COLUMBUS — Ohio State will make its victory lap around the Big Ten under any conditions today.
The Buckeyes are set to sign a third straight top-five recruiting class, including eight high school seniors ranked among the nation’s best 100 prospects by Rivals.com. By
comparison, the rest of the conference combined has four such commits.
Yet OSU coach Urban Meyer would not mind running up the score.
After receiving word late Tuesday night that wavering Chicago offensive tackle Jamarco Jones had reaffirmed his commitment to OSU, the Buckeyes now hope to punctuate the haul with an eleventh-hour signature from one of their most coveted targets: five-star defensive lineman Malik McDowell of Southfield, Mich.
A public squabble between McDowell and his parents tossed a late curve into the courtship, though analysts believe OSU is in favorable position heading into today’s announcement. McDowell has narrowed the field to OSU, MSU, Michigan, and Florida State.
"It’ll be interesting to see how Urban and the staff close," ESPN national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said. "That’s one thing they’ve got a reputation of, closing down the stretch and getting guys to come in."
They closed one late Tuesday with Jones, a 6-foot-5, 285-pound top-100 recruit whose visit to Michigan State last weekend inspired speculation he would back off his pledge to Ohio State. The headliner of the Buckeyes’ five offensive line commits announced on Twitter he is sticking with OSU.
McDowell, meanwhile, would represent a massive coup — giving OSU the top two recruits from the state of Michigan, along with four-star Detroit cornerback Damon Webb.
At the very least, it appears McDowell will leave his home state, even if the 6-foot-7, 290-pound lineman has to go kicking and screaming. Though McDowell is enamored with Michigan State, his parents are adamant he gets away, publicly citing everything from the party scene in East Lansing to the credentials of MSU defensive line coach Ron Burton to the temptations of home.
“I want him out of Michigan," his father, Greg McDowell, told 247Sports.com. "I don’t care if that’s Ohio State or Florida State.”
He added: "If he were to choose Michigan State, I don’t know what I would do."
The Buckeyes hope to benefit from being the last team in his ear. McDowell and his family met with Meyer and new defensive line coach Larry Johnson, Sr., on official visit to Columbus last weekend.
In any case, McDowell would only be the icing on a 22-member OSU class ranked second by Rivals and 247Sports and fourth by Scout.
The Buckeyes swept up Scout’s six highest-rated Ohio players — including the four-star Cleveland Glenville pair of safety Erick Smith and athlete Marshon Lattimore — and spanned 12 states to fill out their biggest needs, including at linebacker.
Raekwon McMillan, a Hinesville, Ga., native who won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top prep linebacker, and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Dante Booker lead their four commits at the position.
"I vote for the Butkus Award, and it wasn’t even close to me with Raekwon McMillan," said Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network. "And the second best was Dante Booker, so Ohio State got the top two linebackers."
In all, analysts labeled it a February romp.
"Again, the [Buckeyes] are recruiting with the best in the country," Scout’s Allen Trieu said.
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