COLUMBUS — The NCAA’s mandatory dead period on all on- and off-campus recruiting activities, issued last Friday due to the COVID-19 outbreak, has done little to deter the Ohio State coaching staff from continuing to build on what is shaping up to be a spectacular 2021 recruiting class.
Over the last three days, Ohio State has received verbal commitments from four players, giving the Buckeyes 14 commitments in the 2021 class with still nine months remaining until the December early signing period. Their class currently ranks as the best in the country by a wide margin, nearly 50 points according to 247 Sports’ ranking system.
Cornerback Devonta Smith, a three-star prospect according to 247 Sports, began the commitment flurry on Sunday by selecting Ohio State over offers from Alabama, Notre Dame, Oregon, and Oklahoma, among others. The 6-foot standout from La Salle High School in Cincinnati is the first cornerback in the class, a position that is among the highest priorities for head coach Ryan Day and his new defensive coordinator, Kerry Coombs.
The future prospects of the cornerback position received a further boost the following day when St. Louis, Missouri four-star prospect Jakailin Johnson announced his intentions to be a Buckeye. Ranked as the fourth-best corner in the class per 247’s composite rankings, Johnson quickly became one of the staff’s highest priorities at the position. He chose Ohio State over nearly 30 other offers, including Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Michigan, and more.
Johnson is the top-ranked player in the state of Missouri, a recruiting ground that has become increasingly fertile for Ohio State over the better part of a decade.
While the cornerback position — and the secondary as a whole — will remain a top priority for the coaching staff, no position group is in more dire need of replenishing than the running backs. With J.K. Dobbins’ departure and news of Master Teague III suffering a leg injury on the first day of spring practice, many questions will surround the position whenever practice is permitted to begin again.
After striking out on all of their top three running back targets in the 2020 class, however, help appears to be on the way in the upcoming class.
On Monday, four-star back Evan Pryor announced his intentions to sign with Ohio State later this year, marking a huge recruiting win for running backs coach Tony Alford. Pryor, a four-star recruit and the sixth-ranked running back in the class, hails from Cornelius, North Carolina. Ohio State was able to hold off Georgia and the in-state Tar Heels for Pryor’s services.
At 5-foot-10-inches tall and 190 lbs., Pryor isn’t the biggest back. He will need to add strength upon arrival in Columbus, which he will undoubtedly do once he falls under the guidance of strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti. Otherwise, Pryor possesses elite speed, and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield makes him one of the more complete backs in the class.
The fourth commitment of the week came in the form of another defensive back in Nashville, Tennessee product Andre Turrentine.
A four-star recruit, Turrentine is the sixth-ranked safety in the 2021 class. However, his versatility could allow him to play anywhere in the secondary at Ohio State. Despite growing up in the heart of SEC territory, Ohio State was able to pluck Turrentine away from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, LSU, and Tennesse.
The addition of Turrentine, Johnson, and Smith gives Ohio State four defensive backs in the 2021 class; four-star safety Jaylen Johnson committed in January. Ohio State will look to add at least one more to the secondary haul before the class is finished.
While the Buckeyes received four commitments this week, they weren’t the extent of the good news on the recruiting front. Many predictions from the country’s top recruiting analysts have been cast in favor of Ohio State for some of the top uncommitted prospects remaining.
According to 247 Sports, Ohio State is currently leading for five-star prospect and top-ranked defensive tackle J.T. Tuimoloau and sixth-ranked offensive tackle J.C. Latham.
In addition to Pryor, Ohio State will look to add a second running back to the class and is in a good position to do so with another of the top players at the position. The Buckeyes are perceived as the leaders for both the second-ranked back, TreVeyon Henderson, and third-ranked running back Donovan Edwards. Both have stated they are comfortable playing in a two-back system.
Football will return to action again eventually, but until it does, the Ohio State recruiting train that has only picked up steam with the transition from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day will continue to roll along into 2021.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.