It would be unwise to guess what a college football player plans to do nine to 10 months from now, so overreacting to a single tweet dropped online over the weekend while watching the NFL Combine in Indianapolis may just be catching a player caught up in the fun. Michigan State running back L.J. Scott seemed to leave a hint online to his Twitter followers that he could already be looking forward to his go at the combine “a year from now.”
As a sophomore in 2016, Scott rushed for 994 yards and six touchdowns in a woeful season for the Spartans. Scott is considered one of the top running backs in the Big Ten heading into 2017, along with Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, Minnesota’s Rodney Smith, and Ohio State’s Mike Weber. Like Scott, Barkley and Smith will be juniors this fall and could also be in a position to consider making the leap to the NFL in 2018.
A total of 19 running backs declared early for the 2017 NFL Draft. The only position with more players declaring early for the draft was at wide receiver, with 27.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer takes great pride in coaching the Buckeyes and keeping some of the state’s top high school talent in Columbus. Considering the depth of talent throughout the state, it is no wonder why he would want to do so. As Ohio State puts the finishing touches on its Class of 2017, Meyer will look back at a strong recruiting effort that will net one of the top classes in the country, but he cannot help but regret not getting more players from Ohio to be a part of the recruiting class.
Ohio State’s Class of 2017 includes seven players from the state, including four of the top 10 players from the state. Among those are the state’s top two recruits according to Rivals, offensive lineman Josh Myers and athlete Brendon White. Wide receiver Jaylen Harris and defensive back Amir Riep are the other top 10 Ohio recruits to commit to Ohio State. For the sake of comparison, Ohio State’s Class of 2016 included four of the state’s top 10 recruits as well. Ideally, Meyer admitted, he would like to see roughly half of his recruiting class made up of Ohio players.
The tradeoff, of course, is excelling with recruiting efforts in other states and regions that have helped Ohio State construct a roster that helps separate them from the rest of the Big Ten (and win a national championship). That’s a pretty solid tradeoff. Ohio State’s Class of 2017 is highlighted by a five-star defensive back from Florida (Shaun Wade), a five-star offensive lineman from California (Wyatt Davis), a five-star defensive end from Maryland (Chase Young) and a five-star defensive back from Texas (Jeffrey Okudah), just to name a few. None of the six five-star players to sign with Ohio State hail from Ohio. In fact, no recruit from the state was given a five-star ranking by Rivals, although there were plenty of four-star players to choose from.
More often than not, Ohio State is going to get the cream of the crop from the state of Ohio. Top players in the state will always go elsewhere, like athlete JaVonte Richardson heading to Kentucky, quarterback Sean Clifford going to Penn State and defensive end James Hudson going north to Michigan this year, but the Buckeyes will always have a strong recruiting base right in their backyard. Meyer knows keeping strong connections in the state are essential, but some years he will have to go out of state to put together the best possible class he can.
National Signing Day is upon us once again. Or, as it might as well be known now, the day Nick Saban and Urban Meyer bash everyone’s head together one more time. The next class of All-Americans, of Heisman Trophy winners, of future stars and wacky headlines becomes official on Wednesday, and no one truly knows which players will ultimately belong where. And that’s the magic of it all.
Let’s dive right into some storylines.
– Nick or Urban? Urban or Nick? Heading into Wednesday’s festivities, Alabama and Ohio State are in a neck-and-neck duel for the best class according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Alabama holds a slight lead with 310.26 total points to Ohio State’s 308.78, but Ohio State (94.62) holds the edge over the Tide (93.01) in per-player average. Alabama owns five 5-stars and 14 4-stars among its 24 commitments, while Ohio State has landed five 5-stars and 13 4-stars among its 20 pledges.
– A Smart blueprint. The harbinger of Saban’s ultimate dominance came on Signing Day in 2008 when, after a 7-6 debut, Alabama inked a No. 1 class in its first full cycle under the new staff. Kirby Smart was there for that rise, and now he’s repeating the script in Athens. After an 8-5 debut campaign, Smart’s first full class has leaped from No. 8 to No. 3 nationally, per 247 composite. With two 5-stars and 18 4-stars among its 23 pledges, Georgia won’t likely catch Alabama or Ohio State but is a safe distance away from Michigan for the No. 3 ranking.
– Texas becomes the No Star State. In a year that should give longtime observers flash backs to the dark days of the 1990’s, only four of the top 20 players in the state of Texas are committed to in-state schools. In fact, Ohio State may sign as many Texas blue-chippers as the in-state schools combined, with No. 1 defensive back Jeffrey Okudah, No. 1 linebacker Baron Browning and No. 1 running back J.K. Dobbins already in the fold and an outside shot at landing No. 1 overall player Marvin Wilson. At present, only linebacker Anthony Hines (Texas A&M) and offensive lineman Jack Anderson (Texas Tech) are committed to in-state schools among the state’s top-10 players.
– Is Signing Day going to be… boring? Only 17 of the national top 100 players of the 247 composite ranking are uncommitted as of this writing. Among the top 25, only Wilson (an LSU lean) and Georgia linebacker Aubrey Solomon (Michigan or Alabama) remain uncommitted. Though the headliners may not offer much in the way of suspense, there are still plenty of second- and third-tier players lining up for our entertainment on Wednesday. If we’re lucky, perhaps one will announce his school choice while riding on the back of a dolphin.
Torrance Gibson may have left Ohio State, but he’s not leaving the state of Ohio.
Back in August, it was announced that Gibson had been suspended for the entire 2016 season, a suspension with which Urban Meyer didn’t agree. In December, even as Gibson signed with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, the head coach left the door open for the wide receiver’s return.
That appears to have since been shut as Gibson tells ESPN.com that he has committed to Cincinnati and will play for new Bearcats head coach and former Buckeyes defensive coordinator Luke Fickell. Instead of MGCCC, though, Gibson is enrolled at Cincinnati State in pursuit of an associate’s degree that would allow him to play for UC in 2017.
“I’m confident about what is happening in the Queen City,” Gibson told the website. “I’m just ready to roll.”
A four-star 2015 recruit, Gibson was rated by 247Sports.com as the No. 12 player at any position in the state of Florida. Coming to OSU as a dual-threat quarterback, Gibson was moved to wide receiver. At least at first, Fickell will move Gibson back to quarterback.
Ohio State’s defensive backfield has taken yet another hit, albeit a largely expected one.
Following in the footsteps of others, Marshon Lattimore announced via Twitter that he will be leaving OSU early and making himself available for the April NFL draft. The cornerback would’ve had two years of eligibility remaining had he decided to return.
A redshirt sophomore in 2016, Lattimore tied for second on the Buckeyes in interceptions with four. That total was also tied for sixth in the Big Ten, and he was named first-team all-Conference by the coaches after the regular season.
His first two seasons in Columbus were marred by leg injuries that, after surgery, caused him to take a redshirt his true freshman season and sidelined him for nearly half of 2015.
The other of the trio of defensive backs who are leaving early are cornerback Gareon Conley (HERE) and safety Malik Hooker (HERE). Linebacker Raekwon McMillan (HERE), wide receiver Noah Brown (HERE) and running back/wide receiver Curtis Samuel (HERE).