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. This afternoon’s edition talks about the decommitment of Darvon Hubbard and return visits to Ohio State for Reece Atteberry and Brian Branch.
Darvon Hubbard’s decommitment is not a surprise
Ohio State is now officially back to zero running back commitments in the Class of 2020 as Willow Canyon (Surprise, Ariz.) 4-star Darvon Hubbard announced he was reopening his recruitment on Thursday afternoon.
As we’ve written here repeatedly: Hubbard’s recruitment has been up in the air since early December at least. He cited the recent coaching changes in Columbus as the driving force in this decision, and there’s no doubt that things changed when Urban Meyer retired, but I’m reluctant to put the entire weight of this choice on that departure.
Let’s call this a mutual parting of ways, but recognize that occasionally that happens because one side has no real choice but to acknowledge what’s imminent. It is in the best interest of the player in this case to re-open his recruitment on his terms and timeline or risk missing out on key relationship-building time with other college coaches.
There had been minimal contact between Hubbard and the Buckeyes for months prior to Meyer’s retirement, and that continued after the legendary coach’s departure as well. A former teammate of Ohio State quarterback commit Jack Miller at Scottsdale’s Chaparral High School, Hubbard left the Firebirds midseason and transferred to Willow Canyon High School in early November after his family moved across the Valley of the Sun. Rumors from the Grand Canyon State hinted the departure from Chaparral could’ve been handled a bit better by the young running back, who had moved to Arizona a year earlier from Akron.
Ohio State accepted a commitment from Hubbard last July after multiple camp visits, but it knew there would be a major need at the tailback position in 2020 and that likely meant two or three players would be needed at the spot. Hubbard, ranked as the country’s No. 15-ranked tailback, missed significant time this season at Chaparral with an ankle injury — and according to some Arizona sources “just wasn’t an Ohio State-level football player.”
Recruiting is not for the faint of heart, and the football business doesn’t always feel good. But early, honest discussions about expectations not being met are fair and important for players and their families.
March visit could be key for Reece Atteberry
At multiple points last year, the rumor mill began to whirl with buzz that Ohio State could be on the verge of landing a commitment from Colorado offensive lineman Reece Atteberry. Mark Atteberry, the father of the 6-foot-5, 280-pound, 4-star prospect at Eaglecrest High School in Aurora, told Lettermen Row that there was some fire behind that smoke.
“He was very close, no lie. Reece has been a fan since very young. [Ohio State] is a dream offer, so he was reacting on that,” the father of the country’s 28th-ranked offensive tackle said. “After some very grown-up conversations with mentors and ex-players from all levels and different alumnus, he came to a very mature game plan and he wants to stick to that.”
That game plan is as follows — and the Buckeyes are still a part of it.
“He will narrow down to a top-eight schools by March 1,” Atteberry said. “So, he can isolate and begin breaking that down to his top five as fast as possible. He may take some officials this spring, but may wait until the fall for all officials, but he has been adamant on taking his officials.”
He’s also going to be taking some spring unofficial visits, including a late-March trip to Ohio State. It will be an important trip as the family verifies what they’ve come to learn about new coach Ryan Day.
“It’s been the same culture and history,” the elder Atteberry said. “He seems like he’s expanding on [Urban Meyer’s program] and not trying to reinvent the wheel, if you know what I mean. He visited Reece here a few weeks ago to stress that.
“We are headed there on March 23 for some spring practices. We want to see first hand the process and get a feel of the environment to see if it meets his personal expectations. Reece is very very competitive and wants to see first-hand the development of players and overall get feel of the grind occurring in front of his face.”
Brian Branch has return to Ohio State in the works
Another player that was close to committing to Ohio State recently is Sandy Creek (Tyrone, Ga.) High School athlete Brian Branch. The country’s 26th-ranked safety visited the Buckeyes in November and was a favorite target of former co-defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.
Grinch is no longer at Ohio State, but Branch has been connecting regularly with Day’s new assistant coaches.
“I talk to Ohio State every day,” Branch told Lettermen Row this week. “Jeff Hafley, Al Washington and Matt Barnes.”
Hafley and Barnes are the coaches in the secondary for Ohio State, and Washington is handling recruiting in Georgia. Branch has connected with each but specifically feels good about where things are with Hafley and Barnes.
“Hafley has coached in the NFL and has helped guys like Richard Sherman as a coach and a mentor, so thatâ€™s big,” he said. “Matt Barnes is a great coach, too. We’re both from Baltimore and the youngest in our families. We have a great connection.”
The new Ohio State coaches may get to see Branch in person in March. He’s planning on visiting Columbus again on March 23, a day after he checks out Michigan.
Another 2020 offensive tackle offer
It feels like the Buckeyes offer another 2020 offensive lineman nearly every day, and it’s kind of hard to keep up with them all. The latest is Tate Ratledge from Darlington High School in Georgia.
Thankful to receive an offer from THE Ohio State University! pic.twitter.com/qgde5ZnL32
— Tate Ratledge (@tateratledge22) February 13, 2019
Ratledge is 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds, and the offer from Ohio State is his 12th. The Buckeyes join Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Florida, Auburn, South Carolina, Tennessee and more in what is becoming a very busy recruitment.
The country’s 40th-ranked prospect and fourth-ranked tackle, pulling Ratledge out of the south will be a difficult task. But Ohio State is now in the game.