Thinking Out Loud: Football is in the Air
By Brandon Castel
Demetrius Knox is a Buckeye.
There you go. In case you missed Michael’s Sunday Recruiting Rundown, or the big commitment news over the weekend, Ohio State landed another big piece to the 2014 puzzle when Knox decided to end the suspense Sunday evening.
It came on the heels of a major recruiting event, and it could give some real positive momentum to Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes coming off the Friday Night Lights event that typically attracts the best of the best from around the country.
That includes 4-star wide receiver Braxton Berrios out of Raleigh, N.C. and 5-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan out of Georgia. Both kids are high on Ohio State’s radar and could be names to watch for in the coming weeks.
Knox was the big news of the weekend, however, as the nation’s No. 1-rated guard, at least according to Rivals.com decided to come home. Originally a native of Springfield, Ohio, Knox currently lives down in Fort Wayne, Tex., which explains why he originally committed to play for the Longhorns last November. He opened things up again back in April, thanks in no small part to the uncertainty of Mack Brown’s future in Austin, and the Buckeyes quickly shot to the top of his list.
Being rated as a top guard in the country apparently doesn’t get you a lot of love in the overall rankings (Knox is No. 87 overall and No. 13 in Texas), but one look at his offer list and it’s easy to see why this was such a big get for Meyer and offensive line coach Ed Warinner.
Of course Tom Herman has been Ohio State’s hired gun in the state of Texas, but the Buckeyes have been all over the map in the 2014 class. According to Rivals.com, Ohio State currently has commitments from the No. 2 player in the state of Michigan, No. 3 in Illinois, No. 5 in Virginia and now No. 13 in Texas. They also have commitments from kids in Indiana, Georgia and Kentucky to go with six in-state kids on the current list of 15 commitments.
Getting Knox should solidify what could be one of the better offensive line hauls Ohio State has had in quite some time. Even the Brew Crew class only ended up with the three guys; this currently class now has four guys up front, with Knox joining Kyle Trout, Marcelys Jones and Jamarco Jones, another big-time out of state prospect from Chicago.
If they keep this group together, Meyer will have accomplished exactly what he set out to do when he took the OSU job – replenish some of the thin areas he inherited from the previous group. He addressed the defensive line in his first class, hit linebackers and receivers hard last year and he has carried over the linebacker pursuit into this 2014 class.
Here’s the group Meyer has landed since he took over: Camren Williams, Jamal Marcus, David Perkins, Mike Mitchell, Trey Johnson, Kyle Berger, Dante Booker, and Sam Hubbard. Adding McMillan to the mix would just push things over the top.
Next Big Thing
One of the biggest football notes to come out of Chicago last week was the buzz surrounding Dontre Wilson. Based on what his new teammates were saying, it appears as though Wilson already has a stronghold on the Noah Spence award as the most ready-made newcomer in the freshman class.
Spence lived up to the hype last year, playing some big minutes down the stretch for the Buckeyes, and he is primed for a big season as the team’s starting rush end (Leo) in 2014. Dontre Wilson doesn’t exactly have a starting spot he can go out and win this fall, but if he is anywhere close to as good as Braxon Miller and these other guys seem to think, it’s hard to believe Meyer and Herman won’t find a way to get him on the field.
The goal of Meyer’s offense is to displace defenders and take advantage of what the defense is doing by creating one-on-one situations for guys who can beat the man across from them. Meyer wants to slow down the buzz surrounding his young freshman out of Texas, but we will see if anyone can actually slow him down.
I’ve been waiting to see what Wilson could bring to the offense more than any other player in the class. Ezekiel Elliott, James Clark, Corey Smith and Jalin Marshall are all intriguing prospects. I’m particularly high on Marshall to be another guy who creates mismatches and makes big plays for the Buckeyes at some point in the not-so-distant future, but Wilson seems to have everything this coaching staff is looking for at the flex/hybrid spot.
Fifth-year senior Jordan Hall will get the first crack at that spot, and ideally he would finally become that dangerous weapon for the Buckeyes everyone has been waiting for since we first got to see him play as a freshman. Hall had better move fast though – literally – because Marshall and Wilson are going to be looking for traction as soon as their feet hit the ground next month. If these two guys are as special as we all think they could be, it would really open things up for Braxton and the offense, making the Buckeyes less dependant on Miller to run the football in tight situations.
Ready for Take Off?
Another intriguing thing to come out of the Big Ten media event in Chicago last week was Urban Meyer’s comment about Curtis Grant. According to Meyer, and we know sometimes he has a propensity to romanticize things when raving about one of his players, Grant has “taken over” this offseason.
That would be huge news for the Buckeyes. The worst thing for this team would be for Grant to be handed the starting middle linebacker job again simply because they don’t have anyone else to play the position. If that’s the case, they would be better off playing 90 percent nickel defense with Ryan Shazier and Josh Perry as the two linebackers.
With a lot of time and practice between now and the start of the season, that could still be a very real possibility. Remember, Grant didn’t lose his starting job until after the start of last season, but the fact Meyer said he had taken over in the spring and become the leader this team needs at middle linebacker is a huge statement because this team needs a leader at that position in the absolute worst way.
Only time will tell how real those remarks prove to me, but John Simon had similar things to say about Grant in the offseason. He told me Grant is a natural-born leader who will bring out the best in his teammates once he feels comfortable enough to lead. Having Grant and Shazier out there together leading the way for the defense would be huge because I see those two as more natural leaders than the seniors on the back end.