 200 pounds and start in two sports (football and basketball) at the varsity level. With a work ethic that’s simply uncommon and two parents who were college athletes, Sawyer’s ceiling is high.
Ohio State offered Sawyer on Friday during an unofficial visit to campus, joining Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State, Pitt and other top programs. He received the offer directly from Urban Meyer.
“I was at practice and we watched it all, then we had like a tour of the place and everything. Then [Sawyer and his parents] had a meeting with Coach Meyer and we met him in his office,” Sawyer told Land of 10. “We sat down and he started talking and he said, ‘We’re offering you a scholarship to play football here.’ I was really surprised and excited.
“The offer was really exciting and humbling. Ohio State is one of the best programs in the country and Larry Johnson is one of the best defensive line coaches in the country. It meant a lot to me.”
Sawyer has lived in the Columbus area for his entire life, so the offer was thrilling to him and his family. Like many other Central Ohio natives, he’s a lifelong Ohio State fan and realized the gravity of receiving an offer from the Buckeyes this early.
“It really means a lot, because I know how they usually don’t offer kids from Ohio that early. It makes me realize how good they think I could be,” Sawyer said. “It really humbles me and makes me want to get back to work and work as hard as I ever have before.”
Sawyer plays multiple positions at the high school level, but defensive end and tight end are his top two positions. He told Land of 10 that he sees himself as a defensive end, and I tend to agree that’s where he ends up.
Ohio State trending for elite running back
In case you missed my in-depth conversation with blue-chip Virginia running back Devyn Ford on Sunday, make sure you check that out. The Buckeyes had Ford, the No. 6 running back in the 2019 class, on campus for a multi-day visit last Thursday and Friday. It was his fourth unofficial visit to Columbus.
Ford gushed about the visit, which has greatly increased the Buckeyes’ odds of landing the elite running back, per multiple sources. The North Stafford (Va.) product will take official visits to Virginia Tech (April 14), Penn State (April 21) and Ohio State (April 28) before announcing his commitment on May 18.
From everything I have heard, it appears that the Buckeyes have pulled ahead of Penn State and are in a two-team race with Virginia Tech. That could change if the Nittany Lions crush their official visit with Ford, but I feel that the Hokies and Ohio State are alone in Ford’s top tier.
According to Ford’s high school coach, Joe Mangano, part of Ohio State’s appeal is its focus on life after and outside of football. The Buckeyes have done well building relationships with Ford, but a few things have stuck out.
“Devyn loves the structure, discipline, competition and overall attention to detail of the Ohio State program. He really, really likes Real Life Wednesday and what that brings to the table,” Mangano said.
I’ve always been impressed with Ford when I’ve spoken with him. He seems like a great player and person that any program would be lucky to land. That sentiment was echoed by Mangano.
“He is special, very special. We’re proud of him. He’s very mature, smart and academically driven,” said Mangano. “One of the best captains that North Stafford has ever had. The kid is a three-time captain. He’s a complete player.”
Heading into the final few weeks of Ford’s recruitment, I’m not ready to make a call between Ohio State and Virginia Tech. I don’t want to count out Penn State, either, although I’d be surprised if the Nittany Lions landed him.
I think the Buckeyes have all of the momentum. Virginia Tech does has some advantages as the home-state school and the program that has recruited Ford the longest, but Ohio State has pulled out all the stops to impress him. The Buckeyes even hosted Mangano and other members of the North Stafford coaching staff for a multi-day visit in March, working with them on coaching and schematic tips.
Despite holding a commitment from 4-star prospect and the country’s No. 8 running back, Sampson James, Ohio State badly wants Ford in this class. The Buckeyes also continue to pursue running backs Noah Cain (No. 2 at the position) and Kenny McIntosh (No. 7).
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