Hundreds of the Midwest’s top high school prospects descended upon Fortress Obetz just outside of Columbus on Sunday for the fifth stop of the Under Armour All-American Camp Series. And though they dealt with overcast skies, cold wind and light rain for much of the morning and early afternoon, several players earned invitations to either the Under Armour All-America Game or Future 50 camp.
Unfortunately, the media was limited in what we could film and where we could stand for photos, which meant the interview session was the highlight of the event. A handful of players that were expected to attend were unable to make the trip for various reasons, as well, including 2022 Huber Heights Wayne four-star offensive tackle Aamil Wagner and 2023 Findlay four-star offensive tackle Luke Montgomery.
Still, Sunday’s camp gave us our first chance to see some prospects in action since before the coronavirus pandemic began. It also marked the first trip to Columbus for Ohio State four-star linebacker commit Dasan McCullough.
McCullough did not participate in the camp as he continues to recover from offseason surgery on a turf toe injury but spent some valuable time with fellow pledges like Kettering Archbishop Alter five-star linebacker C.J. Hicks, Marysville four-star linebacker Gabe Powers and the West Chester Lakota West duo of four-star offensive tackle Tegra Tshabola and four-star cornerback Jyaire Brown.
Aside from when they were going through their respective position drills, the group was inseparable for much of the day. It was cool to see how some of them had never meet in person but acted like they have known each other their entire lives. It was also great to see Brown make the trip despite the recent loss of his father and his future teammates throw their arms around him during this difficult time.
There’s no doubt the commits are eager for the recruiting dead period to come to an end and have the first weekend in June circled for their official visits. They also hinted that weekend, dubbed Buckeye Bash 2.0, will lead to a flurry of commitments, though they weren’t tipping their hand as far as who it could be that joins the fold next.
On the field, meanwhile, I was particularly impressed with how Tshabola carries himself physically. He’s every bit of 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds and shows the athleticism to play on the outside, even if some believe he’ll be inside at the next level. He’ll fit right in on an Ohio State offensive line that preaches versatility.
McCullough wasn’t the only player dealing with an injury, though, as Powers was also limited by a quad strain. You can tell he’s a competitor, just based upon the fact that he ran through drills when he had nothing to gain, especially since he already earned an invitation and has committed to play in the Under Armour All-America Game in January. The same goes for Brown, Hicks and McCullough, as well.
The commits also spent time with Westerville South four-star wide receiver and Penn State pledge Kaden Saunders. He was a late scratch due to an injury, but I think he has all of the tools to be a great offensive weapon. It remains to be seen if the Buckeyes offer, especially since he’s a bit undersized at 5-foot-10 and 172 pounds, but if they do, I wouldn’t rule out a flip.
Moving on to the class of 2023, I did a double take when I first saw Mentor five-star defensive end Brenan Vernon. His frame and his hair, in particular, bought to mind former Ohio State defensive ends Joey and Nick Bosa. He certainly backed up those comparisons with strong one-on-one reps, using his strength to dominate opponents more than his speed.
I was equally impressed with Huber Heights Wayne four-star offensive guard Joshua Padilla, who more than held his own at guard and center against older and more-experienced players. Don’t let his baby face fool you, he’s going to be really good and hold offers from all over the country when it’s all said and done.
The only other rising junior with an offer from Ohio State in attendance was Pickerington Central five-star safety Sonny Styles, who will shock me if he’s still a safety in college instead of an outside linebacker. He’s currently 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds (with room to grow), quick off the ball and excellent in coverage. A can’t-miss prospect for Ohio State.
Some other underclassmen that stood out include 2023 Des Moines (Iowa) Southeast Polk four-star offensive tackle Kadyn Proctor, 2023 Brockton (Mass.) Thayer Academy four-star offensive tackle Samson Okunlola and 2023 Springfield three-star wide receiver Anthony Brown. McCullough’s younger brother, 2023 four-star safety Daeh McCullough, also shined in position drills.
It will be fun to follow their respective recruitments over the next year or so, especially McCullough, who should be just as highly touted as his older brother when it’s his cycle’s time to shine.
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