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Paris Johnson Jr., the country’s top 2020 OL, builds special bond with Ohio State LB Justin Hilliard
Cincinnati St. Xavier has churned out elite talent year after year, and few programs covet the Bombers’ talent in the way that Urban Meyer’s Ohio State regime has. It was St. Xavier that launched Meyer’s coaching career in 1985 and he’s returned the favor ever since, heavily recruiting the program any time it has Division I prospects.
Tackle Paris Johnson Jr., already regarded as the top 2020 offensive lineman in the country by 247Sports and a top-10 prospect nationally, has a chance to be as good as any player out of St. Xavier in recent memory. Ohio State offered Johnson in December 2017, the midway point of his sophomore year, and has continued to heavily recruit the 6-foot-7, 275-pound standout since.
Johnson has been a frequent visitor to Ohio State since landing the offer, visiting most recently for the Buckeyes spring game on Saturday. After seeing the program up close and personal so often, Johnson knows what to expect, but he was still impressed by the fan support.
“This trip was great, it was great to see the players competing. We enjoyed seeing the fans coming out to support their players during the spring game,” Johnson said.
The more interesting part of his visit came in the lead-up to the spring game, during which Johnson spent more time with a fellow St. Xavier alum, redshirt junior linebacker Justin Hilliard.
“I was able to speak with Justin Hilliard, [junior offensive lineman] Michael Jordan, and Coach Stud [Greg Studrawa]. [Hilliard and I] talked about the connection between St. Xavier and Ohio State and also his transition from high school to college,” Johnson said. “He just told me to work hard before I transition into college so that I can come in ready to compete.”
Hilliard graduated from St. Xavier in 2015 as a 5-star prospect and became one of Meyer’s signature in-state recruiting victories at Ohio State. Few players can relate to the experience of being so highly recruited so early on in their high school careers, but Hilliard has been an outlet and adviser for the elite young recruit.
“I talked with Paris when he was up here and we talk often. He’s such a good kid,” Hilliard told Land of 10 following Johnson’s previous March 30 visit to Ohio State. “It’s so funny because I can see exactly the sort of things he’s going through and relating to, especially through the recruiting process. He’s getting all of these offers. I’ve been trying to help him as much as I can.”
The duo have spoken frequently since Johnson’s recruitment took off, with Hilliard offering counsel on what it’s like dealing with college coaches coming by your high school and looking to call and text you near-constantly. In his high school career, Hilliard had 37 Division I scholarship offers. Johnson may soon eclipse that total, as he’s already gathered 35. Who better to offer advice?
“It’s just been so cool because some guys don’t reach out, but Paris reached out as soon as his offers started picking up. Coach [Steve] Specht, our head coach at St. X, gave me his number and I reached out to him,” Hilliard said. “Ever since, we’ve been kind of going back and forth.”
With the demanding fall schedule of Ohio State football and the complete lack of free time that comes with being a Division I athlete, Hilliard has yet to see Johnson play. Still, St. X alums tend to talk about the program, and the whispers about Johnson have caught Hilliard’s attention.
“Some of the rumors I’ve heard about his motor and things like that, he stacks up just as high as anybody out of St. X,” Hilliard said.
When you’re considering a program that has produced nearly 40 Division I football players in the last 10 recruiting classes, including Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, that’s high praise indeed.
The French Connection
An interesting story popped up on my timeline recently. The Wolverine’s Evan Petzold recently reported a story on 2019 defensive tackle Jeffrey M’ba, a recruit who’s been an unknown until the last week.
So why has M’ba — a 6-6, 285-pound recruit with freakish athleticism — flown completely under the radar? Not living on the same continent as the schools recruiting him hasn’t helped.
Per Petzold, M’ba has landed five scholarship offers — Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Alabama, and Maryland — in the week since he moved from his home in France to St. Frances Academy in Baltimore.
It’s far too early to tell what kind of pursuit Ohio State will have of M’ba or what its odds would be with the French import, but the Buckeyes’ recruiting of him is already setting an interesting precedent. Although the Buckeyes have fielded international players from three different continents — Africa, Australia and North America — M’ba would be the first European player in the football program. Australia, Canada, Nigeria and South Africa are the four countries that Ohio State has previously drawn international prospects from.
Top Texas defensive back includes Ohio State in top 6
One of the country’s best defensive backs hails from Richmond, Texas, a southwest suburb of Houston. Erick Young, a 6-1, 195-pound cornerback in the 2019 recruiting class, is regarded by the 247Sports composite rankings as the No. 9 corner nationally, the No. 100 prospect overall and the No. 13 recruit in Texas.
Young holds nearly 30 offers, but he narrowed his list of schools to a top 6 on Monday. Ohio State made the cut alongside Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, USC and TCU. LSU and Texas were somewhat surprising omissions, but it’s still noteworthy for the Buckeyes to make the cut without yet hosting Young on campus for an unofficial visit.
The Buckeyes offered the impressive cornerback in August, the start of his junior season. It was an offer that Young coveted, and his childhood interest in the program has kept his interest in Ohio State alive.
“Ohio State is a school I’ve loved since I was a young boy,” Young told Land of 10 after dropping his top 6. “I like the defensive backs that come out of Ohio.”
Ohio State almost certainly will have to get Young on campus in the near future to become a realistic contender, but making his top schools list is a good start.
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