MASSILLON — A number of Ohio State targets and offers were on hand on a frozen, late-March afternoon in Northeast Ohio as The Opening made its way to the Midwest.
With more than 500 prospects in attendance, there was a lot to see and a lot to watch. But after digesting Sunday’s performances, here’s what the Lettermen Row crew took away from The Opening 2019 regional in Ohio.
A handful of big names skipped out
The Sunday preview included the list of big names I was expecting to spend my Sunday watching at Massillon. Many of them showed up, but some of the biggest names for Ohio State fans didn’t attend for one reason or another.
That list of no-shows included 5-star offensive tackle and Buckeyes commit Paris Johnson, Cincinnati Princeton teammates Jaheim Thomas and Darrion Henry, 5-star lineman Justin Rogers, Cincinnati Winton Woods running back Miyan Williams and 2021 receiver Lorenzo Styles. That entire group being absent took a camp roster that was bordering on great and took it down to pretty good.
The Opening remains one of the biggest and most important camps on the circuit, but temperatures in the low 20s and significant snowfall in parts of northern Ohio seemed to derail a little bit of the momentum for this year’s edition.
Running backs stand out, a rarity in camp settings
In most of the big national recruiting combines/camps, the running back position fades into relative obscurity because there’s just simply not much real football being played. There aren’t opportunities for tailbacks to play out of the backfield to show off their hands or to flash physical running styles where they can put their heads down and bowl someone over.
That said, there were some kids at the position on Sunday who stood out.
Donovan Edwards, a 4-star 2021 prospect from West Bloomfield in Michigan, was probably my choice for the day’s best performer. He’s still very young, but he doesn’t look it at all and is put together like a college running back already. Despite coming off a broken ankle suffered at the end of last season, Edwards was straight-line fast and showed good wiggle in some one-on-one situations. The country’s fourth-ranked 2021 running back showed up the camp sporting Ohio State gloves and clearly is feeling good about the Buckeyes. He is on campus in Columbus with another big-time 2021 prospect from Michigan, Belleville’s Damon Payne, on Monday.
Akron Archbishop Hoban 4-star athlete Deamonte Trayanum was named the camp’s running back MVP and did a nice job recovering from back-t0-back early reps where he put the ball on the ground. I was also very impressed by the Ohio pair of Mike Drennen and Jutahn McClain, who have both been offered by the Buckeyes. I was struck by how different their games seemed to be, setting up what could be an interesting decision down the road as Ohio State tries to sort out how it will fill the 2020 recruiting class. Drennen was excellent in drills where he was able to get in space and separate, especially in passing drills. McClain was very elusive and showed better straight-line speed, outrunning linebackers to the endzone on multiple occasions without needing any fancy footwork. I could see each of those players in Ohio State’s class depending on what else works out — and if Drennen, as he suggested was likely, was open to playing more as an H-back in the K.J. Hill, Jaelen Gill-type of role.
Trio of Michigan receivers turned heads
It was a while ago that Ohio State offered Michigan receivers Maliq Carr and Devell Washington, and though that pair has faded within its recruiting conversations, Sunday they both proved that they can be major weapons when the ball is in the air. Both are bigger outside receivers, but they ran in the 4.6-second range in the 40 and showed strength and above-average ball skills when their number was called.
Carr was named the wide receiver MVP, and I guess there’s not a lot of argument against it because his reps were solid and consistent. But if you wanted splash plays that made people in attendance turn their heads, the majority of those came by way of Muskegon’s Cameron Martinez, who visited Ohio State on Friday.
Martinez is not the biggest guy on the field, and when compared to Carr and Washington, it’s natural to assume they are the higher-ranked prospects. But there aren’t many football players in the country that are as good, pound-for-pound, as Martinez. He plays quarterback in high school and may very well play defense in college, but he looked very at home at receiver and could be deadly in the slot with his quick feet. A very natural pass-catcher, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound athlete uses his hands well and explodes in and out of breaks. I don’t know how long he’ll continue to be ranked as a 3-star prospect, but every day he does is one day too long.
Ohio State could find a tight end in Canada
The Buckeyes need two tight ends in the Class of 2020, and it’s unfortunate for them that there seems to be no chance that Akron Archbishop Hoban’s Caden Clark would make the flip from Alabama, where he’s been committed since last July. Clark, the younger brother of former Buckeyes quarterback commit Danny Clark, was clearly the top tight end in the camp and looks extremely athletic and comfortable at close to 6-foot-5 and 250-pounds. Clark was physical, imposing his will on the smaller defensive backs tasked with guarding him and winning any rep where the ball was thrown anywhere near him.
While Clark was the best tight end in attendance, Canada’s Theo Johnson was an eye-opener as well. He may not have had the natural gait of Clark, but Johnson acquitted himself nicely throughout the day and looks the part of a Big Ten tight end at 6-foot-5, 240-pounds. The Holy Names High School (Windsor) standout is a 4-star prospect ranked as the fifth-best tight end prospect in the Class of 2020 — and it was obvious why on Sunday.
Johnson camped at Ohio State last summer, has remained in contact with the Buckeyes and drove from The Opening to Columbus for a Monday visit with Ryan Day’s program. There’s a good chance that an offer is forthcoming here, and if my vote counts, it’s well-earned.
Deamonte Trayanum is a physical freak
I briefly mentioned Deamonte Trayanum when discussing his performance at running back. But after winning MVP of that position, Trayanum stuck around and worked out with the defensive backs as well, making him the one guy on the day doing double-duty.
A three-time state champion at Archbishop Hoban, Trayanum plays both ways in high school. And there’s no doubt that he’s a high-major prospect on offense or defense, because the work he’s put into his body since the end of his junior season has been paying off now that he’s absolutely ripped and checking in at 220 pounds.
Though he’s consistently said that he wants to play running back in college, Trayanum did make a slight concession on Sunday and said he’s willing to consider schools recruiting him on defense — if they’re talking to him about playing strong safety, not at linebacker. I think that actually bodes very well for Ohio State, because he’s a perfect candidate for the new “bullet” position if he’s open to it, and in previous weeks he wasn’t.