We're heading into the last weekend before National Signing Day. Yes, February 5th, the first day players can sign the binding National Letters of Intent, has snuck up on us pretty quickly.
Just a short week ago, I thought there was going to be little-to-no drama – good or bad – for the Buckeyes leading into signing day. What I forgot to take into account is that when you're a big program like Ohio State, there's always going to be something that transpires. Then in the span of a couple of days, news broke that longtime Buckeye commit Jamarco Jones would be taking an official visit to Michigan State, then two days later, we found out 247Sports composite five-star defensive end Malik McDowell would be taking his fifth and final official visit to Columbus this weekend. What's not to like about recruiting?
First, let's talk about Chicago (IL) De La Salle Institute offensive tackle Jamarco Jones. The 6'6, 290-pound offensive tackle decided he would make the trip to East Lansing this weekend to make sure Ohio State was the right school for him. Since the time the news broke, he has hosted Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio and MSU offensive line coach Mark Staten for an in-home visit, which took place Wednesday. Yesterday, Jones welcomed a trio of Ohio State coaches including the likes of offensive line coach Ed Warinner, defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr., and running backs coach Stan Drayton. I was able to catch up with his head coach, Mike Boehm, who told me the part of the visit he witnessed went really well. Shortly after the visit wrapped up, Jones broke his silence and told ESPN's Tom VanHaaren, that he would be following through with his trip to East Lansing as well.
Confirmed with Ohio State OL commit Jamarco Jones that he will visit Michigan State.— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) January 31, 2014
Obviously this news isn't good for the Buckeyes as I thought it was very important the Ohio State coaches stop his visit to Michigan State. I had maintained my pick of Ohio State for Jones all week, but with the visit seemingly set in stone, I'm leaning towards Michigan State in this race. By no means do I think the race for Jones' commitment is over. Rest assured the Ohio State coaching staff will fight like hell until the last possible minute to keep Jones a Buckeye.
I'll try to catch up with his coach again on Sunday night following Jones' trip to East Lansing, but right now I'm leaning towards picking Michigan State as the final landing spot for the standout offensive tackle.
In addition to keeping Jones' committed, Ohio State's other high priority prospect for the 2014 class is Detroit (MI) Southfield defensive end Malik McDowell, who is set to take an official visit to Columbus this weekend. The one thing that could stop the visit is Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, who's scheduled to have an in-home visit with McDowell and his family before he leaves for Columbus tomorrow. If that does happen (which I think is pretty doubtful, but never say never) the Buckeyes would be eliminated with Florida State, Michigan, and Michigan State being his final three schools. However, if Hoke is unable to convince McDowell to make the trip to Ann Arbor for his final official, I really like the Buckeyes' chances.
I'm sure everyone has heard his parents will play a big role in his college decision and apparently they really don't like Michigan State, especially his mom, who reportedly didn't even show up to Malik's in-home with the Spartans coaches (though I don't know if I'd rule out Sparty just yet). Then there's Florida State, who I know made a great impression on McDowell when he was in Tallahassee a couple of weeks ago, In fact, they might be the top competitors for the Buckeyes as long as he makes the trek to Columbus tomorrow. I think a dominate closer like Urban Meyer, Larry Johnson, and company have the ability to wow Malik, his mom, and dad this weekend and close this one out, thoufg.
I was also able to confirm that the St. Vincent-St. Mary duo of Dante Booker Jr. and Parris Campbell will be on campus. Athlete commit Malik Hooker will also be on campus this weekend making it at least three commits who will be visiting at the same time as McDowell.
I'll try to get some information together following the official, but right now this is one of the hardest remaining races to call in all of the 2014 class as we inch closer to National Signing Day.
Remember David Njoku? Who just a short week ago, many people, including myself thought he was the most likely to be a Buckeye of the remaining targets in the 2014 class? Well it doesn't look like that's happening, per Bill Kurelic of Bucknuts.com.
My takeaway from the news is that there's only one spot left in the class, which means the staff probably likes their chances at landing McDowell. Another theory I saw floated around by a couple of people it Ohio State might like their chances of winning a second appeal for Christian Bryant. Anyway, it appears the 6'4, 225-pound Njoku will be choosing between Connecticut, Miami, and Temple next week.
The Buckeyes also had a lot of coaches on the road yesterday checking in on a 2014 commit and a couple of top targets in the 2015 class.
First, Urban Meyer had his in-home visit with Norfolk (VA) Lake Taylor defensive end and Buckeye commit Jalyn Holmes. Ohio State wide receiver coach Zach Smith was also present for the visit. Holmes will enroll in classes at Ohio State in June.
Meyer was all over the place yesterday as he also stopped by to see Berea (KY) Madison Southern running back Damien Harris, who decommitted from Michigan a few weeks ago. I still think Michigan leads here, but the firing of Al Borges really hurt them; Ohio State definitely has a chance. Harris was on the phone with Meyer the day he officially decommitted from the Wolverines.
Hearing Urban Meyer popped in at Madison Southern to check on 2015 RB Damien Harris today.— Jeff Drummond (@JDrumUK) January 30, 2014
News that comes as absolutely no surprise is an Ohio State coach was in New Jersey for the third consecutive Thursday. This time it was cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs checking in on the St. Peters Prep duo of Brandon Wimbush and Minkah Fitzpatrick and also checking in on 2015 offensive guard/tackle prospect Steven Gonzalez.
I chatted briefly with Gonzalez who said everything went well and joked that the Ohio State staff was setting up tents outside of his school. Later, Penn State officially extended him a scholarship offer, and he said they were his number two school behind the Buckeyes.
Ohio State just came in for about the hundredth time? I lost count lol! #Buckeyes— Siete Cuatro (@StevenG511) January 30, 2014
It's official, Penn State just offered!! Just got the call from Coach V! They moved up to #2 on my list! #NittanyLions— Siete Cuatro (@StevenG511) January 30, 2014
Wednesday, the staff visited Memphis (TN) University School offensive tackle Drew Richmond and Brentwood (TN) Ravenwood wide receiver Van Jefferson. I exchanged a text which each of the Ohio State targets and here's what they had to say.
"It (the visit) was great, was really happy (to see them here)." – Van Jefferson
"It went good, but we didn't get to talk much because of the rules." – Drew Richmond
I currently think Ohio State leads for both Jefferson and Richmond, who are two of the top prospects in the state of Tennessee, but they will face stiff competition from the in-state Volunteers and a couple of other SEC schools in both races.
Instead of doing my picks to finish the the 2014 class this week, I invited a Land-Grant Holy Land cast of Luke Zimmermann, Charles Doss, and Adam Buckler to join me in making predictions for Ohio State's remaining targets in the class.
Adam: Ohio State
Charles: Ohio State
Luke: Michigan State
Miles: Michigan State
Adam: Ohio State
Charles: Ohio State
Luke: Ohio State
Miles: Ohio State
Adam: Florida State
Charles: Florida State
Luke: Florida State
Miles: Florida State
Luke: Connecticut or Temple
Adam: Virginia Tech
Charles: Virginia Tech
Luke: Virginia Tech
Miles: Florida State
- January 31st visitor(s): DE Malik McDowell, LB Dante Booker Jr., ATH Parris Campbell, ATH Malik Hooker
- February 5th, 2014: National Signing Day (Land-Grant Holy Land will have coverage all day)
- February 15th visitor(s): LB Ricky DeBerry
- March 21st visitor(s): TE Chris Clark
- The latest on Jamarco Jones' Michigan State trip, Ohio State in-home
- A closer look at new Ohio State president Michael Drake
- Check out Ohio State's 2014 alternate throwback uniforms
- Ohio State recruiting: State Secrets, 1/30 - Coaches hit the road, Russell to McDonald's game
- Ohio State recruiting roundup: National Signing Day look ahead