We’re officially a month away from the start of the early signing period.
Despite so little time remaining in the current cycle, there are still many storylines surrounding the Ohio State Recruiting Class of 2023. A good chunk of them could find some clarity this week when the most important game on the Buckeyes’ schedule arrives and arguably the most important recruiting weekend looms.
That leaves four major storylines worth watching for Ohio State’s current recruit class over the next month or so.
Find the solution while running back
The need for a runback at Ohio State is now more apparent than ever following last week’s cancellation of Mark Fletcher’s signing. The only question now is which option will they choose as a replacement?
The Buckeyes have already made an offer to three-star Georgia pro Jamarion Wilcox, a prospect who has rushed for more than 2,000 yards in his senior season and has been closely followed by an OSU for quite some time. But they will compete with him.
— //\\1//\\ (@JamarionWilcox1) November 17, 2022
Clemson is also on the hunt for Wilcox, and like Ohio State, the Tigers find themselves in their 2023 class with no running back commitment. That’s certainly an attitude they can win, though, as Wilcox grew up in Ohio before moving to Georgia after finishing middle school, so he still has many ties to the area. Getting Wilcox on campus for Saturday’s game will likely be of paramount importance to the Buckeyes.
Additionally, OSU hasn’t given up hope of landing a premier running back for the current cycle. When five-star Louisville conscript Rueben Owens’ name first surfaced in connection with a possible visit to Columbus, it was hailed as due diligence rather than anything of actual substance. But according to Rivals, there is growing optimism that Owens will be making his first visit to a school other than Louisville since signing up for the Cardinals in June, and that it will be at OSU this weekend. Owens is expected to finalize his visiting plans one way or another earlier this week.
If Ohio State can bring Owens to campus, it would go a long way towards their ability to turn the five-star talent around and potentially upgrade if he runs back from where it was even with Fletcher.
Stay diligent in recruiting the three five star defense end targets, Arion Carter
Ohio State’s top three remaining targets in the Class of 2023 remain five-star defensive ends Keon Keeley, Damon Wilson and Matayo Uiagalelei. This will not change as we are exactly one month away from the early signing period.
Of the three, Wilson will most likely join Ohio State in the current class, planning to be present for Saturday’s matchup with Michigan. But Georgia has been fighting tooth and nail at OSU for the Florida prospect for months, and it’s unlikely to stop any time soon. But the Buckeyes will likely have the advantage of being the last gameday visit before Wilson makes his announcement, so they’ll get their chance to make their final pitch this weekend.
Meanwhile, things are pretty quiet on the Uiagalelei frontline as Ohio State remains in good standing with the California Prospect. OSU will continue to fight USC and Oregon for his engagement next month. The Buckeyes are considered underdogs to land Keeley, with Alabama the clear frontrunner. But that won’t stop the program from fighting to the bitter end to land Florida’s standout defensive end.
Arion Carter is the only remaining high school linebacker that OSU would likely pick in the Class of 2023. Carter just wrapped up an official visit to Columbus on November 12, and the Buckeyes would certainly want him to return for another visit this weekend. However, bringing him to campus a second time is far from safe.
“My visit was great,” Carter said Eleven warriors earlier this month. “It was just great to see how everything was and how they ran things. The culture up there is really, really good. The bonds that already exist with their coaches were further strengthened by meeting them face-to-face… I ended up joining The Shoe. The atmosphere was crazy, even for her just playing Indiana. It was filled to the brim. It was a great experience overall.”
OSU has given itself a puncher chance on this recruitment, although Alabama is considered a leader ahead of its Dec. 15 decision date. However, bringing Carter to campus a second time could reverse that perception.
Focus on flipping two Impact players defensively
In terms of defensive recruits, the Buckeyes would like to flip two highly acclaimed players who are already engaged elsewhere: five-star safetyman Caleb Downs (Alabama) and four-star defenseman Joshua Mickens (LSU).
Downs will, of course, be the tougher move of the two, but OSU has remained in touch with Georgia safety and has plans to bring him on campus for Saturday’s Michigan game. If Downs doesn’t make it to Columbus Saturday, that recruitment is likely all but complete. But if he does, the Buckeyes could have a shot at landing an 11th-hour stunner.
As for Mickens, the Indiana prospect attended OSU for the Nov. 12 Indiana game and accepted an offer from the Buckeyes. He also plans to return to Columbus for an official visit this weekend, which says a lot about the seriousness of his interest in such a short amount of time. Pairing Mickens with any combination of the three defensive ends listed above would be another massive recruit win for Larry Johnson and co.
Beat Michigan week out of the park
A few weeks ago, Ryan Day was asked what Ohio State needs to do to finish the current recruit class strong. The first part of his answer was pretty simple.
“We can keep winning,” he said.
There is no greater truth in this than this week. The attendance list for this weekend’s game will be filled with high-profile prospects from every region of the country. As you all know, this game needs no extra building considering a potential title spot for both teams is at stake, as well as the legacies of players and coaches from both sides.
But with such a high-profile attendance list expected, Ohio State making a statement and crushing its northern rivals would go a long way toward making a statement, both on the field and to potential recruits watching developments to deliver. Especially with recruits, they need to make a good impression to end up late in the cycle, such as five-star offensive tackle Samson Okunlola.
Optimism grows on the day that Okunlola, a Massachusetts resident, will compete in Ohio State’s rivalry game. With multiple 247Sports Crystal Balls thrown toward Miami, the Buckeyes need to make an undeniable home run impression if they have any chance of pulling Okunlola away from the Hurricanes and a potentially lucrative NIL deal.
The game has a huge impact every year and recruitment will certainly be one of them.