Each summer, as the hours of the off-season wind down, Ohio State’s football program welcomes hundreds of their highest-priority targets to Columbus for Friday Night Lights, the Buckeyes premier recruiting event and football camp.
This year, Friday Night Lights is July 22 and, as usual, live from Ohio Stadium.
The event begins at 7pm and is free for all fans and includes free parking at the Horseshoe. Come out and check out Urban Meyer, his coaching staff and team – as well a host of Buckeye legends – as they coach up the next generation.
We’ve talked about the offensive targets expected at Ohio State’s Friday Night Lights camp, and now we’ll examine the top names and stories to watch on the defensive side of the football.
The Buckeyes will have a handful of their top overall targets on hand this evening and here’s what we’ll be looking for at Ohio Stadium.
Key Visitors: 2017 Chase Young, 2019 Antonio Alfano
Big Story? There’s no doubt that the story of the weekend on the defensive line is the visit of Hyattsville (Md.) 4-star defensive end Chase Young. The country’s third-ranked defensive end is basically down to three schools (Ohio State, Maryland and Alabama) and is fresh off a trip to Tuscaloosa, so he’ll get a good shot to compare the country’s two best football programs side-by-side. Young does not have a commitment date in mind and there’s at least a little optimism in Ohio State circles that a commitment could happen this weekend.
What about…Tyreke Smith? One of Ohio’s most interesting prospects, Cleveland Heights’ defensive end Tyreke Smith was expected to be at the event but will visit Ohio State next week instead because of a basketball tournament in Las Vegas. The country’s fifth-ranked 2018 defensive end has not played organized football since he was in 7th grade but he’s becoming a very hot prospect…just not one you’ll see at Friday Night Lights.
Key Visitors: 2017 commitment Jerron Cage, 2018 Michigan commitment Leonard Taylor, 2019 Jacob Lacey, 2019 Devontae Dobbs
Big Story? The biggest story is Leonard Taylor, a 2018 Michigan commitment from Springfield (Ohio) on campus once more with the Buckeyes, taking the time to work alongside Larry Johnson, Sr. and the Buckeyes coaching staff. While the Buckeyes don’t want to lose any of their own state’s best players to a rival like Michigan, it will be interesting to see if Taylor can emerge as the top of the line prospect that people once believed he would be. He’s got to impress and flash some explosion and elite athleticism.
What about…Fairfield (Ohio) defensive lineman Malik Vann? The country’s 10th-ranked 2018 defensive end will not be at Friday Night Lights. He’s avoiding the camp and the potential of any unnecessary injuries as high school camps prepare to open. Notre Dame, Michigan State and others have offered but Vann, who is being recruited by the Buckeyes as a player that could eventually grow into a defensive tackle, hasn’t yet made getting to Ohio State a priority. Another player competing for that in-state combo-defensive lineman offer, Cincinnati Moeller 2018 prospect Aeneas Hawkins will be on hand.
Key Visitors: 2017 Commitment Antjuan Simmons, 2018 Dallas Gant, 2018 Christopher Oats, 2018 Edward Warinner
Big Story? As with the absence of 5-star running back Cam Akers, the fact that Texas 5-star Baron Browning won’t be in town is the biggest story at linebacker. But there’s still plenty of talent for Luke Fickell to coach up at Friday Night Lights. In the class of 2018, one thing to watch is how much attention is paid to Toledo (Ohio) St. John’s star Dallas Gant and Winton Woods (Cincinnati) linebacker Christopher Oats, each of whom were offered by Ohio State in June. Unfortunately, neither Gant nor Oats will work out, but it’s still a good opportunity for each to develop and build relationships with the Buckeyes coaching staff. It’s also a cool chance for fans to observe how players may get prioritized at an event like this.
What about…Brendon White? The Ohio State commitment, who will be on hand, is expected to work at safety for the Buckeyes, though most of the speculation about his future has centered on playing linebacker. White impressed with his range at safety during Nike’s The Opening and the Ohio State staff wants to see what he can do there.
Key Visitors: 2017 commitment Brendon White, 2017 Darnay Holmes, 2017 Lamont Wade, 2017 Amir Riep, 2017 Jaylen Kelly-Powell, 2018 Houston Griffith, 2018 Xavier Henderson
Big Story? The big story at defensive back – one of the event’s most loaded positions – is the competition that guys like Darnay Holmes, Amir Riep and Lamont Wade will present to a very good group of wide receivers. Last year at the event, Calabasas (Calif.) 5-star Darnay Holmes was the best player in the entire camp and he’s coming back to defend his crown against an excellent group of competitors. Cincinnati Colerain’s Amir Riep will make his college decision on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. and a final stop in Columbus – where he visited twice in June – should have Buckeyes fans feeling good about how they stand compared to Michigan State. The Buckeyes were once the favorite for Clairton (Pa.) stud Lamont Wade but it appears they’ve fallen off and now trail Penn State for his services; will they try and close that gap with extra attention Friday night?
What about…Pickerington (Ohio) Central defensive back Xavier Henderson? The 4-star defensive back with offers from Michigan State, Ole Miss, Boston College and others will on hand for Friday Night Lights but will not work out, according to his father. The Buckeyes have spent a lot of time with Henderson this summer and are more than OK with him just being on campus getting to know some of his peers. Henderson may not get an offer tonight, but it’d be very surprising if he didn’t end up getting one at some point down the road.