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The latest on 5-star tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere
Five-star tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere made his long-awaited official visit to Ohio State over the weekend, alongside his family. The trip to Columbus was Petit-Frere’s fifth and final official visit, following trips to Notre Dame (Oct. 21), Michigan (Nov. 25), Alabama (Jan. 19), and Florida (Jan. 26), the other four finalists for his planned announcement ceremony on ESPNU around 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
The Buckeyes have done well in pursuing Petit-Frere, and his relationship with Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and other members of the coaching staff goes back multiple years. The Buckeyes have managed to turn themselves into a contender late in the process, largely beginning with Petit-Frere’s relationship with Schiano and later with offering an impressive package of academics and personal development on his official visit to Columbus. The ways in which a program can improve Petit-Frere as a student and person off of the football field are critically important in this recruitment, and I’m told that Ohio State has impressed in those categories.
The question that remains is whether Ohio State has done enough to win this recruitment or if it merely impressed Petit-Frere enough to finish as a close second or third. Ohio State sources shared confidence coming out of the visit and feel that they’ve done enough to win this recruitment, but multiple schools have similar feelings on Petit-Frere. Ohio State, Alabama, Florida, and Notre Dame all seem to feel they have a real chance.
Earlier, I predicted that Petit-Frere ends up playing for his home-state Florida Gators. Florida has offered a competitive academic and football combination for Petit-Frere, and it has the added advantage of being the closest finalist to his home near Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep. I have not yet heard any concrete info strongly linking Petit-Frere to any of these programs, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him choose any program besides Michigan on Wednesday.
I think Ohio State is very much in the game here, and if the Buckeyes won, it would be further proof of Urban Meyer’s ability as a late-game closer in recruiting. I believe that Schiano’s seemingly likely departure for the New England Patriots is a point of concern on Ohio State’s end, although Schiano wouldn’t be directly coaching Petit-Frere once he arrived on campus. If the Buckeyes landed Petit-Frere, it would make perfect sense to me and would be a huge victory for Ohio State. I think Ohio State has a real chance to do that, but it’s hard to justify changing my pick from Florida without concrete info giving me reason to do so.
I’m up in the air on this one, and I think most of the college coaches recruiting Petit-Frere are as well. This recruitment — and the prognostications around it — feel a little bit like the Zion Williamson recruitment in college basketball. Many of us have information on individual visits or things he likes about each program, but nobody has a firm grasp on where Petit-Frere will commit. Situations such as this tend to lend themselves to high drama and intrigue on National Signing Day, and Petit-Frere’s decision will be among the most-watched in the country.
Who else is left for the Buckeyes?
The list of potential prospects right now is short for the Buckeyes. If you have been reading this notebook nightly, you’ll know that in-state options Christopher Oats and Tavion Thomas are out and will not sign with Ohio State. We discussed Petit-Frere at length above. The only two other targets who are in play are 4-star Maryland tackle Rasheed Walker and 4-star New Jersey defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste.
On Walker, it’s the same old, same old. Penn State and Ohio State have made their pitches, he’s made his commitment video, and he’s ready to announce a decision around 11 a.m. at Waldorf (Md.) North Point on Wednesday. There’s nothing about either program or coaching staff that would come as a surprise to Walker, and he knows everything he needs to know to make a decision. At this point, I would be mildly surprised if Walker picked Ohio State and believe that Penn State will be the choice, but the Buckeyes made a big impression on Walker.
Ohio State offers an earlier path to playing time and a better track record of NFL development for offensive linemen. Penn State offers Walker more familiarity with players and coaches within the program and longer-running relationships than he has at Ohio State. Walker must make a choice between those two options, both of which also offer first-rate educations and the chance to contend for conference and national championships.
For Jean-Baptiste, it’s a more difficult spot to be in. While Walker has primarily honed in on two schools for a period of several months, Jean-Baptiste’s recruitment has blown up late in the process, with major programs around the country attempting to land him. Nebraska, Ohio State, and Texas A&M have emerged as the top contenders, with Boston College, Virginia Tech and others on the outside looking in. Many of the programs who recruited Jean-Baptiste offered him very late, including each of his top 3 programs, none of which had offered Jean-Baptiste before December.
Jean-Baptiste is fresh off an official visit to Texas A&M, where impressive recruiter Jimbo Fisher was working hard to close on him with just days to go until National Signing Day. Meyer and Schiano were just in Jean-Baptiste’s high school trying to woo him with an in-home visit last Thursday. Scott Frost and the Nebraska coaching staff made it clear from the jump that he’s a top priority for them and they’ve worked hard to build relationships and haul in the 4-star standout.
To make matters even more difficult, Jean-Baptiste’s high school coach Nunzio Campanile is now heading for a position with Chris Ash’s Rutgers program. The Jersey native has been very stressed about his recruiting process and faces one of the more difficult decisions in the country. I continue to expect him to land at Nebraska, where his relationships and comfort level are highest. Meyer, Fisher, and others have done their damnedest to sway his mind, but Frost and his coaches have built more steady relationships over a slightly longer period. I think their diligence pays off.
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