June 2019 will be the most important month for football recruiting in Ohio State's long and storied history. Yes, that sounds like a lot of hyperbole, but some month has to be the most important, so why not June of 2019?
Recruiting in general has become more important in recent years, and much more difficult for football programs to navigate, with early signing, early enrollment, early departures for the NFL, grad transfers, the transfer portal, camps, combines, all-star games, and social media all complicating a process that was none too simple to begin with. However, the the biggest impact on teams - by far - has been the shift from local recruiting to national recruiting. It is no longer good enough for a college staff, in its never-ending quest for talent, to build relationships with players and coaches in its home state alone. Nowadays, the recruiting trail extends across the entire country, and the successful staffs have to build those relationships every step of the way. Because if they don't, someone else will. And when blue chip prospects are at stake, you can't let someone else have the advantage through your own inaction.
As recently as the Tressel era, Ohio State signed 60.4% (134 of 222) of its recruits from Ohio, and 73.4% (163 of 222) from Ohio plus the surrounding states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, and the province of Ontario. In an effort to bring in top talent from around the country, Urban Meyer turned those numbers on their heads. Under Meyer, only 39.2% (73 of 186) of recruits came from Ohio; 47.8% (89 of 186) from Ohio plus the surrounding states; and a majority - 52.2% (97 of 186) from outside of the region, including places as remote as West Roxbury, Massachusetts; Tarboro, North Carolina; Pendleton, South Carolina; North Little Rock, Arkansas; La Grange, Texas; Owasso, Oklahoma; Windsor, Colorado; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Pocatello, Idaho; and Kahuku, Hawaii (although Ryan Day gets most of the credit for the last one). Meyer's national recruiting strategy clearly worked, as his teams went 86-9 (.905 winning percentage), with a record of 8-3 in postseason play, 3 Big Ten titles, and the 2014 national championship.
While no Ohio State head coach will ever overlook the talent-rich Buckeye State, it's clear that the path to success on a national level requires one to recruit national talent. And to successfully recruit national talent, one has to compete (and beat) other national powers on the recruiting trail, top-tier programs such as Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Louisiana State, and a suddenly resurgent Oregon. Blue chip prospects seem more willing than ever to travel across the country to play college football, and as a result the competition to sign those prospects is more intense than ever. Ryan Day is continuing to push for those blue chippers to come to Columbus, Ohio. The question is this: Will he be successful?
The potentially epic month of June 2019 actually kicks off a day early, when the top national wide receiver prospect announces his college choice. Julian Fleming (Cataswissa PA Southern Columbia; #1 WR, #6 overall) is generally expected to select Ohio State over Penn State, the local favorite, and Clemson, who has been absolutely killing it on the recruiting trail recently. Ohio State recruiting has been in the doldrums for much of the year, and adding a consensus five-star talent to the class of 2020 would give the Buckeyes a much-needed boost of momentum to kick off the month of June.
While 5-star wide receiver Julian Fleming will be making his commitment, 5-star running back Kendall Milton (Clovis CA Buchanan, #3 RB, #21 overall) will be on Ohio State's campus for an official visit (following up a very positive unofficial visit on April 5th). With J.K. Dobbins entering his (presumably) final season, and with no heir apparent, Milton could quickly move up the Buckeyes' depth chart as a true freshman. Ohio State gets Milton's first official visit, and the staff will try to lock him up and shut down his recruitment before he leaves Columbus. If Milton does not issue a quick commitment to Ohio State, then look for him to make official visits to Alabama, Louisiana State, and Georgia.
Corey Wren (New Orleans LA John Curtis, #57 ATH, #790 overall) is an undersized (5-foot-9, 170 lbs) sleeper prospect with blazing speed (10.4 in the 100 meters). The Buckeyes recently extended Wren a conditional offer that could be firmed up based on his performance at Ohio State's camp on June 6th. If Wren makes the trip and balls out, then look for Ohio State to pursue him as an H-back/slot receiver or possibly a defensive back.
The recruiting intensity really picks up during the weekend of June 14th, when at least four top prospects will be making official visits to Ohio State. Five-star Bijan Robinson (Tucson AZ Salpointe Catholic, #5 RB, #25 overall) is the Buckeyes' other top choice at running back. It looks like the staff favors Milton ever so slightly, but Robison is definitely #1B on their list. UCLA looks like the main competition in this recruiting battle.
Also scheduled to visit that weekend are offensive lineman Reece Atteberry (Aurora CO Eaglecrest, #7 OC, #392 overall), linebacker Mitchell Melton (Olney MD Good Counsel, #46 OLB, #609 overall), and safety William Mohan (Brooklyn NY Erasmus Hall, #27 ATH, #406 overall). Although Atteberry, Melton, and Mohan are not your typical blue chip prospects (they are all 3-stars according to the 247 Composite rankings), each has a nice offer list (Notre Dame will be stiff competition for Atteberry and Melton, while Michigan currently leads for Mohan), and they all play positions of need for Ohio State.
The fifth possible official visitor for June 14th is defensive lineman Jacolbe Cowan (Charlotte NC Providence Day, #14 DT, #153 overall), whom the Buckeyes have been chasing for well over a year. If this visit happens, then look for Ohio State to be solidly in the mix for Cowan's services.
DeaMonte Trayanum (Akron OH Hoban, #24 RB, #317 overall) is the top running back prospect in Ohio, but he would clearly be RB2 to either Kendall Milton or Bijan Robinson. Moreover, Trayanum might actually be a better linebacker prospect at the college level. Trayanum makes a rare midweek official visit to Ohio State June 17th to June 19th, probably so that he can have more one-on-one time with a coaching staff that seems undecided on how to make best use of his football skills. If Trayanum hears the rights things during his visit, then look for him to be a Buckeye soon thereafter. Trayanum has already made an official visit to Arizona State (May 17th), and he is scheduled to make trips to Wisconsin (June 7th) and Penn State (June 21st).
Friday Night Lights will take place on June 21st, and no less than fourteen top prospects have already scheduled official visits for that weekend. First on the list is yet another blue chip running back prospect, Sam Adams II (Sammamish WA Eastside Catholic, #16 RB, #174 overall), a high school teammate of current Buckeye verbal, wide receiver Gee Scott, Jr. (Sammamish WA Eastside Catholic, #14 WR, #77 overall), who is also scheduled to attend FNL (possibly on his official visit). Adams is a burner (4.34 forty at The Opening on May 11th), so he would be a nice compliment to a power back like Kendall Milton.... Back to reality for a moment - home town Washington has a substantial lead here.
Ohio State will also be hosting four offensive line prospects for FNL, the most important of which is Paris Johnson, Jr. (Cincinnati OH Princeton, #1 OT, #7 overall), a current Buckeye verbal who is still looking around. Ryan Day's number one recruiting chore is to lock up Johnson during his official visit - no more flirting around with other schools. The top uncommitted OL prospect to visit that weekend would be Michael Carmody (Mars PA Area, #12 OT, #126 overall), who was leaning Ohio State's way until Notre Dame came through with an offer. Carmody's brother plays for the Fighting Irish basketball team, so Ohio State definitely has an uphill battle with him. A talented prospect who has been flying under Ohio State's radar is Chris Morris (Memphis TN Central, #3 OG, #79 overall). While Morris would seem to be a real reach for a northern school, he has apparently struck up a friendship with Paris Johnson, Jr., and such friendships can sometimes go a long way in recruiting. The final offensive lineman to visit for FNL is Josh Fryar (Beech Grove IN Beech Grove, #5 OC, #368 overall), who looks to be competing with Reece Atteberry (official visit June 14th; see above) for the offensive center spot in this class. Believe it or not, Oregon might be the school to beat.
The top uncommitted in-state prospects are defensive linemen Darrion Henry (Cincinnati OH Princeton, #11 DT, #106 overall) and Jaheim Thomas (Cincinnati OH Princeton, #20 OLB, #272 overall), who are teammates and close friends with the aforementioned Paris Johnson, Jr. Both Henry and Thomas will be visiting Ohio State for FNL, Henry as an official visitor, Thomas as a participant (by NCAA rule, he cannot make an official visit and also participate in the camp). Each is heavily favored to the Buckeyes, and it would not be surprising for one or both of them to issue commitments to Ohio State at or shortly after the weekend's festivities.
Another defensive lineman scheduled to make an official visit for FNL is Kedrick Bingley-Jones (Charlotte NC Providence Day, #15 DT, #155 overall), a high school teammate of Jacolbe Cowan (tentatively visiting on June 14th; see above). Bingley-Jones originally committed to Florida, then re-opened his recruitment so that he could check out schools like Ohio State. If the Buckeyes are going to make a good impression with him, then they will have to do so quickly, as Bingley-Jones has already set August 3rd as his new commitment date.
Kourt Williams II (Bellflower CA John Bosco, #23 OLB, #312 overall) and Cody Simon (Jersey City NJ St. Peters, #13 OLB, #184 overall) are two of the Buckeyes' top linebacker targets, and both are scheduled to make their official visits to Ohio State during the weekend of June 21st. At this point, Williams should be considered a Buckeye lean, while Simon is heavily favored to Notre Dame. Both would fit in nicely in the Buckeyes revamped defense, at the newly-created "bullet" (hybrid LB-DB) position.
Ohio State is set to host a pair of safety prospects for Friday Night Lights, Lathan Ransom (Tucson AZ Salpointe Catholic, #4 safety, #64 overall) and Makari Paige (West Bloomfield MI West Bloomfield, #20 safety, #239 overall). Ransom appears to be the staff's top safety target, and Ohio State should be a serious contender for his services. Ransom has already made official visits to Oklahoma (April 12th) and Louisiana State (April 26th), and he also has an official visit planned for Notre Dame (June 8th). Ransom's official visit to Ohio State will be one to watch closely, as it will likely make or break the Buckeyes' chances. Paige has been flying under the radar recently, and he hasn't published any list of favorites yet. However, Ohio State will get his first official visit, so that should tell you something about his interest level in the Buckeyes (as well as the Buckeyes' interest level in him). Michigan is presumed to be the top competition, and Penn State should be in the mix as well, but a good visit to Ohio State could end his recruitment early.
With all of the top talent coming to campus in June, the most important visitor might be Clark Phillips III (La Habra CA La Habra, #4 CB, #46 overall). The Buckeyes failed to land a cornerback in the class of 2019, and they have already struck out on most of their top targets for the class of 2020. Landing Phillips, a borderline 5-star prospect, would fill a huge hole in this class (and make most Buckeye fans feel a whole lot better about the staff' defensive recruiting in general). The Buckeyes' biggest challenger will be Notre Dame, with Oregon and Cal also heavily in the mix. However, if everything goes well on his official visit to Columbus, then this recruiting battle could be over before it ever really started.
The final official visitor for FNL (as of today) is Cameron Martinez (Muskegon MI Muskegon, #22 ATH, #375 overall), a high school quarterback who projects as an H-back or slot receiver or defensive back at the college level. Although Muskegon is generally all blue, Martinez seems to be favoring Ohio State over Michigan, and a solid visit to Columbus could seal the deal for the Buckeyes.
In addition to the official visitors mentioned above, Friday Night Lights will attract numerous other prospects, both seniors and underclassmen, as participants and spectators. As of today, two highly-ranked juniors will be attending FNL, wide receiver Lorenzo Styles, Jr. (Pickerington OH Central) and running back Donovan Edwards (West Bloomfield MI West Bloomfield).
So the month of June 2019 will be huge for Ohio State recruiting, maybe the hugest month ever. There will be at least two dozen blue chip recruits on campus during June, so the month will be huge for that reason alone. More importantly, June will give new head coach Ryan Day his first real chance to score some victories on the recruiting trail, and if he does so then that success will be even huger in the long run.
To date, Day can be credited with keeping the class of 2019 largely intact after the departure of Urban Meyer; solidifying 2019's top in-state prospect, Zachary Harrison, to Ohio State; securing highly-rated quarterback Justin Fields as a transfer; and landing a surprise last-minute commitment from 2019 Hawaiian offensive lineman Enokk Vimahi. So far in 2020, Day and his staff have been treading water, keeping the core recruits committed, cutting loose a couple of borderline prospects, and landing a pair of in-state offensive linemen who can variously be described as sleepers or projects or suspects depending on your point of view. June is when Ryan Day will make a name for himself, when he will shine as a recruiter, when he will land his signature prospects, when he will lock up a top-five recruiting class, when he will prove himself every bit the equal of his predecessor on the recruiting trail. Or not. So grab your popcorn and keep a close watch on Buckeye recruiting next month - there will some good, some bad, and some ugly, but it will be quite a show to see.
NOTE: All recruit rankings are 247 Composite, current as of 30 May 2019.
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