Stay in touch or be left out because Ohio State recruiting is a 24-hour, seven-day-per-week obsession. What’s the latest news as the Buckeyes build for the future? Get that and more Sunday through Thursday on Lettermen Row. Today we talk about Julian Fleming’s commitment date and update the recruitment of a pair of dynamic offensive weapons in the Class of 2020.
Julian Fleming announces commitment date
A decision is coming much earlier than expected for Julian Fleming, the country’s top-ranked wide receiver.
The Southern Columbia (Catawissa, Pa.) 5-star prospect announced on Friday night that he’s ready to make his college choice, a decision that to this point was expected to happen no earlier than summer’s end. Instead, Fleming will make his commitment on May 31.
May 31… pic.twitter.com/wOnPtFALcL
— 🃏0J4🃏 (@julian_040) May 10, 2019
Earlier this spring, Fleming announced a top-six schools list that included Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Penn State and Oregon. But the Ducks never received a visit, and now his choice comes down to a final five schools, each one that he’s visited multiple times in the course of his now two-year long recruitment.
Ohio State last hosted Fleming for a weekend in March, and he has suggested on multiple occasions that his best relationships on the recruiting trail are the ones with the Buckeyes, receivers coach Brian Hartline and head coach Ryan Day. He told Lettermen Row following that visit he was expecting to take his recruitment into the fall and had begun looking at an official visit date in Columbus during the season.
“Right now we’re setting up some official visits, trying to set them in stone,” Fleming said. “I’ll probably take an official visit to Ohio State for the Penn State game.”
Only one of those visits wound up happening so far. He went to Alabama in mid-April, and he also is expected to visit Georgia at the end of May. The question from here is whether or not that visit happens unless he’s picking Georgia. It seems unlikely he’d be heading to Athens on the same weekend he makes a college choice in the favor of another school.
The 247Sports.com crystal ball was still heavily slanted towards Penn State until Friday night, but Ohio State and Clemson have been considered the favorites in this recruitment for the last few months now. My pick has been on the Buckeyes since November, but we’ll know the final answer on May 31.
Jalen Berger on Ohio State visit, relationships with Buckeyes
Ohio State is looking for two running backs in 2020. And though we’ve not talked about him much, it’d be unwise to forget about Jalen Berger, the country’s ninth-ranked tailback and a player the Buckeyes offered way back in January of last year.
Berger visited Ohio State at the end of April and reconnected with running backs coach Tony Alford, a highlight of the visit according to the 6-foot, 190-pound, 4-star prospect.
“Coach Alford is great,” Berger said. “He understands my personality and I believe he gives good direction. I know he can coach me up.”
We talk a lot here about running backs like Kendall Milton and Bijan Robinson, but Berger’s been on the list for the Buckeyes longer than both. Somehow, though, he’s been the forgotten man. That was one reason this most recent trip to Ohio State was important for him and the coaching staff.
— Jalen Berger (@JalenBerger) April 26, 2019
“They really wanted to make sure I was interested in them, because they’re interested in me,” Berger said. “This was a great visit because I got to spend time with Coach Day and Coach Alford — and he got me to come out of my shell a little bit. We started drawing up plays, he wanted to know what I knew.
“I think because I’m not much of a talker they felt I’m wasn’t interested, but I think we cleared that up on this last visit. Coach Alford understands me a lot better now.”
Berger will narrow down his college choices before the start of his senior season and said it’s “safe” to assume that Ohio State will be on that list.
“I’m going to narrow it all down before the season starts,” he said. “I want to make it to an Ohio State game this season, but I don’t have any official visit plans yet. I know I want to go to Alabama, LSU and Oregon.”
Ohio State will host St. Louis receiver Mookie Cooper
On Thursday we did a little deeper dive into top receiver targets that remain for the Buckeyes ,but one name that was not discussed announced later that evening he’d be heading to Ohio State for his first visit to the school.
— Mookie Cooper (@uheardof5) May 10, 2019
That is 4-star athlete Mookie Cooper from Trinity Catholic (St. Louis), a former Texas commit who has been in contact with the Buckeyes for months but has seen his interaction with receivers coach Brian Hartline ramp up in recent weeks.
“Me and my pops are coming,” Cooper told Lettermen Row. “I think we’re going next Friday. I’ve been talking to Hartline a whole bunch. He was at my school about a week ago, and he will be back on Monday.”
Ohio State has offered Cooper, the country’s 12th-ranked receiver, and sees him as one of the natural fits to fill the H-back spot. He’s looking forward to making his first trip to see what the Buckeyes are all about in person.
“This will be my first visit,” Cooper said. “I’m looking to see what the coaches are like in person, to see the facilities and just get a feel of the atmosphere there.”
Those answers may seem cliche, but the way Cooper speaks of Hartline is anything but that — and he has become close with the second-year assistant with the Buckeyes quickly.
“If the school is full of a bunch of guys like Coach Hartline, I’m sure I would love it before even getting there,” he said “I hear from teammates and other guys that Ohio State is a fantastic place to be developed as a player and reach that next level. I’m close with [Ohio State defensive back] Cameron Brown, and we worked out a bit this offseason.
“Coach tells me when I come in there would be a spot open for the slot position and I have the chance to work myself to that spot. Coach Hartline came one week, tried to come again that same week but his flight got canceled, then rescheduled again to come to St. Louis to only see me. We talk nearly on a daily basis. When you have a coach that has been in the same position as you and has had success? You can trust their word.”
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