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‘Mertz So Good’ — John Cougar MellenCampRandall
Ohio State’s quarterback recruiting drama is starting to resemble As the World Turns more than previous Buckeyes quarterback searches.
Over the weekend, Land of 10 heard rumors that optimism was growing in Ohio State’s camp that the Buckeyes would be able to get 4-star quarterback Graham Mertz, a Wisconsin commit from the Kansas City area, on campus for an official visit.
In a class where the Ohio State staff has struggled to find a quarterback they actually like — and who wants to play for the Buckeyes — Mertz is one of the rare players the entire staff seems sold on.
The problem, of course, is that they’re not the only group that feels that way. Wisconsin pursued Mertz very early in his process and landed his commitment more than eight months ago. Notre Dame has similarly built a long-lasting relationship with Mertz that runs back further than Ohio State’s connection to the blue-chip prospect.
Despite these new rumors, I have remained highly skeptical of Ohio State’s odds of being able to land Mertz. I know it’s usually unwise to bet against Urban Meyer and his ability to land a prospect he wants, but I just don’t see it here.
Over the weekend, Mertz made his official visit to Wisconsin and spent time with several other commits in the Badgers’ 2019 recruiting class. It’s somewhat unusual for a committed prospect to take an official visit this early, but not unheard of. For Mertz, it’s a valuable opportunity to get to better know future teammates and coaches. It’s also a chance to put some concerns to rest.
Following his trip, Mertz told 247Sports recruiting analyst Evan Flood that his commitment is solid and that he’s “done with it” when it comes to the constant speculation about other programs he may visit. Mertz has remained consistent when speaking to Land of 10 or any other outlet in saying that he has only taken visits to other programs (Georgia and Ohio State are the two) because he happened to be in the same town or near campus because of other events or obligations.
I tend to believe him. Despite the rumors, this recruitment does not have the feel of one where a recruit is legitimately looking around and still unsure of finding the right fit. Mertz is very comfortable and confident at Wisconsin. His unofficial visit to Ohio State in May did not represent some fundamental shift that totally changed his perspective on recruiting as a whole; it was just a stop to see a school that has pursued him hard because he was already in town for a Rivals camp event.
While I don’t think Mertz is going to end up at Ohio State, there is a silver lining here for Buckeyes fan. If, and that’s a big if, Mertz changes his mind about taking more visits and wants to see Ohio State again, the degree of difficulty for Wisconsin to hang on to Mertz will be raised.
The fact that the Badgers burned Mertz’s official visit this early is surprising. It robs that coaching staff of a counter-punch if Ohio State or Notre Dame or some other program manages to convince Mertz to check out their campus. The Irish and Buckeyes have nearly six months to work on Mertz (and work together, in a weird sense) and change his mind. Both still have the benefit of official visits in their back pockets, meaning Mertz wouldn’t have to pay his way to campus.
There’s less than two weeks remaining until the start of the dead period, which runs from June 25 to July 24. That will prohibit Mertz or any other recruit from visiting Ohio State’s campus during that stretch. Mertz starts training camp and two-a-days with his high school team shortly after that and then season begins.
There will be few opportunities for Mertz to make a trip to campus until the end of his senior season. The Buckeyes would have to convince Mertz to take an official visit to campus in whatever scant few weeks may be available in between the end of his season — which could run as late as the last weekend in November — and the start of the early signing period on Dec. 19.
I don’t know whether Ohio State would take that risk. Going into that stretch without a quarterback committed is kind of scary if you’re Meyer, and you’d almost certainly prefer to have a commit in the fold well before that point.
Ohio State never fell in love with or pushed that hard for Arizona commit Grant Gunnell, Florida State commit Sam Howell, TCU commit Max Duggan, Michigan State commit Dwan Mathis, Florida commit Jalon Jones, Ole Miss commit Grant Tisdale or Eugene (Ore.) product Michael Johnson Jr.
At the end of the day, there’s always some flaw or some reason to not make an offer. That’s true of 5-star recruits as well as those ranked lower.
Ohio State eventually will reach a point where it will need to take a quarterback. Though it doesn’t feel like the most likely scenario, there is a chance that Dwayne Haskins leaves for the NFL after this season. Even if he doesn’t, the Buckeyes will have depth issues at quarterback that need to be addressed.
Ohio State must take a quarterback in this class and the Buckeyes might need to settle on a realistic soon.
5-star tackle returns to Ohio State campus
I hope you’re not tired of hearing the name Paris Johnson Jr. The 5-star tackle from Cincinnati St. Xavier has emerged as one of the best tackles in the country, ranked as the No. 7 overall prospect in the Class of 2020 by 247Sports.
Johnson has collected more than 40 offers and has tremendous upside, likely higher than any other prospect in Ohio not named Zach Harrison. Ohio State has been pursuing Johnson hard, hosting him for numerous unofficial visits.
Johnson’s latest trip to Ohio State came on Tuesday when he ventured north on I-71 to Columbus to spend time with the Buckeyes players and coaches. Johnson shared a picture of himself hanging out with junior guard Michael Jordan and freshman tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere (a former 5-star recruit).
Ohio State has led the 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions for Johnson from the moment he landed an offer from the Buckeyes, and that’s where my pick lies. Programs such as Alabama, Stanford, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Pitt and Clemson are making a push as well.
Ohio State goes picking in Peach State
Ohio State coaches participated in a satellite camp at Clark Atlanta University on Wednesday. It was an opportunity for the Buckeyes to spend time working with and evaluating high school prospects in perhaps the most talent-rich metropolitan area in all of high school football.
The camp produced two new offers from the Ohio State staff to a pair of Georgia’s top underclassmen.
A 2020 quarterback, CJ Dixon, became the latest to join the Ohio State offer list. The Buckeyes joined Florida, Boston College and South Alabama as the first schools to offer the 6-5, 200-pound standout. Dixon plays at Loganville Grayson, one of the country’s top programs. Grayson will return 16 players this season who are committed to or hold offers from Power 5 programs.
Ohio State also offered another Atlanta area prospect whose stock is rising: Pace Academy wide receiver and 2021 prospect Jayden Thomas. Thomas held zero offers last week, but Ohio State, Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia have offered the 6-2, 185-pound standout in the last few days.
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