The final tally was staggering: Ohio State had 10 players selected over the first three rounds of the draft, topping the previous record (8) set by Tennessee in 2000. Among the Buckeyes who heard their names called early were defensive end Joey Bosa (No. 3 overall), running back Ezekiel Elliott (No. 4 overall), three other first-rounders, and quarterback-turned-wide receiver Braxton Miller (No. 85 overall).
Ohio State’s haul was a testament to its collection of talent in a season that came one stunning, three-point home loss to Michigan State within another berth in the national semifinals. It wasn’t that long ago that Bosa, Elliott, Miller and the other Buckeyes joining NFL teams were preparing to join Ohio State as recruits. Urban Meyer oversaw their progression from four- and five-stars to college standouts to highly coveted pro prospects.
This off-season the Buckeyes are compiling a group of players who seemingly possess the potential to follow the same path.
Ohio State’s 2017 recruiting class currently checks in at No. 1 in the country on every major recruiting service (it finished No. 2 in 2016). The group counts 13 commitments; an average star rating of 4.00, according to Scout.com, second only to Alabama’s 4.11; and is led by four players ranked in the top-50 nationally by Scout.com: offensive tackles Josh Myers and Jake Moretti, defensive tackle Haskell Garrett and cornerback Shaun Wade.
This class is great as currently constructed, but it’s not close to being completed yet. With about eight months until National Signing Day, here’s a look at five key targets for the Buckeyes, as provided by Scout.com affiliate Buckeye Sports Bulletin reporter Ryan Ginn.
Position: wide receiver
Height/Weight: 6’ 3.5’’/190 lbs
High School: St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.)
Scout.com position rank: 8
Scout.com national rank: 57
Though Grimes attends Florida powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas—the school that produced first-round pick Joey and class of 2016 prospect Nick Bosa—he hails from Big Ten country. The Indianapolis native said in March that Ohio State remains the top option in his recruitment and described Florida as “probably the biggest threat” to the Buckeyes, according to Bleacher Report. Unfortunately for Ohio State, Florida class of 2017 quarterback commit Jake Allen, Grimes’s teammate at St. Thomas Aquinas, has been recruiting Grimes.
Height/Weight: 5’ 10.5’’/203 lbs
High School: Bishop Gorman (Nev.)
Scout.com position rank: 1
Scout.com national rank: 12
Martell decommitted from Texas A&M earlier this month after previously announcing that he plans to take all five of his official visits. Martell tripped to Columbus in March, and in an interview with the website Eleven Warriors, he described Ohio State as “my dream school.” Though the Buckeyes already landed a commitment from one class of 2017 quarterback, Archbishop Hoban (Ohio) High’s Danny Clark, they’ve continued to pursue other options at the position, including Martell and four-star prospect Kellen Mond.
Height/Weight: 6’ 1’’/190 lbs
High School: South Grand Prairie (Tex.)
Scout.com position rank: 1
Scout.com national rank: 18
Okudah reiterated in March that Ohio State is the leader in his recruitment after releasing a list of his top 10 schools in January: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Stanford, Texas A&M. Okudah visited Ohio State earlier this month, along with Kennedale (Tex.) High linebacker Baron Browning. If he picks the Buckeyes, Okudah would join a class that already counts commitments from three defensive backs: cornerbacks Marcus Williamson and Wade and safety Isaiah Pryor.
Height/Weight: 5’ 10.5’’/180 lbs
High School: Clairton (Pa.)
Scout.com position rank: 3
Scout.com national rank: 17
Wade narrowed his list of schools to 10 earlier this month: Alabama, Duke, Mississippi State, Ohio State, Penn State, Pitt, Tennessee, UCLA, Virginia Tech, West Virginia. Though Wade has taken multiple visits to Columbus, the Buckeyes could have a hard time beating out two programs in his home state: Penn State and Pittsburgh. Ohio State missed on two other elite defensive backs from the Pittsburgh area in the class of 2015 and 2016, respectively, in Jordan Whitehead and Damar Hamlin, both of whom chose the Panthers.
Position: defensive end
Height/Weight: 6’5’’/226 lbs
High School: DeMatha Catholic (Md.)
Scout.com position rank: 3
Scout.com national rank: 28
In April, Young visited Ohio State and subsequently included the Buckeyes on the list of 15 schools he released. But they’ll have to fend off a host of big-name programs to land Young, a list that includes Alabama, Arizona State, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Texas A&M and USC. Ohio State already has secured verbal commitments from two other four-star defensive linemen in the class of 2017: tackles Garrett and Jerron Cage.
Ginn says he expects the Buckeyes’ 2017 class to feature around 20 players, which would be five fewer than Ohio State signed in its 2016 class. How could the Buckeyes’ 2017 class compare to the other five hauls they’ve brought in since Meyer was hired in November 2011? “I’d say, it’ll be for sure, in my opinion, probably pound-for-pound the best class that Urban has ever signed,” Ginn says. “It’s just a matter of how many they’ll be able to take.”
Irrespective of how many of the players on the above list Ohio State does land, expect this class to provide the type of talent that has fueled four consecutive seasons of at least 12 wins and that continues to earn high marks from NFL types. Ohio State is losing a lot, but it’s going to gain a lot, too.
Social media item of the week
Mond, the No. 11 quarterback in the class of 2017, according to Scout.com, announced Wednesday night that he is decommitting from Baylor. The IMG (Fla.) Academy product subsequently said in an interview with News 4 San Antonio that Auburn “probably” is the leader in his recruitment right now.
Three things to know
• Baylor’s recruiting has taken a nosedive. The Bears’ 2017 recruiting class is down to one commitment. Since last Thursday—when coach Art Briles was fired following the release of the summary of law firm Pepper Hamilton’s investigation into the school’s handling of sexual assault allegations against football players—five prospects in the class who had pledged to Baylor have reopened their recruitments: Mond, three-star defensive tackle Jayden Peevy, four-star tight end Kedrick James, three-star safety Donovan Stiner and four-star wide receiver Hezekiah Jones. Three-star safety Jalen Pitre is the only player in the class of 2017 who has not withdrawn his commitment. Meanwhile, ESPN reported this week that seven recruits who signed with the Bears as part of their 2016 recruiting class—including four-star wide receiver Devin Duvernay and four-star offensive guard Patrick Hudson—have either asked for or intend to ask for releases from their National Letters of Intent.
• The nation’s top quarterback prospect is focused on seven schools. Martell told Scout.com National Recruiting Analyst Greg Biggins last weekend that California, Colorado, Miami, Ohio State, UCLA, USC and West Virginia comprise his current list. Martell also said he plans to take unofficial visits to Cal and USC and official trips to the other schools on the list. When asked what he’s looking for in a school, Martell said, “I just want a place that I can play, go in early, learn from the best coaches. I don’t know, I mean, I just wanna go—I gotta feel like it’s the perfect fit for me.” Martell initially committed to Washington as a 14-year-old. He later reopened his recruitment and pledged to Texas A&M last August. Last month, after previously announcing plans to take all five official visits, Martell backed off that pledge to the Aggies. While the nation’s No. 12 prospect has a number of schools trying to land him, as noted above, Martell remains a priority for the Buckeyes.
• Elite 11 released the 24 quarterbacks set to compete in the finals of its prestigious quarterback competition this weekend. These 24 were chosen based on their performance in a series of regional events earlier this year. The finalists will vie to become part of this year’s Elite 11 and earn an invitation to The Opening Finals. Here are the 24: Johnathan Lewis (Rutgers commit), Connor Blumrick (Texas A&M), Avery Davis (Notre Dame), Jack Sears (uncommitted), Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), Dylan McCaffrey (Michigan), Jake Haener (uncommitted), Rocky Lombardi (Michigan State), Hunter Johnson (Clemson), Sean Clifford (Penn State), Myles Brennan (LSU), Mac Jones (Kentucky), Lowell Narcisse (LSU), Tommy Devito (Syracuse), Sam Ehlinger (Texas), Davis Mills (Stanford), Chris Robison (Oklahoma), Jake Fromm (Georgia), Chase Brice (Clemson), Shawn Robinson (TCU), Jake Allen (Florida), Martell, Chase Garbers (uncommitted), Mond (uncommitted).