Here's our recap of Friday Night Lights 2015, which saw the Buckeyes hosting dozens of top prospects from around the country - here's a partial list, including the twenty Buckeye commitments who were in attendance. We will provide more updates as they become available.
Two Verbal Commitments
Ohio State earned a pair of verbal commitments at Friday Night Lights (July 24th). The first was long expected, namely tight end Luke Farrell (Perry, Ohio; 6' 6" 240 lbs; Rivals 4*, #7 TE; #158 overall; Scout 4*, #7 TE, #195 overall; 247Sports 4*, #5 TE, #147 overall) who finally pulled the trigger after favoring Ohio State for months. Farrell becomes the third tight end in the Buckeyes' Class of 2016, joining Jake Hausmann and Kierre Hawkins, although the lanky Hawkins seems destined to spend more time split outside than either of the other two prospects. Farrell is very athletic as well a being a great blocker, and he reminds us quite a bit of current Buckeye tight end Nick Vannett.
The second verbal was rather surprising, considering that the prospect entered Friday Night Lights without a reported offer. Place kicker Blake Haubeil (Buffalo NY Canisius; 6' 3" 200 lbs; not ranked) became the ninth member of the Buckeyes' Class of 2017 after he put on an exceptional performance for Urban Meyer and Kerry Coombs. Haubeil was perfect on attempts out to 52 yards, and showed enough leg to connect from 60+ yards.
A Not-So-Verbal Commitment?
One of the top prospects for the Class of 2017 is Richard LeCounte (Hinesville GA Liberty County; 6'1" 171 lbs; Rivals 4*, #7 CB, #64 overall; Scout 4*, #5 SAF, #96 overall; 247Sports 4*, #3 ATH, #43 overall). LeCounte received his Ohio State offer two years ago when he was just a freshman, and since then he has had the Buckeyes very high on his list of schools. On Friday night, there was plenty of buzz that LeCounte had in fact committed to Ohio State, but he issued a half-hearted refutation of those rumors in a Tweet: Great Time At FNL No Commitment though, just enjoying everything. LeCounte attends the same high school as current Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillian, and that relationship should help the Buckeyes' cause, if they need any help to close this deal.
Some Other Big Names to Watch
The top uncommitted target at Friday Night Lights had to be Class of 2016 DT Antwuan Jackson (Ellenwood GA Cedar Grove; 6' 3" 285 lbs; Rivals 4*, #6 DT, #59 overall; Scout 4*, #11 DT, #97 overall; 247Sports 4*, #8 DT, #45 overall). The Buckeyes have been looking for a stud defensive tackle for years, and Jackson could easily fit that bill. Right now, Ohio State and Auburn lead, but this recruiting battle could go on until Signing Day, even if Jackson ends up committing somewhere in the meantime.
It's no secret that the Buckeyes would like to add another wide receiver for the Class of 2016, and one of their top targets is Donnie Corley (Detroit MI MLK; 6' 2" 180 lbs; Rivals 4*, #14 WR, #79 overall; Scout 4*, #25 WR, #134 overall; 247Sports 4*, #19 WR, #115 overall). Long considered to be a Michigan State lean, Corley has nevertheless continued to keep Ohio State in the mix. Corley will likely take all five official visits before deciding on his future school.
Another top wide receiver target in attendance was the Class of 2016's Ahmir Mitchell (Egg Harbor NJ Cedar Creek; 6' 2" 197 lbs; Rivals 4*, #8 WR, #51 overall; Scout 4*, #9 WR, #59 overall; 247Sports 4*, #6 WR, #79 overall). After Friday Night Lights, Mitchell Tweeted out a picture of himself with Buckeye wide receiver coach Zach Smith along with the statement: All smiles up in Columbus with maybe my future WR coach. While this would seem to be good news, it is more likely that Mitchell was trolling Buckeye fans, as he is considered by most experts to be a strong Michigan lean.
With an outstanding performance at Friday Night Lights, Class of 2017 cornerback Darnay Holmes (Newbury Park, CA; 5' 11" 185 lbs; Rivals 5*, #2 CB, #11 overall; Scout 5*, #1 CB, #12 overall; 247Sports 5*, #1 CB, #15 overall) re-affirmed his consensus five-star status. Shortly after the event ended, Holmes issued his top-10 list and Ohio State made the cut. That's obviously good news, but there's still a very long way to go in this chase.
Another California star in attendance was Class of 2017 WR Keyshawn Johnson, Jr. (Calabassas CA; 6' 2" 195 lbs; Rivals 4*, #35 WR, #219 overall; Scout 4*, #13 WR, #113 overall; 247Sports 4*, #18 WR, #124 overall). The good news: Keyshawn is the cousin of current Ohio State WR Michael Thomas, and he has a definite affinity for the Buckeye football program. The bad news: Keyshawn is the son of former Southern Cal great Keyshawn Johnson, Sr., and that (not to mention proximity to home) might be the deciding factor. Nebraska is also in the mix, but we would surprised if Keyshawn ended up anywhere but Columbus or Los Angeles.
One of the top prospects for the Class of 2018 is ATH Jaelen Gill (Westerville OH South; 6' 0" 165 lbs; unranked), who already has an offer from Ohio State. Even though he is just entering his sophomore year, Gill was one of the standout performers at Friday Night Lights. With Gill being from a suburb of Columbus, the Buckeyes have a very good chance to eventually secure a commitment from him.
A Few Surprises From Friday Night
2016 DB Patrice Rene (Alexandria VA Episcopal; 6' 2" 200 lbs; Rivals 4*, #15 SAF, #237 overall; Scout 3*, #26 SAF; 247Sports 3*, #33 CB, #357 overall) has been on the Buckeyes' radar for quite some time, but with only a few spots left in Ohio State's class it looked like Rene might get squeezed out. Well, that situation may have changed on Friday night. Rene, who is kind of a cornerback/safety tweener, exhibited exceptional coverage skills and recovery speed at FNL to go along with his size and length. The Buckeye coaching staff definitely took notice, and they should let Rene know on Tuesday (July 28th) whether there is still a place for him in this class. If so, expect a quick (and probably pro-Buckeye) decision from Rene.
The Buckeyes already have three running backs committed for the class of 2016 and one more for the Class of 2017, so that does not appear to be a position of need. But "running back" has a fluid definition at Ohio State, and a prospect recruited as a running back might end up in the backfield, on the wing, or split out wide. Class of 2017 RB Trey Sermon (Marietta GA Sprayberry; 6' 1" 206 lbs; Rivals 4*, #5 RB, #62 overall; Scout 4*, #7 RB, #48 overall; 247Sports 4*, #4 RB, #44 overall) traveled to Columbus without an offer, but promptly earned one with his excellent showing at Friday Night Lights. Adding yet another running back to the mix would be a luxury for Ohio State, but Sermon is a strong enough prospect that you sign him first and worry about where to play him later.
No surprise here: Class of 2017 WR Dakari Carter (Streetsboro OH; 5' 9" 155 lbs; unranked) is really, really fast. The reigning Division II champion in the 100 meters (10.55 seconds) obviously has breakaway speed, but does he have the rest of the package necessary to play wide receiver at a big time program like Ohio State? You know, little things like soft hands, elusiveness in the open field, and ability to run routes, the things that have derailed many a speedster's career over the years. While Carter is far from being a polished receiver, he did display some skills at FNL besides his blazing speed. Carter did not receive an offer from Ohio State, and he is clearly behind several other top WR targets, but the Buckeye coaching staff will be keeping a close eye on this kid throughout his junior season.
With the recent losses of Marcelys Jones (transferred to Kentucky) and Mirko Jurkovic, Jr. (failed to gain admission, re-signed with Georgia), Ohio State could use another interior lineman for the Class of 2016. A prospect who would like to fill that void is Gavin Cupp (Leipsic OH; 6' 6" 275 lbs; Rivals 3*, #31 OT; Scout 3*, #33 OG; 247Sports 3*, #48 OT, #555 overall), and so he decided to attend and participate in Friday Night Lights. The problem for Cupp is that he was a Michigan State verbal at the time, and his apparent lack of loyalty didn't sit well with Sparty head coach Mark Dantonio, who revoked Cupp's scholarship offer before the night was even over. Cupp performed well at FNL, and an Ohio State offer is certainly possible down the road. But even if Cupp eventually ends up elsewhere, we have to applaud his determination to earn a possible offer from Ohio State, even when doing so cost him a guaranteed offer from Michigan State.
And Let's Not Forget....
By all accounts, Friday Night Lights was a great event and an excellent recruiting tool for Ohio State. But the biggest Buckeye news of the week came on Thursday afternoon when Class of 2016 super blue chip defensive end Nick Bosa (Rivals 5*, #2 SDE, #17 overall; Scout 5*, #1 DE, #2 overall; 247Sports 5*, #1 SDE, #7 overall) decided to pledge to Ohio State. Being the younger brother of current Buckeye All American Joey Bosa, Nick was long considered to be an Ohio State "lock", but his official announcement was still cause for celebration in Buckeye Nation. Nick's commitment vaulted Ohio State to the top of the recruiting rankings in all three major services, and the Buckeyes have a great chance to remain on top with a few key commitments down the stretch.
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Misc Recap of Friday Night Lights 2015