Speaking in the parlance of our times, this weekend at Ohio State should be, as the kids say, “lit.”
The Buckeyes will host dozens of the top recruits from around the country. The football team is preparing for a Top-10 matchup with Nebraska on Saturday night. There could be many reasons to celebrate, but we talk about recruiting here. That’s the major subplot this weekend.
Ohio State’s top-ranked 2017 recruiting class will be well-represented with 11 commitments in town, but come on, those guys are already committed, so who cares, right??
Let’s talk about the next guys, the players in the 2018 class. The ones that can’t sign a Letter of Intent for another 16 months because almost 22 percent of the 5-star prospects in that class – six of them – will be at Ohio State this weekend.
Who are those players? The next big things that are the next major targets for the Buckeyes? We’ll take a little closer look at who they are, who they’re thinking about and discuss Ohio State’s chances to land them.
Running back • Zamir White • No. 1 running back • No. 4 overall
If there’s a running back in the 2018 class that makes skipping/passing/losing out on Cam Akers in the 2017 class okay, it’s North Carolina’s Zamir White. That becomes even more the case if you can add him and the other tailback on this list together.
White is a rare combination of speed and power, and right now he is the clear-cut “best prospect” at running back for 2018. Some actually believe he’s the best running back in the country, regardless of class. He’s the top target not just for Ohio State, but for Clemson, Alabama, and just about anyone else that is in the market for a running back next year.
If you view White’s highlights, it’s easy to see why.
This will be the second trip to Ohio State for White, who previously visited Columbus in June. He attended the Ohio State job fair during his last visit, a key move by the Buckeyes who know his interest in a school goes beyond just football. Over the last month, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound tailback has been to Clemson and Alabama, a pair of schools that will likely be the top contenders to land him, along with Ohio State.
Tony Alford has been all over White. As he is with everyone on this list, Urban Meyer is involved. White has 25 offers and what will be a pair of visits to Ohio State in five months, a story similar to that of Cam Akers a year ago. Will this one turn out different? Ohio State has one running back from North Carolina on its roster with Antonio Williams, but can they add another? There will be plenty of time to figure that out, because it’s unlikely a decision comes anytime soon.
Defensive end • Micah Parsons • No. 2 strongside defensive end • No. 5 overall
The most recent addition to the visitor list for the weekend is Harrisburg (Pa.) 5-star defensive lineman Micah Parsons. A Penn State commitment, Parsons has been in the news recently because of a controversial transfer out of Central Dauphin High School. He’s the country’s second-ranked defensive end, behind only Florence (S.C.) standout Xavier Thomas.
This will be Parsons first visit to Ohio State after an offer in early September. He has been in contact with Larry Johnson Sr. for some time now, though. As a prospect, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Parsons is versatile enough to play linebacker but has the frame that will turn him into a dominating defensive end in time.
What are the odds of a Parsons flip? I wouldn’t put them at good right now, but he’s interested in looking around. He’s been to Michigan for a visit recently and now Ohio State, though he contends he’s solid with Penn State. The bottom line? A lot can happen between now and February 2018, so getting this visit is big, regardless.
Defensive back • Tyreke Johnson • No. 2 safety • No. 12 overall
Another recent addition to the list of visitors is Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian Academy’s Tyreke Johnson. The country’s second-ranked safety is a teammate of Ohio State 5-star commitment Shaun Wade, and he’ll be back in Columbus for the first time since the summer of 2015.
A 6-foot-1, 180-pound safety, Johnson has the cover skills and athleticism – similar to 2017 5-star Jeffrey Okudah – to play in multiple spots in the secondary.
With almost 25 offers, Johnson is going to have a college choice to make from pretty much any school he wants. At present, there isn’t much confidence that he’d choose a school as far north as Ohio State, but a big game day visit can’t hurt. UCLA, Georgia, Notre Dame and of course, Alabama, are all near the top of his list.
One thing that could help the Buckeyes? Keeping Shaun Wade, of course.
Offensive lineman • Jackson Carman • No. 3 offensive tackle • No. 17 overall
You’re no doubt familiar with Jackson Carman by this point. But if you’re not, you should be.
The country’s third-ranked offensive tackle and Ohio’s top-rated 2018 prospect, Carman is a player that was identified early by Ohio State as a top priority, and Urban Meyer has not relented one iota as he’s emerged as a national name. A 6-foot-6, 300-pound road grater, Carman has been a regular in Columbus since the spring and will be a key cog of this weekend’s visits, especially with two of the country’s best running backs in attendance.
During his most recent visit to Ohio State, Carman hung out with 5-star Buckeyes commitment Emory Jones. He’s consistently been working on his relationships with likely future teammates over the last few months.
Alabama, Notre Dame and a few West Coast schools are the primary threats to Ohio State now. That said, it’d be a major shock if Carman didn’t end up on the Buckeyes.
Defensive back • Derrik Allen • No. 3 cornerback • No. 21 overall
Every year, a top recruit from SEC country surprises everyone by really liking what the Buckeyes have to offer in the face of serious doubt about his sincerity. That recruit for 2018 may be Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter’s Derrik Allen. Ohio State will be his first visit and it’s a major visit for a 5-star cornerback who has insisted to anyone who will listen that he’s very serious about the Buckeyes.
Allen is a big corner in the mold that Ohio State loves, and he’s been personally recruited by Meyer for months. As the Buckeyes prepare to lose three more defensive backs to NFL early entry, they’re welcoming in a player that can step in to the 2018 roster and compete for playing time.
Georgia is the team thought to be the leader for Allen because he is a Peach State product. That said, the Buckeyes have done everything right in his recruitment thus far. He’s not just offering lip-service about his interest in Ohio State. This is a player to watch not just to eventually end up a Buckeyes commit, but maybe sometime soon. This weekend just has to show that Oho State is what Ohio State says it is.
With almost 35 offers, there’s no doubt that the competition to land Allen is stiff, but the Buckeyes are in a great position.
Running back • Jaelen Gill • No. 2 all-purpose running back • No. 25 overall
At the top of Ohio State’s in-state wish list for 2018 along with Carman is running back Jaelen Gill.
A star since he stepped on to the field at Westerville South High School as a freshman, Gill is one of the country’s most electric athletes and a difference-maker on offense at running back, in the slot or – if he wanted – outside at wide receiver. The bottom line on the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Gill is that he’s capable of breaking a big play at any moment, and that’s why he’s a Top-25 player nationally. Unfortunately, his highlight tape doesn’t have much of his junior season on it – he suffered a broken ankle early in the year – but it still provides a taste of his talents.
Since being offered by the Buckeyes prior to his sophomore year at South, Gill’s fate has been assumed: He’ll end at Ohio State. However, if you talk to the 5-star talent himself, things are still pretty wide open in his recruitment. He’s very fond of UCLA, Tennessee, Notre Dame and Michigan State. He’s obviously very comfortable with Ohio State and its coaching staff. A two-sport talent that could eventually be a Major League Baseball draft pick, Gill is a rare athletic talent.
More than anything else, though, is this: Gill is a player Meyer wants at Ohio State badly.
This weekend will be a good chance to show him some love among a host of big-time national names. Meyer and his staff can illustrate plainly that that there’s nothing assumed by the Buckeyes. Gill wants to wait before making a college choice until sometime in his senior year, so don’t look for any sudden decision this weekend.