Ohio State 2016 Recruiting Class: Who Stands Out?

Another National Signing Day has come and gone, and not surprisingly Urban Meyer has put together another solid Ohio State recruiting class. It’s certainly become par for the course in his five seasons as head coach of the Buckeye program.

The annual recruiting rankings bear this out, and 2016 is no different. As the dust settled on an always hectic first Wednesday of February in football offices across the nation, Ohio State finished up among the nation’s best. By the end of the day, the Buckeyes recruiting class ranked an average of third among Rivals, Scout and 247 Sports. Since Meyer’s arrival in Columbus, OSU’s average ranking among these three services was 4.07, second best in the nation behind only Alabama.

A total of 25 prospects pledged their collegiate futures to the Buckeyes, with nearly 40 percent coming from an always talent-rich Ohio. But the class is also comprised of players from ten other states, including four from the recruiting hotbed that is Florida. Meyer had a particularly productive haul out of the state of Maryland, the intriguing details of which we’ll get into below.

Ohio State 2016 Recruiting Class: Who Stands Out?

The “Gem”: Nick Bosa, strongside defensive end, Fort Lauderdale, FL (St. Thomas Aquinas)

This honor could’ve easily gone to either Bosa or Keandre Jones. Both are five-star prospects on defense according to Rivals.com and their presence will be crucial to the identity the Buckeyes want to establish on that side of the ball going forward. Given his familial ties to a now-Buckeye legend and future NFLer in Joey Bosa, his little brother Nick gets the edge on name recognition.

And honestly, it may go even deeper than that. Bosa’s a legitimate talent. His explosiveness and athleticism as an edge rusher is at an elite level at this point in his career. He did suffer a torn ACL his senior year, but Meyer has indicated his recovery is going well and his potential is sky-high.

“He had the knee injury but he’s well ahead of schedule. Looks fantastic,” Meyer said at Wednesday’s press conference to announce the Ohio State 2016 recruiting class. “He’s a little ahead of his brother at this time.”

The younger Bosa has some big shoes to fill considering what Joey was able to accomplish in Columbus. But Bosa part two certainly has fans of the Scarlet and Gray buzzing.

Most Intriguing: Malik Harrison, athlete, Columbus, OH (Walnut Ridge)

Harrison was high on the list of prospects Meyer was looking at to round out the class. And the local product certainly had the coaching staff sweating it out, committing on Signing Day itself. He played quarterback his senior year and led his team to a Columbus city championship. But it’s likely OSU has different plans for him.

With Jalin Marshall among nine OSU non-seniors to have declared for the draft, there certainly is a need at that hybrid back position Meyer likes to incorporate into the offense. Like Harrison, Marshall excelled as a dual-threat signal caller in high school. Regardless of what side of the ball he ends up on, his likelihood of being red-shirted this year is slim. Meyer has stressed that given so much turnover, the emphasis will be on getting newcomers in position to contribute as early as possible.

“I don’t want to redshirt. It’s not our plan,” Meyer stated. “We don’t recruit you and say let’s sit them down for a while. We want to play them immediately.”

Best Specimen: Malcolm Pridgeon, Garden City, NY (Nassau C.C.)

Traditionally, Meyer has shied away from recruiting junior college kids. His philosophy has tended to be one of a “youth up” approach as he explained Wednesday. But Pridgeon really stood out, both on video as well as from a sheer size standpoint. Listed at a towering 6’8″, he’ll likely have to bulk up from his existing weight of 285 pounds. But a summer in the weight room and a protein-rich nutrition regiment will fix that.

With Taylor Decker off to the NFL, left tackle is a glaring need. Meyer is expecting Pridgeon to be firmly in the mix to compete in spring as well as preseason camp and possibly end up first on the depth chart at that position.

The One That Got Away: Kareem Walker, running back, Wayne, NJ (DePaul Catholic)

Walker was one of Meyer’s first recruiting successes directly attributed to the Buckeyes 2014 national title run. He committed during halftime of the win over Oregon and looked to have all the tools necessary to compete for the chance to succeed Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield. But the sixth-rated running back prospect in the nation reopened his recruitment in early November. A little over a month later, he gave a bit of a gut punch to Meyer’s staff by committing to archrival Michigan.

College football recruiting is filled with players wavering on their initial commitment and eventually enrolling elsewhere. Nevertheless, the saga with Walker had to have stung a bit extra given the school he picked instead. Either way, as Meyer emphasized on Wednesday, you move on.

“We don’t worry about what we didn’t get. We worry about what we got,” Meyer noted.

Biggest Recruiting Coup: Keandre Jones, outside linebacker, Olney, MD (Good Counsel)

It didn’t take long for Meyer and company to rebound from the setback with Walker. A month later, highly touted five-star linebacker Keandre Jones took an official visit with Ohio State. It didn’t take long for him to back out of his existing commitment to Maryland and go with the Buckeyes. And he had a bit of company as well. Fellow Terp commit Dwayne Haskins similarly bailed on his pledge to Maryland in favor of OSU on the same day.

Potential for Instant Impact: Jordan Fuller, athlete, Westwood, NJ (Old Tappan)

There’s no doubting Meyer’s ability to close the deal on the recruiting trail. What transpired with Jones and Haskins is testament to that. Fuller is another example. The sixth-rated athlete in the state of New Jersey was one of the final players to commit to the Buckeyes. His commitment means that Ohio State wouldn’t miss out on the state of New Jersey after losing Walker. Meyer has stressed having a recruiting presence in the state, especially now that it’s firmly entrenched in Big Ten country.

Fuller could prove an immediate contributor to an OSU secondary that clearly needs to retool after Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell declared for the NFL Draft. Meyer described him as a “big get” in an interview with Big Ten Network.

Star of the Future: Dwayne Haskins, Jr., quarterback, Potomac, MD (The Bullis School)

As big of a get as Fuller was, Haskins might be a level above that. Ranked as the fifth-best pro-style quarterback in the nation according to Rivals, his decision (along with Jones above) to switch to Ohio State after initially committing to Maryland was one of the bombshell moves of the 2016 recruiting season.

Haskins checks off just about every box for a top quarterback prospect. Coaches rave about what they see from him on tape. His skills were on full display Sunday in a 33-0 win for the United States over Canada in the International Bowl. Meyer can’t say enough good things about him.

“(He has) as good a release and arm strength that I’ve seen at that age since I’ve been recruiting” Meyer exclaimed. “If you go watch his highlight tape, just watch the ball come out of his hand.”

Given the high praise sent his way, you have to expect that Haskins is the future at the position. That could be as early as 2017 if J.T. Barrett decides to forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft as is widely expected. At the very least, the competition for next Ohio State quarterback is expected to heat up sooner rather than later.