It’s been a critical last two weeks for Ohio State. Not ending the regular season the way they wanted forced a reset, but now the Buckeyes look to be headed in the right direction as they work to improve their staff and their on-field product. With the addition of Jim Knowles as defensive coordinator, Ryan Day is wasting no time in addressing the defense and getting things fixed. More will surely unfold as January nears in terms of how the rest of the staff plays out, but for now Ohio State fans are thrilled to know that a proven defensive guru is on his way to Columbus.
On the recruiting side of things, these past 10 days or so have been huge for Day and his crew as they continue to pursue elite level talent for their current 2022 class and the next cycle as well in 2023. Each day the coaches have been on the road visiting various high school campuses and top targets they hope to bring in. Whether it be in-home visits or just visiting at the schools of these players, Ohio State is working relentlessly to be among the top suitors and keep their recruiting success right at the top of college football.
Recruiting — it never stops.
You win some, you lose some
On Wednesday, the Buckeyes lost out on the commitment of long time safety target, Xavier Nwankpa, in the 2022 class. Choosing Iowa, the nation’s fifth best safety and 45th ranked player nationally chose to be the hometown hero and stay with the Hawkeyes. Ohio State was the leader in this recruitment at one time, but the reality of being able to stay at home proved to be too much in the end for the Buckeyes to overcome. While it’s an unfortunate event to lose out on a player of his caliber after the staff put this much work, it’s important to understand that Ohio State isn’t in a bad spot after all.
BREAKING: 2022 Safety Xavier Nwankpa has Committed to Iowa, he tells @On3Recruits— Hayes Fawcett (@Hayesfawcett3) December 8, 2021
The 6’2 200 S from Altoona, IA chose the Hawkeyes over Ohio State and Notre Dame.
Huge pickup for Iowa, as they pickup one of the Top Players in the nation!https://t.co/Eo1Afz8cMJ pic.twitter.com/J8FBehWeuH
Sure, the coaching staff would have loved to pick up Nwankpa in this cycle at a position that needs elite depth, but the news yesterday was not all bad as it was announced that the top player in Ohio State’s 2023 class, Sonny Styles, would be graduating early and reclassifying to the 2022 class, allowing him to get to Columbus a year earlier than expected.
A five-star recruit, Styles — besides being the top player in Ohio — is the nation’s top-ranked safety as well as the 13th best player overall in the 2023 cycle. Outside the rankings, Styles is exactly what you’d want on anywhere on the field for your defense. The best part, however, is the timing of this reclassification. It is rather perfect when you consider the two top safeties Ohio State was in on in this 2022 class are likely headed elsewhere with Nwankpa of course staying home at Iowa and the other, Zion Branch, linked to USC after the addition of Lincoln Riley.
A true case of you win some and you lose some, Styles may only be 17 years old, but he’ll soon be on campus working with coach Mick Marotti developing physically as he gets ready to be an immediate help to a defense that is in serious need of improvement when it comes to the safety position. With his frame, it’s not a guarantee that Styles will spend his Ohio State career solely at the safety position, but he’ll certainly get his start there. After some unfortunate news of top targets not going with the Buckeyes, this reclassification is exactly what the coaching staff needed to ensure an elite playmaker at the position coming in this current cycle.
.@sonnystyles_ is officially reclassifying to the 2022 class according to a press release that we've received from the Pick Central athletics department.— Jarrod Ulrey (@UlreyThisWeek) December 8, 2021
That's going to be a wild signing day next week, with two from @PCtigerfootball headed to Cincy and one to OSU https://t.co/xf81dTdLk7
Buckeyes dish out a pair of new offers in the 2023 class
As if Wednesday wasn’t busy enough for the Buckeye coaching staff, two new offers in the 2023 class went out as the coaches continued to stay out on the road in pursuit of players for the next cycle. Both out of state players, the last two weeks have seemingly been non-stop in terms of recruiting for the many guys out on the trail.
Starting in Melbourne, Florida, the Buckeyes offered four-star Robert Stafford out of Eau Gallie High School. A 5-foot-11, 170 pound athlete, Stafford is currently ranked as the 23rd best athlete in the class as well as the 270th best player nationally per the 247Sports Composite. In addition to his many accolades, Stafford also currently holds 30 offers to his name from many of the nation’s more well known schools. Programs such as Florida, Penn State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Miami, and now Ohio State, among others, are all in the fold for his services.
Lining up on both sides of the ball for his prep team, Stafford has primarily been a receiver, but also plays cornerback, and for many programs projects to be a defensive player at the next level. Clearly a dynamic playmaker, the Buckeyes aren’t wasting any time. The offer for Stafford was well received as he told LGHL’s own Bret Favachio the following:
“Coach (Matt) Barnes came to my school today to find out about a few of our guys. Coach said he loved my film and my length. He said I fit perfectly as a OSU CB. I was extremely grateful for the offer.”
Blessed and honored to receive an offer from THE Ohio State University! ⚪️ @SWiltfong247 @rivalsmike @adamgorney @CoachMattBarnes @EauGallieHC @CoachMiller53 @QNHall_Uno_JTG #bEGreat #EGscholarshipfactory pic.twitter.com/GNsMkjZbHV— ⑤ (@1robertstafford) December 8, 2021
In addition to the aforementioned Stafford, the Buckeyes also offered another player in the 2023 class on the defensive side of the ball. Taking to his Twitter account to announce the latest update in his recruitment, Texas native S’Maje Burrell out of North Crowley High Sachool also was on the receiving end of an Ohio State offer. A 6-foot-1, 215 pound linebacker, Burrell is currently a three-star prospect and ranks as the 33rd best player at his position and the 420th best player nationally per the 247Sports Composite.
A bit of an under the radar recruit as it stands right now, Burrell only has a handful of offers to his name with the majority of them being in-state suitors. Schools such as Texas, Baylor, Texas Tech, Colorado and a few others have entered the sweepstakes for Burrell, but with Ohio State also now in the picture, it’s probably only a matter of time before some of the other perennial powers in college football coming calling his name. The domino effect in these types of recruitments does tend to happen more times than not.
Linebacker coach Al Washington was the one to dish out the offer, and once again Bret was able to hear from Burrell that the offer was presented to S’Maje’s high school coach, and Burrell himself says he was “ecstatic” claiming the OSU offer feels good to have.
- In addition to Matt Barnes being in Florida, Ryan Day was also in the Sunshine State and made a stop at St. Thomas Aquinas to watch practice. A national powerhouse, Aquinas for some time was a bit of a pipeline for the Buckeyes as both the Bosa brothers and more were all products of this great prep team.
- Also on the road yesterday for the Buckeyes, tight-end coach and co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson was also on the trail and made a stop in Oklahoma — where he was for several years also in the same role — but specifically to Bixby High School checking in on the nation’s second best tight-end, Luke Hasz. The 60th-ranked player nationally is a recent de-commit from the Sooners, so Ohio State is looking to make up some ground with a top player at the position.