Recruiting Rundown: The Final Stretch
COLUMBUS, Ohio — And down the stretch they come…
It’s a neck and neck for a number of the nation’s top high school prospects as the recruiting world closes in on the finish line for the 2013 recruiting class.
Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes are still in the hunt for a handful of blue chippers heading into the final weekend before National Signing Day (Feb. 6). They are also trying to keep a few kids of their own in the fold before those fax machines start spitting out signatures on Wednesday.
Michael Chung will have his usual Sunday Rundown this week, but here is a closer look at where things stand heading into the final weekend of what has already been a wild ride for many programs, including Ohio State.
The Big Four
DB Vonn Bell (6-1, 190, Rossville, GA)
Everyone wants to know where Vonn Bell is going to end up next week, but this one is still too close to call at the moment. There were a lot of positive vibes coming out of Knoxville after his final official visit to Tennessee. Bell was a Vols fan growing up, but most people still expect him to sign with Nick Saban and Alabama next week. Rivals.com recruiting analyst Mike Farrell is one of the few predicting Bell to Ohio State, but he has changed his mind a few times on this one. Co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers was in Georgia this week for an in-home visit with Bell, and we're hearing Alabama may not be the lock most people think they are. The one thing that could steer the 5-star safety to Columbus or Knoxville is the opportunity to play early. It’s the one thing Saban cannot really offer in Tuscaloosa. The Buckeyes return Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett at safety this year, but both are seniors in 2013.
ATH Dontre Wilson (5-10, 175, DeSoto, TX)
The latest reports on Wilson have him at 50-50 between OSU and Oregon heading into National Signing Day. Now it appears he will make a last-minute visit to Texas this weekend. He was tentatively scheduled to visit Oklahoma State, but the Texas coaches stopped in DeSoto last week to make a last-ditch effort to keep him in the state. He was one of the top players in the Lone Star State this past year, but most feel this visit is more of a courtesy to Mack Brown and the Longhorns. He has always been extremely concerned with finding an offense that fits his style, and Texas doesn’t seem to run the kind of attack he’s looking for. Never rule anything out when a school can get a kid on campus, especially if new playcaller Major Applewhite can convince him things are changing in Austin. He also picked up offers this week from Alabama and Florida State. The ‘Bama offer is intriguing because they are “the” program in college football right now, but we still believe this one comes down to OSU and Oregon in the end. His dad told ESPN he would have a decision made on Sunday, but there is no telling exactly when he will announce that decision to the public.
WR James Clark (5-11, 170, New Smyrna Beach, FL)
A lot of Ohio State fans have Wilson as 1a and Clark as 1b in order of Urban Meyer’s interest level, but that may not exactly be the case. These two guys are both being looked at for that inside skill position that Ohio State really lacked in 2012. It’s the same position Jalin Marshall will probably play at OSU, but Meyer would be thrilled to land either Wilson or Clark at this point. Clark is probably more of a true speed guy than Wilson, who played mostly running back in high school. Clark recently visited Columbus and seemed to enjoy his time. He’s taking an unofficial visit to Florida this weekend and it looks like a two-horse race between OSU and the Gators. Clemson is also in the mix, but the feeling is he either commits to Florida this weekend (publicly or privately) or he ends up picking the Buckeyes on signing day.
RB Ezekiel Elliott (6-0, 198, St. Louis, MO)
The one name at the forefront of Ohio State’s recruiting efforts right now is Ezekiel Elliott. The Army All-American is considered one of the prizes of Meyer’s second recruiting class, but the St. Louis product took a sudden last-minute visit to Missouri this past weekend. It wasn’t off the books, meaning the OSU staff was aware of the visit, but it is certainly cause for concern. Elliott received an in-home visit from OSU running backs coach Stan Drayton following his trip to Columbia in order to clear up any misconceptions. There was some belief Elliott was flustered by Ohio State’s sudden interest in Dontre Wilson, and worried they were being brought in to play the same position. Drayton assured Elliott that is simply not the case. Wilson is going to play the inside skill position while Elliott is being looked at as a tailback. That doesn’t mean it’s all better, necessarily. Elliott has called a 4 p.m. ET press conference on Signing Day to announce his decision. He also won’t talk to the media before then.
Corey Smith (6-0, 185, East Mississippi CC)
News came down this week that Smith had committed to play for the Buckeyes. An Ohio boy out of Akron Buchtel, Smith had previously been committed to play for Mississippi State before Meyer came calling. His decision to commit left a lot of question marks about some of the other guys on the board for Ohio State, but he is being brought in as an outside receiver like Devin Smith or Michael Thomas. He is a JUCO kid with three years to play two, but the only kids who are really effected by his commitment are Shelton Gibson and Darren Carrington. Gibson was highly unlikely at this point, but Smith’s commitment basically shuts the door there. It also means Carrington, another Oregon commit, likely won’t even make his visit this weekend.
Ryan Timmons (5-10, 186, Frankfurt, Ky.)
Timmons was always going to be a backup plan for Meyer and the Buckeyes at that skill position, and he’s been treated as such. Ohio State cancelled his official visit to Columbus in January, and while he did finally pick up an offer, it appeared to be contingent on what happened with Wilson and Clark. Now it appears like interest has finally gone cold between the two sides. Timmons was recently at Kentucky for a visit and the Wildcats are the leader in the club house. He was considering an OSU visit before NSD, but now it sounds like he will make a trip to Florida this weekend instead. It will either blow him away or solidify his feelings about UK, but either way Ohio State doesn’t seem like much of a player here.
Cornelius Elder (5-11, 170, Nashville, TN)
There has not been much to report on Elder since he made his official visit in January, but he did pick up an offer to play basketball at Purdue. That avenue was always an option for Elder, and now it appears he is interested in exploring it more thoroughly. According to 247 Sports, Elder is not likely to sign a letter of intent next week for football. He wants to take more time to decide whether he will play football, basketball or both at the next level. He was originally considering UCLA for both football and basketball.
Who Else is Out There?
OT Dan Skipper (6-10, 295, Arvada, CO)
Skipper was thought to be Ohio State’s top target, and most realistic option, if the Buckeyes were going to take one more offensive lineman in this class. They were clearly hoping to fit one more, but Skipper opted to pull the trigger for Arkansas instead. He visited OSU and Ole Miss, but his connection to two of Bret Bielema’s assists who had been at Tennessee, where he originally committed, turned out to be the difference.
OL Cameron Hunt (6-4, 270, Corona, CA)
With Skipper off the board, Hunt immediately became the top remaining target on the offensive line, but he was always a longshot at best. The 4-star prospect is still committed to Cal, but he was considering Ohio State, Oregon and Michigan after the Bears fired head coach Jeff Tedford. 247 Sports reported earlier this week that Hunt is likely down to just Cal and Oregon heading into National Signing Day.
OL Matt Finnin (6-7, 305, College of DuPage)
With Skipper off the board and Hunt all but out of the mix, a new name emerged on the offensive line this week. It was JUCO transfer Matt Finnin, a kid out of Illinois who is currently committed to Nebraska. A number of recruiting outlets reported mutual interest here, but it sounds like Finnin is not going to make it to Columbus for a visit. That all but ends Meyer’s quest to fill one last offensive line spot, although there is always the chance he pulls a surprise at the end.
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