By nearly any measure, Ohio State’s 2018 recruiting class has been an unmitigated success.
The Buckeyes signed 22 recruits during the inaugural early signing period in December, including 10 players in the top 100 of 247Sports’ composite rankings (plus the top-rated JUCO player in America, Antwuan Jackson Jr.). Of the 22 signees, a whopping 19 carry a 4- or 5-star rating. Urban Meyer and his coaching staff have filled out their class remarkably well and, despite some consternation concerning late misses or losses on Jaiden Woodbey, Brenton Cox, Emory Jones, Jackson Carman, and Jayson Oweh, Ohio State still sits with the country’s second-ranked recruiting class.
But with 22 scholarship players signed, numbers will be tight for Ohio State heading into National Signing Day (Feb. 7). The Buckeyes have shown interest in just a small, select group of recruits and are expected to take only two to five players in the several weeks, depending on how the talent could fit into their number requirements.
Ohio State has shown interest in adding one to two offensive linemen (specifically tackle) and one or two defensive linemen, and would be interested in a small group of can’t-turn-down prospects at other positions if recruitments break in their favor. Let’s dive into some of their top targets moving forward.
4-star OT Rasheed Walker, Waldorf (Md.) North Point
Rankings: No. 81 overall, No. 6 OT
Leading contenders: Ohio State, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Maryland
There’s reason for cautious optimism around Ohio State’s recruitment of top-100 player and offensive tackle Rasheed Walker of Maryland. The Buckeyes will receive an official visit from Walker on Jan. 20, his final planned official visit before announcing a commitment decision on National Signing Day. Penn State has held the lead in this recruitment for quite some time and the Nittany Lions should still be viewed as the front-runner, but with the final chance to change his mind and get him on campus, Ohio State will have a crack at Walker late in the process. Virginia Tech and Maryland are also-rans in this recruitment who may have a hat on the table but little else.
5-star OT Nicholas Petite-Frere, Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep
Rankings: No. 17 overall, No. 3 OT
Leading contenders: Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Florida, Alabama, Miami, Clemson, Florida State
One of the quietest prospects in the country in terms of media access, 5-star OT Nicholas Petite-Frere is also one of the most coveted players in the nation regardless of position. Petite-Frere has already taken official visits to Notre Dame and Michigan and will take his final official visit to Ohio State on Feb. 2 according to 247Sports’ Bill Kurelic. Sources close to the recruitment indicated that Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, and Miami are all jockeying for position to receive Petite-Frere’s final two official visits. There’s been little to go off of in this recruitment and Petite-Frere has never been to campus in the past before, but it wouldn’t be wise to count out Meyer & Co. with the Buckeyes receiving the final official visit of the process before Petite-Frere decides. It’s been an odd recruitment, but one that bears watching down the stretch.
4-star DT Tyler Friday, (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep
Rankings: No. 85 overall, No. 3 DT
Leading contenders: Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama
Ohio State has been trending hard for Tyler Friday the last couple days and the New Jersey defensive end could be on the verge of picking the Buckeyes. Rumors began to percolate Wednesday that Friday could decide as soon as Jan. 12. He is expected to choose among Ohio State, Michigan, and Alabama. Ohio State sources have expressed growing confidence in their pursuit of Friday and it seems as though the Buckeyes have closed on and surpassed Michigan, which had been viewed as the leader in recent weeks. Rivals.com’s Adam Friedman indicated that a decision for Friday should come by Wednesday. If he sticks with that timeline, I fully expect Friday to be a Buckeye.
4-star OLB Javontae Jean-Baptiste, Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic
Rankings: No. 313 overall, No. 21 OLB
Leading contenders: Ohio State, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Pitt
While Ohio State has recruited Friday for several months, Javontae Jean-Baptiste has held an offer from the Buckeyes for all of two days. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound defensive end had been on the Buckeyes’ radar, but defensive coordinator Greg Schiano moved forward with an offer for Jean-Baptiste this week. The New Jersey defensive end immediately declared plans to take an official visit to Columbus on Jan. 19, which very well may be his last visit of the process. Jean-Baptiste will also take an official visit to Nebraska this weekend. If all goes well on Jean-Baptiste’s official visit to Columbus and Ohio State gives the green light, I would not be surprised to see a commitment from the defensive end.
4-star DT Nesta Silvera, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) American Heritage
Rankings: No. 167 overall, No. 15 DT
Leading contenders: Miami (committed), Florida, Ohio State
Nesta Silvera and his teammates at American Heritage have long discussed a late official visit to Ohio State before signing their letters of intent. Nonetheless, I don’t view the Buckeyes as a serious contender to land Silvera and don’t expect the big defensive tackle to leave the state of Florida. In all likelihood, he’ll sign with Miami, where he is committed.
3-star SDE Casey Rogers, Avon (Conn.) Old Farms
Rankings: No. 1332 overall, No. 66 SDE
Leading contenders: Ohio State, Alabama, Vanderbilt, Pitt, et al
Casey Rogers is a super-athletic, mobile lacrosse star who has received serious interest for his talents on the football field during a prep year at Old Farms, a New England prep powerhouse. Rogers has taken official visits to Alabama and Ohio State, but I don’t expect either program to offer the intriguing defensive end. Jean-Baptiste and Friday have taken priority ahead of Rogers for the final defensive line spot in the Ohio State class and I would expect the Connecticut product to land at Vanderbilt or Pitt.
4-star ILB Solomon Tuliaupupu, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
Rankings: No. 89 overall, No. 3 ILB
Leading contenders: USC, Ohio State, Notre Dame, UCLA, Oklahoma, Hawaii
Nobody seems willing to predict that Solomon Tuliaupupu will leave the West Coast, and thus USC is, understandably, the consensus pick for the Mater Dei product and one of the country’s top inside linebackers. Tuliaupupu has taken official visits to Hawaii, Notre Dame, and (as of this weekend) UCLA. He has not been back to Ohio State’s campus since the spring game in April 2017, but has discussed taking an official visit to Columbus for the final weekend of the recruiting process. Oklahoma is vying for an official visit from Tuliaupupu, as well. It would be surprising to see him play anywhere other than USC, but again, the existence of these late official visits will at least bear watching.
4-star OLB Christopher Oats, Cincinnati Winton Woods
Rankings: No. 318 overall, No. 22 OLB
Leading contenders: Ohio State, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Cincinnati
In-state product Christopher Oats of Cincinnati Winton Woods, a teammate of Buckeyes freshman DT Jerron Cage, has held an offer from Ohio State since June 17, 2016. But it is unclear if Oats will have a spot in this class. Oats has taken official visits to Kentucky and Oklahoma with another planned trip to Ole Miss. Right now, academic concerns are holding up Oats’ ability to commit to the Buckeyes and until he’s through the NCAA clearinghouse, there will be no clarity on his recruitment.
5-star CBs Patrick Surtain Jr. & Tyson Campbell, American Heritage
Rankings: Surtain: No. 5 overall, No. 1 CB; Campbell: No. 27 overall, No. 3 CB
Leading contenders: Both: Miami, Alabama, Ohio State; Surtain only: LSU, Florida State, Clemson; Campbell only: Georgia, Auburn
Teammates and 5-star defensive backs Patrick Surtain Jr. and Tyson Campbell, along with aforementioned teammate Silvera, have discussed the possibility of an official visit to Ohio State. They’ve been in contact with the Buckeyes coaching staff for years, even. Still, both are extreme long shots to end up in Ohio State’s class. LSU has become a heavy favorite for Surtain, while Campbell has shown much more interest in Miami and Georgia than Ohio State. I would say the Buckeyes have a better chance to lure Campbell if this duo ever does make the trip to Columbus, but I wouldn’t bet on either ending up in a Buckeyes uniform. Still, when you have talents of this caliber interested in visiting, it would be foolish to not pursue the opportunity and see what happens.
4-star Chris Olave, San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills
Rankings: No. 321 overall, No. 55 WR
Leading contenders: UCLA, Ohio State, Utah, et al.
California wide receiver Chris Olave might be a victim of the numbers game at Ohio State. With commitments from wide receivers L’Christian Smith, Kamryn Babb, and Cameron Brown, along with that of H-back Jaelen Gill, and numbers tight throughout the class as a whole, I don’t see a realistic chance for Olave to end up in the Ohio State class at this point. Defensive line, offensive line, and linebacker are all bigger priorities. Chip Kelly’s hiring at UCLA and the wide receiver’s pending official visit to that campus seem to provide a natural landing spot for Olave.