Before the football season even gets underway, the Big Ten is waging war in a different battle every spring and summer — a war on the recruiting path. This year, like many others, has the perennial Big Ten powers battling each other for some of the nation’s top prospects. We have seen a few of them already commit to rival schools, as well as a few commit to the Buckeyes. As the spring turns into fall and beyond we will see many more kids make decisions that will shape their futures. What are some of the key Big Ten recruiting battles that are going to take place this year? Let’s take a look.
The biggest recruiting battle has already had quite a few ups and downs, and it just became May. Micah Parsons is a 5-star defensive end out of Pennsylvania who had been committed to the in-state Nittany Lions for over a year, but last month he decided to reopen his recruitment. Buckeye fans everywhere were rejoicing in that fact because Parsons has been a frequent visitor to Columbus over the past few months. Before his decommitment to Penn State was official, there was a bit of a stir when he announced on social media that he had gotten a new dog, and named it Brutus.
Ohio State has to like where it currently sits with Parsons. Although he says he will take his time in his decision making, when it comes time for that pick I do believe that Buckeye Nation will be quite happy with his selection. Of course, a lot can change between now and then, but all signs right now point toward Parsons ending up in Columbus.
A recruitment that is set to end here within the next couple of weeks is that of 4-star linebacker Dallas Gant out of Toledo, Ohio. Gant will be making his decision on May 16, and along with the Buckeyes he will have Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State offers to consider. Gant currently sits at 100% crystal ball projections to Ohio State and that even includes a couple of Notre Dame insiders who put in those selections after his recent visit to South Bend. Expect this one to end in a good way here in a couple of weeks for the Scarlet and Gray.
Another big time target is 4-star tight end Jeremy Ruckert out of New York. Ruckert has narrowed down his list of over 30 offers and currently has Ohio State battling Michigan and Wisconsin along with a few non-Big Ten foes. Ohio State has always been on the top for Ruckert, and I don’t see any reason why that will change. Sure, Wisconsin uses their tight ends more, and well Michigan has Jim Harbaugh (enough said, right?). In the end, I think the comfort and relationships that he has forged with the OSU coaching staff along with the other recruits in this class will be enough to land him in Columbus.
One of the Buckeyes’ biggest recruits at wide receiver is 4-star Jahan Dotson out of New Jersey. Dotson is down to three with the Buckeyes battling Penn State and Michigan for his services. Penn State seems to be trending well with Dotson, especially after a recent visit for the Blue and White game in April. Dotson told 247Sports that he feels comfortable at Penn State and knows it is close to home. While the Buckeyes and the Wolverines are still in this until he decides, right now my money is on Penn State landing this talented wide out.
This might be a different story if the Buckeyes hadn’t landed Jaiden Woodbey and Josh Proctor at safety this recruiting cycle, but Isheem Young out of Pennsylvania could have been one of the safeties in this recruiting class. Penn State is the overwhelming favorite to land him now, and being from Philadelphia doesn’t hurt their chances. It is certainly possible that the Buckeyes would have ramped up their recruitment and pointed out their success at getting their defensive backs to the NFL if not for landing the two safeties already. This one seems like a slam dunk for Penn State.
At one point it didn’t seem like there was any chance that Aeneas Hawkins, the 4-star defensive tackle out of Cincinnati, would end up anywhere other than Ohio State. The Buckeyes then landed Taron Vincent out of Florida and Georgia defensive end Brenton Cox and the picture got a little cloudy for Hawkins. While I still think as of right now he ends up playing for Ohio State, Penn State has entered the mix and a couple of PSU insiders like where they stand with him. If the Buckeyes can land Hawkins to go along with Vincent, and a possible Cox and Parsons defensive end pairing, this line is going to be scary good for many years down the road.
Another guy who I thought was a lock to end up in Columbus, is Wayne’s L’Christian “Blue” Smith. Smith is a 4-star athlete (wide receiver), who recently cut his list to 10, and included the Buckeyes along with Minnesota, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State out of the Big Ten. I think Michigan has the best chance outside of Ohio State to land him from that group, but right now the leader in the clubhouse would be the Kentucky Wildcats. His high school teammate Alex Reigelsperger committed there earlier this year and has been taking him down to Lexington quite a few times over the past few months.
On the offensive line there are a couple of targets who could end up elsewhere in the Big Ten if they don’t land with the Buckeyes, and those are 4-star offensive guard Verdis Brown and 4-star offensive tackle Matthew Jones. Both are 100% crystal ball projected to land with the Buckeyes, but Brown has offers from his home state of Illinois, as well as neighboring Indiana. I don’t think Brown will end up at either, and right now I have him pegged to end up in Columbus along with Jones. Jones has been to Columbus a few times, but he recently visited Penn State for their Blue and White game and said that they were now No. 2 in his recruitment behind the Buckeyes. Penn State is recruiting really well so far for the class of 2018, so they are certainly one to watch here.
Some other battles to watch are for 4-star wide receiver Kamryn Babb out of Missouri and 4-star tight end Mustapha Muhammad out of Texas, who are both high on the Buckeyes and the Wolverines. PJ Mustipher is a 4-star defensive tackle out of Maryland who has offers from Penn State, Maryland and Michigan, but looks likely headed to Notre Dame. Leonard Taylor was a one-time Michigan commitment who has since opened his recruitment and been a frequent visitor in Columbus, but looks to be a Plan B recruit right now along the defensive line. Tyreke Smith is another one to watch closely as he has Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State among his top 12. While he isn’t slated to decide anytime soon, Penn State seems to have made an impression with him, although I eventually see him in Columbus with former high school teammate Jaylen Harris.
There are some big-time battles ahead to land some of the nation’s top prospects. Some of the guys listed above will not be playing their college ball in Columbus, and will likely be lining up against the Buckeyes for a few years instead. Ohio State sits in good position with plenty of players mentioned on this list, and while I expect them to land quite a few, they can’t take everyone. We are expecting a few decisions here in the month of May which will clear the picture a little bit, but there is a long way to go before next February and a lot can and will change.