With National Signing Day nearly here, the BSB writers are breaking down five crucial questions as it related to Ohio State's 2014 recruiting class.
Without further ado, here's what we think in the final hours before things get crazy.
Who's the more important recruit for OSU – Jamarco Jones or Malik McDowell? Absolutely, 100 percent Jamarco Jones. It's not even close. McDowell might be the better player, but Jones comes at a position of much higher need and would leave three-star Brady Taylor as the only true offensive tackle in Ohio State's class, in a year where the Buckeyes could have justified taking three. Factor in that losing Jones would mean that Michigan State has flipped a kid from Ohio State and it's hard not to view a potential decommitment from the four-star as anything but a big blow to the Buckeyes.
Did OSU address its needs at the skill positions? With five wide receivers committed to the class, you would think that at least one or two of them would pan out to be a bona fide playmaker, but the truth is you just never know. There doesn't seem to be an offensive player with the same buzz as Dontre Wilson, Ezekiel Elliott or even James Clark in this class, but I do like the players that Ohio State is supposed to sign, particularly Curtis Samuel and Johnnie Dixon. What that will mean on Saturday's this fall is anybody's guess, but I view this set of skill players as a long-term solution more than I do a quick fix.
Is defensive help on the way for the Buckeyes? Yes. And not only that, but I think that Ohio State learned its lesson in redshirting Mike Mitchell last year. I expect to see a majority of the defensive players in this class on the field next season, particularly the linebackers. It's premature to say that Raekwon McMillan will crack the starting lineup, but he could ease his way into it a la Ryan Shazier in 2011, and I am more than intrigued by the potential of Sam Hubbard. Add McDowell to this class, and the front seven is arguably the strength of this group – if it wasn't already.
Is there anything the Buckeyes appear to have missed? A star quarterback. Behind Braxton Miller, the depth on this unit is thin at Ohio State and will leave a big question mark for the Buckeyes in 2015. Stephen Collier doesn't strike me as a kid who will be ready to start after just one year of redshirting, and while I like J.T. Barrett, I think even the Buckeyes coaching staff would admit that they would've liked to add a big time prospect to either push him or play next season. Now the quarterback recruiting in 2015 does appear to be on a better pace for the Buckeyes, but seeing the way that Urban Meyer approaches his program, it's tough to imagine a true freshman not named Tim Tebow fighting for playing time at the most important position on the field.
It's way too early to guess, but which player do you think can most have an impact on the 2014 Buckeyes? Hubbard. It's actually a shame for him that Mike Vrabel's no longer around, because Hubbard's versatility reminds me of that of the former Ohio State defensive line coach. Hubbard starred at safety in high school, is projected to play outside linebacker in college, but also has the frame to play defensive end or tight end at the college level. Where he'll wind up seems to be anybody's guess, but with so many options of where to place him, I think that the Buckeyes' only five-star (for now) will find his way onto the field sooner rather than later.
Who's the more important recruit for OSU – Jamarco Jones or Malik McDowell? This has been one of my favorite aspects of the late twists and turns in this recruiting class. Looking at the Scout.com rankings, Malik McDowell (a five-star defensive end) is a better pure player than Jamarco Jones (a four-star offensive tackle). Don't be fooled, though. After losing four starters on the offensive line and missing out on players like JUCO four-star offensive tackle Chad Mavety, Ohio State cannot afford to let one of the best offensive tackles in the country in Jones walk out the door to a division rival. McDowell is a player they'd love to have, but the Buckeyes are already stacked on the defensive line for the foreseeable future.
Did OSU address its needs at the skill positions? Ohio State has put together an amazing class, one that deserves to be near the top of the country. That's largely because of how it fared at the skill positions, especially at wide receiver. When you look at four-star receivers like Curtis Samuel, Johnnie Dixon, Terry McLaurin and Noah Brown, the Buckeyes will have quite a few deep threats for the years to come. Throw in four-star running back Parris Campbell, and OSU also has a dynamic playmaker in the backfield. One small quibble: you can never have enough capable quarterbacks, and Ohio State repeatedly swung and missed before ending up with a player that was likely its fifth choice at best. Three-star signal caller Stephen Collier looks like a player who has all the tools to succeed, but it's no sure thing.
Is defensive help on the way for the Buckeyes? To steal from Ben and quote WWE superstar Daniel Bryan – Yes! Yes! Yes! Despite the defensive secondary issues, the one area that OSU coach Urban Meyer repeatedly criticized was the linebacking corps. This '14 class contains the Nos. 2-4 outside linebackers in the country and the fifth-ranked middle linebacker. Add in four-star cornerbacks Damon Webb and Marshon Lattimore and four-star safety Erick Smith and this class has all the makings of a return of the Silver Bullets.
Is there anything the Buckeyes appear to have missed? I covered this already, but offensive line will be a problem if Jones packs up his bags and marches over to East Lansing. It won't show up in the 2014 season because none of these players were ever likely to start as true freshmen, but it may be an issue down the line. At this point, I would say the class consists of two sure things, one probable contributor and two projects with high ceilings. That takes a turn for the worse if one of those sure things leaves. OSU knew this was a position of need and aggressively targeted it … but it still missed on some big prospects and may still lose its best commit at that position.
It's way too early to guess, but which player do you think can most have an impact on the 2014 Buckeyes? The technical answer here is probably three-star kicker Sean Nuernberger, but that feels like cheating since he will have no scholarship competition for a starting spot so I'll give another option. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say four-star Curtis Samuel, who is an early enrollee and was listed as a hybrid running back/wide receiver on his capsule released by OSU. He's got a 40-plus inch vertical jump and recruiting analysts I've talked to who covered him in high school believe he's underrated despite being listed as the No. 9 receiver in the country. Throw in OSU's problems at receiver last year, and he could be in line for some early production.
Who's the more important recruit for OSU – Jamarco Jones or Malik McDowell? This is an intriguing question to me because the conventional wisdom on this seems to be Jones, who is at a definite position of need for the Buckeyes. Ohio State also has two rather big defensive ends on the roster in Adolphus Washington and Joey Bosa and a pretty deep D-line, so is McDowell really that critical? You could argue, though, that with Washington and Bosa both likely gone in two years that McDowell would be a key piece of the puzzle. And offensive linemen don't often play a ton as youngsters – OL coach Ed Warinner prefers to redshirt if possible given the complexity of the position – so it's not like not having Jones would kill the 2014 team, either. At the end of the day, though, even though I just tried, it's hard to argue against Jones, the top-rated OL in a class that obviously needs them.
Did OSU address its needs at the skill positions? It appears the Buckeyes went out and said that they needed some burners, so they picked up Parris Campbell, Curtis Samuel, Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin. Given the fact that the receiving corps wasn't a game-breaking unit in 2013, the Buckeye staff appears to want to change that going forward, and it's hard to imagine there won't be some players of the ones listed above who don't pan out as take-it-all-the-way talents. There's a lot to be excited about when it comes to the young talent at wideout and running back going forward.
Is defensive help on the way for the Buckeyes? Well, when you have seven players who line up at either linebacker or defensive back in the class and all are rated as top-10 players at their position, I think the answer has to be yes. Other than cornerback Doran Grant and safety Vonn Bell, I'd say there's no spots assured in the back seven next year for OSU – though Joshua Perry and Tyvis Powell will have a leg up – so the incoming studs at linebacker and DB will have a chance to play early. I think Damon Webb, Erick Smith and Sam Hubbard, in particular, have good chances to see early PT.
Is there anything the Buckeyes appear to have missed? Some would say quarterback, but I'm not too worried about Stephen Collier, who reminds me of a potential Kenny Guiton – a player who can shine off the field and distribute the ball with aplomb on it. At the end of the day, I have a feeling the program will be quite happy having him around. Obviously we'll know more about the offensive line soon enough, and I wouldn't have been against picking up a bigger running back, but that appears to be in the mix for 2015.
It's way too early to guess, but which player do you think can most have an impact on the 2014 Buckeyes? I'm going to echo Axelrod and say Hubbard is my answer. Pretty much everyone who saw him play for Cincinnati Moeller this year raved about his play, and he might just be the athlete the Buckeyes need in the defensive backfield. He's a big guy at 6-6, but he was also recruited as a lacrosse player and played safety in high school, showing his versatility. There simply aren't many guys like him, so I'm betting on the class' line five-star player as being someone who can step in for the Buckeyes a la Bosa in 2014.