Recruiting Rundown: Finishing Strong?
By Brandon Castel
How will they finish? That’s the question on everyone’s mind as National Signing Day rumbles in Wednesday.
All around the country, schools are positioning themselves for last-minute commitments that could help make or break an entire recruiting class.
Ohio State has the great fortune of not being in that position.
With 22 players already committed, the Buckeyes are nearly finished with their class of 2011. If they were to receive signatures only from the current commits, it would still be a top 10-15 class for Jim Tressel and his staff.
The Buckeyes are currently rated as the No. 4 class in the country by Scout.com and No. 11 by Rivals.com, but there are still a few big names left on the board heading into the final 24 hours.
Glenville quarterback Cardale Jones picked up a late offer from the Buckeyes and would seem to be an Ohio State lean, but the two big fish still swimming around are Aundrey Walker and Curtis Grant. Walker is a teammate of Jones at Glenville, and one of the top-rated offensive linemen in the country.
At 6-foot-5, 355 pounds, Walker projects as an elite-level guard at the next level, but could also slide outside to play tackle, particularly on the right side of the offensive line. He is rated as a 4-star prospect by both major recruiting services, as high as the No. 1-rated guard in the country by Rivals.
Where Do They Stand?
Walker held offers from a number of big-time programs, including Notre Dame, Florida State, Iowa, Penn State and Wisconsin, but narrowed his list to just three in January. That group included Michigan State, but it looks like the battle for Walker is now a head-to-head matchup between Ohio State and USC.
He apparently loved his recent visit to Los Angeles— and who wouldn’t—and is giving the Trojans some real consideration after celebrating his birthday. He even went as far as to call USC his “dream school,” but it’s hard to buy into all of that after the drama Marcus Hall pulled during his recruitment two years ago.
On the exact opposite end of the spectrum is Curtis Grant, a 5-star linebacker who has been very quiet throughout his recruitment. He did narrow his list to a top four of Ohio State, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina. He took his last official visit to Chapel Hill last weekend, but has yet to speak publically on where things stand following.
Where Will They Go?
Being from Glenville, it is naturally assumed that Walker will pick Ohio State, regardless of what he says to the media. Since Tressel took over in Columbus and started the pipeline down I-71, only one of Ted Ginn Sr.’s kids has spurned an OSU offer to sign elsewhere. That kid was 4-star receiver Cordale Scott and he lasted exactly one year at Illinois before transferring to Toledo.
Marcus Hall talked up a big game of heading south to either Miami (Fla.) or Tennessee back in 2009 before signing with the Buckeyes. Because the other team in this situation is USC, Walker should be taken a little more seriously.
This matchup didn’t work out well for the Buckeyes last year, when the Trojans landed a commitment from perennial 5-star Seantrel Henderson on NSD, but Henderson never made it to USC. The Buckeyes have historically done well against USC when the target is an Ohio kid. They held off the Trojans for Glenville products Rob Rose and Ray Small out of Glenville back in 2006 after both made visits to L.A.
Most recruiting analysts are sticking to their guns that Walker will sign with the Buckeyes, but there has to be at least a margin for error when it comes to an 18-year old kid. Having not spoken to Walker ourselves, we put the odds at 75 percent that he will be a Buckeye.
As for Grant, there is a lot more mystery to where he will end up. Being from Virginia, it’s possible he could chose to stay home and sign with the Cavaliers. More likely, however, Grant will end up at Ohio State, Florida or UNC. Grant is the top-rated linebacker in the country, which puts him a little out of Virginia’s range for recruiting, despite his relationship with Head Coach Mike London.
It seems like the Buckeyes may have pulled out in front for a kid Rivals compares to Ray Lewis, but there’s no telling how much changed during his visit to North Carolina. It would seem like OSU and UNC would be at the top of his list heading into NSD, but it would be foolish to count out the Gators, even without Urban Meyer and his dreams.
When Will They Make the Call?
Grant is scheduled to announce his decision on national television tomorrow. It will take place around friends and family at Hermitage High School in Richmond, Va. and will broadcast on ESPNU at 1:50 p.m. ET.
Walker’s official announcement is a little hazier. He was officially scheduled to announce tomorrow morning with the rest of his Glenville teammates, but now it sounds as though they might pull the trigger early. Scout.com is reporting Glenville will buck tradition and hold its announcement ceremony Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Who Else is Out There?
Cardale Jones would be the other obvious name out there. The Glenville quarterback had dreams of playing for the Buckeyes, and he was elated when he landed a scholarship offer following his recent visit to Columbus.
At 6-foot-5, Jones probably would have received an offer much sooner if not for Ohio State’s commitment to Braxton Miller as the lone quarterback in the class. But Miller is already on campus in Columbus, so either Jones is being looked at to play another position or Miller signed off on adding another talented player to the class.
It’s possible Jones could gray-shirt depending on scholarship numbers for 2011, but right now it looks good for him to be a Buckeye. That can only positively impact Walker’s decision, because the Buckeyes have apparently passed on other Tarblooders like Shane Wynn and Andre Sturdivant.
One other name on the horizon is defensive back Darius Jennings. The 4-star prospect out of Maryland has narrowed his list to include OSU, Virginia and Wake Forest. It appears like Ohio State is running third behind the other two heading into NSD, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see him pick the Buckeyes.
Could OSU Lose Any Current Commits?
That’s always a possibility, even on the eve of NSD. Ohio State fans remember three years ago when Justin Green pulled the last-second switch to Illinois on NSD, a decision that never sat well with Tressel.
If it’s going to happen to the Buckeyes this year, the most likely candidate would be linebacker Ejuan Price. A product of Woodland Hills, Pa., Price was the second most-recent player to commit to Ohio State, it might sound surprising to hear that he isn’t settled on his decision.
However, on the night he committed, Price attended a basketball game at the University of Pittsburgh, where he met new Head Coach Todd Graham for the first time. Since then, rumors have floated that Price could end up a Panther in the end.
His best friend, cornerback Lafayette Pitts, received an offer from Pitt after switching his commitment to Rutgers following the firing of Dave Wannstedt. Price took a late visit to Pitt last week and it looks like Ohio State will have a hard time keeping him, especially if they land Grant.
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