Stage set for huge Buckeyes recruiting weekend as recruits, targets hit campus

Aritcle written by:Jeremy BirminghamJeremy Birmingham

Birm

CJ Hicks Courtesy

COLUMBUS — The weekend that Ohio State commits and top targets have been waiting for is finally here.

It’s the long-awaited Buckeyes Bash 2.0, the first chance for the Buckeyes 2022 commitments to spend real time together and their first opportunity to meet more than a half-dozen uncommitted players who have been top Ohio State targets for much of the last year.

How important is this weekend in Columbus? Consider this, anecdotally. Lettermen Row has added seven total 2022 prospects to The List, our picks as must-get recruits for the Buckeyes 2022 class. Of those seven, four will be in town making an official visit this weekend.

There were a number of possibilities for filling out the hectic June schedule. Splitting up the verbals across the month could have been easier for Ohio State, certainly. Instead, Ryan Day and Mark Pantoni listened to their commits request: They wanted to visit as soon as possible — together.

“We just felt like since they’ve been so loyal to us, we wanted them to get here that first weekend,” Pantoni said last week. “Because they deserve it. They deserve to all be here together, get to know each other. They are our best recruiters.”

Simply put, how the the country’s No. 2-ranked recruiting class eventually gets defined may very well hinge on this first weekend of June.

Here are the weekend’s biggest storylines.

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Quinn Ewers will be at Ohio State for the first time since June of 2018. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

The Ohio State commitments

Eight of the 12 Ohio State commitments in the Class of 2022 will be making their official visit this weekend.

It’s hard to argue that the biggest name among them is Quinn Ewers, the country’s No. 1-ranked player. It will be the first trip to Ohio State since the summer of 2018 for Ewers. As a brief reminder of what happpened that day, here’s what we wrote about the country’s top quarterback at the time.

For my money, the best quarterback in attendance was 2022 – yes, a player getting ready to enter his freshmen year of high school – prospect Quinn Ewers. He’s going to be a star Southlake Carroll in Texas.

Crushed it. But I digress.

The presence of Ewers is huge, of course. He’s a kid who his teammates love, but he’s also not always the most interested in social-media interactions. So, it’s big for his fellow commits to get a solid couple of days getting to know him in real life.

Ewers will be joined by his future receivers and both Buckeyes tight end commitments. Fellow Texas 5-star Caleb Burton is heading to town, so is Arizona star Kyion Grayes. Georgia’s Bennett Christian will meet his future coaches for the first time, building on what’s been a very important relationship for him and Kevin Wilson.

Tegra Tshabola, the lone offensive line commitment for Ohio State, will make the short trip from Southwest Ohio. Linebacker Gabe Powers will drive over from nearby Marysville. J’yaire Brown and Kye Stokes, two of the four Buckeyes defensive back commits, will come in from Louisiana — where Brown is working out this summer — and Florida, respectively.

5-star linebacker C.J. Hicks was scheduled for his official visit, but he will take that in two weeks from now instead. He has track and field obligations that will prevent him from spending the whole weekend in Columbus, but he will be there as much as his schedule allows. Tight end Benji Gosnell also had to postpone his visit until later this month.

Ryan Turner and Jaheim Singletary will make their official visits later this month.

Major Ohio State offensive line targets

Three big-time offensive line targets for the Buckeyes are coming to the Capital City, including the country’s No. 1-ranked offensive tackle Zach Rice.

Ohio State has regularly been mentioned as a contender for Rice, but this will be his first visit to its campus. He’s been to North Carolina multiple times and has also been linked closely to Notre Dame and Virginia. Greg Studrawa and assistant line coach Kennedy Cook have kept the Buckeyes in the conversation, but they’re playing from behind. If Ohio State is going to land Zach Rice, it’ll have to absolutely smash the visit this weekend for him and his family.

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Aamil Wagner is trying to win a state championship in track and then decide if Ohio State is right for him. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

The Buckeyes are also welcoming Aamil Wagner, who is coming up from Huber Heights for his first real interaction with the coaches since they offered this spring. Wagner is often considered an Ohio State lean because of the school’s history of producing Buckeyes. But Notre Dame is a real contender, and he’ll be interested in much more than just learning about the football program. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound lineman isn’t expected to make a college decision until the fall, but a big-time visit to his childhood dream school could make it hard to say no. Wagner has been a top target of C.J. Hicks, and the Buckeyes linebacker commitment takes his role as a peer-to-peer recruiter very seriously.

There is a third offensive lineman visiting Ohio State officially this weekend. We’ve not talked about George Fitzpatrick much, because he doesn’t talk about his recruiting much. But the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Cherry Creek (Englewood, Colo.) High School standout is a very real option for the Buckeyes. He wouldn’t have been invited to this key recruiting weekend if he wasn’t. Fitzpatrick is the country’s No. 31-ranked offensive tackle but has the athletic profile the Ohio State coaching staff loves in an offensive lineman. Fitzpatrick made a self-guided visit of Columbus in February, but this time around he’ll get to hang out with the Buckeyes coaches, including Tony Alford and Greg Studrawa. Both coaches have played a role in his recruitment so far. Fitzpatrick’s recruitment will end soon, and Ohio State, Oklahoma and Oregon appear to be the final three.

Ohio State doesn’t have a lot of room left on the offensive line in the Class of 2022. June sees nearly every top player making a visit. Intrigue abounds.

Freak defensive end Larry Johnson could turn into a top-5 pick

Larry Johnson will play host to two defensive linemen this weekend. Nick James is a talented 4-star defensive tackle from the IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.). He’s originally from Alabama and has a number of big offers he’s sorting through.

The other defensive lineman visiting Ohio State this weekend is a bit different. That is Omari Abor, the 5-star defensive end from Duncanville (Texas) who is the defensive end of the 2022 cycle for the Buckeyes. Abor is the type of prospect that Larry Johnson has built his career on, and the weekend visit is going to be all about Johnson’s legacy. The truth is that Abor has the talent to be a first-round pick no matter where he goes to college — but he has Chase Young, Bosa-esque traits that Johnson doesn’t miss on.

Omari Abor could be the most important non-committed visitor of the week. He’s a difference maker in every sense of the word.

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Xavier Nwankpa has been waiting a long time to visit Ohio State. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Three defensive backs Ohio State wants the most

Two of the four Ohio State defensive back commitments are coming to town.

But the Buckeyes want three more. Yes, three more defensive backs is the goal, and the top three players on that wishlist are all Columbus bound. Cornerback Toriano Pride is coming from St. Louis. Safeties Xavier Nwankpa and Zion Branch are visiting from Iowa and Las Vegas.

Pride may be leaning toward Clemson, but Kerry Coombs, Matt Barnes and Brian Hartline have been all over him for months. The Buckeyes love St. Louis, and Pride has been to campus multiple times before. The fact that three cornerbacks are committed to Ohio State isn’t slowing down the pursuit, and that’s telling. The Buckeyes want Toriano Pride in a big way.

No pair of players has been coveted longer, and more seriously, than Nwankpa and Branch. The duo — both top-five ranked safeties — have been the priority for the Buckeyes for months. There’s both a chance and growing confidence, that Ohio State could land them both. If that’s going to happen, this weekend will be the reason why. There will need to be clear-cut roles and paths to playing time laid out for each.

With Stokes committed at safety, he’ll play a big part in the conversations. There’s a plan in place for the Buckeyes. Now is the time to clearly articulate it.