COLUMBUS — Hundreds of the Midwest’s best young players are heading to the Capital City this weekend but can’t visit Ohio State.
That’s the nature of the recruiting world in an extended dead period after all.
But that doesn’t mean there will not be some real Buckeyes flavor on the field on Sunday when the Under Armour Camp Series descends on Central Ohio. Ohio State will be well represented by commitments and early offers from the Class of 2023 and that group of players will be worth paying attention to but there will be many others as well.
We are just about two months away from the return of full-fledged recruiting on college campuses and camps like this one provide needed context as players from around the region begin to set up their plans for a return to recruiting.
Lettermen Row is going to be on-hand for the event on Sunday morning and will have updates on as many Ohio State targets as possible. Here are a few key questions that we’ll be trying to get answers for.
How good have the Buckeyes three linebacker commitments become?
Recruiting has been quiet for a long time and the kids in the Ohio State recruiting Class of 2022 have been working hard during that time. Unlike recent years though, they’ve not really been seen by public eyeballs.
C.J. Hicks, Gabe Powers and Dasan McCullough have been spending a ton of time in the gym and honing their skills. Sunday will be the first time in a long time that the work gets recognized. It was at a similar camp last summer where Hicks became a national name and this time around he can cement his place among the country’s best 2022 players. He just became a composite 5-star prospect on Friday afternoon and can lock in that spot if he puts on a similar performance to the one he did last summer.
Powers has been traditionally anti-camp setting but when Lettermen Row saw him in person in February, he looked like a totally different guy than he did a year ago. It’s exciting to see if that translates to a dominant performance.
McCullough, who recently moved to Bloomington (Ind.) South High School from Kansas, will be someone Lettermen Row is watching closely. His athleticism is obvious but how will he fare when lined up against players on his level?
Can Ohio State targets in Class of 2023 establish real chemistry in person before key visits?
We’ve written in the past about the work Luke Montgomery has done in cultivating relationships with his 2023 peers. Sunday will provide him the first chance to meet a lot of the kids he’s been recruiting to play college ball with him — at Ohio State or elsewhere — in person.
Among those players are Brenan Vernon, Sonny Style and Josh Padilla, the three other in-state prospects with early Ohio State offers. That group has the potential to provide a really solid base for the Class of 2023 if the chemistry they’ve already built can get a real boost this weekend. It’s especially important for Brenan Vernon, who hasn’t been as close with the other three to this point.
If that group can get it together, there’s going to be a host of big-time players in that 2023 class coming into town as well.
Here are some of those names:
- Drayk Bowen, a 5-star outside linebacker from Indiana. Ohio State hasn’t offered yet, but that coming soon wouldn’t be a surprise.
- Anthony Brown, a 3-star wide receiver prospect from Springfield, Ohio. He’s is one of the region’s most exciting young athletes and dynamic with the ball in his hands.
- Andrew Depaepe, a 4-star defensive end from Iowa. He’s the No. 2-ranked prospect in Iowa for the 2023 cycle and an imposing 6-foot-5, 240-pound athlete already.
- Amir Herring, the country’s No. 2-ranked 2023 offensive guard. He’s a star at talent-rich West Bloomfield in Michigan.
- Tanner LeMaster, a 6-foot-6. 235-pound tight end from Washington Court House, Ohio. he’s a name to know in Buckeyes recruiting potentially.
- Mason Ludwig, the No. 10-ranked sophomore in Ohio. If there’s a likely candidate for the “next” in-state offensive line offer by Ohio State, he’d be it.
- Daeh McCullough, a Top 100 player and the younger brother of Buckeyes 2022 commitment Dasan. Daeh hasn’t been offered yet by the Buckeyes and is expected to play at Indiana, but a good showing could change his trajectory.
- Dante Moore, a highly-regarded 2023 quarterback from Detroit. He’s got potential 5-star talent and was offered by Michigan before even entering high school.
- Samson Okunla, a Top 100 offensive lineman from Massachusetts. The Buckeyes haven’t offered yet but I’m willing to bet they will eventually.
- Kadyn Proctor, a 5-star offensive tackle from Iowa and a teammate of top 2022 target Xavier Nwankpa.
There are a number of other very talented 2023 players expected as well.
Can any under-the-radar defensive backs emerge as Ohio State caliber?
The Buckeyes are after some big fish in the Class of 2022 in the secondary. Xavier Nwankpa and Zion Branch are the biggest and most well-known names, but a handful of folks are working to still get the attention of Kerry Coombs and Matt Barnes.
One of them, Delian Bradley from Springfield, is a young player Ohio State has watched closely for the last year. This is a chance to display any leap he’s made in explosion and athleticism since last summer. Bradley always stands out on tape in actual football, but needs to show Ohio State-level burst in situations like this.
Ohio State has a cornerback commitment from Lakota West High School, but Alex Afari may have the physical tools to make the Buckeyes consider a second one. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Afari appears headed to Kentucky, but a show-stopping performance could put him on new radars. Treyveon Longmire, a Kentucky commit, will also be someone I’m watching. He’s originally from Steubenville and now the No. 5-ranked player in Kentucky.
Finally, Jaden Mangham has something like 30 offers and is interested in Ohio State. Can he turn himself into a must-look for the Buckeyes?
Can Aamil Wagner be physical enough against big-time defensive linemen?
We’ve talked about Aamil Wagner and his weight a lot over the last year. Now 260 pounds and with an Ohio State offer, how will the Wayne (Huber Heights) High School standout look putting his new frame to work? Basketball is over and it’s football time — is he ready?
We’ll be watching to see how he holds his own against big-name defensive linemen. Ohio’s No. 5-ranked 2022 prospect has official visits set for the month of June.
That opportunity will be there for Wagner. The defensive line group will feature big-time recruits all over the place. Names like Brenan Vernon and uncommitted 4-stars Isaac Hamm, Popeye Williams, Hunter Deyo, and Selah Brown will get attention. Plus, Cincinnati commits Derrick Shepherd, C.J. Doggette, Tyler Gillison, Syracuse commit Malachi Davis and Pittsburgh commit Sean Fitzsimmons will be on hand.
It’s a deep, talented group that will put the offensive linemen in attendance to work.
Will Kaden Saunders leave no doubt at wide receiver?
There’s still plenty of reason for Ohio State fans to know about Kaden Saunders. The Westerville (Ohio) South star is one of the fastest players in the country after all. Combining that with the knowledge that the Buckeyes aren’t done at wide receiver in 2022 opens a door for intrigue.
If Saunders — who was originally considered a defensive back prospect by Ohio State but is now being looked at more as a receiver — can light it up like he has all spring, don’t shocked if his name starts being mentioned more.
Yes, he’s committed to Penn State but an Ohio State offer could make things interesting. Notre Dame and Florida State are still pushing hard for a flip as well. Saunders is almost certain to provide a wow moment or two on Sunday. The question is whether or not he’ll show the consistency and strength Ohio State needs to see.
Can a 2025 quarterback steal the show?
Finally, a bonus question.
Throughout conversations with some in-the-know folks in recent months, there’s a growing buzz around quarterback prospect Bryce Underwood. That name is unfamiliar to most, and it should be, because he’s in eighth-grade still.
Underwood is going to play at Belleville (Mich.) High School next year, where he’ll be a freshman. He’s 6-foot-1 and 185-pounds already and has three early scholarship offers to his name. He’s got the potential to be a big-time recruit if he develops on this track moving forward. Lettermen Row wouldn’t normally write about a kid at this place in his development, but the buzz around Underwood feels real and we’re excited to see him perform.
There will be plenty of heavily-recruited quarterbacks working with him.
Marshall commit Chase Harrison, Purdue verbal Brady Allen, Rutgers commit Gavin Wimsett, 4-star Tayven Jackson from Indiana, and Jaxon Dailey — another teammate of Xavier’s Nwankpa’s — will be in town. So too will be 2021 reclassifier Judah Holtzclaw, exciting Springfield (Ohio) star Te’Sean Smoot and Kentucky stars Cole Pennington, whose father Chad was a former NFL starter and fifth-place finisher in the 1999 Heisman Trophy race, and Caiden Veltkamp.
It’s a really strong camp field and should provide a number of exciting moments outside of Columbus on Sunday.