Buckeyes impress Tennessee tight end, Damon Payne race heats up

Jeremy Birminghamalmost 2 years
Aritcle written by:Jeremy BirminghamJeremy Birmingham



Stay in touch or be left out because Ohio State recruiting is a 24-hour, seven-day-per-week obsession. What’s the latest news as the Buckeyes build for the future? Get that and more Sunday through Thursday on Lettermen Row. Sunday’s notebook catches up with tight end prospect Hudson Wolfe an has an update on the return to action for quarterback Jack Miller.

Hudson Wolfe finds good fit at Ohio State

Ohio State made its first pitch to Savannah (Tenn.) Hardin County tight end Hudson Wolfe a week ago. And the 6-foot-6, 24o-pound tight end left believing the had Buckeyes made quite a first impression.

“For a first visit, everything was awesome,” Hudson, the country’s sixth-ranked 2021 tight end, told Lettermen Row. “They were great. I loved being there for the great game-day atmosphere, and it was awesome to finally be able to meet the coaches I’ve been talking to the last couple weeks.”

It was just about a month ago when the Buckeyes offered Wolfe, and it quickly became a priority for him to get to Columbus. His recruitment doesn’t have a timeline, really, but there’s no doubt that some big-time programs have begun to creep to the top of his list. Visiting Ohio State now was necessary to make sure all the schools Wolfe is interested in were seen up-close-and-personal.

“Being from the south, you always hear the SEC in the big dog in college football — but being up there last weekend definitely has me realizing there are others even bigger than some we have in the south,” Wolfe said. “It definitely creates clarity for me, knowing of the places out there. I’m super excited about Ohio State.

“I got there a few hours before kickoff and left Sunday afternoon. I spent quite a bit of time with coaches. I was able to go into the locker room after the game and meet some in there, but also came back Sunday morning to break down film with [Buckeyes tight ends] Coach [Kevin] Wilson. Then had about a 30-minute meeting with Ryan Day. We liked him a lot. He’s a great guy and obviously a great coach.”

It’s been Wilson leading the charge for Ohio State as it tries to establish itself as a real contender in this recruitment.

“They said I could be the guy that they use for everything,” Wolfe said. “From being able to block a big-time defensive end or blocking out wide in space, but also being a threat in the passing game.”

There are no current crystal ball predictions for Wolfe, but even with a visit to Texas A&M this weekend, many people believe he’s leaning toward staying in the south and attending Alabama. He doesn’t deny his affinity for the Crimson Tide, but he’s trying to remain patient as he checks out his options.

“I do like [Alabama], but I have yet to make an official decision,” he said. “I am loving getting around to these places and seeing what everyone has to offer. I am hoping to have a decision made after I am able to take all five of my official visits. I’ve still got a few places to get before a decision will be made.

“But for the most part, I’ve seen everything that I need to make a decision, so it’s just a matter of time.”

Jack Miller’s return to action for Chapparal High School

After missing more than a month of his senior season, Buckeyes commitment Jack Miller was back on the field for Chaparral High School on Friday night.

He didn’t miss a beat.

Though he saw his Firebirds fall behind Sandra Day O’Connor High School 24-15 heading into the fourth quarter, Miller brought his team back to a 35-31 win to improve to 5-2 on the season.

The Buckeyes commitment threw three touchdown passes — all of them to top receiver Tommy Christakos — including a game-winning strike for a score with three minutes remaining in the contest. Miller was able to stay upright enough of the night to affect the outcome, a key win for Chaparral and for the Ohio State verbal himself.

Miller has seen his national recruiting ranking drop pretty steadily over the last few months as questions about his durability have arisen, giving national analysts concerned by a number of missed games pause about his potential. On Friday night, when he wasn’t running for his proverbial life in the pocket, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior was able to throw the ball in rhythm and with success down the field, playing to his strengths.

The entire game was broadcast live on YouTube for anybody looking to see Miller’s return to action.

Ohio State in Damon Payne battle

In case you missed it, Lettermen Row was in Belleville (Mich.) on Thursday afternoon and spent time with one of the Buckeyes top 2021 defensive line targets, defensive tackle Damon Payne. You can check out that interview, and Payne’s thoughts, here.

The cliff notes? Payne has not even begun to narrow down his list of top schools, but he clearly he likes the Buckeyes or he’d not have gone to visit the school a half-dozen times in the last year or so.

While that’s the official word from Payne, that’s not exactly the impression we got from talking to other folks around the Belleville practice about the 6-foot-4, 290-pound, two-way lineman.

Rather, it seems there’s a sense that this is actually a two-team race right now between Ohio State and Alabama for Payne. And while this really doesn’t matter much, he was wearing a Crimson Tide bracelet around his left wrist throughout his walkthrough practice and our interview with him.

Payne did not hide the fact that one of his major concerns about the Buckeyes right now is that the discussion from other programs recruiting him is still solidly focused on Larry Johnson and his “pending retirement.” It seems no matter how much Johnson denies that he’s close to hanging up his whistle, folks from other schools are still selling it as likely in the near future.

We’ll see if that comes back to bite the Buckeyes here.

Lorenzo Styles trending to Notre Dame

It was talked about a little bit here earlier in the week, but after his weekend visit to Notre Dame, it seems like now is a good time for the Buckeyes to start preparing for 4-star Ohio State legacy Lorenzo Styles to end his recruitment and commit to the Fighting Irish.

And maybe in the near future.

The Buckeyes did nothing wrong here, to be clear. There’s also still an effort being made to change what appears to be the coming outcome, but even after making a visit Ohio State for its game against Michigan State a week ago, the momentum has been with Notre Dame and looks to be staying in South Bend.

We wrote about Styles and the challenges facing the Buckeyes in this recruitment, and those have kept them at bay a little bit as they tried to sort out exactly where to put the 6-foot-1, 190-pound athlete. The Buckeyes have continued to recruit Styles but haven’t really been able to put together a comprehensive plan for how they’d utilize him in their program.

Notre Dame has been able to do that, and it allows for a tough decision to be made easier — even for a Buckeyes legacy who lives right down the street from Ohio Stadium.

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