Events like The Opening finals at Nike’s headquarters are a lot of fun and spur a lot of talk about which recruit could commit to Ohio State. After spending a handful of days in the Pacific Northwest, I was able to get a good read on a number of top Ohio State targets and what is real — and what is fiction — in their recruitment.
So who is heading to Ohio State?
I know that’s the question on most people’s minds. While there are a number of reports out there, we’re going to keep it simple. Which of the Ohio State recruiting targets at The Opening finals are the most likely to end up Buckeyes, and most importantly, when?
Here are five players I believe could be Ohio State commits by the end of the summer. To make this more fun, I’ll go ahead and put this in order of confidence:
No. 1 • Kamryn Babb • WR • St. Louis (Mo.)
Ohio State has had for much of its 2018 recruiting cycle just one receiver target. That has been and continues to be Kamryn Babb.
Babb will appear in most lists of top receivers at The Opening finals. He was smooth, consistent and explosive as one of the main options on team Mach Speed, which rolled through Nike’s 7On tournament without much of a challenge.
After talking to Babb, there are a few schools still trying to wiggle their way into his decision. But the Buckeyes have been at the top of the list for a while and it’s hard to see that changing. I don’t know that Babb will end his recruitment on July 21 at Ohio State’s Friday Night Lights camp, but I know he’ll be there. Last summer, 5-star defensive end Chase Young came to Columbus for FNL and left as a commit. Will the same thing happen here?
No. 2 • Blue Smith • ATH • Huber Heights (Ohio)
It was an important week in Oregon for L’Christian Smith. The talented wideout from powerhouse Wayne High School outside of Dayton had been nursing a back injury for the last few months and finally felt good enough to go full speed. He flashed big time under the bright lights of The Opening.
Smith had the week’s best catch — a leaping, twisting touchdown grab in the championship game of the 7On tournament — and was consistent throughout the weekend. He caught the ball well, was a quick learner and looked at home on the edge or catching the ball over the middle of the field in traffic.
The week was also important because it meant Smith had a chance to spend a lot of time with other recruits, including the ringleaders of the Buckeyes recruiting class. As Ohio State has turned up the heat on Blue lately, this was the first time key members of the 2018 group, such as Jaelen Gill and Teradja Mitchell, had a chance to get to know him. I know that there is continued talk about Kentucky in this race, but I think Ohio State wins this battle.
No. 3 • Tyreke Smith • DE • Cleveland Heights (Ohio)
He’s still very raw compared to many of his contemporaries, but man, there’s a very high ceiling for Smith. He has continued to grow into his frame and looks more and more like a football player everytime I see him, rather than a basketball player in a helmet.
There’s a West Coast trip coming up in two weeks that will prohibit Smith from visiting Ohio State for Friday Night Lights. However, a lot of the talk around California native has his list shrinking even more than the “top 5” he released on Friday. Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes are not pressuring Smith for a commitment, but they’ve certainly made it known to him that he’s a priority and that spots are shrinking. That said, if Smith wants to wait until signing day to decide, he’s the type of player you wait for.
Ohio State and Penn State are going to keep battling here but most signs point to the Buckeyes being the answer.
No. 4 • Jeremy Ruckert • TE • Lindenhurst (N.Y.)
If quarterback Justin Fields didn’t exist, I think there’s a very reasonable case to be made for Ruckert as the top performer at The Opening finals. The extremely focused and talented 16-year-old caught everything thrown his way in Oregon. He was as eager to learn technique and hone his craft as any player I’ve seen in my four years of watching the event live.
As for his recruitment, Ruckert cut his list to four schools officially over the weekend. After talking to multiple people around him and the camp, there’s a sense it really has come down to two: Ohio State and Michigan. Urban Meyer’s personal involvement here, along with a focused effort by new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, appears to be giving the edge to the Buckeyes.
A decision is coming within the next few weeks for Ruckert and it is continuing to look very good for Ohio State.
No. 5 • K’Vaughan Pope • LB • Dinwiddie (Va.)
You’d think that a guy who said Ohio State was the only team on his list would be higher on this list, but there are still some unanswered questions. The first of which is how long will Pope wait for the Buckeyes to give him the green light to commit?
On Sunday, Pope said he was hoping to make a decision by the end of this week. On Monday, he told Land of 10 that he was going to retake the SAT toward the end of August and that a decision may not come until that time. Either way, the writing on the wall is clear: If and when Ohio State gives the country’s sixth-ranked inside linebacker the go ahead, he will commit to the Buckeyes.