June 22, 2016
Ohio State surged to the front of the pack and built a strong lead in the race for the 2017 recruiting national championship, and it has maintained its position with the No. 1 class for well over a year now.
But despite having verbal pledges from a pair of 5-star commits, 10 4-star commits and the country’s top-rated kicker, the Buckeyes are feeling pressure from Alabama, which gained steam with four 4-star commitments and raced up the recruiting rankings to No. 2 this month.
Will the Buckeyes be able to hold off Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide, who have finished No. 1 in the rankings in each of the last six recruiting cycles?
To do so, Ohio State will need to finish strong with a flurry of marquee commitments. Two big-time pledges from 5-star wideouts Tyjon Lindsey and Trevon Grimes are starting to feel more like inevitabilities than possibilities, per 247Sports’ “crystal ball” predictions.
If Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer closes the deal with those two wideouts, as expected, he could focus his attention on what could be a historic wave of 5-star talent that would ensure Ohio State lands the No. 1 recruiting class.
Here are the three recruits who could seal the deal for the Buckeyes.
Jeffrey Okudah, 5-Star Safety
Ohio State could sign two of the top five players in the country if it can get Jeffrey Okudah to join Josh Myers, 2017’s No. 4 overall player and the top offensive tackle prospect.
Okudah, the No. 1-rated safety and No. 5 player overall for 2017, has been one of Ohio State’s top targets for months now, and the attention the school is giving him is paying off. The Buckeyes have been trending up in his recruitment, blowing past schools such as Alabama, Baylor, Stanford, Texas and Texas A&M to become his top school.
“The tradition at Ohio State. It’s just a surreal atmosphere,” Okudah told Greg Ladky of Rivals in a video interview. “The coaching staff, Coach Meyer wins a lot of games. Coach [Greg] Schiano, a former head coach, I know he can develop me and get me to the next level.”
Okudah could take Ohio State’s secondary to the next level, especially when he’s paired with 4-star Isaiah Pryor, the nation’s No. 3 safety, and 5-star Shaun Wade, the No. 2 cornerback—both of whom have already committed to the Buckeyes.
Cam Akers, 5-Star Running Back
Why wouldn’t a star running back want to play for Meyer and the Buckeyes?
Since Meyer took over in 2012, the starting running back at Ohio State (Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott) has averaged 1,547.5 rushing yards per season. Elliott was the gold standard, eclipsing 1,800 rushing yards in both 2014 and ’15 while running for 41 touchdowns in a 28-game stretch.
Those are the numbers that have Cam Akers, the No. 2 running back and the No. 16 overall prospect nationally, interested in the Buckeyes.
The 5-star Clinton, Mississippi, product was a onetime Alabama pledge, but he decommitted from the Tide and reopened his recruitment on March 3.
Four days later, the 5’11 ½”, 212-pound bulldozer was in Columbus for an unofficial visit at Ohio State. That trip got the Buckeyes in the thick of his recruitment, and Akers came away impressed.
“I definitely love Ohio State,” Akers said, according to Bill Kurelic of 247Sports. “My family and myself love Ohio State and what the [football] program is doing. They always produce good running backs. They are always in the running for the national championship and the academics are great also.”
Meyer and the Buckeyes are still trailing Ole Miss as the favorite, per 247Sports’ crystal ball predictions, but they’re not far behind. And with another visit scheduled for July 22, Akers could be trending Ohio State’s way over the summer in more ways than one.
Chase Young, 5-Star Defensive End
Few schools have recruited the defensive end position better than Ohio State over the last five years.
The Buckeyes have signed the likes of 5-stars Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Nick Bosa and 4-stars Joey Bosa, Jalyn Holmes, Jashon Cornell, Dre’Mont Jones and Jonathon Cooper. But defensive line coach Larry Johnson and the coaching staff are trying to maintain that momentum by earning a commitment from 5-star defensive end Chase Young.
Rated the No. 3 weak-side defensive end and the No. 32 recruit for the 2017 class, Young has a long and decorated offer list, but he’s seriously considering Ohio State alongside Alabama, USC and the home-state Maryland Terrapins. The Buckeyes are in a dead heat with Maryland, via 247Sports’ crystal ball predictions, but they’re trying to pull ahead as camp season approaches.
They’ve got a great chance of doing so in July, when Young visits Ohio State for its marquee recruiting camp/event—Friday Night Lights. If that trip goes well and Meyer can convince Young that he’s their priority (Ohio State doesn’t have a defensive end in its 2017 class yet), then the Buckeyes would have a great chance of stealing one of Maryland’s top prospects.
All recruiting information via 247Sports.
David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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