Ohio State’s Latest Commit Could be Sunshine State Sleeper
By Brandon Castel
Ohio State has yet to finalize its coaching situation for next season, but that hasn’t stopped them from filling up their recruiting class.
The Buckeyes landed their second commitment in less than a week, as Lakeland (Fla.) wide receiver Ricquan Southward pulled the trigger on Sunday evening.
“I think he decided now that he knows Urban Meyer is going to be there, although I’m sure he isn’t going to openly say that because he’s not there yet,” said Tom Loy, who has covered Southward’s recruitment for FlaVarsity.com, an affiliate of Rivals.com.
Southward had been committed to the University of Miami (Fla.) for the past month, but decided he would rather be a Buckeye after taking an official visit to Columbus last week.
“He visited Miami and pulled the trigger on that pretty quickly. I wasn’t surprised. The kid is from Florida and one of his first major offers was from Miami,” Loy said.
“He pulled the trigger and at first he was all about Miami and being a Hurricanes fan, but I think that kind of wore off when he visited Ohio State. The facilities and the coaching staff and just the atmosphere in general.”
Ohio State was the first school to offer the 6-2, 190-pound wideout, who was relatively unknown in recruiting circles heading into his senior season at Lakeland High School.
“He had a lot of talent ahead of him,” Loy said.
“He’s had four guys ahead of him that were Division I prospects, so he didn’t play a lot. He played sparingly as a junior and had some nice plays.”
That is not uncommon in the state of Florida, which might be the most talent-rich in the country when it comes to a per-school basis. Schools like Lakeland—which is one of the best in the state—often have late bloomers who finally get their chance after waiting two or three years.
In this case, Southward was behind four pretty talented receivers.
“He’s had four guys ahead of him over the last two years,” Loy added.
“Ben McRoy, who ended up going to Texas Tech, and Jarred Haggins, who went to Florida State. Ben’s brother Javares McRoy is at Florida and Teddy Wright is at UAB.”
Loy has seen a lot of high school football in the state of Florida, and he thinks Southward might actually be better than all four of the guys who were keeping him off the field for the past three years.
“When I watch him on film, I think of Terrelle Owens and Dez Bryant,” he exclaimed boldly.
“He’s physical, he’s fast and he really knows how to go up and get it. His physicality on the field and how smooth he is at 6-2, 195 pounds.”
Because he did not play much last season, Southward is rated very low on the recruiting boards. He is rated as a 2-star prospect by Scout.com and isn’t much higher on Rivals.com.
“We had him ranked I believe around 145th in our Florida Varsity Top 160,” Loy said.
“We had him ranked prior to him ever having any stars or any article written on him. We saw some film, spoke to him and we put him in because we were that impressed.”
His only major offers so far have been Ohio State, Miami and Ole Miss, but schools like Florida, Florida State and Texas Tech have also shown serious interest.
Back in October, Southward set school single-game records for catches (12) and receiving yards (238) against Hialeah. He also scored the game-winning touchdown, which should only help his stock rise.
“He’s definitely someone we are going to move up to the 100 to 110 range in our next update,” Loy said.
“Which is pretty good in the state of Florida. He’s a great get for Ohio State.”
Oh-by-the-way, he happens to be a pretty solid person as well.
“The academics are a big thing. If you talk to him for a minute, you realize pretty quickly that he has his head on straight,” Loy added.
“He’s a real mild-headed kid. He’s well spoken. He’s not going to be an academic issue.”
Southward becomes the 16th player in Ohio State’s 2012 recruit class, and the fourth receiver. He joins Roger Lewis (Pickerington Central), Frank Epitropoulos (Upper Arlington) and Michael Thomas (Fork Union Military Academy).
All four receivers are listed at 6-1 or taller, with Thomas topping out at 6-4 or 6-5, depending where you look.
The fact Ohio State has gone after this many receivers in next year’s recruiting class says a lot about the current group at Ohio State. Senior DeVier Posey played in just two games during the regular season, yet he is only seven catches off the team-leader, Corey Brown.
None of Ohio State’s receivers had more than 15 catches during the regular season, and only freshman Devin Smith (4) scored multiple touchdowns. In fact, Brown and Posey’s scores against Michigan in the season-finale were the second and third by an OSU wideout this season.
Posey will have one more game of eligibility, assuming Ohio State plays in a bowl game, but the it will be left up the youngsters to make some serious progress between now and next fall.
The Buckeyes will return Brown (14-205-1) and Smith (12-247-4), along with Chris Fields (7-101) and Evan Spencer (3-78-1). They will also get Verlon Reed (9-132) back from the knee injury that prematurely ended his season back in week five against Michigan State.
Before the injury, the former high school quarterback was really starting to show some promise. The same goes for Smith, who caught the game-winning touchdown from Braxton Miller against Wisconsin.
It will be interesting to see how Southward and his classmates fit into the mix.
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