National Signing Day is Wednesday. Ohio State currently has the No. 1 recruiting class. Predicting the final commitments for the Buckeyes 2018 class.
5-star T Nicholas Petit-Frere (Tampa, Fla.) – Ohio State, Florida, Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan
Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep product Nicholas Petit-Frere, the nation’s No. 1 tackle and No. 7 prospect overall per 247Sports, is fresh off of a Feb. 2 official visit to Ohio State, his fifth and final official visit. Petit-Frere has also taken trips to Notre Dame (Oct. 21), Michigan (Nov. 25), Alabama (Jan. 19), and Florida (Jan. 26), the four other finalists in his commitment plans. Petit-Frere will announce his commitment Wednesday at 9 a.m. ET on ESPNU.
It appears the Buckeyes are very much involved and have a real chance. Petit-Frere is a tight-lipped recruit who doesn’t involve in too much of the publicity that other top prospects share in, but more and more information on his recruitment has begun to leak out as time has gone on. It appears highly unlikely at this point that Alabama or Michigan will land the 5-star prospect and I would bet against Notre Dame pulling out a victory here after former offensive line coach Harry Hiestand’s departure from the Irish program.
At this point, I can’t bet against the home-state Florida Gators. Ohio State has done very well here on the final official visit from everything I’ve heard and there’s a level of comfort between Petit-Frere and his family and Buckeyes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. I wouldn’t be shocked if Ohio State ultimately won this recruitment and landed his signature, but I think Florida makes too much sense right now and I haven’t heard anything to make me change my mind.
4-star T Rasheed Walker (Waldorf, MD) – Ohio State, Penn State, Virginia Tech
Unlike Petit-Frere, whose recruitment has seemed relatively wide open until the very final days, it’s a two team race for Waldorf (MD) North Point product Rasheed Walker. Virginia Tech will be just a hat on the table for the 6-foot-6, 300-pound star. Make no mistake, this is a battle only between divisional rivals Penn State and Ohio State. Walker took official visits to the two programs on Dec. 8 and Jan. 19, respectively. He also hosted in-home visits from the head coaches of all three programs on back-to-back-to-back days, Jan. 30 through Feb. 1.
Penn State has been the leader for the vast majority of Walker’s commitment. Ohio State sources felt that they had secured serious momentum after his official visit to Columbus, but I don’t feel that it’s enough to overcome the gap that has existed between the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes for the last several months.
4-star DE Javontae Jean-Baptiste (Oradell, N.J.) – Ohio State, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, Boston College
Ohio State’s recruitment of and interest in Javontae Jean-Baptiste has seemingly changed by the day. The 4-star New Jersey defensive end was offered by the Buckeyes in early January, took an official visit to Columbus on Jan. 19, and has maintained frequent contact with the staff since then, but I didn’t get the sense the Buckeyes were pushing hard for his commitment until after a surprise turn of events with 4-star outside linebacker Christopher Oats. In the interim, Jean-Baptiste’s relationship with the Nebraska coaching staff continued to grow stronger. His Jan. 12 official visit to Nebraska was a critical one and really cemented his relationships with Scott Frost and others close to the Nebraska program.
At this point, Nebraska is my prediction for Jean-Baptiste. Ohio State has been pushing more for his commitment over the last week, but I don’t feel that they have enough time remaining to overcome the lead Nebraska has built while they were unsure about pushing for his commitment. Texas A&M also just hosted Jean-Baptiste for an official visit on Feb. 2, but I would be surprised if the Aggies were able to come into this recruitment late and win. I would put my chips on Nebraska going into the stretch run.
4-star OLB Christopher Oats (Cincinnati) – Ohio State, Kentucky, Cincinnati
Cincinnati Winton Woods linebacker Christopher Oats, a 4-star prospect, seems almost certain to play his college football in Lexington after the events of last week. Kentucky has emerged as the clear option for the standout linebacker, which comes as somewhat of a surprise given the way these in-state recruitments have usually played out late in Ohio State’s favor. Although he was scheduled to take a Feb. 2 official visit to Columbus, Oats opted to cancel the trip and spurn Ohio State.
The Buckeyes did not decide until very late in the process that they would be willing to accept Oats’ commitment and by that point, he seemed to have his mind set on playing his college football elsewhere. Give credit to the Kentucky coaching staff, particularly recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow, for finding an opportunity to land a very talented football player and beat a blue-blood program in doing so.
3-star DE Tavion Thomas (Dayton, Ohio) – Ohio State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Cincinnati
There’s really no other way to describe the recruitment of Tavion Thomas other than to say it’s certainly been a strange and surprising end. Thomas, a product of Dayton (Ohio) Dunbar and an impressive power running back, de-committed from Oklahoma in late January after an unofficial visit to Columbus to see Ohio State. The Buckeyes hadn’t made much contact with Thomas for a period of several months before that, but it seemed like that recruitment was destined to end up working for Ohio State. Thomas then scheduled an official visit shortly thereafter to Ohio State for Feb. 3.
When the Buckeyes bring in a Ohio prospect on an official visit this late in the process, they almost always land a commitment from that player and win his signature. The problem? Thomas never made the visit. He was expected to show up late on Saturday night but never arrived at Ohio State. It seems unlikely that he’ll arrive on campus as a Buckeyes player in the future as well. Thomas’ re-recruitment by Ohio State was spurred by late interest from Urban Meyer, but the coach can change his mind at will and seemingly did so in Thomas’ case. At this point, I would expect Cincinnati to land Thomas, but my larger prediction is simply not Ohio State.