Cause for concern about Ohio State’s Class of 2023? Recruit Mailbag

Recruitment never stops. Neither do your questions.

And if we haven’t answered your question, don’t be discouraged! We’ll be addressing some on Stars Matter, our weekly recruiting podcast, which can be found on The Andy Staples Show feed. Check for new episodes every Thursday morning.

Note: Submitted questions have been edited slightly for clarity and length.

Earlier in the season, you expressed concern about Ohio State’s class and its potential. Is it still there? It doesn’t feel like the Buckeyes are in a great position to finish strong. —Alexander S.

I’m not sure what time of day you submitted this question on Monday, but Ohio State has the biggest recruiting story of the week. Four-star quarterback Brock Glenn, from Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, Tennessee, made the move Monday night from Ohio State to Florida State. Glenn isn’t rated highly enough — he’s No. 378 overall and No. 22 QB on the 247Sports Composite — to really dampen the Buckeyes’ ranking or average player rating. But it hurts not to have a quarterback this cycle.

Ohio State offered four-star quarterback Lincoln Kienholz from Pierre (SD) TF Riggs in response. Kienholz, who is ranked 404th overall and the No. 24 quarterback in the 2023 cycle, is committed to Washington but will make an official visit to Ohio State for this weekend’s Michigan game.

Glenn’s flip came less than a week after Ohio State lost a pledge by Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) American Heritage four-star running back Mark Fletcher, the state’s 261st overall. Fletcher is now heavily considering Florida and Miami.

The Ohio State class now has 19 commitments and ranks 6th nationally behind Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame, LSU and Texas. But the average player rating is 93.51, which is third only behind Alabama (94.10) and Georgia (93.54). The lower placement is more indicative of class size than quality, as the Buckeyes are the only team in the top six with fewer than 20 signings.

Is there cause for concern?

I’m not sure I’m ready to hit the panic button yet, but it’s fair to say this group isn’t as loaded as some of Ohio State’s earlier classes. Of those 19 commitments, there is only one five-star prospect and five top 100 players. When you compare it to Alabama (five five-star prospects) and Georgia (nine engagements in the top 110), it’s not quite on the same par in terms of upside potential. However, you could argue that Ohio state bottom is higher.

While Ohio State’s class is very good, the standard for the Buckeyes is to sign classes that go toe-to-toe with Alabama. That means four or five five-star prospects and 10 or more top 100 players. Less than a month into the early signing phase, it will be an uphill battle to get there.

Ohio State is involved in a number of high-profile prospects, including five-star edge rushers in Damon Wilson of Venice, Fla., Keon Keeley of Tampa, Fla. Berkeley Prep, and Matayo Uiagalelei of Bellflower, Calif. St .John Bosco. The Buckeyes will also receive five-star offensive tackle Samson Okunlola from Brockton (Mass.) Thayer along with Wilson for the Michigan game. Smyrna (Tenn.) High four-star linebacker Arion Carter — who was recently released from Memphis after his recruiting exploded — has visited Ohio state.

The difficult thing about grading Ohio State’s class is that so much of it came together very early on. Ryan Day’s program hasn’t really been caught up in a lot of recruiting drama over the past few months, hanging tightly on what it had. But that doesn’t mean the Buckeyes can’t end this cycle with a bang. Even if they don’t and end up with a smaller class, the average player rating is much more meaningful than the final class ranking.

From today’s perspective, it’s not a top-class Grand Slam. But it’s not a cause for concern either, especially with a month left until the early signing period.

deep breaths. It’ll be fine.

I agree with you that stars are important, but how do you feel about how experience and development goes into it? For example, I don’t think the 247Sports Team Talent Composite Index takes experience into account. I recently noticed that 21 out of 22 TCU starters are high school students. Is college football becoming more like college basketball, where veteran, senior-heavy rosters compete with inexperienced, blue-chip-filled rosters? — JM

You have to consider the ages of most of these soccer players when signing up for their college programs. Most of the time, even when they come to campus, their bodies are still developing. Add better dieting and collegiate strength and conditioning programs to the mix and you have a body that is so much more developed by year 2 or 3 than it was in year 1. Add the experience factor – knowing the playbook, dealing with adversity , everything – and there’s no question that it matters.

College football seems to have just one great team (Georgia) and a bunch of others this year trying to make the college football playoffs. There seems to be more parity this year than we usually get which is why we may struggle to find four teams for the playoffs at the end of the season.

Why is that?

Part of it has to be the transfer portal. Programs that are able to instantly plug holes in their rosters with experienced college players make a big difference. But part of that is the extra season of eligibility due to the COVID-19 year and teams that can get old and stay old. This is a very physical game and sometimes a senior is a man and a five star newcomer is a boy.

Experience and development are key when it comes to the players we see on the pitch on Saturdays.

What bothers me about recruitment is the implication that the five-star prospects don’t develop as well. Sure, you could compare a three-star senior who started three years with the five-star newcomer and take the three-star senior. I could go on board there. But when it comes to filling your roster with five-star prospects, they, too, become juniors and (sometimes) seniors who have developed physically. Good player development is no substitute for good recruitment. It is essential for everyone.

Anyone who says development and experience are irrelevant is either a liar or an ignoramus or both.

If a large chunk of Texas A&M’s record recruiting class from last year carries over this year, whether or not there is a coaching change, we will exercise more caution in pumping up an incredible recruiting class that is ZERO driven to be seems until it actually stays and produces in the future? — Chris V.

What does more caution mean?

Anyone who’s read anything I’ve written about Texas A&M or listened to the 100 podcasts we’ve had with the Aggies as a storyline has always known exactly where I stand. Yes, I bought a lot of Texas A&M football stock because he signed 18 top 100 players a year ago. For me it was a sign of what could be in store for us in three years if Jimbo Fisher could somehow keep the train on the tracks.

But I never said Texas A&M would win the SEC this year. What I’ve said repeatedly is that it was one of the best classes I’ve ever seen — but for the Aggies to ever beat the Alabamas and the Georgias of the world, they’d have to do it two or three more times. You can very much approve of a recruitment course while claiming that the job isn’t done yet. And after the Aggies signed that class in the 2022 cycle, there was absolutely no reason to think Fisher wouldn’t be able to make up another top-five class in 2023.

Fisher didn’t follow up, so the stock plummets. Nobody saw this coming. Things fell apart so quickly at Texas A&M that I’ll admit I’m still having a hard time coming to terms with it. People called me a Texas A&M homer — which is hilarious considering I was public enemy #1 for the Aggies two years ago — but I genuinely thought they had the resources, the NIL, and the right kind of motivation to build an Alabama-like roster.

So if I exercise more caution, does that mean not analyzing and discussing a superclass when it happens and only praising the job of recruiting three years from now when a team wins a national title?

Hype is the product of incredible recruitment. Why would we want to smother the hype? This is how college football is fun. Texas A&M has literally signed almost 20 percent of the top 100 prospects in a class. Hype is the by-product of that.

It’s a shame for Texas A&M that this class is in danger of falling apart via the transfer portal. Because to this day, it’s still incredibly hard to believe that a single program could sign that many elite players in any given year.

(Photo by Ryan Day: Michael Reaves / Getty Images)