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How does Ohio State capitalize on an already impressive 2020 class?

Can the Buckeyes land another elite prospect or two?

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Ohio State vs Wisconsin Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Now that early signing day is completed and in the books, Ohio State is back to having their full focus set on playing Clemson in the semifinal Fiesta Bowl in just over a week. The ability to get back to work prepping for the biggest game of the season to this point has to appeal to Ryan Day and his staff. As he’s already mentioned, with recruiting, awards shows and more, it’s been nothing short of crazy. For the Buckeyes though, recruiting really never takes a back seat to anything.

While the coaching staff is rightfully planning and scheming for the Tigers, Mark Pantoni and crew have the rest of the deal locked up. Whether it’s the finishing touches on the 2020 class or looking to the 2021 class and beyond, Ohio State’s position looks to be rather simple in nature. No days off and building relationships all over the country is a non-stop job for this program, and it’s the reason they’re playing in the College Football Playoff.

The lone flip

Wednesday’s was a huge success to say the least. The one drawback from an incredible class, however, was the “flip” announcement from their once highest-rated defensive prospect in the class Clark Phillips III. The No. 4 cornerback in the 2020 class would have been a gem for the Buckeyes, but after the news of Jeff Hafley leaving for Boston College, that was all she wrote for Phillips joining Ohio State.

It stings for sure with Ohio State’s secondary sure to see two seniors leave and two underclassmen “likely” to declare for the NFL Draft. Leaving early has become part of the norm at OSU for defensive backs. There will be holes to fill, and while the roster has guys ready to step up, depth is a huge asset to have at any position, and losing Clark obviously wasn’t in the plans.

Now what?

Where Ohio State can go from here is the main question. Yes, the Buckeyes have signed two very solid cornerbacks in the class with the likes of Ryan Watts and Lejond Cavazos, but three was the plan if it weren’t for the flip. The tricky and interesting aspects here are where Ohio State could look this late in the process. The best talent in the country for the most part is already signed, and it is likely too late for the Buckeyes to begin forming relationships with those who are not. Reaching on a lower ranked prospect can pan out on occasion, but this late into things it may not be worth a risk.

Looking ahead to 2021, cornerback is a position Ohio State likely looks for out of state. Under Ryan Day, keeping the best in-state talent at home for their college years is a huge priority, but the upcoming talent at that position isn’t looking all too great at this point in time. Traditionally speaking as well, the Buckeyes usually do utilize a national approach when it comes to defensive backs anyway.

A name to watch closely though is Missouri native, Jakailin Johnson (St. Louis, Missouri/DeSmet). A 6-foot, 170-pound corner, Johnson is the top ranked prospect in Missouri in the 2021 class and the No. 5 CB nationally according to 247sports. An absolute stud already, Johnson boasts over 20 offers from some of the top programs around the country, and the Buckeyes are no stranger to him. Currently, Ohio State is the only school to hold crystal ball predictions in their favor, and while it’s still early, the Buckeyes will want to put on the full-court press to bring this guy to Columbus.

Fortunately, Ryan Day and company can show Johnson their track record with producing NFL-caliber defensive backs better than any other program in the nation as they look to lure another elite talent to DBU. This is one target Ohio State wants, and it appears will have a solid chance at landing if they can keep their momentum going. When it comes to recruiting, that shouldn’t be much of a problem for the Scarlet and Gray.

Quick Hits:

  • A testament to how incredible the 2020 and 2021 recruiting classes are, eight Buckeyes either signed or committed in the two cycles were selected to the USA Today High School All-USA Team. Receiving the honors were Paris Johnson Jr., Luke Wypler, Julian Fleming, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Gee Scott Jr., Cody Simon, Jack Sawyer, and Reid Carrico.