After a significant amount of drama surrounding its Class of 2017 defensive backs, Ohio State is off to as good a start as one could hope for with the 2018 class.
That should make the next seven months easy for Kerry Coombs, Greg Schiano and the Buckeyes recruiting staff. But will it? There still won’t be many days off for them, even though three of the country’s top defensive backs already have committed to Ohio State. The list of defensive backs that we first reviewed in February has changed a little bit, but the facts remain the same: the elite cornerbacks that the Buckeyes covet remain uncommitted and ripe for the picking.
Ohio State has nine commitments in its 2018 class, and 33 percent are from defensive backs. After signing six DBs in 2017, some might think that the need for the Buckeyes might not be as great in 2018, but recent transfers from Joshua Norwood (a 2015 recruit) and Rodjay Burns (2016) have left some holes in an otherwise solid group. Having early pledges from Jaiden Woodbey (No. 3 safety, No. 29 overall), Josh Proctor (No. 8 safety, No. 86 overall) and Sevyn Banks (No. 24 cornerback, No. 256 overall) means the focus from here can be on the biggest of the big fish for Coombs, Schiano and coach Urban Meyer.
That usually equates to good news for Ohio State.
So, who are the defensive backs worth monitoring moving forward? Here’s the updated list of names to know. We’ll begin in the Lone Star State, where the Buckeyes continue to be on almost every top recruit’s mind, and then move on to Florida.
Anthony Cook | Lamar (Houston) | ★★★★★
This isn’t a surprise, and it’s not likely to change anytime soon.
Anthony Cook is the country’s 11th-ranked overall prospect and second-ranked cornerback. He has been a Buckeyes priority for well over a year, and things finally are starting to crank up in that pursuit following his first-ever visit to the school in mid-April.
Clemson, LSU, Texas and Ohio State are the top group here, and the Buckeyes have two aces up their sleeve because of Cook’s friendship with freshmen Jeffrey Okudah and Baron Browning, but there’s a long way to go. The battle for Ohio State? Convincing Cook that young depth at cornerback when he arrives — the presumptive starters in 2018 will be true sophomores Okudah and Shaun Wade — won’t be a deterrent from getting him on the field early.
Patrick Surtain Jr. | American Heritage (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) | ★★★★★
If there’s one real perk to having three defensive backs committed, its the chance to shoot for the stars moving forward. That’s what the Buckeyes are doing with Patrick Surtain Jr. The son of a former NFL star and the country’s top-ranked cornerback, he is definitely on Ohio State’s short list. Even if the Buckeyes remain a long shot – LSU is probably the top team here at the moment – they picked up some momentum by receiving a two-day springtime visit.
The goal? Get Surtain back to campus this summer. If that happens, don’t count out Coombs, who is getting South Florida recruiting assistance from wide receivers coach Zach Smith.
Tyson Campbell | American Heritage (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) | ★★★★
One of the major reasons that its important to get Surtain back on campus this summer is because he’s almost certain to travel alongside his counterpart in the Patriots secondary, Tyson Campbell.
Now ranked as the No. 4 cornerback in the 2018 class and a top 30 overall prospect, there isn’t that large of a gap between Campbell and Surtain when it comes to potential and recruiting prestige. If the Buckeyes — or anyone — could land them both today, they’d welcome the pair in a heartbeat.
Clemson, LSU, Miami and Ohio State are all going to be involved here for a while. As with Surtain, it’s a simple proposition for the Buckeyes: get him on campus and take your shot.
Houston Griffith| IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) | ★★★★
Though he’s not the explosive physical athlete that the three names ahead of him on this list are, Houston Griffith has the bloodlines — his father, Howard, played at Illinois and then in the NFL — and the talent to be a major contributor at Ohio State.
Those are the reasons he’s been a top target of Coombs and the Buckeyes since last summer, and he’s made multiple trips to Columbus with his family and friends. However, as Ohio State continues to evaluate a number of defensive backs, Griffith’s camp may turn to Notre Dame as the Irish are pushing hard and may be the team to beat.
Kalon Gervin| Cass Tech (Detroit) | ★★★★
Though he doesn’t yet have an official offer from Ohio State, I wouldn’t be surprised if things continue to move in a positive direction with the Buckeyes and this Cass Tech corner.
Gervin is a former Notre Dame commitment that is now looking hard at Oregon, Oklahoma and others but he’s been a player Kerry Coombs has stayed in contact with for much of the last year and was slated to talk with Urban Meyer early on Monday morning.
If Gervin can get to Ohio State and camp this June, using the opportunity to introduce his family to the Buckeyes staff, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him pick up an Ohio State offer and be in the mix by the end of the summer.
Tyreke Johnson| Trinity Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) | ★★★★★
Ohio State loves defensive backs that are versatile. You know, players who look like a safety but can play like a cornerback? That’s where a player like Tyreke Johnson comes in. Though Johnson, a former teammate of Shaun Wade who remains close to him, remains mum on his recruitment, the Buckeyes aren’t bowing out of it without a fight.
There’s a long way to go in this recruitment but expect Ohio State to be involved until the end.