The 2021 recruiting class is officially on the clock and the Buckeyes are off to a great start after finishing the 2020 cycle as the nation’s fifth-ranked recruiting class. With ten commitments already, it’s time for Ohio State to begin narrowing down its lists and Lettermen Row is going position-by-position to break down a number of the top targets being courted by Ryan Day and the Buckeyes.
The 2020 recruiting cycle produced a number of intriguing storylines when it comes to Ohio State, but nothing captured people’s attention more than the quagmire that was running back recruiting.
We will not rehash it here again. But both the 2020 work and some of the 2019 cycle can be looked back upon when trying to determine why there’s such a tremendous need for the Buckeyes to land a true blue-chip running back or two in the Class of 2021.
That’s not meant to be a knock against Master Teague, Marcus Crowley, Steele Chambers or Miyan Williams. It’s just the facts. Ohio State is one of the country’s premier offenses, and operates in a way that is as balanced as anyone in the nation. Yes, Dwayne Haskins and Justin Fields earned the trips to New York as Heisman finalists in each of the last two seasons, but the duo of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber provided invaluable security for an offense that relies on the run as much as the pass.
Teague proved to be a tough, straight-ahead runner with a power and speed combination that opened eyes early in the season. But his output against the best competition the Buckeyes faced was inefficient and worrisome if he’s expected to be the man for Ohio State in big moments. Marcus Crowley, the 2018 Gatorade Player of the Year in Florida, missed the last half of the season with an undisclosed knee injury and his recovery status is uncertain. Steele Chambers had no chance to really show what he was capable of last year, so he’s a question mark for now as well. Miyan Williams will have to deal with a significant learning curve by the time he shows up to campus in June.
That is the real theme within the running back room and its recruiting: Question marks.
Ohio State needs answers, and there are few positions in football where the translation from high school to college is as easy to predict as running back, which is why adding a bonafide star in both production and measurables is so important for the nation’s best programs every single year.
Where are the Buckeyes looking for answers this time around? Here are the key names to know in the 2021 recruiting cycle at running back as of mid-February.
Camar Wheaton • Garland, Texas • ★★★★★
- The top-ranked running back in the country is a big fan of the Buckeyes according to sources in Texas. But Ohio State will be tasked with upsetting all the heavyweights if it wants to sway Wheaton away from his home in the Lone Star State. Tony Alford and Ryan Day both visited during the January contact period and Wheaton has been to Columbus already. LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M and everyone else is on his tail.
Will Shipley • Weddington, North Carolina • ★★★★★
- The first of two North Carolina tailbacks on the list is Will Shipley, a player who has been favorably compared to Carolina Panthers star Christian McCaffrey because of the similarities in their game. Shipley came to Ohio State in November, said the visit with the Buckeyes was “incredible” and guaranteed he’d return to Columbus for another trip at some point. That has not been planned yet, but in the months since his visit Clemson and Notre Dame have seemed to separate themselves among the traditional football powers for Shipley’s eventual commitment.
Donovan Edwards • West Bloomfield, Michigan • ★★★★
- A top-50 national prospect, Edwards has been to Ohio State a number of times in the last three years. That’s helped form a relationship with running backs coach Tony Alford that has the Buckeyes in excellent shape in his recruitment. Edwards may be a bit more of the power running back that has become the norm in Columbus over the last few seasons, but he doesn’t lack explosiveness or shiftiness. He’s a complete back that has offers from almost 40 schools from around the country. Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Georgia, Alabama and Arizona State are some of the early favorites, but there’s a long way to go here. The return of Kerry Coombs could help the Buckeyes thanks to the great relationships he has with Michigan’s high school community. But ultimately this comes down to Jay Harbaugh and the decision to stay at home or the relationship with Tony Alford and the tough decision to leave Michigan for its biggest rival.
Evan Pryor • Charlotte, North Carolina • ★★★★
- Like Edwards, Pryor has been to Ohio State multiple times and has developed a solid relationship with Tony Alford since getting offered last spring. A top-six school list is expected from Pryor this week, and Ohio State will be on it. He could be closer than anyone else on this list to a college decision. No doubt his choice, if it happens anytime soon, will set off some dominoes.
Lovasea Carroll • Warrenton, Georgia • ★★★★
- A junior at the IMG Academy in Florida, Carroll is a Georgia native who has been high on the Buckeyes for a while now. So far, he is yet to make a trip to Columbus. Still, he included Ohio State in his most recently-narrowed top schools. A former commitment to South Carolina, Carroll has insisted that he’ll eventually visit the Buckeyes. But until that happens it seems he’ll be a tough pull from SEC country — which might still be the case even if he visits.
Brandon Campbell • Rosenberg, Texas • ★★★★
- A relatively new name for the Buckeyes but one that should definitely be paid attention to is Lamar Consolidated High School’s Brandon Campbell. Offered by Ohio State in January, Campbell is closing in on a March visit date, and the conversations between he and Alford have been consistent over the last few months. There’s a lot of J.K. Dobbins in the game of this 5-foot-10, 190-pound running back. Can the Buckeyes pull off another tailback coup in Texas?
Cody Brown • Lilburn, Georgia • ★★★★
- Brown visited Ohio State in November and has been in near-daily contact for the last few months with Alford and linebackers coach Al Washington, who recruits his area. A 210-pound bruiser, Brown is a borderline top-100 prospect and has 15 offers to his credit, including one from the Buckeyes. Expect that number to increase rapidly over the next few months. He’s a highly-talented young player with high character and a prospect Ohio State is very interested in pursuing.
Corey Kiner • Cincinnati, Ohio • ★★★★
- The country’s No. 8-ranked running back lives just about 90 minutes from Ohio State and plays his high school football at Roger Bacon High School in Cincinnati. Kiner has 19 offers and four crystal ball predictions, but two of them are in the favor of the Michigan Wolverines, who have recruited him longer and harder than the Buckeyes have to this point. Could we see the state’s top running back for the state’s top running back trade between Ohio and Michigan in 2021? Maybe.