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Ohio State October recruiting mailbag

You have questions, we have answers!

Zach Harrison
Mark Brennan-FOS/247

It’s a pretty wild time in Ohio State Buckeyes recruiting right now. With the early signing period just about two months away, Ohio State is in what feels like a bit of uncharted territory under Urban Meyer. For the first time under Urban, Ohio State is entering the final stretch of a recruiting class without a ton of answers about what the final class will look like, and what is at this point, a fairly underwhelming group, as the players are talented, but there are just 14 of them.

That means Ohio State has roughly 10 spots to fill between now and the true final signing day in February, though they’d like to be just about done by December. That scramble should, and will cause some chaos in the Ohio State recruiting world. With so many crucial targets left on the board, and several key positions left unfilled, there’s some real uncertainty around what the final form of this class will look like.

With that uncertainty comes a lot of questions, not just from the staff, but from Buckeye fans, who can sense that this class is a little bit different from others under Urban Meyer. Because there are plenty of questions out there, we decided that for this edition of State Secrets, we’d take your questions on Twitter, and give the best answers we can.

“Who do you think is gonna get David Bell?” - @rossmcbride13

Indianapolis receiver David Bell has been one of the more difficult recruits to get a read on in this cycle. Last year, it felt like he was a near lock to Ohio State, but their communication dropped off a bit, and the two seemed to move in different directions. With Zach Smith in charge of the receivers room, Bell just wasn’t a schematic fit, so it seemed like he’d be headed elsewhere.

Things changed when Smith was fired, and replaced by Brian Hartline. Hartline is much more of a receivers traditionalist than Smith was, and prefers guys that can run routes well and catch passes over the pure athletes we’ve seen sign with Ohio State in the past. Bell fits in that category, so we’ve seen the relationship between him and Ohio State pick up a bit recently.

That’s why, at this point, this is a tough recruitment to call. Bell is set to commit on Jan. 5. Between now and then, he has visits scheduled to Tennessee (unofficial), Purdue, Ohio State, Indiana and Iowa. He’s already taken an official visit to Penn State, and several unofficial visits to what seems to be his top five of Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Indiana and Iowa.

Those visits make things tricky, because a lot can change when a kid goes to see a school. He may see what he was waiting to see at any of those schools he’ll be travelling to, and if he does, that may be all that it takes to seal it. However, at this point, I think Purdue is in the lead, with Ohio State and Indiana close behind. If his visit to West Lafayette goes well, and Ohio State lands a couple targets they have higher on their board (Wandale Robinson, Elijah Higgins), he’ll probably end up at Purdue.

However, if Ohio State only lands Robinson, and misses on Higgins, which I expect right now, I think they’ll push harder for Bell than they would with Higgins in the class. I know that’s not a super definitive answer, but it’s really the best way to put it right now.

“Now that [Zach] Harrison seems to be trending away, who else does OSU go after?” - @zidaya

“Zach Harrison, friend or foe?” - @Sam_Blazer

I tied these two in together, so as to avoid repeating myself too much. Zach Harrison is a hot topic among Ohio State fans right now, and for good reason. He’s a supremely talented defensive lineman, which, after the news of Nick Bosa’s departure and with Chase Young and Jonathan Cooper both likely to leave after next season, is a position of need for the Buckeyes.

He’s also the hot topic right now because, well, it doesn’t seem like he’s going to end up in the Scarlet and Gray. He took a visit to Penn State on Sept. 29, and saw Michigan stomp Wisconsin last Saturday. Both of those were unofficial visits. Harrison hasn’t been to Ohio State since June for his official visit, and at this point, has not announced any visits to Ohio State. It’s fair to assume he will be on campus again, probably for the Michigan game in November, but at this point, things aren’t great for Ohio State. Michigan seems to lead for Harrison, and as long as they keep winning games, they’ll look like more and more of a viable option.

That isn’t to say Ohio State is out of it. I do think the Buckeyes still have a shot here, I just think Michigan is the leader right now, with Ohio State at number two and Penn State narrowly behind OSU at three.

If Harrison is to go to Michigan, Ohio State would likely need a new defensive end in this class, which brings me to @zidaya’s question. The best answer I can give you is that Ohio State doesn’t really have a great backup plan if they lose Harrison. I think Kentucky commit Cavon Butler flips sooner than later, but he’s more of a defensive tackle. They could try to get back in on Khris Bogle, but I think he’s just about locked up to Miami.

The most realistic answer is probably just that Ohio State moves Cade Stover to defensive end, and brings in Tommy Eichenberg to fill that linebacker spot. Conveniently, that brings me to the next question nicely.

“Any promising linebacker recruits? Haven’t heard of many since [Kane Patterson] decommitted” - @Bobby39602300

The only real answer here is the aforementioned Eichenberg. I think it’s only a matter of time before he flips from Boston College after picking up an Ohio State offer on Sept. 26. I think Craig Young will also probably end up at linebacker in this class, and Young, Eichenberg, possibly Cade Stover (could be defensive end) and possibly Steele Chambers (should be running back) is a pretty solid linebackers group.

If you’re looking for an awesome linebackers class, next year may be better for you. Ohio State is a serious contender for five-star Mekhail Sherman, and four-stars DeaMonte Traynum, Kevin Swint and Derek Wingo. At this point, I have Sherman, Traynum and Wingo all as very likely Buckeyes, as does Ohio State, so they may be holding off this class because they know what they have in 2020.

“Should we be worried about the OSU football 2019 recruiting class, not many commits so far? Is the OSU stock down?” - @24_kater

Should we be? Probably not. Teams have down recruiting classes, and the 2019 class as a whole (every recruit in the country, not Ohio State’s class specifically) is, admittedly, pretty bad. There’s some elite talent, but not a ton of it, and there’s little in the way of depth. It’s a strange year, and I think that’s the biggest thing causing Ohio State some trouble right now.

On top of that, it really doesn’t help that Ohio State spent a month basically unable to recruit because they didn’t know who their head coach was. Throw that in with almost every top recruit in the 2019 coming from either the southeast, Texas, or California, and Ohio State’s less than excellent class makes a bit more sense.

Ultimately, Ohio State is fine. They’ll finish with a top-10 class in 2019, and they may finish with a top-1 class in 2020 (it could be a historic class). I don’t think the OSU stock is down, because, ultimately, it’s Ohio State. There’s a national brand that protects Ohio State from ever really having “down” stock, and even if something like Meyer retiring this offseason happens, Ohio State will still be able to recruit. I don’t think there are any great reasons to worry at this point.

Is @JoeySmoke14 going to leave the basketball court and take his talents to the handball court? @OSUteamhandball - @J_Kracken_D

I was unaware that Joey was being recruited to join Ohio State’s handball team, but I would support his decision to do so. At this point, my sources are indicating that he’ll likely remain with the basketball team, barring any extreme changes.

“When is Urban going to recruit better defensive coaches?” - @JonMCorley

Right after Ohio State gives up 60 points to Alabama in the first round of the playoff.

“Does not recruiting Ohio guys except as last resorts undermine the ’OHIO’ ethos when they try to keep elite players [Zach Harrison] in-state?” - @Bevelle_Buckeye

This could probably be the thesis for an entire article (speaking of, we’re hiring!), but I’ll try my best to answer as concisely as possible.

The short answer, while it really can’t be objectively proven, is yes, Ohio State’s move away from recruiting Ohio consistently does hurt them with the elite players in the state. The impact can’t really be measured because it’s different for each player, but recruits are naturally more comfortable when a team recruiting them has players or recruits that they know already on board with the program. Ohio State’s commitment to being built on Ohio players under Jim Tressel was a huge part of what helped them lock down the best players in the state. There’s a certain pride that comes with a recruit playing for the team every top recruit from his state goes to.

Now, is the occasional loss of an elite Ohio recruit due in part to the lack of Ohio flavor on the team worth the benefits that come with recruiting nationally? Yeah, absolutely. Ohio State is more talented than ever, and that’s entirely because they’re more willing than ever to go out of state to land top recruits.

The risk with that is that if Ohio State is to switch head coaches in the near future (due to a retirement, not a firing, calm down), if whoever replaces Meyer isn’t as comfortable recruiting out of state, there could be some growing pains as that coach reestablishes relationships in the state. That’s not an issue right now, but it is something to watch.

“With Ohio State in a recruiting lull, are other Big Ten schools taking advantage?” - Geoff Hammersley in the LGHL Slack

Not really! Michigan may be able to snatch Zach Harrison, but outside of that, most teams in the Big Ten really don’t try to recruit on a level similar to Ohio State. Penn State and Ohio State aren’t in a ton of close battles this year, and there’s really no other team in the conference that recruits as nationally as Ohio State does.

Now, the other elite programs like Clemson, Alabama, and Georgia are absolutely taking advantage. We saw it with Kane Patterson, and a number of Ohio State targets went from being Buckeye leans in the summer to much more neutral, or even Bama/UGA/Clemson leans because of the lull Ohio State is in.