Ohio State Football: Highlighting Recruits Already Committed to OSU Ahead of NSD
A slow end to the 2013 season, which included the first two losses of Urban Meyer's tenure in back-to-back fashion, has done little to harm Ohio State's 2014 recruiting class.
At time of publication, the Buckeyes check in at No. 2 in 247Sports team rankings, well behind Alabama but comfortably ahead of No. 3 LSU. Barring something unforeseen, they will probably remain in this slot and finish out the cycle in second place.
Linebacker Raekwon McMillan is the only committed 5-star prospect, but this class offers remarkable depth and balance. Its 15 4-star recruits are second best in the country, tied with Tennessee and one spot behind Notre Dame.
There's still work to do on high-profile guys like John Smith, who remains uncommitted, but for now, this is the shape of the class. Let's take a look at each piece.
Note: Star rankings courtesy of 247Sports.
Curtis Samuel is a Dontre Wilson-type player, projected to make an impact both catching and running the ball. He's a Wilson-type talent, too. The Brooklyn product ranks in the top 60 overall players on the 247Sports composite and in the top 50 on the site's subjective rankings.
Sam Hubbard is a versatile 6'3" defender who's built like a defensive lineman but quick enough to play standing up. His exact position will likely depend on how he adds weight next season. If he can bulk up, defensive end could be a better spot than linebacker. There's also some tight end potential.
Noah Brown is an imposing physical threat at 6'2'' and probably projects as a receiver in Columbus. He can do some of the same things that Riley Cooper did in Urban Meyer's offense, but he lacks the polish to be productive right off the bat. He's a high-upside project.
Malik Hooker can play all over the field, but he probably projects best as a defensive back. That is good news, since at 6'2'', he has the height and long arms to play like the en vogue secondary of the Seattle Seahawks. Co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash has some work in store on this front, but if he can get the best out of Hooker, the reward will be worth it.
Stephen Collier is a 3-star recruit and the No. 18 dual-threat quarterback in America, per the 247Sports composite. But 247Sports' subjective rankings think higher of Collier, ranking him No. 12 at his position and almost 20 spots higher in the state of Georgia rankings.
It's easy to forget after the Terrelle Pryor and Braxton Miller years, but Ohio State has traditionally made less-heralded players like Todd Boeckman into capable starters. Collier is worth keeping an eye on, especially given his combination of size (6'4'') and speed.
Johnnie Dixon is one of the fastest offensive players in the class—not just on top-end speed but in quickness off the line. He's agile and able to beat press coverage, which should serve him well in Urban Meyer's timing-based system. At 5'11'', he also has decent enough size to play on the outside, though the slot would serve him better.
Parris Campbell is listed as a receiver but should probably be called an athlete. Running back and cornerback are both potential options, as he is blessed with impressive physical tools but little polish. It will be up to Meyer and Co. to decide where his future lies.
Terry McLaurin needs to put on some weight to become a viable player on the outside, but every other part of his game is there. He's blazing fast and stands 6'0'', so if he adds some bulk and polish, there's no telling how good he can be. It all comes down to coaching.
OT Jamarco Jones has the height (6'4''), length and hands to become a very good tackle at the FBS level. All he lacks is bulk. If dropped onto the field in 2014, he would likely get bowled over by bigger, 3-4-type ends. But if he adds some muscle in Columbus, he could eventually become a solid bookend.
OG Demetrius Knox has all the tools of a solid, road-grading guard in the run game. He needs to refine his hand usage in pass blocking, but that should come with good coaching and experience. He is also taking visits elsewhere, so it's no guarantee he'll end up in Columbus.
OT Kyle Trout is a mountain of a man at 6'6'', but he's a lean mountain, weighing "only" 300 pounds. Like Jones, he'll need to add significant weight at the next level, although Trout is further behind on technique. If he can't make the necessary steps outside, look for him to kick inside and try his hand at guard.
OG Marcelys Jones is listed as a guard but could probably kick out to tackle if need be. He's 6'5'' and already 325 pounds, though college practice will quickly reveal if that's good or bad weight. He moves around well for a man his size, though, so here's to hoping it's the former.
OT Brady Taylor is the lowest-ranked member of the current class—not just at tackle but at any position. At 276 pounds, he needs to gain a lot of weight to become a viable Big Ten lineman. Still, he's rangy, athletic and capable of being molded into a solid swing tackle.
DE Jalyn Holmes is such a good athlete that it's hard to figure out his position. Defensive end seems the most likely fit, though at 6'5'', a move to tight end—which he's played before—will be tempting. If he stays along the line, some improved technique would make him a scary-good prospect.
DE Dylan Thompson is not the starting quarterback for South Carolina. He's a 3-star end prospect from Illinois with the ability to play either end or tackle, depending on how he adds weight. The upside here is limited, but with the right attitude, he can become a solid situational run-stopper.
ILB Raekwon McMillan is the crown jewel of this class—and with good reason. The 5-star linebacker can do everything you want up the middle and was eagerly pursued by Nick Saban at Alabama. Ideally, he will become the next great in the heart of Ohio State's linebacking corps, following the track laid out by guys like James Laurinaitis.
OLB Dante Booker is the No. 52 overall player and No. 4 outside linebacker on the 247Sports composite, but the site's subjective rankings rate him much higher at No. 13 and No. 2, respectively. There's a reason for that. He has a nose for the football and always finds himself in the middle of the action. At the very least, he should contribute on special teams next season.
OLB Kyle Berger is an overlooked commodity, simply by virtue of not being Booker or McMillan. But that's a little unfair. He's not the best physical specimen you've ever seen, but he is still a 4-star recruit with toughness and off-the-chart football instincts. He'll do just fine in Columbus.
CB Damon Webb was poached from Detroit—the heart of Michigan's recruiting pipeline—and could pay big dividends for the Buckeyes. He has very good speed and adequate size, which should make him versatile both in the slot and on the outside. He also has the look of a first-year special teams contributor, especially as a punt-coverage gunner.
CB Marshon Lattimore is ranked slightly lower than Webb, but he's the one Buckeye fans seem more excited about. And with good reason: At 6'0'' with the speed and ability to play two ways, he could be OSU's own mini-version of Charles Woodson. He's not a burner, but he's quick and has very good length, which will make him a useful weapon in pass coverage.
S Erick Smith is so much more than a package deal with Lattimore, his good friend and high school teammate at Glenville. He showed as much during the Army All-American Bowl, making tackle after tackle on a national stage. There's only so much you can tell in an exhibition, but his performance got OSU fans twitched up nonetheless.