COLUMBUS — Ohio State has held on to the country’s No. 1-ranked recruiting class for the last nine months.
Until Wednesday morning.
After a couple minor adjustments to the recruiting rankings, the Buckeyes have fallen behind Alabama, which has one more commitment than Ohio State right now. That could change again on Thursday afternoon as 4-star defensive tackle Tyleik Williams makes his college choice, but either way it’s clear that the battle for the national recruiting title is going to be a wild one for the next four-plus months.
Ohio State is not going to sign 26 or 27 players in this cycle. Alabama — for one — is likely to do just that, so the very likely outcome is that the Crimson Tide, some other SEC program or Clemson will end up passing the Buckeyes for good by the time the 2021 signing class is wrapped up.
And that’s OK. Not every school is signing the same number of kids, so the goal for the Buckeyes is to just do what they can with what they need. The Ohio State recruiting class is still the country’s best when it comes to the all important per-player average.
No matter what happens from here, though, one thing is certain: The Buckeyes aren’t done and are still hoping to land a few very important targets in this cycle. Let’s try to assess exactly where things stand with their top prospects right now and where the key recruitments are heading. What way are the proverbial winds blowing for Ohio State and its 2021 priorities?
Ohio State standing strong with these players
It’s been a while since the Buckeyes hosted 5-star wide receiver Emeka Egbuka last October. That’s allowed for other programs, primarily Oklahoma, to work on closing the gap that Ohio State had created thanks to Brian Hartline’s tireless efforts in building a relationship with Egbuka and his family. Right now, despite the push from the Sooners, things remain very solid in the chase for the country’s top-ranked receiver. The battle isn’t over, though, and it remains the expectation that Egbuka will try to visit Oklahoma and likely attempt to return to Ohio State before making a decision.
Not too far from Egbuka’s home in Washington lives fellow 5-star prospect J.T. Tuimoloau. That’s another recruitment that continues to have positive vibes for the Buckeyes. Unlike Egbuka, Tuimoloau has never been to campus with Ohio State, and that continues to be the biggest hurdle to Larry Johnson’s hopes of landing him. Many people close to the Buckeyes program believe that if he’d been able to visit this past spring as planned, his recruitment could be over.
One more player that Ohio State should be very optimistic about? That’s Virginia’s Tyleik Williams, who announces his commitment on Thursday. Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, LSU and South Carolina are hoping to land him, but momentum is on the Buckeyes side.
What about other key prospects for Ohio State?
The truth is very simple: Covid-19 and its recruiting side-effects have slowed down the Buckeyes recruiting efforts in 2021. Because of it, they’ve sort of stagnated with a few prospects who have been high on their list for a long time.
The first of that group is Jager Burton, who continues to consider Ohio State along with Kentucky and Alabama among others. He wanted to have a college choice made by now but hasn’t felt capable of doing so. The Buckeyes recruiting efforts have slowed down a bit with Burton as it seems more and more likely he’s going to stay home and pick the Wildcats. The justified belief for the Buckeyes is that perhaps the resources are better used elsewhere. Regardless, Burton has been a priority for a long time, but there’s been an inability to close on his recruitment. The same could be said for another offensive lineman, Tristan Leigh, but it’s not entirely true.
Ohio State had spent most of its time focusing on Alabama commit J.C. Latham at tackle. That meant other programs, specifically LSU, had time to build a big head start with Leigh. When things went downhill with Latham, Buckeyes offensive line coach Greg Studrawa did a great job getting them back in the picture for the 5-star Virginia product. Now it seems things are moving in the wrong direction. LSU is being challenged most successfully by Oklahoma for Leigh, and he just spent a weekend in Oklahoma for the “Sooner Summit,” so clearly there’s real interest there.
While things are moving toward or remain in a positive place for Tuimoloau and Tyleik Williams, respectively, it doesn’t mean that’s the case in the efforts to recruit New Jersey’s Tywone Malone. Yes, the 4-star, dual-sport athlete is still seriously considering Ohio State. But his list isn’t anywhere close to being pared down. A future that includes baseball remains a very real possibility, and that isn’t likely to be the case with the Buckeyes.
Nobody has been on the Buckeyes 2021 recruiting board longer than Derrick Davis, and the 4-star defensive back from Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway has seemingly been close to a decision for a while now. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s eager or ready to announce one, though, as LSU, Georgia, Clemson and others keep pushing for delays in an attempt to keep him away from Penn State and Ohio State, the two favorites. The Buckeyes have recruited Davis hard for three years, with three different defensive coordinators and multiple defensive back coaches while Penn State counters that with a long-standing relationship with Terry Smith, its cornerbacks coach with ties to Gateway.
None of these recruiting battles are over, but there’s good reason to worry that they’re heading in the wrong direction for the Buckeyes.