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Ben's Buckeye Recruiting Mailbag: In-State Signings, the Bama Effect, Tavion Thomas, Blue Smith, and More
By Ben van Ooyen

Spring practice is under way, which means that we get a few weeks of real football news to break up the time between bowl season and fall practice. When you follow recruiting like I do, however, there really is never a break in the action. Since the last time I did a mailbag there has been a big commitment from in-state star Jaelen Gill, and quite a few more offers have been doled out by the coaching staff. Let’s see what the readers want to know about this week.

From Tatum:

The top 15 players in the State of 2018 per 247, every one of them seems to be an Ohio State caliber guy. Of this group who signs with OSU?

 I wrote a column a few weeks back about the top 20 Ohio kids (Part 1, Part 2) and where I thought they would end up, but I can summarize it a bit here for you.

OL Jackson Carman - I expect him to be a Buckeye maybe as soon as the Spring Game. With Gill on board, he may be closer to pulling the trigger.

APB Jaelen Gill - Committed, don’t see him going anywhere.

WR L’Christian Smith - Right now if he were to decide I think he goes to Kentucky with his teammate Alex Reigelsperger, however the Buckeyes are by no means out of this one.

LB Dallas Gant - I expect him to be a Buckeye, but they will need to hold off Notre Dame.

LB Xavier Peters - Does not have an offer yet, but I believe he gets one, and wouldn’t be surprised with a commitment shortly after.

DL/TE Leonard Taylor - Was committed to Michigan, took quite a few visits to Ohio State, if the Buckeyes have room for him he's a Buckeye, otherwise he is on the outside looking in.

WR Joseph Scates - I crystal balled him to Ohio State a little while back, but I am second guessing that right now. Alabama is clearly a threat, but would they take his commitment right now?

DE Tyreke Smith - He has blown up recently, but I believe he stays home and plays for Ohio State.

DB/ATH Xavier Henderson - Currently committed to Michigan State. Does not have an offer, but one may come. Will there be any chance of a flip for him? Right now I say no.

TE Trenton Gillison - Again currently committed to Michigan State without an Ohio State offer. He is more likely to flip to the Buckeyes if he gets an offer, but again I think he sticks with MSU.

TE Brendan Bates - Cincinnati or Kentucky for this Ohio TE.

LB Christopher Oats - Will be a Buckeye, just depends on when.

DE Malik Vann - Again his recruitment has kind of taken off, it was thought that Notre Dame was the clear leader, but if Ohio State offers does he stay home? Jury's out on this one.

OL John Dirksen - As the Buckeyes search nationally for offensive lineman, Dirksen is overlooked in the state of Ohio. He will end up on a Power 5 team likely.

TE Josh Whyle - Like Bates above, does not have an Ohio State offer nor do I see one coming. Not sure where he ends up now, but it won’t be Ohio State.

From tGW:

Will Emory Jones be the only QB in the ‘18 class?

 Simple answer is yes. With Burrow, Haskins, Martell and then Jones in the QB room in two years I would say the Buckeyes will not be adding a second signal caller to their 2018 class. The only thing that might change this is if we hear during or after the season that any of the above mentioned are leaving the program, then it is possible that they would look to add a second.

From 45Buckshot:

Is Bama affecting our recruiting strategy in-state?

 Honestly, I don’t believe they are affecting it at all really. Sure they have offered some kids that the Buckeyes have not (Scates, Vann, etc.), but the Buckeyes shouldn’t worry about what Alabama is doing and should focus on themselves and the rest of the Big Ten.

From DaveO:

How many are expected to leave early this year? Numbers? How many OL?

 First, OSU loses 11 seniors off the roster, and then you expect Sam Hubbard, Mike Weber, Jerome Baker, Dante Booker and Kendall Sheffield to all take a look. If all of those go, then you have 17 free spots. I expect the Buckeyes will take 22-25 again next year, all things considered. We haven’t seen the last of the departures for this year and there will be more next year.

 As for the offensive line, I think they go with another 3-4 again this year. They are going to be replacing Billy Price and Jamarco Jones and there is always an outside shot that Isaiah Prince goes to the draft as well. Offensive line depth is huge for the Buckeyes as they need solidarity up front to protect the quarterback and allow for the run. It starts with Jackson Carman and goes from there.

From Scipio:

Why is Tavion Thomas rated 429th?

 That would be his composite ranking based on all of the sites that hold recruiting rankings (Rivals, Scout, ESPN, 247). Going by his 247 ranking alone he is ranked No. 214 and the No. 10 running back in the class, as well as a 4-star prospect. That is why you can’t take recruiting rankings as gospel, because everyone evaluates talent at a different level. I’ve seen some 3-star kids with offer lists that are way better than 5-star kids because college coaches and evaluators find them more skilled.

Thomas will fill a need for whatever program he joins, be it Ohio State, Alabama or anyone else. I am guessing that the next time these recruiting sites do a rankings update, you will see Thomas’s stock rise.

From SFBuckeye:

Where do we stand with Maurice Washington, 4* RB out of San Jose? Is it a committable offer?

 Right now, I am not sure if they would take his commitment, as it seems like they told Iverson Clement the same thing a few weeks back. They now have Brian Snead and Jaelen Gill in the backfield for this class, and while they may take 1-2 more, I am thinking they are going to be quite selective in those moves. Washington only has four offers to date, and again that will change over time. I don’t see him in Columbus when all is said and done.

From JD:

With all of the crystal balls for Blue Smith going to UK, is it assumed he is going to play basketball as well?

 It wouldn’t surprise me if he decided he wanted to give both a go at the college level, but I truly believe that Smith feels really valued at Kentucky by the football staff and players. It helps that his current high school teammate Alex Reigelsperger has committed and is doing whatever he can to get him to join him in Lexington.

 If he does end up at Kentucky, I don’t know that I see him as a viable option on the star-studded basketball team that Calipari brings in each year.

From Crabapple Buck:

Saw a mention of Marcus Hooker, Malik’s brother, a 3*. What are his prospects?

 As of right now I don’t think he is going to get an Ohio State offer. If he did I think the Buckeyes would be the immediate leader based on his brother. Right now he has six offers, the most prominent from West Virginia and Cincinnati. I see him right now as a fringe Power 5 player, but a team that takes a flyer on him could end up with someone as talented as his brother. Malik entered the program pretty under the radar and he turned himself into a likely first-round draft pick with only one year of true playing time. Only time will tell with Marcus.

From Silverback:

How do we stand with Jeremy Ruckert? How do we stand with Blue Smith? Will he be a WR or TE? If Smith would be a TE would we take both?

The Buckeyes stand pretty well with Ruckert right now, and I think if he made a decision today it would be Ohio State. Although he did just get done with an unofficial visit to Notre Dame, which he called unforgettable. He is likely to take quite a few more unofficials and maybe even an official or two before he decides. Alabama, Florida State, Michigan and Wisconsin are also in play here.

I mentioned Smith a little bit above and I think the Buckeyes would need to really show Smith how important he is to their class in order to sway him from the love that he is getting from Kentucky right now. He can play wide receiver and tight end at the next level, but in talking to him I know he wants to line up at wide receiver at the next level. If he would line up at TE in college, and the Buckeyes made him a priority, they would certainly take both him and Ruckert in this class.

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