The three-week mark before national signing day provided a substantial surprise for Ohio State Buckeyes fans as they awoke Wednesday morning.
Premier 2017 receiver prospect Tyjon Lindsey—committed to the program since August—announced overnight a decision to "open" his recruiting process to explore alternative collegiate options:
I will like to announce that I have OFFICIALLY opened my recruiting process back up.2017-1-11 06:16:47
Considered the No. 6 overall player at his position in Scout.com's rankings, Lindsey elected to distance himself from his Ohio State verbal pledge the same week as longtime teammate and close friend Tate Martell enrolls early as a member of the Buckeyes' class.
Blue-chip defensive tackle Haskell Garrett, who earned a national championship this season alongside Lindsey and Martell at Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School, is also expected to sign with Ohio State. These personal relationships, particularly with Martell—a U.S. Army All-American quarterback—add to the stunning nature of this late announcement.
"We're like brothers, and I've always thought about going to college with him," Lindsey told Bleacher Report in reference to Martell last February. "That's still something I think about but all in all, it's my college decision, and I've got to do what's best for me."
Ultimately, it seems these two will not sustain their partnership in passing efforts beyond the prep level. Though Lindsey dealt with injuries as a senior, he connected with Martell for 2,000 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns during the previous two seasons, per MaxPreps.
Tate Martell @TheTateMartell
I'll be arriving at Ohio State tonight to start my college career. Tyjon's decision isn't my decision. Wish him the best where ever he goes.2017-1-11 17:11:32
A nationally pursued prospect since the early stages of his high school career, Lindsey carries more than 20 scholarship offers. Along with Ohio State, he listed Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oregon, Tennessee and USC as finalists this summer.
It's possible USC could become a contender again during this final stretch, as the Trojans have hosted him on campus multiple times. Lindsey, who split time during recent years between Las Vegas and Southern California, could be compelled by the team's up-and-coming aerial attack.
However, signs point toward another Big Ten Conference program perhaps surging ahead of the pack. Nebraska is strongly trending in 247Sports' Crystal Ball, as 18 consecutive recruiting experts have predicted he will land with the Cornhuskers.
Nebraska continues to recruit California with success, evidenced by the addition of 4-star receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr. And Lindsey has established quality rapport with Cornhuskers receivers coach Keith Williams.
While these projections serve as a strong indication of where Lindsey may be leaning, he still has time to utilize multiple official visits prior to national signing day. Expect several coaching staffs—including a new Oregon regime—to attempt to make strides as news of his decommitment spreads across college football.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes' 2017 receiver cupboard isn't exactly left bare.
Ohio State landed 5-star pass target Trevon Grimes on Aug. 22. The St. Thomas Aquinas (Florida) standout pledged in tandem with Lindsey via a B/R video:
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Grimes, rated the nation's No. 3 receiver in Scout.com rankings, reaffirmed his commitment to head coach Urban Meyer and company following Lindsey's decision:
Im Still 100% .. NOTHING will change that... 🙏🏽 hope the homie @tyjonlindsey makes the right move2017-1-11 12:01:50
The Buckeyes may not need to search beyond state borders for further help at receiver. Cleveland playmaker Jaylen Harris—considered a 4-star talent—is projected to sign with Ohio State by 93 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball.
He had expressed confidence about possibly joining the class months before this development.
"I don't really care that [Grimes and Lindsey] committed," he told Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com in October. "I know the coaches want me. Coach Meyer, I talk to him every other day. I talk to someone from Ohio State every single day. They have been showing me love."
The 6'5", 205-pound Harris is a much different athlete than the 5'8", 165-pound Lindsey, who commands attention for elite explosiveness and shiftiness. Grimes brings a rare blend of size (6'4", 202 lbs) and quickness (4.47 40-yard dash) so there is still a speed element to this receiver haul even if Lindsey isn't replaced by a similar prospect.
Ohio State could also opt to expand its search for players at the position by escalating outreach toward uncommitted and committed recruits. New offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson would be a key part of that process.
Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Quotes and observations obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Prospect ratings courtesy of Scout.
Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.