COLUMBUS — The early signing period is over for Ohio State and the dust has settled on the nation’s third-ranked recruiting class.
The class has 24 signees and includes players from 13 different states. It’s a group full of young men who have worked tirelessly to put themselves into a position that could set them up for a lifetime of fame and success, on or off the football field.
Recruiting is serious business, and while we never want to lose focus on the details on the daily grind, sometimes it’s wise to take a step back and take a deep breath …
While looking into the future!
Yes, that’s right, Lettermen Row is taking a deep-dive into the 2020 signing class (so far) and sorting out the particulars of this group and forecasting how all their successes will unfold.
Football is all about fundamentals. But this is just about fun. Let’s take a look at the Ohio State 2020 class superlatives.
Most likely to become an Ohio State captain: Kourt Williams
The point of this column was for me to give my opinions on these very important matters. But in this instance, I’ll defer to Ohio State coach Ryan Day.
“I’ll be surprised if he’s not a captain when he’s here,” Day said of the 4-star athlete from St. John’s Bosco in California. “I’ve said that to [him] and his parents a million times. They’re probably tired of hearing me say that. [He is] a state champ in California, which is not easy to do. He comes from a great program, same program as Wyatt Davis, and the coaches at Bosco do an unbelievable job.
Most Valuable Peer-to-Peer Recruiters: Paris Johnson, Lejond Cavazos
This award was a toss-up between two long-time Buckeyes verbals who were instrumental in helping maintain the 2020 class in its early tenuous days following Urban Meyer’s retirement. They also helped bolster it through aggressive recruiting of fellow prospects.
Despite their obvious affection for the Buckeyes, this wasn’t always an easy thing to do for Paris Johnson and Lejond Cavazos.
“Paris Johnson, the No. 1 tackle in America, he’s been with us all along,” Ryan Day said Wednesday. “He helped us in recruiting. He and his mom Monica were a huge part of this thing. I owe them everything because they’ve kind of kept this thing together for us. They’ve been a huge part of it, and he’s going to have an unbelievable career here.”
Cavazos received similar praise.
“With Lejond, he kind of went through that same process,” Day said. “He did decommit and then decided he wanted to be a Buckeye, and then what his dad did, CJ, too, to help us with this thing was unbelievable. He knows football and he’s got a great way around these young men, and he helped us a lot, as well. Both of those guys really mean a lot to me.”
Most likely to play early for Ohio State: Ryan Watts
This honor is a bit harder to choose. But as the Buckeyes defensive backfield is examined, it seems pretty clear that someone is going to be tasked with contributing early in the secondary. As an early enrollee, the edge goes to Watts.
He gets the nod here over fellow early-enrollee and fellow cornerback Lejond Cavazos because Watts has been playing cornerback a bit longer, though the IMG product will be a very interesting prospect to watch develop. He’s an athletic freak, and that goes a long way when it comes to popping as a freshman.
Position group most likely to end up on a T-shirt: Wide Receiver
This is a no-brainer as the country’s best single-position haul is coming to Ohio State and and will be playing soon. All four of the Buckeyes top-15 ranked receivers are enrolling early, and with just two proven commodities ahead of this group on the depth chart, there’s a major opportunity for impact next season for Julian Fleming, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Gee Scott and Mookie Cooper.
Homage makes a pretty awesome t-shirt that features a trio of Buckeyes linebackers from the early part of this century, and there’s certainly a chance this wide receiver group becomes shirt-worthy, even without a shared hairstyle.
Biggest head-to-head recruiting win: Julian Fleming
Of all the possibilities for this superlative, none come close to the obvious choice of Julian Fleming.
Ohio State ultimately had to beat to Clemson for the country’s top-ranked receiver. But along the way, there were a handful of mini-battles with Georgia, Alabama and, of course, Penn State. The Nittany Lions maintained a veiled optimism almost all the way through signing day that eventually they could flip the 6-foot-2, 210-pound wideout who grew up just an hour from their campus.
Consider this recruitment like an old, platform-style video game. Brian Hartline and Ohio State had to run through level-after-level, defeating a series of bosses before slaying the final dragon.
Most likely to become President of the United States: Cody Simon
The potential primary battle between Cody Simon and Kourt Williams would be very interesting. But if these young linebackers decided to team up, there’d be no limit to what they could achieve.
Simon is incredibly intelligent, thoughtful and precise with his words and actions. There aren’t many wasted moments in his future, and his football career at Ohio State will be just one of the many big things he accomplishes.
Biggest sleeper in Ohio State 2020 class: Mitchell Melton
Much like Malik Harrison was in the Class of 2015, I really think that Olney (Md.) Good Counsel linebacker Mitchell Melton is being overlooked in this recruiting class. Maybe it’s the fact that some people believe he’ll end up playing on the defensive line or maybe it’s the fact that he’s a 3-star prospect. But Melton’s athleticism is being undersold, and I believe he’s going to surprise some people.
He’s worked hard to change his body in the last few months, slimming down and gaining more explosiveness. And when he arrives at Ohio State he’ll get the chance to polish his talents and without the pressure of being forced to play early. Al Washington and a veteran linebacker group will bring the best out of Mitchell Melton, and I think he’ll be a multiyear starter at Ohio State.
Receiver most likely to go off on Michigan as a freshman: Jaxon Smith-Njigba
As Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson have done the past two seasons, one of the four Ohio State freshman wide receivers will be counted on as an X-factor against Michigan next season. Jaxon Smith-Njgiba seems right for that role.
Smith-Njigba, the country’s third-ranked receiver prospect, has a knack for showing up in big games. There’s none bigger than that one. The Wolverines will have their hands full with Olave and Wilson, and that means matchup challenges will abound for the young, talented group of Buckeyes freshmen. And though Julian Fleming, Gee Scott or Mookie Cooper could just as easily get tabbed for this one, there’s just something about the way Smith-Njigba prepares and attacks that seems to line up here.