It had been a quiet last few weeks on the Ohio State recruiting front, which is to be expected when space is at such a premium for the 2017 class. But the first domino in what could be many just fell, as the top dual-threat QB in the country, Tate Martell, committed to Ohio State, giving the Buckeyes 14 commitments for 2017.
Martell brings a shot of electricity to the Ohio State QB room, and helps establish even more depth there over the next few years. He also helps answer one of the big questions about this recruiting class, namely, who the lead QB commitment was going to be. But the big questions haven't stopped with Martell in the fold. Here are some of the other big questions to follow in June, and as we lead into National Signing Day. Just because the Buckeyes have the top ranked class at the moment, after all, doesn't mean this cycle won't lack drama and intrigue.
So what happens to Danny Clark now?
Martell's commitment is exciting, but the Buckeyes already had a QB commitment for the class of 2017. In fact, they’ve had one for ages. Four-star QB Danny Clark has been a Buckeye commit since his freshman year, and he's got the massive Block O tattoo to prove it.
Clark is a very different player from Martell. He’s more similar to a Joe Burrow or Dwayne Haskins, in that he’s more of a pocket passer than dual-threat prospect. The shine around his recruitment has also fallen off a bit over the last year or so, so he isn’t as highly regarded as other recruits (although he's still a four-star player).
Space is very tight in this recruiting class. So tight, that I've previously argued that maybe Ohio State doesn't actually need two quarterbacks. So do they keep Clark, as a hedge against a possible Burrow/Haskins/Martell transfer? Do they let him go, even though he’s been committed for years, and is still good enough to play at Ohio State? Is he offered a grayshirt? All signs indicate Clark legitimately wanting to play at Ohio State, but he’ll almost certainly have a clearer path to playing time elsewhere. We’ll see what happens.
How many wideouts does Ohio State grab, and which ones?
The Buckeyes are after many of the very best wideout prospects in the country, and figure to take more than one. But which ones, and how many, remains a bit of a question.
Perhaps the safest bet is from Tyjon Lindsey, the fifth best wideout prospect in the country, and a five-star. Lindsey plays prep football in California, but was a former teammate for Martell’s at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, and the two remain close. Ohio State was already at or near the top of his list, and with Martell in the fold, the Buckeyes are now heavy favorites for one of the fastest slot recruits in the country. Lindsey has said he’ll announce in late August, and anything can change in recruiting, but Ohio State feels good about their chances.
The other safe bet is with Trevon Grimes, the fourth ranked wideout in the country, and another five-star prospect. The 6’2 speedster from Buckeye pipeline St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida projects as more of an outside threat, and has had the Buckeyes near the top of his board for months. He’s likely to take another trip to Columbus soon, and when he does, a commitment could be imminent. These two are highly likely to pick Ohio State, but they might not be the only targets.
Ohio State is also in the thick of things for the top rated wideout, Donovan Peoples-Jones, out of Detroit. Basically every big name is in the hunt for this commitment, including Michigan, but Ohio State would move heaven and earth to take him, even if they’ve already accepted commitments from Grimes and Lindsey. Ohio State is more of an underdog in this race, but with Martell in the fold, the Buckeyes can’t be counted out. If they can take all three, they would.
But what if Ohio State misses on one of those three, or finds themselves with some extra room? Cleveland Heights wideout Jaylen Harris could be the beneficiary. The Buckeyes would seldom let a talent like Harris get away, but space could be so tight that it’s possible he’s on the outside looking in.
Do the Buckeyes take two wideouts? Three? It might all come down to room.
Does anybody leave the boat?
The Buckeyes currently have 14 commitments, and the majority of them appear likely to stick. The Buckeyes haven’t lost too many commitments from players they actively wanted to keep under Urban Meyer, although that does happen. But don’t expect everybody on this list to remain with Ohio State come National Signing Day.
Running back commit Todd Sibley, for example, has been asked to grayshirt. While it’s possible he takes Ohio State’s offer, it seems far more likely he’d accept a standard scholarship offer elsewhere, especially since he’s a four-star kid with lots of Power 5 interest. It seems probable he ends up elsewhere.
Kicker Blake Haubeil, could also be asked to grayshirt, like other recent Ohio State specialist commitments, to make room in a crowded class (Haubeil is still wildly expected to join Ohio State). Five-star defensive back Shaun Wade is being heavily recruited by Alabama and other southern powers, and maybe reporters think he’ll end up in the SEC by the time everything is done. Danny Clark, of course, could also end up elsewhere.
Everybody current committed is a very good player. But the Buckeyes are in the market for many more elite players, and how many they can take may depend on who decides to stick with this recruiting class.
Where is the roster attrition going to come from?
Ohio State has taken 25+ recruits over the last few recruiting classes, but don’t look for that to be the case this year, as they simply don’t have the roster room. In fact, Ohio State is essentially full now, but given that most still expect them to take between 18-21 recruits, some additional roster attrition is expected.
The question is, where, and what kind? There are a few medical cases that might come to light this offseason, and the Buckeyes have over-recruited at a few position groups (like offensive line, or wide receiver), and a player who realizes that playing time is now even more unlikely could decide to leave. Players could also get in trouble with the law or with team rules, and they might have an even shorter leash now.
We don’t know which players on the team will end up going elsewhere by next year, but it’s a safe bet that next year's roster will have many new faces. How many, and which ones, will dictate the rest of Ohio State’s recruiting priorities for this class.
These are good problems to have, all things considered. Even if the 2017 recruiting class is small, barring an unforeseen disaster, it should be an elite class, even by Ohio State standards, perhaps rivaling the now legendary 2013 recruiting class.
How will they eventually get there? That remains to be seen.