Ohio State pushing Alabama for top recruiting class

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer disputes a call during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Wisconsin on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

COLUMBUS (AP/WCMH) – Ohio State nicknamed it “Select ’17” and time will tell how great a recruiting class this will be. But in terms of rankings and depth, the OSU recruiting class will likely be considered one of the best in school history. Many national recruiting analysts, including 247Sports, rank OSU’s class 2nd in the nation. Most services say Alabama will once again sign the nation’s best class.

21 players signed with OSU, including 12 on signing day. The only signing day addition to the class was Massillon offensive tackle Thayer Munford, who announced his signing at his high school.

Of the 21 players, seven are Ohio natives. Two central Ohio natives, Marcus Williamson and Brendon White, are among the nine players in the class already enrolled.

Five of the players come from Texas, part of an unprecedented recruiting of talent from the Lonestar state. The top ranked recruit in this year’s class, CB Jeffrey Okudah, is one of the Texas natives. LB Baron Browning, RB J.K. Dobbins, CB Kendall Sheffield and WR Elijah Gardiner round out the Texas class.

Other things to know:

Top 25 Class: Yes

Best in class: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, South Grand Prairie, Texas. With the loss of starters Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore, the 6-1½, 190-pound Okudah could start immediately. He could also get a look at safety to fill the hole left by All-American Malik Hooker, who declared for the draft.

Best of the rest: Chase Young, DE, Hyattsville, Maryland. The 6-5, 251-pounder enters crowded field of Ohio State defensive linemen, including veteran starters Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis. He’s been rated the second-best defensive end prospect in the nation.

Late addition: Thayer Munford, a 6-foot-6, 320 pound offensive tackle from Massillon, Ohio, chose Ohio State Wednesday over 15 other offers.

One that got away: Four-star wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey from Las Vegas committed to the Buckeyes last summer, then backed off and chose Nebraska.

How they’ll fit in: Okudah, 5-star cornerback Shaun Wade from Jacksonville, Florida, and the other DBs will get a chance to contribute immediately. Five-star recruits Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis could provide some depth on an offensive line that struggled at times last season. Running back J.K. Dobbins – rated the best all-purpose back in the country despite sitting his entire senior season with an injury – could be utilized in all sorts of ways in an offense that lost its best playmaker, H-back Curtis Samuel, to the draft. Baron Browning can play all three linebacker spots and could see significant minutes right away. Four-star dual-threat quarterback Tate Martell from Las Vegas also joins a crowded stable of quarterbacks led by J.T. Barrett, and will compete with Joe Burrow and others to be Barrett’s backup.

Other uncommitted players in the top 50 include defensive tackles Aubrey Solomon and Jay Tufele, defensive ends LaBryan Ray and K’Lavon Chaisson, wide receivers Joseph Lewis and Jeff Thomas and offensive tackle Austin Jackson.

While history shows some committed prospects inevitably sign elsewhere, there aren’t as many undecided elite recruits as usual.

“There are less five-stars committing (on Signing Day) this year than in any year I’ve ever done this – and I think less Rivals100 kids,” said Mike Farrell, the director of recruiting for Rivals. “I think that’s an anomaly. I don’t think it’s a trend.”

These early decisions by top prospects come as an NCAA recruiting reform proposal including a December signing period awaits approval.

Here are some things to know on Signing Day:

GOOD YEAR FOR BLOCKERS: Five of the top 16 prospects in the 247Sports Composite are offensive tackles: Alex Leatherwood, Foster Sarell, Walker Little, Trey Smith and Isaiah Wilson. Leatherwood has enrolled at Alabama and Smith has enrolled at Tennessee. Sarell and Little are verbally committed to Stanford. Wilson has committed to Georgia. “You’re going to see a lot of these guys three to four years from now on draft boards,” Farrell said.

QUALITY RUNNING BACKS: Another strong position in this year’s class is running back. Two of the top three players in the 247Sports Composite are Florida State early enrollee Cam Akers and Alabama’s Harris. Simmons said this is the best group of running back prospects since the 2014 class that included Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook.

SCHOOL TO WATCH: Florida is seeking a late run to salvage what had been a disappointing recruiting season up to this point. Simmons noted that Florida was 30th in the team rankings just a few days ago. The Gators now are hovering around the top 20 and still have several spots available. “They really need to pull a couple of surprises to be up in the regular Florida range,” Farrell said.

USC’S FINISH: Another program to watch Wednesday is Southern California, which already has a top-10 class and could close with a rush. One of the top remaining undecided players is Lewis, a receiver from Los Angeles. “I think it’s critical with the losses that USC has had on the perimeter on offense, including JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers, that they keep the best receiver on the West Coast at home,” said Tom Luginbill, a national recruiting analyst for ESPN. USC also remains in the mix for a number of other prospects, including Jackson and Tufele.

HOW NEW COACHES FARE: New LSU coach Ed Orgeron is known for his recruiting skills, and the Tigers should finish in the top 10 and could end up in the top five. Farrell says the most noteworthy recruiting performance by a new coach has come from Baylor’s Matt Rhule, even though Baylor will finish well below LSU in the team rankings. “They had one commitment when he took the job,” Farrell said. Baylor now has commitments from about two dozen players.

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