At this point in the recruiting season, Alabama is way out ahead of the pack nationally while Ohio State — to put it in NASCAR terms — could use some drafting help.
But analysts say the race still is in its early stages as the Buckeyes and coach Urban Meyer work toward securing another highly ranked group of prospects.
“I think ideally they would have liked to have a core of five or six guys in the fold by now, but I definitely don’t feel that it’s time to hit the panic button just yet,” Marc Givler of Rivals.com said. “If you look at their top targets, a lot of those guys are going to take their official visits and make late decisions.
“When it comes to the fans that follow this stuff closely, this class won’t be for the faint of heart.”
Bill Kurelic of Bucknuts.com and Jeremy Birmingham of ElevenWarriors.com agreed, but Birmingham had a caveat. The Buckeyes have just two commitments, and one — athlete Eric Glover-Williams of Canton McKinley — is on shaky ground because of off-field issues.
“While I don’t think there ought to be a concern about the total number of current recruits — Meyer’s track record should assuage that line of thinking — the lack of a true leader emerging to lead the class is concerning,” Birmingham said.
Jamel Dean, considered a three-star defensive back prospect from Cocoa, Fla., is the lone solid commitment after safety Ben Edwards of Jacksonville, Fla., flipped to Auburn last week.
But it’s not fair at this time to compare Ohio State’s class to Alabama’s, considered by many as the best in the nation.
“This time a year ago, I think Michigan had the No. 2 or No. 3 class in the country based primarily on the number of commitments, and Ohio State was way down the list,” Kurelic said. “But after signing day in February, Ohio State had a top-four consensus class while Michigan really fell down the list (to No. 31 on Rivals.com).”
The recruiting services don’t just base their rankings on quantity but quality. And as Kurelic, Givler and Birmingham said, the Buckeyes are in the hunt for some high-quality prospects who are expected to take their time before deciding.
Those include quarterback Torrance Gibson of Plantation, Fla., running back Damien Harris of Berea, Ky., offensive lineman Drew Richmond of Memphis, Tenn., and receiver Christian Kirk of Scottsdale, Ariz. Harris is ranked No. 1 among running backs by Rivals. Gibson is second among dual-threat quarterbacks, Kirk third among receivers and Richmond fifth among tackles.
“Those guys aren’t going to make up their minds until they have made their officials visits, which can’t start until the fall,” Kurelic said. “Gibson has said he won’t make his choice known until January.”
Under Meyer, Ohio State has cast a wide net nationally, but with such fishing often comes with a lot of waiting and anxiety.
“There’s going to be a lot of late drama and a lot of decisions being made in the weeks leading up to national signing day,” Givler said. “A close look at the Buckeyes’ board shows that a lot of their top targets not only are still in play, but many of them have OSU either at the top or very close to the top of their lists.
“So it’s still too early to get overly concerned about this class and where it will stack up.”