The race to recruit Ohio is officially on for 2018 and Ohio State – with a stated desire to work its homeland harder than it did in the 2017 class – picked up a major victory in the battle Tuesday.
The commitment of Dallas Gant, Ohio’s fourth-ranked prospect in 2018, means the Buckeyes now have two of the state’s top four locked up, but they’re not finished.
Overall, Ohio State has offered nine of its home state’s Top 15 players. Where do things stand inside of Ohio’s borders? Let’s take a little time to run down the current situation with the seven uncommitted – and offered – prospects.
Who has Ohio State offered inside its borders?
We’ll begin with the player who is, more than anyone else remaining for the Buckeyes in 2018, a must get.
Jackson Carman, Fairfield, 5-star, Offensive Tackle
There’s nothing that gets Ohioans’ hearts pumping faster than a big old Slob, and that’s what the state’s top-ranked player is.
Carman is priority No. 1 for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes, and the contest with Clemson continues. As time moves further and further away from his March visit with the Tigers, Carman’s recruitment swings more and more back toward Ohio State. Still, there’s a lot of time left until December, when he’s expected to make his decision. Don’t be surprised if – or when – Alabama, Southern Cal, Florida State and similar schools get more involved here, either. However, when everything is said and done, it’s hard to imagine him not signing with the Buckeyes.
L’Christian ‘Blue’ Smith, Huber Heights Wayne, 4-star, Athlete
What a rollercoaster ride this has been.
A year ago, there were no doubts in recruiting circles that Smith, one of the state’s premier athletes, would end up donning the scarlet and gray in college. As time passed, speculation about position – the prospect insists on playing wide receiver and a number of people have assumed the 6-foot-6, 205-pound Smith will end up at tight end – has caused some concern.
Kentucky, among others, swooped in and has worked overtime to assure Smith and his family that he’d be a wide receiver in their offense. He’s developed excellent bonds inside of the Wildcats recruiting class, including with his high school teammate and UK commit, Alex Reigelsperger. Everything seemed, until about two weeks ago, to be trending in the direction of Kentucky. But then came a midweek visit to Columbus, where Smith had a heart-to-heart with Meyer about his potential role in the Buckeyes offense.
You can’t count out Kentucky, but betting against Ohio State in the state is never wise, especially if Meyer is involved. And now he is.
Tyreke Smith, Cleveland Heights, 4-star, Defensive End
There might be no player in America that has had his recruitment turned upside down more in the last few months than Tyreke Smith.
The country’s eighth-ranked defensive end has been all over the national recruiting scene with big-time performances at Nike’s The Opening, Under Armour All-America and Rivals100 Five-star Challenge camps. He has gone from a “project” type of player – he has played football for just two years – to a national-level recruit who is at the top of the board for teams such as Ohio State, Alabama, Penn State, Notre Dame and dozens more.
Smith is not originally from Ohio, and that makes his recruitment more interesting than most would expect it to be. He’s not close to a decision and has a slew of trips scheduled for this summer to the West Coast and to SEC country. At this point, it’s the Buckeyes, the Nittany Lions and the Irish at the top, but there’s going to be some intrigue here at some point.
This is a real fight for Ohio State coaches Tony Alford and Larry Johnson.
Christopher Oats, Cincinnati Winton Woods, 4-star, Linebacker
It seems as though the Buckeyes have fallen off in their pursuit of this Cincinnati-area 4-star prospect, and Luke Fickell’s Bearcats may end up being the ultimate benefactor. At one point in 2016, it seemed to be only a matter of “when” Oats would join Ohio State’s class, but there’s a lot of uncertainty right now about how he fits.
Ohio’s seventh-ranked player is still hearing from linebackers coach Bill Davis, but if you read between the lines and take note of Oats’ absence from the Buckeyes spring game, it seems Ohio State is recruiting a handful of other linebackers with a bit more gusto today.
If Ohio State wants Oats, a school he’s always referred to as his “dream school,” I think they’ll get him. He’s expected to camp in Columbus this June, and maybe that will flip the switch back on in this recruitment. If he decides not to visit soon, or to commit soon, it appears that Cincinnati or Kentucky would be a likely landing spot.
Leonard Taylor, Springfield, 4-star, Athlete
Similar to Oats, it’s hard to see how Leonard Taylor fits in the Ohio State 2018 recruiting class. He continues to take reps at camps at tight end, and while he looks more and more comfortable in that position every time you see him, he’s got a ways to go before jumping into the conversation at that position for the Buckeyes.
When he committed to Michigan as a sophomore, he was a defensive tackle, but he seems resistant to playing that position. There are many people out there, including me, who believe the best future for the 6-5, 246-pound player may be at offensive tackle, which he insists he’ll never play.
You can’t close the door on a top 10 player in your home state, but there’s a lot to consider in this recruitment. Taylor’s uncle, Ormonde Ricketts, was a captain at Ohio State for Woody Hayes. Still, until other pieces of the 2018 class are settled or Taylor goes all in on one position and shows the Buckeyes what he can do at it, there’s just too much uncertainty to predict him to land at Ohio State.
Aeneas Hawkins, Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller, 4-star, Defensive Line
Rarely could we suggest that a player with offers from Florida, Florida State, Southern Cal, Ohio State and others would choose Cincinnati as his college choice, but there are many people who believe that is the direction Aeneas Hawkins is leaning.
I’m not one of them, but that doesn’t mean I think he ends up with the Buckeyes.
Hawkins has had regular communication with Johnson and the Buckeyes, and similar to Oats, I think that if that continues, he should end up at Ohio State. He’s a very talented, multi-dimensional defensive lineman, but is he a player the Buckeyes are really pushing for? Schools such as Southern Cal, Alabama, Penn State and Cincinnati – the latter his hometown and the school his father favors – have made a big push and have got him considering other options. A decision is expected this summer, and if I had to take Ohio State or the field today, I’d take the field.
Tavion Thomas, Dayton Dunbar, 3-star, Running Back
It was just about three months ago that the 6-2, 225-pound Thomas was emerging as one of the country’s hottest recruiting prospects. Ohio State, Alabama, Michigan, Oregon and a host of the nation’s biggest programs were offering, and it seemed he was destined to wind up as the “big back” the Buckeyes were seeking in this recruiting cycle.
But after regular visits to Columbus early in the spring, things seemed to have slowed down. The country’s 18th-ranked running back didn’t make it to Columbus for the Ohio State spring game. A host of visits to schools around the country have popped up in his plans, when most had expected him to be committed to the Buckeyes by now. Connecting all the dots, which include some questions about his performance in the classroom, it certainly feels as if Ohio State is in a wait-and-see mode with Thomas.
As of today, I see Carman, Blue Smith and Tyreke Smith as the most likely players to join fellow Ohioans Gant and Jaelen Gill on the Ohio State commitment list. As the Buckeyes expand their recruiting net nationally, and as in-state players get attention from schools while they wait for Ohio State, more players likely will head elsewhere. That shouldn’t be considered a net loss for Meyer and his program, especially if the Buckeyes land players from out of state who they regard as better prospects.
There are other players inside the state who will work their way into scholarship offers from Ohio State, too. There is a deep group of talented recruits in the 2018 class, and the Buckeyes are hoping to see a number of them on campus for one-day camps this June. Those evaluations can – and every year do – change the pecking order inside Ohio.