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5-star T Devontae Dobbs to cut list, and Ohio State remains contender
BELLEVILLE, Mich. — Five-star tackle Devontae Dobbs stands high among any list of the best prospects in the nation. The country’s No. 1 offensive lineman and No. 9 prospect overall in the 247Sports composite rankings, Dobbs holds scholarship offers from most of the country’s top programs. Ohio State has been actively involved with Dobbs for years and remains one of the major players in his recruitment.
“I still talk with Coach Stud [Buckeyes offensive line coach Greg Studrawa] every day. He’s a really funny guy and he’s down to earth. Just a cool person to chat with really,” Dobbs told Land of 10 during a stop at his high school.
Ohio State has not hosted Dobbs since Feb. 18, when he made an unofficial visit to Columbus alongside teammates and coaches following an appearance at the Under Armour All-America regional camp in Geneva, Ohio, earlier that day. It’s a priority for the 6-foot-4, 270-pound prospect to return to campus.
“I haven’t been to Ohio State since February because of all of the travel for our big tour. I want to get back down soon though, as soon as possible really. Probably [in May] most likely, I’d have to say,” Dobbs said. “Ohio State offers player development, making me a greater man in general, great education, all of it.”
The big tour that Dobbs is referring to is a tour that saw him and many of his Belleville teammates travel to some of the top programs all across the country. At least nine programs — Louisville, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Michigan State, Arizona State and Southern Cal — hosted Dobbs and Co. for an unofficial visit in an 11-day period.
Dobbs took the tour with the intention of cutting down his list of schools in consideration by seeing as many serious contenders as he could. He intends to make his cut in the near future, although several more spring or summer visits could remain on the horizon.
“It’ll probably be about 10 or 15 schools when I cut it down soon. Schools just have to continue staying in contact and building that relationship and trust. … I want to make sure I get back down to Ohio State and if I could, USC and Florida State. That’s if it was up to me, if I was in control of all that,” Dobbs said. “Probably back to Georgia. Back to some of those places that are a little bit far out and a little harder to get to.”
He confirmed that Ohio State would make the cut and advance to his top group, although he didn’t want to give away too many names. The Buckeyes have built a relationship with Dobbs partially through his bond with redshirt junior offensive lineman Joshua Alabi. Also make sure to check out that link for a great anecdote from Dobbs on how Alabi encouraged him to go toe-to-toe with Chase Young, a directive that helped him land an Ohio State offer.
“[Alabi] just really keeps it real with me. He just tells me that Ohio State is a place you can go to and get player development and that they’ll get me right,” Dobbs said.
Alabi’s relationship with Dobbs extends back to his days at Detroit Cass Tech. During that time, Belleville coach Jermain Crowell was an assistant at Cass Tech and coached Alabi, safety Damon Webb and running back Mike Weber — all of whom ended up playing for the Buckeyes.
“I think Dobbs has a great relationship with Josh [Alabi] and I think he’s watching to see what happens with Josh. It’ll be like ‘Coach, if you say Josh is better than me and Josh isn’t playing…’ The kids, they watch and they talk and every kid’s situation is different,” Crowell said. “Mikey [Weber] recruits Ohio State hard. If I ever bring [Damon] Webb over here, which I will, he’ll tell them to go to Ohio State.”
Multiple Big Ten programs have made an impression on Dobbs, including Penn State and Michigan State. Penn State’s James Franklin sells a community environment and a relatable coaching staff. He’s also told Dobbs that he wants to be the first African-American head coach to win a national championship.
Spartans offensive line coach Mark Staten has stood out as one of Dobbs’ best relationships in recruiting. Also helpful for Michigan State is the recruiting efforts of 2019 defensive back commit Julian Barnett, a teammate of Dobbs’. Barnett says he’s “on Dobbs all the time” and is constantly recruiting the 5-star lineman.
One program in the conference that seems to be struggling with Dobbs, however, is Michigan. The Wolverines have not lived up to expectations for the in-state blue-chip prospect.
“I want to say it’s a little bit shaky [with Michigan]. They don’t really recruit in-state players early on,” Dobbs explained. “They offered me my freshman year and then they didn’t recruit me until my junior year. Just a really shaky relationship there.”
Several other programs outside of the region have really impressed Dobbs and worked hard for his commitment. Florida State’s hire of former Michigan State assistant Harlon Barnett, one of the top recruiters in the Detroit area, has aided Dobbs’ “familiarity with the coaches.” Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman has been “building up a relationship” with Dobbs and seems to be one of his favorite assistants.
Clemson, Alabama and Auburn have all emerged as contenders for Dobbs as well, but it’s a program on the West Coast that’s really come on strong for the Michigan native recently.
“USC really just shocked me a little bit, how they’ve got the campus set up. It’s tight security down there with the billion dollar facilities,” Dobbs said. “I like the players that are down there and their characters. The coaches — it’s just all great and they have fun.”
Although Dobbs didn’t want to share too much about who stands near the top for him — besides his planned inclusion of Ohio State and Michigan State on his top schools list — his coach opined on which programs have the best odds at landing Dobbs.
“I think it’s like USC, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia, Michigan State, Ohio State, Auburn and I think Alabama did a pretty decent job last time we were down there. USC left an impression upon him. Florida State, they did a good job when he was down there,” Crowell shared. “Clemson did a good job when he was down there. I think his two favorite offensive line coaches are Pittman and Staten, so it’s going to be interesting going down the stretch.”
There has been some concern among recruiting analysts that Dobbs may have to shift to guard at the college level, but he resists the idea. Although his frame is not prototypical for a tackle, Dobbs has elite footwork, plus athleticism and a wingspan that’s longer than he is tall.
Interestingly enough, he credits some of his athletic development and ability to move step for step with elite edge rushers to time spent playing pick-up basketball.
“I’m athletic, I’m aggressive, and I’m just a ball player. When I was in middle school, there was a kid named Dylan Hempfield and we used to always play street basketball and he had handles,” Dobbs chuckled. “He was always shifting somebody. Now me, I don’t like losing. So I started saying ‘Let me check him.’ If we get scored on, it’s going to be because of me. Me just going him against him every day, five times a week got my feet right, I guess.”
Official visits wrap up for Ohio State
Ohio State hosted two official visitors on Saturday and throughout the weekend. South Carolina tight end Luke Deal, a 3-star prospect, and in-state linebacker Cade Stover both made their planned official visits.
Stover is a 4-star recruit, ranked as the No. 124 prospect nationally in 2019, and stands out as the top Buckeyes target at linebacker. The 6-4, 225-pound Ohioan also took an official visit to Oklahoma the prior weekend (April 13), and the Sooners seem to be the only other program with a serious chance at Stover. Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State and Wisconsin are involved with Stover as well.
Deal also has taken official visits to Notre Dame (April 16), Michigan (April 13), and N.C. State (April 7) and plans to take an official visit to Auburn this coming Saturday. Clemson is also a top contender for Deal, likely the favorite, but will not receive an official visit, as the campus is only a little more than an hour away from Deal’s home.
On Friday, Ohio State also hosted Jalen Berger for an unofficial visit. Berger is a 4-star running back in 2020 out of Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep, the same program that produced 2018 Buckeyes defensive line signee Tyler Friday. During his trip, Berger spent time with Greg Schiano and Mike Weber. He’s considered to be one of the top running backs nationally in his class and has 20 offers, including from major programs such as Ohio State, Penn State, Alabama and Michigan.
On Thursday, local running back John Branham Jr. returned to Ohio State for yet another unofficial visit. The 2019 Columbus Northland product is one of Ohio’s top seniors and hopes to land a Buckeyes offer. With two running backs already committed to Ohio State, getting one seems unlikely, but he’s a talented player. Branham has four Power 5 offers — Pitt, Kentucky, Kansas and Georgia Tech — and I’ve submitted a Crystal Ball selection for Pittsburgh to land him.
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