Ohio State had the No.2 recruiting class in the nation. But Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes didn’t get every player they wanted. Among the biggest misses in the 2018 recruiting class:
While this list of Ohio State’s biggest misses may not be in order, I think it’s safe to say that 5-star tackle Jackson Carman tops the list for the Buckeyes. Carman, Ohio’s No. 1 player in 2018, the No. 2 tackle in the country (behind Buckeye signee Nicholas Petit-Frere), and the No. 17 player overall, was regarded as a must-get recruit in-state for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. He was regarded as a priority target from very early on in his recruitment and Ohio State poured an enormous amount of time and resources into pursuing Carman.
To lose Carman to Clemson, a program that does not traditionally recruit Ohio well and that has emerged as a foe for Ohio State on the national stage and in its championship pursuits, is a body blow for the Buckeyes. Ohio State absolutely soothed some of the sting of losing Carman by going out and getting the only tackle prospect in America rated higher, but many Buckeyes fans are doubtlessly questioning what it could have been like if both were in the fold.
There was a dance back and forth between Ohio State and long-time quarterback commit Emory Jones for a period of several months. Jones would take visits to numerous programs around the country — Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Florida State, and others — and Ohio State would grow frustrated with his flirtations with other programs. Jones would continue taking visits anyway. Eventually, Ohio State grew tired of waiting to find out whether or not they would hang onto Jones and decided to take matters into their own hands, landing Texas quarterback Matthew Baldwin.
Despite landing Baldwin, a 4-star prospect and the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country, losing Jones still stings for the Buckeyes. He was a certifiable blue-chip prospect, ranked as the No. 85 prospect overall and the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback. Ohio State held off Alabama, Auburn, and other programs for months before losing Jones to a late-developing dalliance with Florida, culminating with a Dec. 15 official visit to Gainesville.
Brenton Cox‘s de-commitment from Ohio State was a tough pill to swallow for many Ohio State fans. The Buckeyes held a commitment from the Stockbridge (Ga.) defensive end for nearly eight months before he reneged on his pledge. From April to December, it looked like the Buckeyes had locked up the 5-star prospect and No. 2 defensive end in the country. However, several visits — unofficial and official — to Georgia and Alabama ultimately culminated in Cox de-committing from Ohio State on Dec. 6 and committing to the Bulldogs just two weeks later.
Ohio State has a loaded defensive line class — the Buckeyes signed six defensive linemen in 2018 rated as 4-star or 5-star prospects. Still, it would have been incredibly sweet for defensive line coach Larry Johnson to add a 6-foot-5, 250-pound beast with the potential to be among his best professional prospects. Ohio State landed defensive ends with high upside — Javontae Jean-Baptiste and Alex Williams come to mind — after losing Cox, but they don’t match the elite potential that the Georgia native has.
Another late de-commitment that hurt the Buckeyes was Fontana (Calif.) St. John Bosco safety Jaiden Woodbey. Unlike Cox, who remained relatively drama-free until the final two months of his recruitment, Woodbey was always going to be a wild ride. He committed to the Buckeyes on Feb. 6, 2017, but was constantly linked to other programs and rumored to take visits all over the country with a relatively high frequency. While many (rightfully) viewed USC, his father’s program and his hometown school, as the primary contender for Woodbey, his recruitment’s conclusion ultimately proved to be shocking.
In an all-time weird recruiting story, Woodbey tweeted a lament that Florida State, a “dream school” as he described it, never offered him a scholarship. Despite having no contact with the Seminoles before that, Florida State offered him on Dec. 12, hosted him for an official visit on Dec. 16, landed his signature on Dec. 20, and had him enrolled on campus on Jan. 8.
Ohio State has a more stacked roster in the defensive back position group and his departure hurts a little less than some of the other top prospects the Buckeyes missed on, but it still stings every time to lose the No. 35 prospect in the country after hanging on to his commitment for nearly a year. Woodbey is a talented, physically impressive safety at 6-2 and 204 pounds who would have paired in the secondary with other Ohio State signees like 5-star Tyreke Johnson and Oklahoma native Josh Proctor.
Ohio linebacker Christopher Oats is the final entry on this list and perhaps the most surprising inclusion, partially because he had among the most surprising conclusions to his recruitment. Oats waited until National Signing Day on Wednesday to announce a decision. When he held off from committing early and continued to stay in contact with Ohio State, setting up an official visit for Feb. 2, it seemed as though he would be the latest in a long line of in-state Buckeyes targets to join the class at the buzzer when Ohio State came calling. Instead, out of nowhere, the official visit was canceled and Oats was done with Ohio State. Kentucky became the beneficiary, landing the 4-star outside linebacker over Cincinnati and others.
Oats wasn’t really a must-get for Ohio State, he wouldn’t have been among the most gifted prospects in the class, and he wasn’t a surprise de-commitment for the Buckeyes. So why did he make it on this list? Oats’ decision may show a predilection for Ohio prospects to no longer be interested in waiting around on Ohio State until the final minute. When prospects of his caliber have other offers available and the Buckeyes show a stronger interest in recruiting outside of Ohio than within, it’s no longer a shoe-in that prospects will wait for Ohio State to decide they’re ready to take them. It may be just be a single recruit making his own choice or it may be the start of a troubling trend, but Oats’ decision was one of the more surprising developments of the cycle for me.