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, including tonight’s update on some of the names Ohio State could chase between now and February in the Class of 2019.
Breaking down Ohio State needs before February
In case you missed it, Ohio State signed 15 players to its football program. The group consists of a handful of stars from around the country, and coach Ryan Day met with the media to break that down on Wednesday afternoon.
“We’re very, very excited about all the players that we signed. I think this class would rank top-five nationally when grading the individual player, not cumulatively,” Day said. “When you look at the quality of the player — and obviously we’ll talk about the student-athlete, as well, how important it is — we think we’re as good as we’ve ever been.
” … [There are] 10 different states represented in the class, five from Ohio, two from Georgia, and then one from Florida, Tennessee, New Jersey, Maryland, Missouri, Texas, Indiana, North Carolina. The class includes players at nine different positions, four on offense, five on defense. Two players were voted Gatorade Player of the Year in their respective states, and five players helped their teams advance to the state title as seniors, and two of them won state championships.”
“Three players, Zach Harrison, Harry Miller and Garrett Wilson, were all finalists for the All-American Man of the Year Bowl down in Texas, and that award recognizes high standards in community service, education and athletic distinction.”
Overall, it was a very good early signing period for Ohio State, but there are definitely areas it will need to address before the February signing period arrives in six weeks. Three positions, specifically, stand out as needing attention. So today, rather than general recruiting updates, we’re going to try and explore a few options at those spots.
Quarterback. Offensive line. Defensive back. Let’s see what’s left. These are the only positions that, as of today, I believe are priorities for the Ohio State coaching staff to add.
What are the options at quarterback for Ohio State?
The biggest option for the Buckeyes at quarterback isn’t in the Class of 2019, but rather the country’s second-ranked prospect in the Class of 2018: Justin Fields, who is exploring transfer options from the University of Georgia.
If Fields does leave the Bulldogs after entering his name in the NCAA transfer portal, I absolutely believe there’s a very real and very good chance he ends up at Ohio State.
But if he doesn’t? Ohio State would then be looking at another top-tier transfer like Jalen Hurts from Alabama, Brandon Wimbush from Notre Dame or Jarren Williams from Miami. And if that doesn’t work, the Buckeyes would still need to add another quarterback to the roster — and at that point they’ll have to search and high and low to find one.
There aren’t likely to be many Ohio State-level options, though. And the Buckeyes aren’t in the business of offering players they don’t believe can play in Columbus.
“We want to make sure that we sign the right guys moving forward,” Day said. “Don’t just want to take a guy down the stretch just to say that we took a guy. This is Ohio State and we want to recruit the best players in the country. But that being said, we’re going to do a really good job of identifying who’s out there in January and evaluate them.”
Here are some of the country’s best quarterbacks that remain either uncommitted or unsigned.
- No. 5 Dual-Threat • Lance LeGendre • New Orleans • Louisiana
- A 6-foot-2, 205-pound dual-threat player, Legendre is a really talented young athlete but not a player that most colleges are viewing as a quarterback. That’s been holding him back along with a recent shoulder issue that required surgery. He remains uncommitted.
- No. 9 Dual-Threat • John Rhys Plumlee • Hattiesburg • Mississippi
- If the Buckeyes are going to take a quarterback from another school, it would be a little dose of sweet justice to steal one committed to Georgia. Rhys Plumlee is a 6-foot-1, 185-pound dual-sport star that is athletic enough to return kicks for Oak Grove High School. He could be a poor man’s Bo Nix and didn’t sign with Georgia because it wants him to wait to go on scholarship until August.
- No. 20 Dual-Threat • David Baldwin • Bradenton • Florida
- An IMG Academy prospect who originally is from Upland, Calif. where Urban Meyer first saw him. Baldwin actually camped at Ohio State in the summer of 2017, the same camp that first introduced the Buckeyes to now Georgia signee Dwan Mathis. He made a three-day visit to Ohio State, but there was no real traction or residual interest after that. Missouri and Indiana have received official visits. Utah, Arizona and others are interested.
- No. 23 Dual-Threat • Zamir Wise • Newark • New Jersey
- A 6-foot-3, 205-pound athlete, Wise didn’t sign with Rutgers where he been committed since Sept. 2017. Questions about his eventual position have been a major piece of his recruitment lately. Ohio State needs a sure bet at quarterback, and Wise probably isn’t that.
- No. 37 Pro-Style • Sam Saxton • Austin .• Texas
- The Buckeyes went to Austin to find their quarterback in 2018, and if they look hard enough maybe they could find one there again in 2019. Saxton is a 6-foot-5, 190-pound former Southern Miss commit who has an offer from Rutgers, Toledo and most of the Ivy League. His recruitment was slowed a bit because he played high school ball at three different schools
As I said, there are not a lot of real options at this position for the Buckeyes remaining at the high school level.
Ohio State needs Doug Nester and another offensive lineman
The offensive line is a major concern moving forward for Ohio State.
Keeping the 6-foot-6, 310-pound Nester committed and eventually signing him in February has to be Ohio State’s single biggest remaining recruiting goal as it heads into the holidays and before the January recruiting period restarts the clock before the next signing period. He’s not sure who will be his position coach, and that’s really slowed down Ohio State’s ability to convince him to stay committed.
If Nester stays with the Buckeyes, I think that could be all that they sign at the position. But I personally believe another lineman to run the total to four would be a good idea for Ohio State. The Buckeyes clearly wanted to add one more with the way they recruited Michigan State signee J.D. Duplain and Ole Miss signee Nick Broeker in the last two months.
With or without Nester, I think Ohio State needs a tackle in this class. Who are some options? Again, like the quarterback position, pickings are kind of slim at this point. There are a lot of kids who are much closer to multiyear projects than they are ready to contribute at Ohio State.
- No. 1 Offensive Tackle • Darnell Wright • Huntington • West Virginia
- Wright is uncommitted, unsigned — and he’s not going to Ohio State. It’s a Tennessee and Alabama battle unless Georgia sneaks into the mix, which is entirely possible because it is doing whatever it wants right now on the recruiting trail.
- No. 30 Offensive Tackle • Javonne Shepherd • Houston • Texas
- Shepherd is close friends and teammates with 2020 receiver Demond Demas, and he was expected to visit Ohio State when the 5-star receiver came to town in October. That didn’t happen, but neither did Shepherd signing this week. He’ll wait until February. Texas A&M is working hard to flip him, but maybe there’s an opening for Ohio State as well.
- No. 32 Offensive Tackle • Isaiah Hookfin • Sugar Land • Texas
- Another Texas prospect with an interesting story, Hookfin was supposed to sign Wednesday with Baylor but did not. Now it appears Texas is pushing hard for a signature before the end of the early signing period. If he decides to wait until February, he could get a look from Ohio State and a host of other programs.
- No. 33 Offensive Guard • Kamaar Bell • Moultrie • Georgia
- A major target for both Auburn and Florida, Bell is a 6-foot-3, 320-pound guard at Colquitt County High School, a program that is very well-known for its football. He is planning on official visits in January, and there may be time for Ohio State to try and sneak into his recruitment if a decision on an offensive line coach is made quickly. The Buckeyes have a very solid reputation in Georgia, and Bell has told Lettermen Row he’d “like to” hear from Ohio State.
- No. 45 Offensive Tackle • Danielson Ike • Kansas City • Missouri
- An intriguing prospect from Nigeria, Ike talked about his interest in Ohio State in early September but has not had much contact with the staff since. Michigan was interested but ran out of room, Oklahoma remains a possibility and Indiana is hoping to steal the 6-foot-6, 310-pound lineman in February.
- No. 61 Offensive Tackle • Jonathan Allen • Dayton • Ohio
- A big-bodied Ohioan, Jonathan Allen is a player Ohio State has evaluated in person a handful of times but hasn’t made a major push for yet. He’s three years away from being college ready, it seems, and that’s held the Buckeyes back. Will their need for depth overtake that reluctance?
- No. 87 Offensive Tackle • Dawand Jones • Indianapolis • Indiana
- Dawand Jones has become one of the country’s hottest prospects in December, adding major offers from Michigan, Ohio State, USC, Florida, Oregon and more. He’s a 6-foot-8, 360-pound behemoth who also plays basketball.
- No. 2 JUCO Offensive Tackle • Bamidele Olaseni • Garden City C.C. • London, England
- If the Buckeyes opt for a junior-college player, the 6-foot-8, 330-pound Olaseni may be the best option. He’s physically ready for college football and was offered by Ohio State in September. Auburn and Utah have received official visits to this point.
Ohio State needs a cornerback or two
After losing Jordan Battle to Alabama, the need for a cornerback or two became much greater for the Buckeyes. Battle had been their main target at the position for months, and now they’ve got about six weeks to try to replace him.
Here are some of the top remaining available defensive backs across America.
- No. 4 Cornerback • Tyrique Stevenson • Homestead • Florida
- It’s a long shot, but if Ohio State recruits the best in the country and Tyrique Stevenson fits that bill. The 4-star prospect is heavily linked to both Georgia and Miami, but the Buckeyes have remained a consistent threat in South Florida over the years and have a lot of playing time in the secondary to offer a player like this one. Georgia is saving a spot for Stevenson, but the Buckeyes have a lot to offer and a bevy of young Florida stars to help sell the idea.
- No. 7 Cornerback • Kaiir Elam • North Palm Beach • Florida
- Another of Florida’s best considering Georgia, Kaiir Elam had a good relationship with Urban Meyer thanks to the fact that his uncle, Matt, played at Florida. It appears the Gators are in the best spot now after Georgia’s Mel Tucker took the head coaching job at Colorado. Elam has gone radio silent, but the Palm Beach County defensive player of the year is an elite talent still worth pursuing and has only taken one official visit to this point.
- No. 18 Cornerback • Noa Pola-Gates • Gilbert • Arizona
- Pola-Gates is a player many people expected to sign with Alabama, but the Arizona standout is now down to just Arizona State, Nebraska and USC. Ohio State has made a lot of headway in Arizona in the last couple of recruiting cycles and a push here could draw some interest. But here’s the catch: a decision is expected on Jan. 19. The Buckeyes would need to move fast.
- No. 50 Cornerback • MJ Devonshire • Aliquippa • Pennsylvania
- A really talented kid from closer to Columbus, MJ Devonshire comes from the football hotbed of Aliquippa, Pa. He’s a very real option for Ohio State moving forward. There was some discussion about an official visit with the Buckeyes in November, but that didn’t happen. I’d expect the 3-star corner with offer from the Buckeyes to a much closer look in January.
- No. 51 Cornerback • Jay Ward • Moultrie • Georgia
- Ohio State offered Ward, a former Kentucky commit, in November. But to this point, the Buckeyes haven’t been able to gain much traction with him. But if they have their coaching staff set in early January, he’s worth going after. LSU is very high on him, and that’s where most people believe he’ll land at this point. Not many defensive backs end up in Baton Rouge unless they’ve got real upside.
- No. 53 Cornerback • Adonis Otey • Murfreesboro • Tennessee
- The Buckeyes are familiar with Murfreesboro and have recruited that part of Tennessee hard over the last few seasons. They offered the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Otey in the winter of 2018. He’s committed to Arkansas but did not sign this week because he wants to make official visits to confirm his decision. The Buckeyes are definitely a team he’d consider if they decided to look in his direction again.
It should be noted these names aren’t guaranteed to get interest from Ohio State. But this is my opinion on some of the best remaining options out there for Ohio State as it looks to add three or four more names to the Class of 2019.
Birm is Lettermen Row's Director of Recruiting and the site's primary Ohio State sports photographer. A Toledo, Ohio native, Jeremy has been in similar roles for elevenwarriors.com and Landof10.com and has been covering the Buckeyes for seven years.