Recruiting never stops, and if you take a day off, you fall behind. Join us every night for a daily recap of Ohio State recruiting news, insight on what’s happening behind the scenes and a glimpse at what’s coming next.
In-home visits on horizon for Ohio State
While much of the recruiting cycle’s final weeks is focused on the glitz and glamour of official visits — the lobster dinners, campus tours, 5-star hotels, attention from multi-millionaire college football coaches — the real spotlight moves toward in-home visits at the very end of the period.
Urban Meyer and his assistants have jetted around the country to make strong early impressions on coaches and prospects alike, but the trips immediately before National Signing Day can make the difference in recruiting.
Meyer is expected to make at least two in-home visits this week with a pair of Ohio State’s top prospects. There’s some overlap here between both recruitments, but we’ll get into that below.
On Wednesday night, Meyer was scheduled to travel to Waldorf (Md.) North Point, the home of 4-star tackle Rasheed Walker. We’ve discussed Walker at length in this series of notebooks and in discussion pieces on our network, so I won’t go too deep into his background. If you’re not familiar with Walker, here’s the skinny: He’s one of the country’s top tackles and perhaps Ohio State’s most important remaining recruit at a position of need. He’s down to Penn State, Ohio State and Virginia Tech, and the Hokies appear to be out of it, despite their best efforts.
Meyer will make the in-home visit with Walker and his family members with the help of two Ohio State assistant coaches — defensive line coach and Maryland recruiting ace Larry Johnson and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa. This trip comes on the heels of Justin Fuente’s in-home visit on Tuesday and comes just ahead of James Franklin’s planned trip on Thursday. It’s unclear which Penn State assistants will join Franklin on Thursday.
Ohio State’s positioning as the second-to-last visit is not what the Buckeyes desired, I’m told, but it’s difficult to prove whether being the final in-home visit has any real impact on recruits. The Buckeyes would have preferred to swap places with Penn State as the two Big Ten powerhouses fight for Walker’s services. The next two nights may very well tell the final story of Ohio State’s chances with Walker and where he’ll play college football.
I expect Meyer to make an in-home visit to Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic on Thursday to see 4-star defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste. I expect that Johnson and Greg Schiano will make the trip with Meyer, as both have been involved in Jean-Baptiste’s recruitment.
This recruitment has taken a number of turns over the last several weeks and it’s been difficult to pin down. If I had to pick a school right now for Jean-Baptiste, I would expect that Nebraska would be the pick for the 6-foot-5, 215-pound defensive end. Huskers coach Scott Frost made his in-home visit last week and Nebraska seems much more committed to heavily pursuing Jean-Baptiste than Ohio State. Jean-Baptiste’s official visit to Nebraska was hit out of the park by the new coaching staff and they’ve really taken control of the recruitment. Nebraska’s success coupled with Ohio State’s hesitancy has given the Huskers a big edge here, in my opinion.
However, other schools aren’t conceding this recruitment to Nebraska. Both Fuente from Virginia Tech and Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher were expected to make in-home visits with Jean-Baptiste on Wednesday. I don’t give Virginia Tech much of a shot here; they’re likely running third at best and don’t have a realistic path to pass Nebraska or Ohio State.
Texas A&M is more interesting. Jean-Baptiste has said it was unlikely he would use his fifth and final official visit after trips to Nebraska, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and Boston College, but the late attention from the Aggies and Fisher is an attempt to change his mind. If Jean-Baptiste goes on an official visit to College Station, it could change the character of this recruitment. Fisher is among college football’s best recruiters and has a proven track record as a closer.
Jean-Baptiste will announce his decision on Feb. 7, National Signing Day. I don’t think this takes a surprise turn for Ohio State, but the fact that Meyer will make an in-home visit is something worth keeping an eye on. Nebraska will remain my pick unless I hear something significant to change my mind over the next several days.
MaxPreps announces All-Ohio football teams
The first-team offense features 2018 Ohio State wide receiver signee L’Christian Smith, as well as several 2018 prospects who crossed the Buckeyes’ radar before signing elsewhere. Michigan State tight end signee Trenton Gillison and Clemson tackle signee Jackson Carman are two of the most prominent former Buckeyes targets. Three of Ohio’s top 2019 offensive linemen made the list as well — Mentor tackle Ryan Jacoby and Cincinnati Anderson guard Zeke Correll, both of whom hold Ohio State offers, and Cincinnati Moeller guard Zach Carpenter, who does not.
The second-team offense features less star power, but does include Ohio State target Tavion Thomas, a 2018 running back from Dayton Dunbar who recently de-committed from Oklahoma and seems likely to choose Ohio State. Additionally, 2019 Massillon Washington linebacker Jamir Thomas is listed as a running back, although it won’t be his college position. He has yet to land a Buckeyes offer, but is among the state’s top recruits.
The first-team defense is a loaded group. 2018 Ohio State signees Tyreke Smith, a Cleveland Heights end, and Dallas Gant, a Toledo St. John’s Jesuit linebacker, are the only two prospects on the list committed to Ohio State, but it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if that number grew in the coming days and months. Christopher Oats is expected to choose the Buckeyes after an official visit this weekend. The Cincinnati Winton Woods linebacker has been involved with Ohio State in his recruitment for years.
In the 2019 class, two of the state’s top prospects and (not coincidentally) two of the Buckeyes’ top Ohio targets lead the way. Zach Harrison, a consensus 5-star defensive end who is regarded by some as the country’s top prospect in his class, made the list from Lewis Center Olentangy Orange. Ohio State has been heavily involved with the local prospect and he would be the crown jewel of its 2019 class. The Buckeyes also are heavily pursuing 4-star linebacker (and potential future defensive end) Cade Stover from Mansfield Lexington and expect to add his commitment in the not-so-distant future.
The second-team defense does not feature any notable Ohio State recruits.
Ohio State’s offer bonanza continues
Another day of the January evaluation period means yet another round of offers from the Buckeyes to some of the country’s top prospects.
2019 Austin (Texas) Bowie wide receiver Elijah Higgins added Ohio State to a growing offer list. Higgins has added a dozen offers in January, including Ohio State, Texas, Texas A&M, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State. Higgins has nearly two dozen offers and looks to be one of the fastest-rising prospects in the 2019 class.
— Elijah Higgins (@ehigggz) January 31, 2018
Ohio State also extended offers to two prospects in the Class of 2020. Charlotte (N.C.) Providence Day School defensive end Jacolbe Cowan is incredibly impressive as a sophomore, checking in at 6-5 and 250 pounds. He’s also been offered by many of the country’s elite programs — Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State Tennessee and so on.
— J C 1️⃣2️⃣ (@JacolbeCowan12) January 30, 2018
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes are much earlier to offer 2020 wide receiver Javian Hester from Tulsa (Okla.) Booker T. Washington. Ohio State is only the second offer for Hester, joining Arkansas. Hester is a major downfield threat at 6-4 and 165 pounds. Ohio State may have been one of the earliest offers for Hester, but the Buckeyes won’t be the last.
— Javian Hester🎥 (@JJHester_7) January 30, 2018