Ohio State Football Recruiting: Meet the Buckeyes' 2017 Class
Urban Meyer put the finishing touches on Ohio State's 2017 recruiting class Wednesday, and while the 21-member group is the smallest during his six-year tenure in Columbus, it could wind up as the most talented when all is said and done.
The Buckeyes brought in a total of six 5-star prospects, which eclipsed the total number Meyer signed in the previous three recruiting cycles combined. The 21 blue-chip prospects have an aggregate rating of 4.19—by far the highest in the country—and 10 rank within the top five of their respective positions, per Scout.
The only thing that kept Ohio State from signing the country's top class was a scholarship crunch. The Buckeyes had 43 true and redshirt freshmen on the roster last season, and even though they lost six underclassmen to the NFL draft, they weren't able to sign classes as big as Georgia, Alabama and Michigan.
That's why Ohio State finished No. 4 in the national recruiting standings, but it's clear that the coaching staff went for quantity over quality in 2017.
Here's a look at the 21 newest Buckeyes.
Chase Young, 5-Star Defensive End
With that depth, the Buckeyes didn't need to add a lot to their group of pass-rushers, but that didn't stop them from signing one of the most talented ends in the country in 5-star Chase Young.
The 6'5", 240-pound edge-rusher had offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, USC and a host of others, but he ended his recruitment early when he committed to Ohio State in July. With his pledge, the Buckeyes are getting the No. 2-rated defensive end and a guy who can compete for playing time despite the crowded depth chart.
"[Young]'s a guy that has the upside to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft," 247Sports Director of Recruiting Steve Wiltfong said, per Ben Axelrod of Land of 10. "He's a very disruptive defensive end."
Jeffrey Okudah, 5-Star Cornerback
Few teams have experienced the attrition at cornerback like Ohio State has. The Buckeyes haven't returned their starting two cornerbacks in the Urban Meyer era, and in 2017, they'll need new starters after both Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore declared early for the NFL draft.
That's why cornerback was one of Ohio State's highest recruiting priorities, and 5-star Jeffrey Okudah leads a talented group of five new corners for the Buckeyes.
Okudah is one of four Texans in this class and is rated the No. 15 overall prospect and the No. 2 cornerback nationally. He chose the Buckeyes over offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Oklahoma, Michigan and nearly every major power in the country.
He's also one of nine new Buckeyes who graduated high school early and enrolled at Ohio State to take part in winter conditioning and spring practice. With the turnover at cornerback and given his elite coverage skills, Okudah will have the chance to crack the two-deep rotation.
Wyatt Davis, 5-Star Offensive Guard
While Ohio State is a national brand, it doesn't consistently reach across the country and pluck the best players from the state of California.
That changed this year when the Buckeyes landed Wyatt Davis, a 6'4", 310-pound mauler and the top-rated interior lineman in the country. Pegged as an offensive guard, the Bellflower, California, product committed all the way back in June, and despite wild rumors he was wavering on his commitment down the stretch, he stayed true to his commitment and signed with the Buckeyes.
That commitment was easy for him to keep, because he chose Ohio State for more than its strong football program.
"Ohio State is really the place I feel I can succeed at," Davis said when he committed in June, according to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports. "I can reach all of my goals in football there. They can develop me into a great man and it’s a place I would like to be even if football doesn’t work out. It’s the right place for me and it’s always been my dream school."
Baron Browning, 5-Star Linebacker
Ever since Ryan Shazier lifted the Buckeyes defense with his elite speed at linebacker, the coaching staff has put a premium on recruiting quickness for the unit.
Ohio State is getting plenty of speed with the addition of Baron Browning, a 5-star standout and the top-rated outside linebacker in the country.
The Buckeyes had to fight off all the Texas blue bloods for the Lone Star State product, in addition to Alabama, Florida State, Oklahoma and USC.
It's easy to see why Browning was one of the most sought-after recruits in the country. He's speedy, but that doesn't mean he's a finesse linebacker. At 6'4" and 230 pounds, Browning packs a punch when he lowers his shoulders, and he recorded an impressive 81 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 10 pass breakups during his senior season, according to an Ohio State release.
Browning was one of the nine early enrollees, so he'll spend the offseason in Ohio State's strength program and build momentum for early playing time.
Tate Martell, 5-Star Quarterback
Ohio State may have found the next Johnny Manziel—only a version that's as polished off the field as he is on it.
Those are the expectations attached to Tate Martell, a 5-star dual-threat quarterback out of Las Vegas who originally committed to Washington and then Texas A&M, before decommitting and pledging to the Buckeyes.
Martell's style of play is reminiscent of Manziel's, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M. His ability to scramble and improvise form the pocket is an incredible asset, and when he targets his man downfield, he rarely misses.
Commandeering the national powerhouse Bishop Gorman program, Martell went 43-0 as the starting quarterback during his high school career and threw for 7,507 yards and 113 touchdowns (against just nine interceptions), according to Ohio State's release. He's just as dangerous as a runner, as he racked up 1,257 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground.
Martell graduated high school early and will take part in Ohio State's winter conditioning in spring camp.
Kendall Sheffield, 5-Star Cornerback (JUCO)
Ohio State hasn't traditionally recruited junior college players, but for the second consecutive year, it'll bring on a 5-star JUCO prospect to bring a rare blend of talent and experience to Columbus.
Last year it was Malcolm Pridgeon, who was fighting for a starting spot along the Buckeyes offensive line before a knee injury derailed his 2016 season. This year, Urban Meyer welcomes Kendall Sheffield, a 5-star cornerback who once played for Nick Saban and Alabama.
With the Buckeyes needing two new cornerbacks for their defense, Sheffield's collegiate experience and natural coverage skills could help him make an immediate impact next fall.
Haskell Garrett, 4-Star Defensive Tackle
Ohio State has struggled to land a blue-chip defensive tackle in recent years, missing out on players such as Terry Beckner, Christian Wilkins, Neville Gallimore, Antwuan Jackson, Dexter Lawrence and Rashan Gary.
Those failures made interior linemen a huge priority for the 2017 recruiting cycle, and the Buckeyes struck gold with 4-star Haskell Garrett.
Garrett is rated the No. 4 defensive tackle nationally and the No. 47 prospect overall. A teammate of Tate Martell at Bishop Gorman, Garrett had offers from Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State and USC. He committed to Ohio State last February, and despite making visits to USC and Notre Dame over the last year, he stuck with his pledge to the Buckeyes.
Shaun Wade, 4-Star Cornerback
In almost every other recruiting class in the country, Shaun Wade would be the crown jewel of any secondary in the country.
The 4-star stud out of Jacksonville, Florida, offered his verbal commitment to Urban Meyer all the way back in January 2015, on the same day the Buckeyes blasted Oregon in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
The 6'2", 175-pound ball hawk got a lot of attention from Nick Saban and Alabama in the two years after his commitment, but he never wavered from his pledge to the Buckeyes. And after graduating early and enrolling at Ohio State for winter conditioning, Wade told Ohio State fans what they can expect from him over the next three to four years.
"Long. I have 4.4 speed. I have good feet. Athletic...ball skills," Wade said of his play, via Ohio State's official Twitter.
Josh Myers, 4-Star Offensive Guard
Urban Meyer didn't recruit the state of Ohio as hard as he typically does, but he made a priority of Josh Myers, the No. 1-rated player from the Buckeye state.
The Buckeyes started recruiting Myers as far back as 2013, and he made a fast decision when he committed more than two years ago in January 2015. He ended things quickly so he could help the coaching staff recruit other blue-chip prospects.
At 6'5" and 285 pounds, Myers has the frame to play either tackle or guard for the Buckeyes. And as an early enrollee, he'll have eight months to build on his already absurd strength.
Trevon Grimes, 4-Star Wide Receiver
Ohio State's passing attack has trended in the wrong direction in recent years, and it bottomed out down the stretch of the 2016 season when it averaged a meager 112.3 yards in the final three games against Michigan State, Michigan and Clemson.
A big reason for that was the lack of game-ready wideouts on the roster. Ohio State set out to find polished route running and playmaking ability on the perimeter during this recruiting cycle, and it's getting both in Trevon Grimes.
Rated the No. 9 receiver nationally, Grimes is a 6'4", 202-pound receiver who uses his long frame to get down the field quickly and battle for deep balls. The Buckeyes haven't had a true deep threat since the departure of Devin Smith in 2014, but Grimes could fill that role with the skill set he possesses.
J.K. Dobbins, 4-Star Athlete
Ohio State is thin at running back with only Mike Weber and Antonio Williams in the backfield and Demario McCall's expected move to H-back.
That lack of depth had the Buckeyes looking for two running backs in the 2017 class, but they signed just one in J.K. Dobbins.
The La Grange, Texas, product is just 5'9 ½", but he packs a huge punch in his 199-pound frame. He's more than a bruiser, though, as his 4.4 speed helps him routinely pull away from defenses when he reaches the second level.
Dobbins suffered a season-ending injury on the first play of his senior campaign, which likely kept him from earning a fifth star, but he showcased all the playmaking ability Ohio State needed to see during a junior season in which he ran for 2,740 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns and a sophomore season that produced 2,243 yards and 37 touchdowns, via the school's release.
Isaiah Pryor, 4-Star Safety
Isaiah Pryor is the lone true safety in Ohio State's 2017 recruiting class, and he's cut in the exact mold of stars such as Vonn Bell and Malik Hooker, who formed the anchor of the secondary over the last two seasons.
At 6'2" and 186 pounds, Pryor uses his speed and range to cover huge areas of the field in pass coverage. That's exactly what the Buckeyes are looking for in the primary coverage packages that Hooker thrived in during the 2016 season.
Pryor is the No. 70 overall prospect nationally and the No. 7-rated safety. He graduated from the IMG Academy powerhouse early and enrolled at Ohio State last month, and his high school coach thinks he's only going to get stronger and better in the coming months.
"I don't think there's anything average about Isaiah physically. He's got a grown man's body right now. I think he'll continue to get thicker as he gets older," IMG coach Kevin Wright said, via Ryan Ginn of Land of 10. "From a physical standpoint, he ranks up there with anyone in the country."
Amir Riep, 4-Star Cornerback
The fourth cornerback in Ohio State's 2017 recruiting class is the No. 99-rated recruit in the country and the 11th-ranked corner.
That's how deep the Buckeyes went with their defensive back recruiting, but Amir Riep isn't just another name on the depth chart. With an offer list that included teams such as Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oregon, Tennessee and USC, Riep essentially could've played his college football anywhere he wanted.
But the Cincinnati product wanted to stay home and be a Buckeye despite the massive interest from around the country.
"It's a lot of fun," Riep said of his recruitment, according to Ari Wasserman of the Plain Dealer. "It's kind of crazy. I never thought it would be like this. I knew I would get offers, but I didn't realize it would get [to this extent]."
Marcus Williamson, 4-Star Cornerback
Ohio State's outrageously deep haul of cornerbacks ends with Marcus Williamson, the No. 123-rated player nationally and the No. 14 cornerback in the 2017 cycle.
Originally from Westerville, Ohio, Williamson transferred to IMG Academy during his senior season to play high-level football in the state of Florida. He teamed up with fellow Buckeyes commit and safety Isaiah Pryor, and together they formed one of the most formidable secondaries in the country in 2016.
Williamson registered 36 total tackles, two pass breakups and two fumble recoveries (one of which he returned for a touchdown) while also returning an interception for a touchdown, via Ohio State's official release.
The early enrollee joins Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade as the freshman cornerbacks who will take part in Ohio State's offseason programs.
Jaylen Harris, 4-Star Wide Receiver
The team didn't, of course, as the Cleveland native was long considered a Buckeye lean throughout the 2017 recruiting cycle. Harris took his time, though, and considered offers from schools such as Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Penn State and Tennessee before committing to the Buckeyes on January 13.
The 6'5", 205-pound blazer is a sure-handed pass-catcher and the No. 137-rated prospect in the country, but he doesn't see himself rated that low.
"I feel like I'm the No. 1 receiver in the country," Harris said, per Doug Lesmerises of the Plain Dealer. "I would never let rankings tell me how I performed on the field."
Brendon White, 4-Star Athlete
There wasn't much that 4-star athlete Brendon White didn't do for his Liberty High School football team in 2016.
After starring as a defensive back in 2015, White switched to the offensive side of the ball and went behind center to star at quarterback. His team went 13-1 as he threw for 799 yards, ran for 842 more and hauled in 22 receptions to complement 25 total touchdowns, via Ohio State's official release.
While he's a proven playmaker on offense, the Buckeyes will likely use his athleticism on the defensive side, as the 6'2", 200-pound standout has the ideal size and skill set that the Buckeyes look for in their safeties.
Thayer Munford, 4-Star Offensive Tackle
If Josh Myers does make the move to guard, Ohio State's signing of Thayer Munford could be one of the most pivotal of the 2017 recruiting cycle.
Munford would be the only offensive tackle the Buckeyes signed this year, and after losing Evan Lisle and Kyle Trout to transfer, the depth behind starting left tackle Jamarco Jones and right tackle Isaiah Prince is thin.
The Buckeyes are getting an enormous prospect in Munford, who checks in at 6'6" and 325 pounds. Rated the No. 207 player nationally and the No. 22 offensive tackle, he may not be ready for collegiate action in his first year, but the coaching staff is getting a prospect who could turn into a player it'll lean on down the road.
Pete Werner, 4-Star Linebacker
Ohio State didn't flip many players (it signed just three recruits who were previously pledged elsewhere), but one of them was 4-star linebacker Pete Werner.
The former Notre Dame pledge backed away from the Irish after their disappointing 4-8 season, and after visiting the Buckeyes in early December to watch their preparation for the playoff matchup with Clemson, he announced his commitment to the Buckeyes.
The Indianapolis native starred at middle linebacker for Cathedral High School, consistently proving himself a menace in the backfield with 17 tackles for loss and eight sacks during his senior season, according to Kyle Neddenriep of the Indianapolis Star.
Jerron Cage, 4-Star Defensive Tackle
Ohio State's quest to sign high-impact defensive tackles in this class dates back to the summer of 2015, when Urban Meyer earned a verbal commitment from 4-star Jerron Cage.
That pledge triggered an avalanche of interest from schools around the country, as the 16th-rated interior lineman became a hot commodity on the recruiting trail.
"Honestly, when I committed my sophomore year, I was ambushed by coaches," Cage said, per Land of 10's Ben Axelrod. "Michigan, Oregon, Alabama, Clemson—all those coaches reached out to me. So I had to think about, 'Was this the right choice?'"
Despite speculation that he was contemplating a flip to Notre Dame to join his older brother along the Irish's defensive line, Cage stuck with the Buckeyes and has a chance to crack the two-deep of a thin defensive tackle rotation within the next few years.
Blake Haubeil, 3-Star Kicker
Ohio State fans saw just how important a reliable kicker was down the stretch of the season when the red-hot Tyler Durbin faded and missed four of his final five kicks of the season.
While Durbin was a solid walk-on, the Buckeyes needed a scholarship kicker to complement Sean Nuernberger, who has only two years of eligibility remaining in Columbus.
That's why the Buckeyes offered one of their few available scholarships to Blake Haubeil, the third-best kicker and one of just 15 players to earn a 3-star rating at the position.
Haubeil committed in July 2015, and if he proves he can handle the pressure of collegiate kicking, he'll battle Nuernberger for the starting job in 2017.
Elijah Gardiner, 3-Star Wide Receiver
Ohio State needed a third wide receiver for its 2017 class, and with a week to go before national signing day, it stole a prospect from the SEC when it flipped Elijah Gardiner from Missouri.
The Kemp, Texas, native committed to the Tigers in November, but interest from former Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman (who left Houston to be the head coach at Texas this offseason) put him on the Buckeyes' radar.
The lanky pass-catcher made the trip north to visit Ohio State last weekend and pulled the trigger in favor of the Buckeyes on January 30.
Gardiner joins Trevon Grimes and Jaylen Harris in a talented wideout haul, and all three check in at 6'4" or taller.
Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting and rankings information via Scout.
David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.