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Buckeyes stay busy on the trail visiting top targets, offering new ones

Ohio State’s staff is making key visits in both the 2022 and 2023 class in addition to offering new prospects

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It looks to be like the busiest recruiting week of the year all of the sudden, as each day the Ohio State staff has been all over the country in pursuit of players in both the current 2022 class as well as next year’s 2023 cycle. Whether it be new offers, commitments, or even in-home visits, this staff is relentless this week, and Thursday may have been the busiest day yet. Let’s jump right into the latest happenings surrounding the Buckeyes’ football recruiting efforts.

One of the most important visits

The Buckeyes seriously need help at the safety position. Yes, there are young guys currently on the roster who can step up and yes, Josh Proctor will return next year after his season-ending injury earlier this year, but the fact still remains. Ohio State needs that elite eraser on the back end of their secondary. They didn’t have that this fall and it showed. The Buckeyes will be looking for a major improvement in that area in 2022, and will need that to happen if they expect to fix some of their defensive issues.

In the 2022 class, the Buckeyes — knowing how badly they need safety help — have gone after two individuals about as hard as they could have. Both Xavier Nwankpa, the nation’s fifth best safety and 42nd player overall, and Zion Branch, the sixth best safety and 43rd player nationally, have long been their most coveted targets from the start. As they approach the end of this cycle, it’s not looking as great as it once did in terms of being able to bring in both players as major additions to the class.

The Lincoln Riley sweepstakes to USC has seemingly given every nod to the Trojans landing Brnach in the 2022 class, and Iowa has become a real thorn in the side of the Buckeyes for Nwankpa with Notre Dame of course still in the running. Regardless of what is and what could happen, the Buckeyes aren’t going to back down in either recruitment knowing what these two players bring to the table. It’s going to be a very interesting couple of weeks, but Ohio State shouldn’t be doubted when it comes to their success in recruiting.

On Thursday, Nwankpa took to Twitter to share a photo from the in-home visit he had with Ohio State on Wednesday evening. With both Ryan Day and Matt Barnes in attendance, the Buckeyes are making their last in-person efforts before Nwankpa announces his commitment next week on Dec. 8. Having Ryan Day there should further prove how important Nwankpa is to the coaching staff and to this class overall. Not every head coach takes the time Day has at being present at these various in-home visits, but all week long the head coach has been leading the charge as the early signing period approaches.

It’s going to be a battle, but the Buckeyes are hoping their efforts beat out Iowa and Notre Dame for this elite safety.

Buckeyes send out a pair of offers to defensive recruits

Sticking with the trend of recruiting the safety position, just hours after leaving Iowa to see the aforementioned Nwankpa, Matt Barnes was back on the road again. He made his way to New Jersey, where another Ohio State offer was dished out as several others have gone out this week. On the receiving end, Jayden Bonsu took to his Twitter account to announce the latest program to enter his recruitment, as the Buckeyes are now in the fold for the St. Peters Prep product.

A 6-foot-2, 190 pound prospect, Bonsu as a high school junior already has the perfect frame for what college coaches are looking for in a safety. The height and length to be a force in pass coverage, but also the weight needed to come downhill and be a threat in the run game. Bonsu possesses both, and has a full year still to get stronger and develop the rest of his game.

Per 247Sports, Bonsu does not currently have a ranking on his profile, but with double-digit offers to his name coming from the likes of Clemson, Michigan State, Penn State, Tennessee, and others with Ohio State now in the fold, clearly he’s not one to be overlooked. Ohio State needs to add quality depth at the safety position, and regardless of what happens in the current 2022 cycle, the staff is going to look to add elite players in 2023 as well.

Moving forward, Bonsu’s name will be one to watch as he and the Buckeyes begin to develop a relationship on the trail.

On the linebacker side of things, the Buckeyes also sent out an offer to Texas native, Derion Gullette. A three-star linebacker out of Marlin High School, Gullette currently checks in as the 402nd best player regardless of position for the 2023 class. While he’s listed as a linebacker, he also grades out as the 30th best edge rusher in the country, which makes sense when you consider his 6-foot-3, 225 pound frame that will easily pack on more size as he continues to develop both on and off the field.

A handful of offers have already been picked up by Gullette, with most of them being the local in-state programs. Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, TCU, and now Ohio State have all entered the recruitment, and we’ve seen how successful the Buckeyes have been before in the state of Texas. With this latest offer, look for the staff to continue their best pitch at swaying talented Texas targets to come north to Columbus.

Coombs checking in on a top DB target

In addition to Barnes being out on the road recruiting, Kerry Coombs also was on the trail on Thursday in pursuit of more talent to anchor the cornerback position room. As he usually is when it comes to checking in, Coombs is always welcomed by the players he’s after, and yesterday was no different when he made a stop in Alabama to check in on 2023 five-star cornerback target, AJ Harris, who is currently regarded as the third-best corner in the class as well as the No. 19 player nationally per the 247Sports Composite.

A cornerback target the Buckeyes have zeroed in on from the beginning, Harris has made it no secret how he feels about the Buckeyes and his appreciation for coach Coombs, but Georgia and Clemson have remained a hurdle in the way of Ohio State. Not a done deal by any means for any school, Harris hasn’t tipped his hand yet as to who he is leaning towards, but with a commitment coming in January for Harris, he isn’t going to keep people waiting too much longer.

Having Coach Coombs in attendance to once again see Harris in person shows how much of a priority he is for the staff in their 2023 class, and why he’s been for some time now their top target at the position. With so many rumblings of coaching changes and even Oklahoma potentially targeting Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables as their top choice for their next head coach, things can change in a hurry. Where the Buckeyes can find a leg up on the competition is in the strong relationships they have with Harris thanks to coaches like Coombs who do a great job in recruiting.

Nevertheless, this visit is one that could pay off in a big way.

Quick Hits

  • The Buckeyes not only sent out defensive offers on Thursday. On the offensive side of the ball, they offered an Indiana native offensive tackle. Trevor Lauck, a 6-foot-6, 275 pound offensive tackle, was on the receiving end of the Ohio State offer and as someone who has made multiple trips to Columbus in the past few months, it’s clear he’s interested in what the Buckeyes have to offer.

Currently, Lauck ranks as the 27th best offensive tackle in the 2023 class as well as the No. 375 player nationally and the fifth-best player in Indiana. With double-digit offers to his name, Lauck can now add Ohio State to a list that includes Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan State, Illinois, Cincinnati, and a host of others.

  • He was just mentioned in Thursday’s edition of State Secrets, but yesterday Earnest Greene took to his Twitter account to hint towards news coming out on Friday. Whether it’s a commitment or a final schools list is to be determined, but Ryan Day was in town for an in-home visit this week with Greene, so maybe the timing is in good relation to Ohio State’s chances moving forward for the second-best interior lineman in the country. We will know soon enough.
  • Apparently every coach on Ohio State’s staff was in a different state on Thursday, and that included running back coach Tony Alford. Taking yet another trip to Lehigh High School, coach Alford was once again on the campus of the nation’s top running back in the 2023 class, Richard Young. Obviously the top target at the position for the Buckeyes, Young has made it no secret how he feels about Ohio State and coach Alford, and clearly the Buckeyes have a great shot here because of the time they put into this recruitment.