It’s always a bit of a downer when signing day ends late in the afternoon with a guy choosing another school than the one that you may be rooting for, which is what happened on Wednesday for the Buckeyes with defensive tackle Marvin Wilson and his selection of Florida State.
While it’s a disappointment for both the fans and the coaches, it didn’t seem like Urban Meyer or his staff were holding out too much hope to land the big guy anyway. They were instead focused on the 21 players who did sign, and they are very excited about the prospects of these future freshmen.
After talking to a handful of those rookies and hearing Meyer and Mark Pantoni speak about most of them, it made things a little bit clearer on just what the Buckeyes are getting in this class. So with that added knowledge, here are some quick thoughts on each of Ohio State’s 21 signees in their 2017 recruiting class.
(And, as a side note, the number of guys who talked about the recruiting draw of Real Life Wednesdays that Meyer implemented a few years ago was one of the stories of the day. In fact, both Meyer and Pantoni named it one of the top three factors — along with last year’s NFL Draft and the national championship — for why this class was so loaded with talent from around the nation.)
LB Baron Browning
Urban Meyer said on Wednesday that the OSU beat was going to have fun covering Browning for the next few years. Ohio State is already putting him in social media pieces with former Buckeye Joshua Perry where they break down film of fellow 2017 signees. Why Browning? He said he had no idea, they just asked him to do it. He’s another unassuming 5-star linebacker who is already ready for whatever, just like the departing Raekwon McMillan.
OL Josh Myers
Myers wasn’t available today, likely due to classes. When Meyer was asked if he was a guy who would compete for playing time this season, he said Myers was already competing in the weight room and all of the reports have been very good. So while the recruiting sites may be down on Myers for his last month of work, those behind Ohio State’s doors are only even more eager to get him on the football field.
CB Jeffrey Okudah
Urban Meyer said that this group of cornerbacks was brought in to play this year and Okudah knows precisely the situation put in front of him. There is an opportunity for a big role in this defense, regardless of class. Okudah may very well be the best defensive back Ohio State has signed since Ted Ginn Jr., who turned out to be a complete bust defensively. Okudah is the prototype physically and nothing he has said or that has been said about him would lead you to believe he’s not also the prototype off the field.
SAF Isaiah Pryor
I talked with Pryor quite a bit on Wednesday and he was more interested in talking about everything that Ohio State had to offer that had nothing to do with football, which is also how Urban Meyer landed him. He wants to be a pathologist and already knows his major but I can’t remember the actual name of it. It’s one of those chemical medical mumbo jumbos that only freshmen with a real plan talk about. They’re not sure which safety spot he’ll play but he said he’s open to either. He is also keenly aware of the opportunity the depth chart brings as he mentioned repeatedly that there were only five safeties on the roster. I expect he’ll be playing strong safety when spring opens.
CB Shaun Wade
Urban Meyer talked a couple of times about Wade’s loyalty in staying committed for as long as he did. He committed the night Ohio State won their national title and out-of-state players — especially the 5-star variety — generally don’t stay committed for two years. So there is definitely a level of appreciation and Wade looks like he is going to be one of the freshmen expected to contribute right away. Nothing Meyer said on Wednesday would counter this notion. Wade said he has already gotten stronger and added five pounds. His strength is really the only concern about him as a true freshman and they are already addressing it successfully.
LB/WR Brendon White
Let’s first appreciate the abilities somebody must possess in order to be labeled a “LB/WR”, okay? Right now White doesn’t know where he’s going to play. He was moved to receiver when Noah Brown left because the numbers were down. He was very excited to move to offense, but he’s obviously going to do whatever it takes to 1) help the team; and 2) see the field. His two goals at Ohio State are to be an Academic All-American and be a captain. With goals like those, all of the other stuff generally falls into place as you go.
CB Marcus Williamson
Marcus Williamson gets a little bit forgotten when it comes to the cornerbacks that Ohio State signed in this class, but nobody at the Woody is forgetting him. He’s mature for his age. He already spent a year at IMG Academy away from Central Ohio, which not many high school kids can do. In fact, plenty try and fail. Williamson only elevated himself from it and he’ll come into the spring getting yelled at like crazy by Kerry Coombs, but it’s going to be for the best.
OL Thayer Munford
Every year it seems at least one assistant coach will have a guy that they fight for that they won’t take no for an answer on. For offensive line coach Greg Studrawa, that was Thayer Munford. He didn’t get to play a lot of football this past season due to a high school transfer, but they’ve had him at camp and gotten as many looks as they could. Interestingly, Urban Meyer said it was watching him on the basketball court that convinced him to offer Munford. Coaches and scouts love watching linemen on the basketball court because it shows their footwork, coordination, athleticism and motor, and Munford has all of that.
DT Haskell Garrett
If you’re upset about losing Marvin Wilson, just go watch Garrett’s HUDL highlights. The dude is a monster. He’s already the size of a nose tackle and he has three-technique mobility. I don’t know if there’s room for him this year in the rotation, but when he does finally get on the field he’s definitely one of my picks to click in this class.
OG Wyatt Davis
Davis is another one that Urban Meyer said would compete for a spot immediately, and I believe him. Davis’ highlights are as entertaining to watch as any running back or wide receiver’s. He’s a mauler who wants to see the entire job done and he doesn’t give up on a block until the ground tells him to, and even then there is sometimes a conversation about it. He is a difference maker and a guy who will fit right into the kind of nastiness you want from your offensive line.
WR Elijah Gardiner
It was interesting to listen to both Urban Meyer and Mark Pantoni talk about Gardiner’s recruitment. He was a guy that they had only begun targeting a few weeks earlier, and that was thanks to recruiting staffer Eron Hodges finding him through virtual stacks of video. He’s big (6-foot-5) and fast (his coach says 4.3s and 4.4s), and while he’s not highly-rated (No. 173 WR nationally), Meyer said on Wednesday that if you’re going to miss on a recruit, you miss big and you miss fast, because you can still do something with those traits. He’s likely going to be a developmental guy who redshirts this year and then tries to make some noise in the spring of 2018.
DT Jerron Cage
Cage might be the forgotten man in this class and yet both 247Sports and ESPN had him rated as the No. 11 defensive tackle in the nation, so you might want to keep him in mind a bit down the road. I think he redshirts like most of the other defensive tackles on this roster have, but he is a quick and mobile defensive tackle, which has been OSU’s specialty over the last few years.
DE Chase Young
Do you want to know how good this recruiting class is? Urban Meyer and Mark Pantoni spoke with the media for around 45 minutes or so on Wednesday and neither of them mentioned or were asked about Chase Young, who is only a 5-star defensive end who was perhaps the best player on the field at the Army All-American Bowl four weeks ago. That’s when you know it’s the golden age of recruiting for Ohio State. This is just the kind of chip on the shoulder that Chase Young needs.
WR Jaylen Harris
Being a 6-foot-5 wide receiver always leads to questions about speed, and those same questions surround Harris. But, like Zach Smith told me about Binjimen Victor, receivers can get faster by getting stronger in their legs and producing more torque. That will happen with Harris as well. He may not be as fast as Michael Jenkins (a 6-foot-5 receiver himself) yet, but he already has the reach and is probably ahead of Jenkins at the same stage in terms of high-pointing the ball and using his body.
WR Trevon Grimes
Grimes is 6-foot-4, so he falls just under that magical threshold where speed is questioned for taller receivers. Not that it would matter, since his speed is not questioned. He’s a guy who routinely rips off high 4.4s, and will be expected to do so again once his knee is fully functional and back to 100% strength. People in the recruiting biz have told me that Grimes is one of the best receivers they’ve ever covered in high school, so feel free to get excited about that. Oh, and in another example of You Know Your Recruiting Class is Good When… Meyer only mentioned Grimes once and that was when he was asked if they sought out a certain body type with receivers this time around. I’m expecting around two 60-yard touchdown catches from Grimes next season.
CB Amir Riep
Rather than fax in his Letter of Intent, Amir Riep drove down to Columbus and handed it over himself. So clearly he wants to stay off the grid, and we can all respect that. I don’t know if Riep stays at cornerback or if he moves to safety, but I do know that one coach will be happy that day and one will not. He’s a bulldog on defense, so I think he’d be just fine at either spot.
K Blake Haubeil
We didn’t even get to talk to Urban Meyer about a 5-star defensive end and a 5-star wide receiver, so there was clearly nobody asking about a kicker. That was unfortunate, however, because it would have been nice to clear up the situation on whether Haubeil will play this year or redshirt or greyshirt. I used my allotted question to ask Meyer about Baron Browning, so…sorry about that.
LB Pete Werner
When Urban Meyer was asked which position groups he was expecting to contribute right away, he immediately said the defensive backs, then he went to the linebackers, and it wasn’t just because of Baron Browning. Werner is a guy that Luke Fickell really, really liked, and we know Fickell’s batting average on linebackers that he really, really likes.
CB Kendall Sheffield
The way Urban Meyer talked about Sheffield’s speed, it sounds like Denzel Ward is going to have a serious challenger to his top spot as fastest Buckeye. The good news here is that Sheffield will be arriving in time for spring football, which will allow him to stake his claim on the open cornerback job. Meyer cited the fact that Sheffield has real-world experience as a college cornerback, which is only going to help him in this competition. I wasn’t necessarily sold on a JUCO kid coming in and starting, but after listening to Meyer on Wednesday, I’m thinking about investing.
QB Tate Martell
Martell has been hearing about what he is and what he isn’t and what he can and can’t do for most of his quarterback life, so he doesn’t even really pay attention to it anymore. Or at least he says he doesn’t care about it. Urban Meyer said they measure quarterbacks by wins, and if you do that, Martell (45-0 as a starter) has all of the stature you’ll ever need. He knows the competition is going to be serious, but he also knows that if he doesn’t play, that’s on him and nobody else.
RB J.K. Dobbins
Dobbins is still one of my favorite guys in this class. I think he is an absolute difference maker for this offense. He said he doesn’t really care if he’s a running back or an H-back, he just wants to help the team and make plays. He said he’s completely healthy, so I expect him to make quite the impression this spring. Picture Demario McCall’s speed with Curtis Samuel’s size and ability to run in tight spaces. I said before he ever played a down for Ohio State that Ezekiel Elliott was the perfect running back for Urban Meyer. I think Dobbins will fit in just as well.