COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was a productive week on the recruiting trail for the Ohio State coaches as they landed a commitment from Jacksonville safety Ben Edwards. Edwards (6-0 196) is the #5 safety in the nation per Rivals.
Sunday Recruiting Rundown — February 16th
By Tony Gerdeman
Landing Edwards out of Trinity Christian Academy would be enough of a boon, but Edwards has a pair of teammates who are also highly regarded, and both have offers from Ohio State.
The first is Kevin Toliver (6-2 185), a five-star cornerback who has been committed to LSU since 2012. The second is Jeffery Holland (6-2 230), a four-star linebacker who has Ohio State in his top six. He is the #8 player in the nation per ESPN, and has offers from everybody you'd expect.
Toliver might be a long shot at this point, but the Buckeyes are certainly in the mix for Holland. Rest assured that Ben Edwards will be in both of their ears for the next 11-plus months.
Richmond, Virginia linebacker Ricky DeBerry (6-2 240) was scheduled to visit Ohio State this weekend but postponed his visit because Urban Meyer wasn't going to be in town.
The good news for the Buckeyes is that even though they missed out on a visit, there will still be one coming because DeBerry is interested enough to visit this early. It's also a positive that he'll be waiting until Meyer is actually around, since Meyer is such an effective in-person recruiter.
Justin Hilliard (6-2 225), out of Cincinnati St. Xavier, is the top outside linebacker in the nation per 247Sports. On Friday he released his initial top 15 list, and the Buckeyes made the cut. Among the other teams on his list were Alabama, Michigan, Florida State, USC, Florida and Oklahoma. He plans to cut his list to 10 next month, and then to five before the season starts.
Dublin Scioto linebacker Nick Conner (6-3 225) visited Ohio State early last week, but left without an offer. Conner is the #7 inside linebacker in the nation per Rivals. He has several Big Ten offers, but at the moment an offer from Ohio State eludes him.
A Star is Born?
Last Saturday the 2014 Nike Football SPARQ Combine tour hit the Orlando area, and a little-known running back named Dexter Williams (6-0 188) stole the show.
Williams, from Orlando, is so under the radar at the moment that none of the recruiting services even have him rated yet. In fact, he doesn't even have an ESPN profile yet.
That will all soon change as Williams put up the best SPARQ score of the year (117.03), and was impressive in all drills. His 4.55 40-yard dash was the seventh-fastest of the day (4.49), while his 4.08 20-yard shuttle was the third-fastest (4.06). His 40.0" vertical jump was second (40.2") at the combine as well.
Williams went into the combine without a single scholarship offer. On Monday, Miami offered. On Tuesday it was Florida. Wednesday brought a South Carolina offer, and on Thursday it was Ohio State.
"I was very surprised Ohio State offered me," Williams texted the Orlando Sentinel.
"I didn't think they would. I received letters from them but the last thing on my mind was an offer. I've been training real hard with Les Hewitt, who runs Speed Line Extreme Training and he told me I could get any offer I wanted, and now it's starting to show.
"I can't wait to go up to Ohio State and get the chance to meet Coach Drayton and Coach [Urban] Meyer face-to-face. I'm very happy for this offer. #GoBuckeyes"
Williams rushed for 1,072 yards last season for Olympia High School as a sophomore.
A Pair of Buckeye Quarterback Targets Commit
Okay, so that's a very misleading headline, as the two quarterbacks in question have not yet made their college decisions, but rather they have decided which high school All-American game to play in.
Torrance Gibson (6-4 200), from Fort Lauderdale, is the nation's top dual-threat quarterback, and on Saturday he tweeted that he has accepted an invitation to play in the Army All-American Bowl. The last Buckeye quarterback to play in the Army All-American Bowl was Terrelle Pryor, who dominated the game.
Deondre Francois (6-1 180), is a dual-threat quarterback from Orlando (Olympia HS) and is also a teammate of running back Dexter Williams. Francois received an offer from the Buckeyes on Thursday, which was also the same day he committed to play in the Under Armour All-American Game. The last Buckeye quarterback to play in that game was Braxton Miller, and he barely saw any snaps.
Francois also has offers from Florida, Florida State, Louisville and Clemson. He's likely a stretch for the Buckeyes, and not necessarily at the top of their board.
The 2015 Florida Top 100
The Orlando Sentinel released their initial 2015 Top 100 Florida prospects a little over a week ago, and as you might expect, there are a number of Buckeye targets listed.
According to the recruiting services, Ohio State has offered anywhere between 30 and 40 Florida prospects, though some of those offers could more realistically be called "invitations to come to a summer camp where you can earn an actual offer".
Here are a few of the names that will be of interest to Buckeye fans.
2. Kevin Toliver (CB). As mentioned above, Toliver has been committed to LSU for a very long time. He is a long shot, but others have been as well
3. George Campbell (WR). Campbell is arguably the top receiver in the nation, and was once committed to Michigan. Ohio State will work hard for this one all the way until Signing Day 2015.
4. Torrance Gibson (QB). We talk about Gibson every week here, but for good reason. There are few more dynamic players in the nation.
6. Jeffery Holland (LB). Holland, the teammate of Kevin Toliver and OSU commit Ben Edwards, is one of six players from Jacksonville Trinity Christian Academy on this list.
8. Tarvarus McFadden (S). McFadden is a teammate of Torrance Gibson, and if the Buckeyes can land Gibson, their chances of getting McFadden would certainly go up.
27. Jamel Dean (CB). Dean has been committed to Ohio State for a while now. He also has offers from Florida and Miami.
28. Jordan Cronkrite (ATH). Cronkrite recently received an offer from Ohio State. He is a running back out of Miami, but considered an athlete by most.
33. Devante Peete (WR). At 6-foot-5, Peete is one of the tall receivers that the Buckeyes are looking for in this class. He attends St. Thomas Aquinas, which is where Joey Bosa went to school, and is also where Nick Bosa (2016 DE) currently plays.
41. Ben Edwards (S). Edwards is the latest Buckeye commit, and continues a line of hard-hitting safeties that Urban Meyer has been targeting.
91. Sh'mar Kilby-Lane (LB). Kilby-Lane remains under the radar, but the Buckeyes certainly like him. Florida State, LSU and Tennessee are a few of the schools that have joined Ohio State in offering.
The Big Ten Recruiter of the Year
Ohio State receivers coach Zach Smith was named the Big Ten Recruiter of the Year by both Scout and Rivals following the signing of the 2014 class.
Smith was instrumental in landing defensive end Jalyn Holmes out of Virginia and Johnnie Dixon out of Florida. He was also played a large role in landing receivers Noah Brown out of New Jersey and Terry McLaurin out of Indianapolis.
His work on the recruiting trail was enough to earn him media accolades, but the accolades he earned from Urban Meyer and Mark Pantoni probably meant a bit more to him.
"Zach Smith was a guy that did just okay his first year here," Meyer said on Signing Day. "Really the first year and a half. He knocked it out of the park this year. He signed Jalyn Holmes and Johnnie Dixon, and he beat a bunch of high profile schools in different regions."
"Zach Smith did an incredible job with [Johnnie Dixon]," Pantoni agreed. "The relationship that I had and Coach Meyer had with his high school coach helped us a little bit there as well, but at the end of the day Zach got that one."
With the hire of defensive line coach Larry Johnson, the former PSU assistant will now take over much of the east coast recruiting territory that Smith has worked in the past. Smith will now focus more on south Florida, and after seeing the number of Floridians that Ohio State is in on, you can see the importance of Smith's new assignment.
Had Smith not had the recruiting success that he did in 2014, it makes you wonder if Meyer would have been comfortable enough to give him such an important location. If Smith is able to continue his successful ways to south Florida, then there's no doubt that the Buckeyes will be better for it.
In Case You Missed It
The overall #1 receiver in the nation per the 247Sports Composite ranking will be visiting Ohio State at the end of the month.
Christian Kirk (5-10 195), out of Scottsdale, Arizona has scheduled an unofficial visit to Columbus on or around February 27th. Kirk has offers from all over, and the fact that he is going to make the trip all the way to Ohio means that he has some legitimate interest in Ohio State.
The Buckeyes handed out a few other offers this past week, with one of them going to Tennessee tight end Jackson Harris (6-5 245). Harris is a four-star prospect, but it might be difficult to get him to leave the state. Ohio State is going to take at least one tight end in 2015, so expect more offers to eventually go out at that position.
Another offer out this week was for four-star offensive lineman Grant Newsome (6-7 280), out of McLean, Virginia. Newsome is believed by many to be a Michigan lean at this point. If the Buckeyes can get him on campus, perhaps that would change. Newsome has offers from much of the East and Midwest.
Newsome wasn't the only offensive lineman to land an offer, however, as Jacksonville's Tyler Jordan (6-4 280) also received an offer from Ohio State. Jordan is a three-star prospect, but also has offers from Florida, Georgia, Miami, South Carolina and Stanford.
The End of the Road?
Malik McDowell, the 2014 defensive linemen from Michigan, is reportedly no longer planning on taking any further unofficial visits. Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports reports that McDowell has told him that the visits are off the table. This likely means that McDowell will either wear his mother down, or simply enroll at Michigan State without her consent, which he can absolutely do.
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