We’re officially one month from the start of the Early Signing Period.
Despite so little time remaining in the current cycle, there are still plenty of storylines surrounding Ohio State’s 2023 recruiting class. A good chunk of them could find some clarity this week with the most important game on the Buckeyes’ schedule looming and arguably the most important recruiting weekend.
With that, there are four key storylines worth monitoring for Ohio State’s current recruiting class over the next month or so.
Find the solution at running back
Ohio State’s need for a running back is evident now more than ever following the decommitment of Mark Fletcher last week. The only question now is, what option do they turn to as a replacement?
The Buckeyes have already extended an offer to three-star Georgia prospect Jamarion Wilcox, a prospect that ran for more than 2,000 rushing yards in his senior season and one OSU has been closely following for quite some time. But they’ll have some competition for him.
Beyond Blessed To Receive An Offer From THE Ohio State University !!! @CoachTonyAlford @ryanday@SUMOROBINSON @SPaulding_FB @Mansell247 @adamgorney pic.twitter.com/yH7QKFfVKq
— //\1//\ (@JamarionWilcox1) November 17, 2022
Clemson is also in heavy pursuit of Wilcox, and like Ohio State, the Tigers find themselves without a running back commit in their 2023 class. This is certainly a recruitment they can win, though, as Wilcox grew up in Ohio before moving to Georgia after he finished middle school, so he still has plenty of connections to the area. Getting Wilcox on campus for Saturday’s game will likely be of utmost importance for the Buckeyes.
Additionally, OSU hasn’t abandoned hope of landing a premier running back for the current cycle. When five-star Louisville commit Rueben Owens’ name first surfaced regarding taking a possible visit to Columbus, it was greeted as more of due diligence than anything of actual substance. But per Rivals, there’s growing optimism that Owens will make his first visit to another school other than Louisville since committing to the Cardinals in June and that it will be to OSU this weekend. Owens is expected to finalize his visit plans one way or the other early this week.
If Ohio State can get Owens on campus, it would go a long way toward its ability to flip the five-star talent and, quite possibly, upgrade at running back from where it was even with Fletcher.
Stay diligent in regards to recruiting the three five-star defensive end targets, Arion Carter
Ohio State’s top three remaining targets in the 2023 class remain five-star defensive ends Keon Keeley, Damon Wilson and Matayo Uiagalelei. That won’t change as we stand exactly one month away from the Early Signing Period.
Of the three, the most likely to join Ohio State in the current class is more than likely Wilson, who plans on being in attendance Saturday for the matchup with Michigan. But Georgia has been fighting OSU tooth and nail for the Florida prospect for months, which isn’t likely to stop 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 crack at making their final pitch this weekend.
Meanwhile, things have been pretty quiet on the Uiagalelei front as Ohio State remains in good standing with the California prospect. OSU will continue to battle USC and Oregon for his commitment in the next month. The Buckeyes are seen as an underdog to land Keeley, with Alabama the clear frontrunner. But that won’t stop the program from fighting until the bitter end to land the standout Florida defensive end.
As for Arion Carter, he’s the only remaining high school linebacker prospect OSU would likely take in the 2023 class. Carter just finished an official visit to Columbus on Nov. 12, and the Buckeyes certainly would like him to return for another visit this weekend. However, getting him on campus a second time is far from a certainty.
“My visit was great,” Carter told Eleven Warriors earlier this month. “It was just great seeing how everything was and how they operated things. The culture up there is really, really good. The bonds that are already high with their coaches got built on top of that with meeting them in person … I finally got up to The Shoe. The atmosphere was crazy, even for them to just play Indiana. It was filled up to the tip. It was a great experience overall.”
OSU has given itself a puncher’s chance in this recruitment, though Alabama is perceived as the leader ahead of his Dec. 15 decision date. Getting Carter on campus a second time could flip that perception, though.
Zero in on flipping two impact players defensively
Regarding defensive recruiting, the Buckeyes would love to flip two highly-touted players already committed elsewhere: Five-star safety Caleb Downs (Alabama) and four-star defensive end Joshua Mickens (LSU).
Downs will be the harder pull of the two, of course, but OSU has continued to stay in contact with the Georgia safety and have designs on getting him on campus for the Michigan game Saturday. If Downs doesn’t make it to Columbus Saturday, this recruitment is likely all but wrapped up. But if he does, the Buckeyes could have a chance to pull off an 11th-hour stunner.
As for Mickens, the Indiana prospect visited OSU for the Indiana game on Nov. 12, picking up an offer from the Buckeyes. He also plans on returning to Columbus this weekend for an official visit, which says a lot about the severity of his interest in such a short time. Pairing Mickens with any combination of the three defensive ends listed above would be another massive recruiting win for Larry Johnson and company.
Knock Michigan week out of the park
A few weeks ago, Ryan Day was asked what Ohio State needs to do to finish off the current recruiting class strong. The first part of his answer was pretty simple.
“We can keep winning,” he said.
That holds no greater truth than it does this week. The visitor list for this weekend’s game will be filled with top-tier prospects from all areas of the country. As you all know, this game needs no extra build-up, considering a potential title spot is on the line for both teams, as well as the legacies of players and coaches from each side.
But with such a high-profile visitor list expected, Ohio State making a statement and crushing its rivals to the north would go a long way in making a statement both on the field and to prospective recruits watching it unfold. Especially with recruits they need to make a favorable impression on to land late in the cycle, such as five-star offensive tackle Samson Okunlola.
Optimism is growing by the day that Okunlola, a Massachusetts resident, will attend Ohio State’s rivalry game. With several 247Sports Crystal Balls cast in the direction of 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 enormous implications every year, and recruiting is sure to be one of them.
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