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Ohio State hoping to flip star Michigan State commit
I’ve been covering Belleville (Mich.) standout Julian Barnett for nearly two years, dating back to when he burst on the scene at the Best of the Midwest combine in Indianapolis as a freshman. Barnett has shown interest in Ohio State since the earliest days of his recruitment, visiting Columbus for a game in 2016 before he held a single offer.
Despite his early interest in Ohio State, Barnett didn’t land an offer from the Buckeyes until Dec. 21. Just one day later, he committed to the in-state Michigan State Spartans and coach Mark Dantonio. East Lansing has become a common landing place for Belleville products and that’s the path that Barnett, a 6-foot-1, 186-pound athlete, appears to be headed.
However, Ohio State hasn’t given up on trying to recruit Barnett.
“Ohio State hasn’t been talking with me directly, but coach Urban Meyer has been keeping with my coach, Jermaine Crowell. I just don’t have a connection with anybody there right now because coach Kerry Coombs was recruiting me and he’s gone. I don’t have a connection there at the moment,” Barnett said during an Under Armour camp in Northeast Ohio on Feb. 18.
Shortly after saying that to Land of 10, Barnett took an unofficial visit to Ohio State alongside standout teammates such as 5-star tackle Devontae Dobbs and the rest of a loaded Belleville squad. Sources close to the recruitment indicated that Barnett’s visit to was important for the Buckeyes’ efforts to begin building a relationship between Barnett and new cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson.
— The D Zone (@TheD_Zone) February 19, 2018
While there’s some question as to which side of the ball he’ll play on, Ohio State has been recruiting Barnett at defensive back for quite a while. It has worked him out there at camps like Friday Night Lights and believes that he’d be most successful as a safety or cornerback. The 247Sports composite rankings have Barnett as the No. 7 cornerback and No. 71 prospect overall in the Class of 2019.
“It doesn’t matter to me what position I play. I like hitting and I like scoring. But in college football, there’s not a lot of big defensive backs,” Barnett said, indicating an advantage he has over the field.
It normally would be very difficult for Ohio State to flip one of Michigan State’s in-state commits from a pipeline program, but many schools seem to sense potential trouble for the Spartans athletic department amid allegations of mishandling sexual misconduct cases. Barnett remains fully committed to Michigan State, but he’s monitoring reports of the situation as closely as any Spartans fan is.
“I’m just going with the flow, just like they are. I’m still strongly committed to them, but if some changes happen with them, some changes will happen with me. I’m just keeping my head on straight,” Barnett explained.
Many schools, including Ohio State and Michigan State, would love to bring Barnett and Dobbs to their program together as a package deal. The two frenemies often joke about how they couldn’t possibly see it happening, but that doesn’t mean Barnett doesn’t want it to happen.
“We talk about playing together all the time, even though we hate each other we still talk about it all of the time. I just keep telling him, like I want to go to school with him, but the stuff he does is just like,” Barnett trailed off and shook his head. “I’ve been with him every day because he’s injured, so I’ve been taking care of him like a brother because he’s injured. He did it for me, so I had to do the same for him. I can go to school with him, but some things are going to have to change.”
It’s the same energy coming from Dobbs’ end as well. They’re in sync on this topic, at least.
“Some people would describe our relationship as yin and yang,” Dobbs wryly added. “It’s like a roller coaster, and it’s a really good recruiting experience. It’s funny, the memories we’ve been through together. It’s been fun overall.”
Although Michigan State and Ohio State are the two heavyweights in both recruitments, the program that’s been on the receiving end of rivalry abuse from both over the last decade (longer, in Ohio State’s case) is trying to become a factor as well. Michigan offered Barnett on Jan. 12, an offer that may be too little, too late.
“[The Michigan offer] doesn’t really change anything. They came late in the recruitment. Only time well tell how things play out… It’s something new, so it’s fresh to the recruitment,” Barnett said. “I feel like they do that to a lot of people, they come in at the last minute.”
Michigan has had passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton as the main recruiter for Barnett.
“I talked with all of Michigan’s coaches because they came by our school, but I talk with Coach Pep [Hamilton] the most,” detailed Barnett. “He came up to the school and talked to me and Dobbs and was trying to see what was going on with the relationship between Belleville and Michigan.”
With no end in sight to concerns over Michigan State’s athletic department and football program’s alleged misconduct, Ohio State or Michigan won’t be the last programs to inquire about Barnett. His mother is an LSU alumna, and the Bayou Bengals would be a major offer for Barnett. Other coaches and programs will keep trying as well.
Ohio State remains in the top group for 4-star DE
Ohio State has been a major factor for Nashville (Tenn.) Davidson Academy defensive end Ani Izuchukwu since offering nearly a year ago. A 4-star prospect and the No. 14 weakside defensive end in the 2019 class, Izuchukwu has collected many elite offers — Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Tennessee, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, and others — but the Buckeyes have always remained near the top.
“My top 3 is Alabama, Ohio State and Mississippi State,” Izuchukwu said to Rivals.com recruiting analyst Woody Wommack in a recent interview. “I have to put my focus on the schools that are serious. Ohio State, they are serious. Alabama, they are seasons. And Mississippi State has really let me know how bad they want me since the new coaches came in.”
From everything Izuchukwu detailed to Wommack, it seems as though the Buckeyes have clearly impressed upon the Tennessee defensive end how interested they are in him and how they feel they could use him.
“They are really serious about me and I like them, too,” Izuchukwu said to Wommack. “The coaches are always keeping in touch with me. And I talk to everyone. The head coach, everybody, and they’re all telling me how much they want me there. I want to go to a place where I feel like the coaching staff can help develop me and they have said they have a plan for how they can make me better. …
“I went up there over the summer and camped and I got to work with them on the field and really see how they coach and what they are all about. We were in the middle of 1-on-1s and Urban Meyer came to see me and he pulled me out to talk to me. Since then we have been building a relationship and keeping in touch and I like that he is taking an interest in me.”
The lenghty interview with Izuchukwu is illuminating and well-worth the time for information on Izuchukwu’s status with Ohio State, Alabama, Mississippi State, and others. Wommack concluded the interview with this quote from Izuchukwu on when he could make a decision, and I’ll leave you with the same:
“I could make a commitment soon or I could wait until the season,” he said. “I just know when I feel like it’s the right place for me I will make that call. If I feel comfortable with the coaches and everything I will commit.”
New quarterback target to watch?
On Sunday, 247Sports Ohio State recruiting analyst Bill Kurelic reported that Baltimore (Md.) St. Frances Academy quarterback Jalon Jones made plans to take an unofficial visit to Columbus on March 3. If you’re familiar with the name of Jones’ high school, it’s because Ohio State has already offered several of his teammates — inside linebacker Shane Lee, running back Joachim Bangda, and guard Darrian Dalcourt — and hosted them for an “amazing” unofficial visit as a group.
Jones’ upcoming visit will be his first trip to Ohio State as a recruit. He’s ranked as the No. 10 dual-threat passer and No. 428 prospect overall in the 2019 class. His offer list includes many of the best programs in Jones’ home region and the country as a whole — Florida, Alabama, Mississippi State, Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Louisville, N.C. State, Ole Miss, UCLA, and several other programs. He’s listed at 6-3 and 180 pounds.
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