To maintain its place among the nation’s elite college football programs, Ohio State cannot rest on the success of its 2017 recruiting class. No, the Buckeyes must get right back to work on securing their top targets for 2018, and they’ve begun that venture in earnest.
Ohio State currently has three commitments in its 2018 class, and each is ranked among the top 61 prospects in the class. So, as you can see, there’s no resting. It’s a grind and it’s an endeavor led by director of player personnel Mark Pantoni and his talented recruiting staff. For 2018 to be a success on par with 2017 — a class that finished second in the country — the Buckeyes will have to aim very high at every position.
We’re going to go position-by-position and review the names you need to know with just about one year until signing day. It should not be considered all-inclusive — names will be added and removed — but it’s a place to start the adventure to 2018.
Today, we continue to look at the Buckeyes big board for what Urban Meyer has dubbed one of college football’s “Cadillac” positions: running back at Ohio State.
Committed (1): Brian Snead | ★★★★ | Seffner (Fla.) Armwood
When Brian Snead committed to Ohio State at Friday Night Lights last July, not a lot of people knew much about him. Now, almost seven months later, a lot of people still don’t know much about Snead. He’s remained relatively anonymous since his verbal, which is unusual for a player that is 1.) out of Florida and 2.) the country’s fourth-ranked running back.
Despite his ranking, its quite possible that folks don’t really know how good Snead is capable of being.
He’s got a college-ready frame, and though he’s just 5-foot-11, Snead has a long stride that gets him to top speed quickly. He’s a capable receiver out of the backfield and has not visited any other schools since his commitment. For a Florida high school star, that’s very rare.
With the current state of affairs at Ohio State, it’s wise to at least plan for Mike Weber’s NFL departure after the 2017 season. That leaves just Antonio Williams and J.K. Dobbins as true running backs on the Buckeyes roster and Demario McCall helping them out from the slot/H-back position. In our mind, that means Ohio State needs to sign two pure running backs and a slot/H-Back type of player in 2018.
Signing three “running backs” in one class may sound far-fetched, but you need only look back a few years to the last time it happened: 2013. Ohio State signed Ezekiel Elliott, Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall in that class and all three stuck it out in Columbus, so it’s been done before. The difference was that class featured one pure running back and two slots/H-Backs.
Let’s count Snead as one and look at some of the best other options.
Running back names to watch for 2018
The Buckeyes are going to look far and wide for the best offensive fits at tailback. However, the most important prospect is right in their own backyard.
Jaelen Gill | ★★★★ | Westerville (Ohio) South High School
Jaelen Gill is one of the country’s most explosive athletes and a hometown kid who has grown up loving the Buckeyes. He is also, however, a player that understands he’s got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity thanks to his 30-plus scholarship offers and is taking his time in making this most important of decisions. What Ohio State has not done is take his recruitment for granted: Meyer has been recruiting Gill since his freshman year of high school and isn’t letting up anytime soon.
The country’s 30th-ranked prospect is versatile enough to play any offensive position and would be an All-American level cornerback if he ever gave that position a try. He’s also a potential high-round draft pick in baseball. Gill missed his junior season with a broken ankle and is finally close to 100-percent healthy.
Zamir White | ★★★★★ | Laurinburg (N.C.). Scotland County High School
While Gill is the perfect “fit” at Ohio State because he’s capable of being a tailback or an H-back, Zamir White is the right fit because he’s hands down the best pure running back in the country. The North Carolina 5-star prospect visited Ohio State twice in the last eight months and has been a primary target for Tony Alford and Ohio State for more than a year.
Clemson and Alabama are going to be right in the mix with White until the end, with the Tigers probably having the advantage right now.
Lorenzo Lingard | ★★★★★ | Orange City (Fla.) University High School
After a surprise visit to Columbus for the Buckeyes home game against Michigan on Nov. 26, Lorenzo Lingard said publicly that Ohio State had become the leader in his recruitment. From that moment though, things seemed to stagnate. Earlier this week, Lingard committed to Miami.
Of course, it’s recruiting in 2017 and so – repeat after me – anything can happen. No one is going to stop recruiting a player of Lingard’s caliber.
Who else should Buckeyes fans be on the lookout for? This list could grow exponentially over the next few months, especially as the evaluation season begins in April.