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National Signing Day is fast approaching for the class of 2013 but the Ohio State coaching staff is already hard at work identifying its top targets for the 2014 class. With that in mind, we are taking an early look at what the Buckeye's recruiting board looks like for the junior class.
There has already been plenty of heated debate going on about which quarterback Ohio State should put the full court press on in the 2014 class. The Buckeyes lost out on Jerrod Heard early and since that time have put much of their focus on Gainesville (Ga.) product DeShaun Watson, Burlington (Ky.) Conner product Drew Barker, and Washington (D.C.) St. John's product William Ulmer.
Of those three, only Watson is currently reporting an offer but coaches have been keeping in close contact with the trio and have been by their respective schools several times. Watson has given an early verbal pledge to Clemson and with Tigers' offensive coordinator Chad Morris staying, that could be a very tough pull for the Buckeyes. If Watson were to re-consider his pledge, the Buckeyes would likely be the top choice from the rest of the pack.
As for Barker and Ulmer, both prospects carry an early four-star ranking from the Rivals.com national team and both are highly interested in the Buckeyes. An offer down the road to either wouldn't be a total surprise.
In addition to the above three, the Ohio State coaching staff continues to keep close tabs on Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic's DeShone Kizer, Kyle Allen out of Arizona, and Caleb Henderson out of Virginia.
Running Backs (1-2)
The Ohio State roster is currently stockpiled with talent at the running back position but things should start to thin out a little bit by the time the 2014 class reaches campus. With that in mind, the Buckeyes will certainly take one true back in the class and probably another back or hybrid type of player as a complimentary piece.
Right at the top of the wish list right now is Hendersonville (Tenn.) Beech product Jalen Hurd. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound prospect is coming off a record-setting junior season and is one of the most impressive athletes in the nation for his class. Hurd visited Ohio State for the Michigan game and lists the Buckeyes along with Florida and Alabama as his top schools.
Another prospect that is right at the top of the board is Norcross (Ga.) product Myles Autry. Autry is a different type of back than Hurd at 5-foot-10, 175-pounds is the type of versatile athlete that could also end up as a slot receiver at the next level. Autry called Ohio State a 'dream offer' at the time and the Buckeyes are thought to be the leader for his services.
There is no question that Ohio State would love to land both Hurd and Autry, but the list of elite targets does not stop there. Cedartown (Ga.) product Nick Chubb, Charlotte (N.C.) Catholic product Elijah Hood, Havelock (N.C.) product Derrell Scott, Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter's product Jonathan Hillliman , and Washington (D.C) Friendship Collegiate product Jonathan Haden are all reporting offers and heavy interest from the Buckeyes.
Wide Receivers (3-4)
Even with the big haul at wide receiver that is expected in the 2013 class, the position will always be a focal point as long as Urban Meyer is the head coach at Ohio State. The Buckeyes employ a lot of 3-5 wide receiver sets and utilize those receivers in a variety of different ways, meaning numbers will always be high at the position.
The 2014 class should bring at least two more receivers into the fold, if not more, and the Buckeyes have their sights set on some of the top junior prospects in the country at the position.
With the recent news of an offer to Gary (Ind.) West Side product Lonnie Johnson, this would be a good place to start the wide receiver discussion. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound athlete could play on either side of the ball in college but it looks like the Buckeyes have offense in mind for Johnson. Johnson was initially scheduled to announce his college choice on Friday but will now hold off until after National Signing Day. Ohio State is the heavy favorite here and Johnson could very well be the Buckeyes' first commit in the 2014 class.
Staying in the state of Indiana, Carmel product Austin Roberts is another player that Ohio State has put a lot of time and effort into recruiting. Roberts is an early four-star prospect and one of the top prospects in the Midwest.
Ohio State is after several receivers from the Southeastern part of the country. Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek product Demarre Kitt is an early high four-star prospect and just completed a dazzling performance in the state championship game. Kitt is a long shot for the Buckeyes but is a player that will continue to be recruited at a high level.
Gallatin (Tenn.) Station Camp product Josh Malone is another receiver the Buckeyes covet and the big, athletic prospect had glowing things to say about Ohio State following his unofficial visit for the Michigan game.
Down in Florida, Tarpon Springs East Lake product Artavis Scott is one that Ohio State fans have become familiar with. The Buckeyes offered Scott early in the process and then the athletic two-way standout put on a show at Friday Night Lights in July. Scott would be a big get for the Buckeyes, but with offers from all over the country, that one will be a serious battle.
In Ohio, Springfield's Thaddeus Snodgrass and Galion's Dareian Watkins appear to be the two most heavily recruited prospects at the position. The Buckeyes sit in good shape with both of these prospects and it is a very strong possibility that at least one of them will be in this 2014 class for Ohio State.
Tight Ends (1-2)
With Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman still having multiple years of eligibility left as well as the addition of Marcus Baugh from the 2013 class, there will likely only be one tight end in Ohio State's 2014 class.
Right now, all of the talk centers around three outstanding prospects; Charlotte (N.C.) Christian's Jeb Blazevich, Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic standout Garrett Dickerson and Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure product Bryce Dixon. All three prospects have Ohio State offers and all three are early four-star prospects.
For Blazevich, the process seems to be much further along than the other two. The 6-foot-5, 240-pounder recently released a top six and that list included the Buckeyes. Blazevich may be tough to pull out of the South but Blazevich has built a strong relationship with the coaching staff, including head coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes look to be a legitimate factor in this recruitment moving forward.
With Dickerson, the two-way standout is weighing offers on both sides of the football and has an older brother (Cameron) playing at Northwestern. Both of those factors should ultimately play a role in his recruitment as well as academics which he and his family are very serious about. Dickerson isn't as far along in the process as Blazevich but could start to narrow things down in the spring. While it's early, Ohio State would be one of the schools expected to make the cut, whenever that cut comes.
On Dixon, Ohio State tight ends coach Tim Hinton was recently out on the West Coast checking on the star junior. Early indications suggest Dixon could be tough to pull from the Pac-12 but the Buckeyes will try and see if lightning can strike twice after pulling Baugh out of California in the 2013 cycle.
Offensive Linemen (4-5)
With four starters on the offensive line set to graduate after the 2013 season, this will be the most important position in Ohio State's 2014 recruiting efforts. This group will not only need to produce an early starter or two but the group will be crucial to stabilizing depth in the long term.
Because of the importance of having a strong haul on the O-line in this class, the Ohio State staff has been casting a wide net around the nation. That is no more evident that at offensive tackle, where there are currently offers out to un-committed prospects in nine different states.
Out-of-state prospects such as Wellington (Fla.) Palm Beach Central product K.C. McDermott, Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic's Quenton Nelson, Forestville (Md.) Bishop McNamara's Damian Prince, Chicago (Ill.) De La Salle's Jamarco Jones, Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake's Mason Cole, Duluth (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge product Orlando Brown, and Olathe (Ks.) South product Braden Smith are all high on the priority list and landing any two of the above would be a big deal for the Buckeyes.
At guard, the list of offers is much shorter and includes three uncommitted prospects in Cleveland (Oho) Glenville's Marcelys Jones, Olney (Md.) Good Counsel's Sam Mustipher, and Phoenix (Ariz.) Mountain Pointe product Natrell Curtis. The Buckeyes sit in very good shape with Jones and Mustipher, while the offer to Curtis is the most recent of the three.
In-state, St. Ignatius product Jimmy Byrne is off the board to Notre Dame but there are still several prospects that the staff is interested. As mentioned above, Glenville's Marcelys Jones has an offer and Westerville Central's Nick Richardson could be the next Ohio lineman to get one. Lancaster product Kyle Trout is also high on the in-state board and an offer to Trout at some point in the process would not be a surprise.
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