After filling up on a huge number of early commits in the 2018 recruiting class, the Buckeyes are off to a slower start with their 2019 group. They currently have only two commitments, from 4-star offensive lineman Doug Nester and 3-star offensive lineman Ryan Jacoby, but are looking to expand on that soon.
I took a look at the future of Ohio State’s 2019 recruiting class to project how many players the Buckeyes could take at each position. Check out my projections.
Here’s where I’m at on quarterback recruiting for the Buckeyes — are there scenarios where it may be beneficial for the roster for Ohio State to take two quarterbacks in 2019? Yes, absolutely. Are they going to take two QBs in this class, a down year for quarterbacks nationally and in the Midwest? No, almost certainly not.
There’s finally been some clarity emerging on Ohio State’s recruiting board, with names like Grant Gunnell, Sam Howell, Max Duggan, and Jalon Jones beginning to look more likely than others. However, I still think it’s unlikely that Ohio State finds two quarterbacks that are both A) good enough to play at Ohio State and B) willing to be part of a two-quarterback class.
If Joe Burrow were to lose the position battle and transfer out, Ohio State would be left with just Dwayne Haskins, two scholarship freshmen, and a walk-on freshman. None of them have ever started a college game. Only Haskins has taken live snaps in college. They need bodies, but they can’t afford to fill up on quarterbacks who may not be able to contribute. One is the number here.
Running back: 1-2
Mike Weber will be leaving Ohio State for the NFL draft after the 2018 season. Sophomore J.K. Dobbins, junior Antonio Williams, and freshmen Master Teague and Brian Snead fill out the remaining scholarship players at the position. Weber’s planned departure and the unproven track record of any other back besides Dobbins means Ohio State could take two players at the position in 2019. They will certainly take at least one. A mitigating factor in their need for bodies may be the versatility of redshirt sophomore/junior Demario McCall (an appeal on a redshirt remains unanswered) and incoming freshman Jaelen Gill, who will join the team in June. Both are capable of playing running back and the H receiver role.
Tight end: 1
Ohio State lost three tight ends in the last year. Marcus Baugh graduated, Kierre Hawkins transferred to Youngstown State, and A.J. Alexander suffered a career-ending knee injury. They added just one, incoming 2018 signee Jeremy Ruckert, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the Buckeyes. They’ll have four scholarship players at the position in the 2018 season and will only add one in the 2019 class.
Wide receiver: 4-5
Buckeyes senior wide receivers Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, Johnnie Dixon, and C.J. Saunders (a walk-on) were four of Ohio State’s top seven wide receivers in terms of receptions in the 2017 season. Each of them will be gone following the 2018 season. Redshirt junior K.J. Hill will have an extra year of remaining eligibility, but seems likely to join his teammates at the professional level. Hill, along with juniors Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack, rounded out Ohio State’s list of reception leaders among the wide receivers and all three will also be draft-eligible. So will McCall, although he’s battled with persistent and nagging injuries.
The volatility of eight of Ohio State’s projected top nine receivers (alongside redshirt freshman Jaylen Harris) being draft eligible means the Buckeyes will be stocking up on wide receivers in 2019. I have the numbers as expecting four to five commits to join up at the position group, but that could grow. Four seems like the floor for Ohio State.
Offensive line: 5-6
Much like wide receiver, offensive line will be a huge position of need for the Buckeyes in 2019. Left tackle Isaiah Prince, center Brady Taylor, and guards Demetrious Knox and Malcolm Pridgeon will be out of eligibility after the 2018 season. Joshua Alabi, Brandon Bowen, and Matt Burrell will all be redshirt juniors in 2018 and are expected to have degrees in hand by the end of the year. Left guard Michael Jordan is a junior and will be draft-eligible. He’s expected to be the starter for his third consecutive season this fall.
Much like wide receiver, it’s highly unlikely that all eight of those players make the jump and leave Ohio State, but the Buckeyes do have to prepare for a high number of players departing the position group and will take at least five offensive linemen in 2019. Of the current commits at the position, Nester projects to play guard and Jacoby could play either tackle or guard. The Buckeyes will look to add a center and at least two tackles. I think it’s more likely, currently, that they take six offensive linemen total and use the extra spot for another tackle.
Defensive line: 2-4
Nick Bosa and Dre’mont Jones are leaving Ohio State after the 2018 season. They aren’t running out of eligibility and could come back as seniors, but if we’re all being honest, the two future early-round draft picks will play their final season in Columbus this fall. Multi-year team members like Jashon Cornell, Jonathon Cooper, Robert Landers, Davon Hamilton, and Malik Barrow will all be draft-eligible after the season as well, although none have yet made a serious mark on NFL radars. Newcomer Antwuan Jackson Jr. will also be draft eligible after spending the first two years of his college career at Auburn and Blinn College.
The Buckeyes are expected to carry an astounding 17 scholarship defensive linemen in 2018 and as many as a dozen of them could be defensive tackles, depending on some rumored positional moves throughout the spring. That imbalance of defensive ends to defensive tackles will have to be addressed in the 2019 class.
I expect Ohio State to take anywhere from two to three defensive ends in this class and one or zero defensive tackles. The Buckeyes will likely move forward by chasing just the top handful of players nationally at defensive tackle and be willing to come out empty-handed if they don’t get them. There’s truly not much of a need for defensive tackles on the roster right now.
Linebacker is a weird and difficult position to project in this class. Here’s what we know: Dante Booker will run out of eligibility after 2018. Tuf Borland and Malik Harrison are draft-eligible after breaking out during their second year on campus. Justin Hilliard is entering his fourth year on campus and has often been plagued by injuries. The Buckeyes are projected to roster 10 scholarship linebackers during the 2018 season, which is around ,or a little under, the number they like to stay at.
I think it will be close to a one in-one out policy at the position in recruiting. That means they’ll take at least one player to replace Booker and could take additional commits if it seems likely for others to move on. Even if only Booker leaves, I could see scenarios where Ohio State gets three linebacker commits based on the talent of some of the top prospects they’re recruiting. Still, I’ll play the odds and guess that at least one other player departs the roster in the next ten months.
This is very much a wait-and-see scenario for me right now.
Defensive backs: 2-4
Ohio State has an interesting dilemma at defensive back. There are zero scholarship defensive backs on the roster who will run out of eligibility after the 2018 season. Yet, several players — junior safety Jordan Fuller, redshirt junior cornerbacks Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield, and redshirt sophomore safeties Wayne Davis and Jahsen Wint — are draft-eligible after the season. Wint and Davis have yet to see serious playing time and are not yet professional prospects (and aren’t projected to start this fall). However, Sheffield, Arnette, and Fuller will all be multi-year starters with serious NFL potential.
There will be 15 scholarship defensive backs projected to be on Ohio State’s roster in the 2018 season and it’s a very real possibility than none of them leave. I think it’s likelier that Fuller, Arnette, and Sheffield leave for the NFL than it is that all three return, but none of them are first-round locks for the 2019 NFL Draft.
I’m struggling with two conflicting bits of information.
On one hand, Ohio State loves taking defensive backs in recruiting. They’ve averaged just under five defensive back signees per year in Urban Meyer’s seven recruiting classes at the school (34 total), including 26 4-star or 5-star prospects. You would have to go back over a decade to find a Ohio State recruiting class with fewer than four defensive backs.
On the other hand, the Buckeyes don’t really need many players in the position group. They have a roster full of former blue-chips champing at the bit to get on the field as it is. It’s hard to see Ohio State getting to five commits at the position. I think the number will be three or four in the 2019 class.