The Sensational Six: With 16 commitments in the mix for 2017, who is likely to finish up Ohio State’s top-ranked class?
Ohio State’s 2017 recruiting class is – and has been – the best in the country for a while now. In fact, it’s on pace to be, perhaps, the single greatest recruiting class in the internet recruiting era.
As it is currently comprised, the Buckeyes class consists of 16 commitments, including four 5-star prospects ranked with the country’s top 30 players overall.
As you can see, those four 5-star commitments are followed up by 10 different players ranked as 4-star prospects and two others who have earned 3-star status, quarterback Danny Clark and kicker Blake Haubeil. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Clark is the longest tenured commitment, having verballed to Urban Meyer and former Ohio State quarterbacks coach Tom Herman in December of 2013.
Ohio State’s current roster has only six seniors, and while a number of players are expected to to depart early for the NFL after this season and a handful of others are certainly candidates for attrition in other ways, the numbers are likely tight the rest of the way for the Buckeyes. There is no magic number, no set number of players expected to sign come February, but after speaking to a number of people in the know and reviewing the remaining possibilities for the 2017 signing class, the number we’re operating on is 22 and that’s the number we’re going to try and reach today as we prognosticate the next six players to join the class Mark Pantoni, Ohio State’s director of player personnel, has dubbed the “Select ’17.”
Let’s break down the class and what could happen, shall we?
Adding No. 17 and 18 in the next week?
By this time next Wednesday, it’s more than reasonable to expect the Buckeyes class to have grown from 16 to 18.
No. 17 • On Monday, Aug. 22, Corona (Calif.) Centennial 4-star wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey, the country’s fifth-ranked wideout, will make his college decision. He’s expected to be choosing between Ohio State and Nebraska, though Oregon, Auburn, USC, Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame, and others are still hoping to get Lindsey on campus this fall for official visits. The Buckeyes are the likely choice. Lindsey visited Ohio State last on the weekend July 22 for Friday Night Lights.
No. 18 • Two days later, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) 5-star wide receiver Trevon Grimes will make his commitment, and again, the Buckeyes are expected to emerge victorious. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Grimes will choose between Ohio State, Florida, Miami, Georgia, and Florida State. He’s listed the Buckeyes as his leader for years and – as an Indianapolis native – will be glad to be coming back to the Midwest.
After next week, two commitments that we’ve got a pretty good read on, things start to get a little bit murkier.
Those who could be numbers 19 and 20
While it seems that we’ve been discussing Trevon Grimes and Tyjon Lindsey forever – and it’s been two-plus years for Grimes and a solid year for Lindsey – we’ve been talking about Jeffrey Okudah and Cam Akers for a long time as well. Who are they? What’s the situation?
No. 19 • Jeffrey Okudah has been the country’s top-ranked safety for much of the last year, but as of last month, he’s now the country’s top-ranked cornerback after a summer of showcasing his skills all over the country at any position he wanted to in the secondary. A Grand Prairie, Texas star, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Okudah, is the ideal defensive back candidate for Greg Schiano and Kerry Coombs thanks to his versatility and length.
As of now, it’s the Buckeyes at the top for Okudah and Oklahoma chasing, but schools like Clemson and Florida State are still hoping to make waves in his recruitment. He’s going to visit Ohio State officially this season and will see the Buckeyes when they travel to Oklahoma as well, but does not have a decision date specified. He should be a Buckeye when it’s all said and done.
No. 20 • As for Cam Akers, a former Alabama commitment from Clinton (Miss.) ranked as the country’s second-best 2017 running back, things keep moving in the Buckeyes direction despite no public declaration of Ohio State as his leader. Akers visited Columbus twice in the last year and will make an official visit this fall, but Georgia, LSU, Florida State, and Tennessee continue to try and keep him closer to home.
When it’s all said and done, I expect the 5-foot-11, 213-pounds Akers to end up at Ohio State. His relationship with Tony Alford has been the driving force in his recruitment and the Buckeyes success with similar running backs (Carlos Hyde, Ezekiel Elliott, soon-to-be Mike Weber) gives him a great look at how he’ll be utilized in the Big Ten.
OK, there are two left. Who could they be?
This is when things get confusing, because there are a lot of questions out there and a lot of things that could change between now and signing day. Ohio State would like another linebacker – a pure linebacker to join Antjuan Simmons – and they’d like to add a third defensive tackle to the class as well, so those are the two positions that we’ll dive the furthest into for these final two* spots.
No. 21 • South Jordan (UT) defensive tackle Jay Tufele is the most likely guy to be added at this spot for Ohio State. He’s the country’s third-ranked defensive tackle and the 58th-ranked prospect overall in the 2017 class. He’s had the Buckeyes listed as his leader for months, which is tenuous at best because he’s never visited Ohio State, and that keeps the discussion going. He has gotten to know Buckeyes commitment Haskell Garrett fairly well over the last few months and ultimately this may come down to Ohio State, Michigan, and Utah for his verbal. He’s going to take visits to each and then see how things play out, but I like the Buckeyes positioning here.
As far as linebackers go, there are a couple of options that are being seriously considered, but I think that eventually Ohio State will land on one prospect and I think it’s the country’s most athletic linebacker.
No. 22 • 6-foot-4, 230-pound Baron Browning, a 5-star linebacker out of Kennedale, Texas is a player that fits the Buckeyes defensive system as well as anyone in the country. He visited Ohio State in May, Michigan and Notre Dame in June and since then has gone relatively quiet in his recruitment. He’s very close with Jeffrey Okudah, but his brother Barry – who played for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan – may end up being one of the keys to his commitment. He’ll help Baron narrow down his list and right now I still think the Buckeyes can win this one come February.
So, those are the six? Yeah? No one else will be in? Or out?
That’s the real rub here, isn’t it? If you’ve been following along over the last few months, you know there’s a pretty good chance that Ohio State commitment Shaun Wade ends up outside of the Buckeyes class and flips to Alabama. Assuming the number is still 22 regardless, that means another player would need to find their way in to the class. Who else is worth watching if that happens or if any other players were to decommit from the Buckeyes?
- Running Back • Morgan Ellison • Pickerington (Ohio) Central • ★★★
- Ellison has been very under-the-radar thanks to injuries that cost him two high school football seasons but now that he’s healthy he’s a player that’s worth paying attention to. The Buckeyes saw him at four different camps this summer and are now waiting to see actual game tape. If Akers (or Dobbins) were to end up going elsewhere, Ellison is a player that could slide into that place.
- Wide Receiver • Jaylen Harris • Cleveland Heights (Ohio) • ★★★★
- At one time, Harris was considered a virtual lock to end up at Ohio State but as the numbers have tightened and he’s delayed his decision longer than anyone anticipated, things have gotten a bit murky. Michigan State, Penn State, Tennessee, and Alabama join the Buckeyes in his final five schools and there’s no guarantee there’s room for him at Ohio State whenever he makes the call.
- Offensive Line • Thayer Munford • Massillon (Ohio) Washington • ★★★
- This is a newer name to the “watch list” and as he’s been ruled ineligible for his senior season because of a recruiting scandal at Massillon, may not be on the list for long, but Munford can play at Ohio State. The Buckeyes have three commitments along the offensive line and if they decide they need a fourth eventually he’s a dark-horse candidate to be that guy.
- Linebacker • Anthony Hines III • Plano (Texas) East • ★★★★
- Hines, the country’s top-ranked inside linebacker, has been a top Buckeyes target for some time now and has visited Ohio State multiple times during his long recruitment. As a true Mike linebacker, Hines may have greater value than most recruits, even more than a player like Browning, because he’s closer to a finished product at a position the Buckeyes will need to fill next year as they expect Raekwon McMillan to move on to the NFL.
- Defensive Back • Lamont Wade • Clairton (Pennsylvania) • ★★★★
- There has not been any player outside of Ohio that has seen Ohio State more times in the last year than Pennsylvania cornerback Lamont Wade. He has had the Buckeyes out front previously but in recent months he’s expanded his search and now lists Penn State, Pittsburgh, Alabama, and a host of others in his top group with Ohio State. He’ll make a December decision and enroll early in college.