COLUMBUS, Ohio — Compared to how well things had generally gone in June and July, this past week for Buckeye recruiting was essentially a punch in the gut -- if not a little bit lower.
Sunday Recruiting Rundown — July 13
By Tony Gerdeman
Ohio State lost out on two of the state of Ohio's best players as running back L.J. Scott committed to Michigan State and linebacker/athlete Jerome Baker committed to Florida.
Of the two, the loss of Baker is certainly the bigger surprise. A few days leading up to his commitment, the rumblings began that Florida was going to be his choice, so while it was a surprise, it wasn't completely out of the blue either.
Baker will still remain open, and Tennessee and Ohio State will continue to recruit him as if nothing has changed. The Buckeyes likely aren't out of this one until they want to be.
Scott's selection of Michigan State would appear to be much more solid. Even if he had committed to Ohio State, there was no guarantee that he would have signed with the Buckeyes if OSU had gotten a commitment from running back Damien Harris.
The "loss" of Scott will be much easier absorbed if the Buckeyes can sign Harris, but there is no doubt the OSU coaches are disappointed by the decision -- especially since now they're going to have to play against him.
Taking two running backs in the 2015 class was always going to be a luxury, but now it looks like the Buckeyes will have to settle for just one. If that one is the nation's top running back, then I think they'll be okay.
Of course, when L.J. Scott is rushing for 210 yards in a win against the Buckeyes in 2016, I'm guessing there will be very little solace.
While Jerome Baker is still certainly going to be recruited, the Buckeye coaches are not just going to sit back and wait for him to "come to his senses".
The top remaining target on Ohio State's board would probably be Mesquite (TX) linebacker Malik Jefferson. Jefferson (6-3 215) is a five-star prospect, and the number one overall linebacker in the nation according to the 247Sports Composite.
Jefferson already has an official visit to Ohio State scheduled for November 1, which is the night game against Illinois. He also has visits to UCLA and Stanford scheduled, and is still trying to decide where his fourth and fifth official visits will be.
At The Opening this past week Jefferson ran a 4.39 on a very fast track, so he obviously has the speed to play in space, which is the type of linebacker the Buckeyes are still looking for.
At this point, Baker is probably still a better bet than Jefferson to end up at OSU, but currently only one of these players has an official visit scheduled to Ohio State, and it's not the Ohioan.
The Buckeyes also like Jefferson's teammate DeAndre McNeal (6-2 228), who plays receiver and linebacker. He's a four-star prospect per Scout and holds offers from Ohio State, Alabama, Arizona State, Miami (FL), Texas and Texas Tech.
McNeal is a tremendous athlete who can run (he claims regular 4.4s), but there's also a possibility he could end up a flex tight end if need be.
One thing is clear, if the Buckeyes could lock up McNeal, then there chances of getting Jefferson go up considerably.
Closing The Opening
Nike's football camp The Opening has come and gone and some Buckeye prospects and commits had very good showings.
Commits Justin Hilliard, Jashon Cornell and Tyler Green were all put to work to help recruit for Ohio State, and if you watched any of the proceedings on television, you would have seen Hilliard and Cornell putting Buckeye hats on anybody with a head.
When it came to the testing portion, Hilliard measured in at 6-foot-0 and 225 pounds. Most sites list him at 6-2, but John McCallister told me over a year ago that he was shorter than what he's listed, so this didn't come as a surprise.
Anyway, it's not like his height hinders him as he was one of the top linebackers at the event and performed extremely well. He ended up running a 4.72 40-yard dash with an impressive 4.21 shuttle time.
Cornell, measuring in at 6-foot-3 and 263 pounds, ran a 4.76 and was disappointed. If he does end up on the interior, he could very well be another Michael Bennett type for the Buckeyes.
Green did not run the 40, but did clock in an extremely quick 4.06 20-yard shuttle. At Ohio State's camp last month he ran a 4.40 and 4.41 on a similarly-fast track. He also measured in at nearly 6-foot-3, but just 180 pounds this past week. Obviously, he'll need to put on some weight, but that's never really a problem for somebody heading into their senior year of high school.
Defensive end target Josh Sweat ran a 4.46 at 6-foot-4.5 and 240 pounds. Damien Harris measured in at 5-foot-10 and 208 pounds, running a 4.48 with a 4.00 shuttle time. Quarterback Torrance Gibson ran a 4.47 at 6-foot-4 and 207 pounds.
Speaking of Gibson
Torrance Gibson, the five-star quarterback/athlete out of Florida, tweeted that he would be committing in October, though he didn't have an exact date yet. He has not yet visited Ohio State, though there is a possibility that he may one day make it.
If that visit never comes, then don't expect the Buckeyes to be serious contenders. In fact, OSU fans shouldn't even have their hopes up at the moment.
It was noteworthy that Gibson did spend some time playing receiver at The Opening. To me, it shows that he is willing to play other positions, because not all schools think he'll be able to make it at quarterback. His athleticism, however, is such that schools would be foolish not to try and land him.
Van Can Do
Four-star receiver Van Jefferson (6-3 172) out of Brentwood (TN) will be visiting Ohio State on Wednesday of this week. Jefferson is planning on committing yet this summer, so the Buckeyes getting this visit is a pretty big deal.
Jefferson is the #9 receiver in the 2015 class per 247Sports and he holds offers from Ohio State, George, Clemson, Tennessee, Auburn and many others. At one point the Buckeyes were the favorites here, but they may have slipped a bit over the last couple of months.
The visit this week could put them back in the driver's seat. In fact, if the Buckeyes aren't his leader after his visit (even if he won't admit to a leader), then they're probably out of it.
Sunderland Has Two OSUs in Top Three
Will Sunderland, a four-star safety out of Oklahoma City, released his top three last week according to 247Sports, and that list in order was Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Ohio State.
Sunderland (6-2 180) is the #7 safety in the 2015 class per Rivals. He ran a 4.58 at The Opening with a 4.29 shuttle time. He has already scheduled his official visit to Ohio State for the Michigan game, so that should give you some idea as to his time table.
The Buckeyes are clearly on the outside looking in, but the Michigan Game sometimes has a way of shifting things like that around.
Dwayne Haskins (Potomac, MD), one of Ohio State's top 2016 quarterback targets will be visiting Florida on Monday. Haskins has an offer from the Gators, and clearly he has an interest in them as well. ... Another of OSU's 2016 quarterback targets was in the news a bit as Jarrett Guarantano (Oradell, NJ) was offered by Alabama. The Buckeyes are thought by some to lead, but leading doesn't mean much this early in the process. ... Four-star offensive lineman Andre James (Herriman, UT) committed to UCLA last week, choosing the Bruins over Ohio State, Oregon, Utah and others.
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