Thinking Out Loud: Trey Johnson Highlights Under Armour Game
By Brandon Castel
It almost sounded too good to be true.
On the eve of one of the biggest recruiting weekends of the year – or least most impactful – for Ohio State, just about everything was turning up Buckeyes.
Word out of San Antonio is that 5-star linebacker Mike Mitchell is set to announce for the scarlet and gray on Saturday, but Friday night’s Under Armour All-American game served as a tantalizing appetizer to Saturday’s Army Bowl.
All of the major recruiting services, including Scout.com, Rivals.com and 247 Sports, were projecting a huge commitment for the Buckeyes Friday in the form of 4-star linebacker Trey Johnson.
The former Auburn commit had been high on Urban Meyer and Ohio State ever since his visit to Columbus, but it still seemed abnormal, at least to someone who has covered the Buckeyes for a while, to see a player of that caliber make a decision like that on the big stage.
I remember when Doran Grant picked Ohio State over Michigan State, his dad’s alma mater, a few years ago. It seemed like a big deal at the time – and obviously still does – because OSU had shown very little success in landing those big fish right before National Signing Day.
That has changed, and changed drastically, in just over a year under Meyer and his new coaching staff. The Buckeyes reeled in catch after catch last December and January, right after Meyer had taken over the program in late November following a 6-6 regular season.
High school players are enamored with Meyer’s star power and his ability to talk on their level. He is one of the best in the country at understanding what kids are looking for, and he proved that with the commitment Friday night.
This kid, by all rights, has no business ending up at Ohio State. He is a Georgia kid who wanted to play for Gene Chizik at Auburn, and instead he’s going to be in Columbus, Ohio this fall playing for the Buckeyes.
Rivals, 247 and ESPN all have Johnson as one of the top five players in the country at his position. He had offers from just about everyone, including Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Notre Dame, South Carolina and USC. It doesn’t get much better than that, and yet Meyer and his staff – primarily Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel – were able to come out of nowhere to grab Johnson late in the game.
Nothing But The Best
Remember, they were pretty set at linebacker back in the spring before Alex Anzalone and Lewis Neal suddenly decided to drop out of the class in late April. That left the Buckeyes scrambling for linebackers – maybe the biggest position of need on the entire roster – in the class of 2013.
It’s amazing they were able to come back strong at the end with Johnson, and presumably Mike Mitchell this afternoon during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. That would be quite a finish for the Buckeyes, even if James Quick ends up at Louisville.
Big Bad Bosa
For Ohio State fans everywhere, Johnson’s commitment was certainly the high point of Friday night’s all-star game, but it was hardly the only highlight of the evening. Most of us got our first real look at not only Johnson, but a number of other future Buckeyes who will suit up alongside him this fall.
A couple different guys jumped out to me in this game, starting with defensive end Joey Bosa. We had seen and heard what this guy was doing down in Florida on a weekly basis, but now we know for sure what he’s capable of against some of the best talent in the country.
It’s always going to be easier for defensive linemen in an all-star game like this than it is for the offensive guys, but Bosa was a beast up front for the Team Nitro (white). They ultimately lost the game, 16-3, but Bosa was a constant fixture in the Team Highlight (black) backfield.
It will be interesting to see where he ends up at OSU, because he’s quick enough to play outside and strong enough to play inside. He played a little of both Friday and seems a lot like Johnny Simon.
Bosa is built a little more like an end than Simon was when he got to OSU, but he's strong enough to play inside. Bosa is probably more athletic than Simon ever was, and his best position might be strongside end, but not many have duplicated Simon's drive and motor.
We won’t know that part about Bosa until he gets to Ohio State.
Another OSU commit who jumped out in this game was converted wide receiver Jalin Marshall. There were reports early in the week that Marshall was struggling to catch the ball consistently, but those quickly went away as he got more comfortable with the new position.
Marshall was a quarterback at Middletown, so this receiver stuff is all relatively new to him, though it didn’t look like it Friday. He electrified the crowd with a 44-yard catch down the right sideline, but the main thing that jumped out was his quickness.
Some guys are fast, but they don’t look quick on a football field. Marshall is both fast and quick. Not only did he show an ability to get behind the defense as a receiver, he also looked to be the fastest kid in the game running down as a gunner on punt coverage.
I’m not sure exactly where he will play, but Marshall has all the look of an instant impact player for the Buckeyes in 2013. It will take some time for him to learn the nuances of playing receiver, but he might finally give them a real hybrid player in that Percy Harvin role.
The Backstop B’s
One other position worth talking about from this game was defensive back, where 5-star safety Vonn Bell showed why Urban Meyer has put so much time and effort into personally recruiting him all the way down in Georgia.
This kid looks like a flat-out stud, whether it’s stepping up in run support or even locking down a wide receiver over the middle. He won’t make his announcement until after he takes three more visits, but the Buckeyes will get first crack at him when he visits Columbus on Jan. 11.
Even if they miss on Bell, it looks like Ohio State is getting a good one in Cam Burrows. Count me among those who thinks Burrows ultimately ends up at safety, but he showed he could do a little of everything in the Under Armour game.
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