Ohio State Football: Position-by-Position Grades for 2016 Recruiting Class
Urban Meyer retained his title as recruiting king of the Big Ten earlier this month, when he helped Ohio State sign the conference's top class for the fifth consecutive year.
The Buckeyes, who checked in at No. 4 in the national standings behind Alabama, Florida State and LSU, filled a number of big holes in their roster with 25 new freshmen. It was a balanced class, though, as Ohio State brought in blue-chip prospects to every position group on the team.
With star potential at every level, here's a look at every position that was upgraded by the 2016 recruiting class.
All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.
It looked like Ohio State was going to swing and miss on its quarterback recruiting when longtime commit Tristen Wallace spurned the Buckeyes for Oregon two-and-a-half months before national signing day. But Urban Meyer bounced back quickly and landed Dwayne Haskins, a 4-star standout and the No. 7 quarterback for the class of 2016.
Haskins was committed to home-state Maryland, but the Buckeyes were able to flip him after the Terrapins parted ways with former head coach Randy Edsall. The 6'3", 198-pound signal-caller is more in the mold of Cardale Jones than J.T. Barrett or Braxton Miller, relying on his big arm to get the ball down the field rather than his legs.
Meyer envisions his new quarterback competing for the backup spot in his first year.
“I anticipate after going—he went through a workout and watching him, watching his film and the way he’s been trained—that he will compete for playing time as a true freshman,” Meyer said, according to Tim Shoemaker of Eleven Warriors.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
The Buckeyes needed to load up on pass-catchers with the loss of Braxton Miller and Nick Vannett, in addition to the early departures of Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall. That's exactly what they did with the 2016 recruiting class, signing a trio of receivers and three highly-rated tight ends.
On the perimeter, Ohio State signed Austin Mack (the 10th-best wide receiver in the class of 2016) and Binjimen Victor (No. 12). Urban Meyer also got a commitment from Demario McCall, a 4-star all-purpose back who projects to H-Back for the Buckeyes. All three were rated Top 100 prospects nationally and will have a chance to play right away.
At tight end, the Buckeyes will rely on upperclassman Marcus Baugh to fill the void left by Vannett, but Jake Hausmann, Luke Farrell and Kierre Hawkins will provide a ton of depth. Rated the No. 4, 7 and 11 tight ends, there won't be enough snaps for all three to play this year, but Hausmann is the pass-catcher/blocker combo that Meyer absolutely loves in his power-spread offense.
The Buckeyes also needed to reload at running back with Ezekiel Elliott moving on to the NFL and Warren Ball transferring to Akron for his final season, and like at quarterback, they lost a pivotal commitment when running back Kareem Walker decommitted and pledged with Michigan.
But in typical Meyer fashion, the Buckeyes plugged that hole by securing a commitment from Antonio Williams, a 4-star standout and the No. 7 running back nationally. At 5'11" and 217 pounds, he has a rare combination of size and speed that reminds Meyer of a pair of Buckeye superstars.
"[Urban] Meyer said I remind him of a combination of Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott," Williams said, according to Andrew Ellis of Eleven Warriors.
"I feel that I'm just a compete back, honestly. The last 40-yard dash I ran was a 4.42, I'm right at 220 pounds, I'm very strong and have great pass-catching ability," Williams added, via Ellis.
After graduating high school early to take part in winter conditioning and spring drills at Ohio State, Williams will have every opportunity to crack the running back rotation in his first year.
Ohio State was on its way to a fantastic offensive line haul heading into signing day, but a surprise commitment from one of the top JUCO prospects nationally pushed it over the top.
The foundation was set early with commitments from 4-star studs Michael Jordan (offensive tackle) and Tyler Gerald (guard), both of whom enrolled early to take part in spring practice. They were complemented by a pair of 3-stars in Gavin Cupp (tackle) and Jack Wohlabaugh (guard), who will report to the team with the rest of the freshmen this summer.
The surprise of the group came on national signing day, though, when the Buckeyes gained a huge commitment from Malcolm Pridgeon. The massive 6'8", 315-pound tackle was the No. 4 overall JUCO prospect nationally, and he chose Ohio State over offers from Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Florida and a host of others.
New offensive line coach Greg Studrawa anticipated Pridgeon making an instant impact next year.
“It’s unbelievable,” Studrawa said of Pridgeon's potential, according to Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch. “He’s very flexible and athletic, and he really wants to succeed. He’s a driven kid. It’s a great, great get for us.”
Ohio State signed the most fearsome one-two punch in the country, from a pure pass-rushing perspective.
It was long expected for 5-star defensive end Nick Bosa—the younger brother of superstar Joey Bosa—to follow his older sibling's path to Columbus. Nick, rated the No. 1 overall strong-side defensive end and the No. 8 prospect nationally, pulled the trigger in July, committing to Ohio State over offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State and others.
Joining Nick on the other side is Jonathon Cooper, a high 4-star who enrolled early at Ohio State. Cooper was rated the No. 3 overall weak-side defensive end and the No. 32 overall prospect for the class of '16. Paired with Nick, the Buckeyes have a lethal pass-rushing duo that could terrorize the Big Ten for years.
And according to Urban Meyer, the two should play right out of the gate.
"[Nick] Bosa's playing. Cooper will play," Meyer said at his national signing day presser, according to Tony Gerdeman of The Ozone.
But the biggest disappointment for the entire recruiting class was at defensive tackle. The Buckeyes got a solid addition in Malik Barrow, a 4-star prospect out of Bradenton, Florida, but they missed out on their top targets—Rashan Gary, Rashard Lawrence and Antwuan Jackson.
Even with the loss of starters Joshua Perry and Darron Lee, the Buckeyes are absolutely loaded at linebacker. After years of elite recruiting, the position group is stacked with 4- and 5-star talent, with guys such as Raekwon McMillan, Dante Booker, Justin Hilliard, Nick Conner, Jerome Baker and Chris Worley in the fold.
Borland is a potential early contributor on special teams, and he has a jump start after enrolling early at Ohio State. But Urban Meyer sees something special in Jones, whom the Buckeyes stole from Maryland a month before signing day.
“The jewel might be Keandre Jones,” Meyer said of the '16 recruiting class, via Patrick Murphy of The Ozone.
Co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell gave him a favorable comparison to a Buckeye superstar.
"You could kind of bottle up Darron Lee and say this is a hybrid type of guy we really want. An athletic guy that can blitz that can cover space out there," Fickell said, via Murphy.
Ohio State made a huge effort to load up on cornerbacks in 2016, and that's exactly what it did when it signed four boundary defensive backs on signing day.
The Buckeyes got it going early when they stole 3-star standout Kareem Felder from Virginia Tech, and they kept the train rolling with pledges from 4-star Wayne Davis and 3-star Jahsen Wint. That was a good haul, but Meyer went out and sealed the group with high 4-star Jordan Fuller, the No. 6 athlete who projects as a corner at the collegiate level.
A source close to the Ohio State football program told Jeremy Birmingham of Eleven Warriors that the coaching staff absolutely loves the versatility Fuller brings to the field:
Fuller is an elite athlete, and he did everything for his team: offense, defense and special teams. He's got length that's tough to find and proved he had corner ability at the US Army All-American Bowl too, even though he played safety in high school. That's a rare combo to find a 6-foot-1, almost 200-pound kid that has skills like that.
The Buckeyes might need him at safety down the line, though, if they can't correct the gap they left in their recruiting this year. Ohio State didn't sign a true safety in its 2016 class, so that'll need to be a big focus with the 2017 cycle.