COLUMBUS, Ohio — With classes beginning Monday, Ohio State will welcome nine early enrollees to campus from its Class of 2018.
The group includes a quarterback, a running back, a center, a tackle, two defensive tackles, a linebacker and two defensive backs. They represent some of the most talented players in the country, with all but one ranking among the top 250 recruits, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
Let’s get to know the nine players who are enrolled early for the Buckeyes.
3-star QB Matthew Baldwin
School: Austin (Texas) Lake Travis
National ranking: No. 447
Position ranking: No. 19 QB
State ranking: No. 61 in Texas
Matthew Baldwin will be Ohio State’s only Class of 2018 quarterback after Emory Jones flipped to Florida on Dec. 20. Luckily for the Buckeyes, they appear to have found an awfully good replacement. Baldwin led Lake Travis to the 6A state championship game in Texas, though a right knee injury on the first play of the game kept him out of that contest.
He’ll get to rehab that injury at Ohio State now after taking some extra classes to be able to enroll early. No quarterback under Urban Meyer has played as a first-year freshman, and Baldwin won’t break that trend. But with an accurate arm and decent mobility, he fits the profile of a quarterback who could eventually direct a Meyer offense.
4-star CB Sevyn Banks
School: Orlando (Fla.) Jones
National ranking: No. 236
Position ranking: No. 26 CB
State ranking: No. 42 in Florida
Sevyn Banks fits the mold of some great Ohio State cornerbacks of the last few years. He’s tall for the position at 6-foot-1 and has excellent range. Kerry Coombs and the Ohio State staff have consistently turned players such as Banks into first-round picks. Banks did suffer an ACL tear earlier in his high school career, but he bounced back with an impressive summer and solid senior season.
4-star LB Dallas Gant
School: Toledo (Ohio) St. John’s Jesuit
National ranking: No. 158
Position ranking: No. 8 OLB
State ranking: No. 5 in Ohio
Dallas Gant has proven he can bulk up if he needs to, a tribute to both his work ethic and willingness to accept coaching. The question for Ohio State will be trying to figure out where to utilize Gant’s speed, strength and nose for the football. Odds are that will be at outside linebacker, particularly with Chris Worley out of eligibility and Jerome Baker almost certainly heading off early for the NFL draft.
The Buckeyes appear set in the middle with Tuf Borland and Baron Browning emerging as top-flight tacklers, so Gant’s path is probably on either side of those players. He has the flexibility and football intelligence to fill either role, which is another reason he was so coveted by the top programs across the country. Gant was a huge pickup for the Buckeyes as they go through a transition in the linebackers unit, and if he transitions quickly, it might not take long for him to make a mark.
4-star DT Antwuan Jackson
School: Blinn (Texas) College
National ranking (JUCO): No. 1
Position ranking (JUCO): No. 1 DT
State ranking (JUCO): No. 1 in Texas
Antwuan Jackson did on Dec. 20 what he almost did in 2015: He signed a national letter of intent to play at Ohio State. The junior college defensive tackle chose Auburn over the Buckeyes when he was in high school. He left Auburn after one season and spent a year at Blinn College.
Jackson should help Ohio State shore up the interior of its defensive line. In addition to being really talented, he also has the advantage of being two years removed from high school. As the nation’s No. 1 overall JUCO recruit, he should jump into the rotation right away and make an impact.
4-star S Tyreke Johnson
School: Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian
National ranking: No. 42
Position ranking: No. 5 safety
State ranking: No. 7 in Florida
Ohio State beat out a host of Southern schools for his commitment. The Buckeyes really began to push hard for him late in the recruiting cycle and Johnson committed to Ohio State on Dec. 5. He’s a huge hitter who also has great hands and coverage ability, which should be a lethal combination in the Ohio State defensive backfield, especially under the tutelage of Greg Schiano. He’s a candidate to play in 2018, especially on special teams.
4-star C Matthew Jones
School: Brooklyn (N.Y.) Erasmus Hall
National ranking: No. 56
Position ranking: No. 1 C
State ranking: No. 2 in New York
Matthew Jones has been listed by various services as either a guard or a center, though the 247Sports composite lists him as a center. Either way, he’ll be a valuable addition as an ultra-athletic interior lineman.
“Usually the more athletic linemen go to defense,” Erasmus Hall coach Danny Landberg said. “Our whole thought process was that he’s such an incredible athlete, what would happen if we made him an offensive guard? He would stand out. We made a choice as a staff to keep him on the offensive side instead of defense for college purposes. It was an outside-the-box thought that his brand would go through the roof — to have a guy like him on the offensive line who’s more athletic than the defensive lineman in front of him.”
4-star RB Master Teague
School: Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Blackman
National ranking: No. 220
Position ranking: No. 11 RB
State ranking: No. 6 in Tennessee
Master Teague is a lightning-fast running back who surged up the recruiting rankings after impressive performances at Alabama and Ohio State camps the summer before his senior year. His speed is a huge weapon, and anytime he found a hole in high school was likely to end in a touchdown. The likelihood of seeing the field as a freshman was diminished by the apparent news that Mike Weber will return, but Teague still could be a special teams weapon.
“He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever seen,” Blackman coach Kit Hartsfield said. “He’s the first one here and the last one to leave. He’ll work out during class at school, then he’ll practice and then he’ll work out after practice. His work ethic is unmatched. I’d put that up against anyone. Heading into his senior year he put on 10-15 pounds in the weight room and actually got faster. His sophomore year he was running 4.50 (40-yard dash), his junior year he ran 4.40 at the camps and his senior year most people know he ran 4.30 at both camps he went to at Alabama and Ohio State. It’s been quite a sight to see him grow in the weight room. He squatted 500 (pounds) and I cut him off from that. He might have been able to do 600 or so. He power-cleaned 340 and ended up benching 325. He definitely hits the weights.”
4-star DT Tommy Togiai
School: Pocatello (Idaho) Highland
National ranking: No. 127
Position ranking: No. 9 DT
State ranking: No. 2 in Idaho
Tommy Togiai is one of three elite defensive tackles that the Buckeyes are adding in the Class of 2018. That was a crucial position to address, both because of past misses and because the Buckeyes will lose some talent. Michael Hill and Tracy Sprinkle are both out of eligibility, and it’s also possible that Dre’Mont Jones will declare for the NFL draft.
He doesn’t have as much raw talent as 5-star Taron Vincent or as much experience as 4-star JUCO transfer Antwuan Jackson, but Togiai is still an incredibly valuable addition. Ohio State hasn’t always had quality depth at defensive tackle, and his arrival when combined with the others is another big step toward correcting that problem. His path to the field may not be immediate ― especially if Jones returns ― but Togiai has all the tools to start and be an All-Big Ten caliber player during his career.
4-star T Max Wray
School: Franklin (Tenn.)
National ranking: No. 113
Position ranking: No. 9 T
State ranking: No. 3 in Tennessee
Ohio State won’t need Max Wray to play right away, but his commitment became even more important after 5-star tackle Jackson Carman spurned the Buckeyes to sign with Clemson. He’s an elite tackle who chose Ohio State over Alabama and Tennessee after de-committing from Georgia.
“I really do believe he’s a very polished, talented offensive lineman,” Franklin coach Donnie Webb told Land of 10 last spring. “He’s still a young kid, and when you go to the next level, you have to take it up a notch. The competition in practice is more than what you’ll get in a high school game, just by mere number of scholarship athletes on the field. That part of it, he still has to continue to work and improve his football game. But I think his body is prototypical for an offensive tackle at the next level. I really believe if he continues to work hard that the sky is the limit.”