It's been a roller coaster of a recruiting season for Ohio State over the last few months, but even after a few high profile decommitments, most recently with four star QB/ATH Tristen Wallace leaving Ohio State for Oregon, the Buckeyes still have 17 commitments for the class of 2016, and sit with the top ranked class in the country, per the 247Sports Composite Team Rankings. The Buckeyes have have a tiny lead over LSU, who also currently has 17 commitments.
The Buckeyes are likely to finish with a class between 22-24 commitments, so there isn't a ton of room left for this year's group. Will that be enough for them to hold on to the national top spot? Where could this class land, nationally?
I'm pretty skeptical that Ohio State is going to finish with the best class in the country for this year. It's only December, so a lot can still change between now and signing day (and Ohio State has finished strong these last few classes), but there aren't that many more big names left where Ohio State is the favorite, or even a major contender. Some of the other big names on the list, like Alabama and LSU, could still add a few more blue chippers (four or five-stars), and depending on how coaching uncertainty shakes out, Florida State, Georgia or others could make big moves.
Right now, Ohio State has a 260.30 rating on 247Sports' Composite Team Rankings. At this point, a relatively reasonable assumption is that Ohio State adds Malik Harrison, Jahsen Wint, Binjamen Victor, Jordan Fuller and Tylin Oden, to bring them up to 22. That would give the Buckeyes another linebacker, secondary help, another true WR, and a QB in this class, leaving a spot for a defensive tackle should the miss on Antwuan Jackson or Rashard Lawrence. If Ohio State gets all of those recruits, they'd have a 273.31 rating. Even if Ohio State picked up another four star player, you're probably still looking at a class that finishes around 280.
That's still a very good recruiting class. After all, it would mean that Ohio State picked up two five star stud players for their defensive line, multiple bluechip wideouts who could contribute soon, an excellent running back, and more. It would almost certainly be the best class in the Big Ten. But it likely wouldn't be the best in the country. Last year, Alabama had a 311.08 ranking. Ohio State finished with a 279.54, which was seventh in the country.
Let's imagine what Ohio State might get if everything broke right. If Ohio State added Malik Harrison, Jahsen Wint, Binjamen Victor, Jordan Fuller, Dwayne Haskins and say, Antwuan Jackson, they'd have a 289.93 score with 23 commitments. That means a finished OSU class could crack the low 290s. That'd be an excellent class (and probably a little optimistic), but even that wouldn't historically be good enough for the top class, nationally.
The top class in 2014 (Alabama) recorded a 319.58 score. In 2013 (also Alabama) it was 319.48. Ohio State has come close before, but finding a way to crack 300 will be difficult unless either Ohio State is taking a bigger class than originally forecasted (which would mean some roster attrition is coming), or Ohio State becomes a big player in the recruitment of some big names where they aren't currently being discussed.
The good news is that the Buckeyes will almost certainly have the top class in the Big Ten once again, even though Michigan should also finish strong. The Wolverines could potentially add the top prospect in the country (Rashan Gary), as well as the top running back, former Ohio State commit Kareem Walker. Michigan already has 21 commitments in their 2016 class though, so unless some of their lower ranked commitments decommit (which is not impossible), they won't have the room to pass Ohio State, even if they also snag highly regarded WR Donnie Corley. If Ohio State misses on a few final big targets and Michigan hits on everybody, the two classes could finish very close to each other, but Ohio State is the heavy, heavy favorite to finish with the Big Ten's top class, an honor Ohio State has held every season since 2010.
So if nobody in the Big Ten can catch Ohio State, who will? The safe bets are probably the most boring ones, Alabama and LSU. While Ohio State is hotly pursing the top prospect in Louisiana, defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence, the best Louisiana prospects typically still go to LSU, and the Tigers are also heavily recruiting Lawrence. LSU is also the Crystal Ball favorite for two other big time local prospects, high four star Kristian Fulton, and Willie Allen. If the Tigers take care of business close to home, they'll have way more chances to pass the Buckeyes.
The Crimson Tide, of course, are also likely to finish strong. Greg Little, the number two prospect nationally, could end up with Alabama, and the nation's best inside linebacker, and top 20 prospect, Ben Davis, is also expected to sign with the Tide. It's possible that staff instability could shift a few kids to other SEC schools that might otherwise sign with Alabama, but there are still plenty of top 100 prospects that Alabama has a great shot to finish the class with.
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A ton can change between now and signing day, but I'd guess Ohio State finishes somewhere between third and sixth nationally this year, with Michigan close behind, and Penn State a little farther back from that. That's still pretty good.
The good news is that right now, Ohio State should have a very good chance at the top 2017 class, given that they've already locked down 10 blue chip players, including one of the five best in the country. Another top 10 player, WR Trevon Grimes, also loves Ohio State.
But for now, being in the top five-ish is still excellent, as long as the Buckeyes address all of their roster needs. After all, Ohio State didn't need a top ranked class to win a national title.