Ohio State took a big step on Wednesday toward another top-notch football recruiting class next spring by getting verbal commitments from a pair of blue-chip prospects to further bolster the Buckeyes' defensive capabilities.
"In giving their verbal pledges, they immediately became the top two commits in Ohio State's 2015 recruiting class," said Land-Grant Holy Land's Miles Joseph.
Cincinnati St. Xavier linebacker Justin Hilliard, maybe the top recruit in the state of Ohio, is rated as the No. 2 outside linebacker and 21st-best overall player in the 2015 college-football class, according to 247Sports Composite rankings.
OSU beat out Notre Dame and Iowa (where Hilliard's older brother plays) for the commitment. Alabama and Michigan were also in his final five schools.
Meanwhile in Minnesota, standout 6-4, 260-pound defensive end Jashon Cornell chose Ohio State over Notre Dame (the Buckeyes' primary competition for his services), Michigan State and Penn State.
The St. Paul product, the No. 1 player in the Gopher State, is rated as the No. 3 weak-side defensive end and 37th-best overall player available in the class, again according to 247Sports Composite rankings.
Cornell was impressed not only with Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, but especially with Larry Johnson, who will be his position coach in Columbus. Johnson may be new to OSU, but is a veteran college defensive-line coach who came over from Penn State.
"They're two of the best coaches in the game right now," said Cornell. "Coach Johnson sent seven first-round draft picks to the NFL and multiple second-round draft picks as well. The tradition at Ohio State is awesome and besides, my auntie lives 30 minutes from Columbus."
"Hilliard is the most-complete linebacker in the 2015 class," said Land-Grant Holy Land football analyst Christopher Jason. "He already has the body, athleticism and instincts to make a Day 1 impact in Columbus.
"Hilliard makes plays sideline to sideline in the running game and explodes through gaps, making plays in the backfield, and can make plays down the field too."
And here's what Jason had to say about Cornell: "When rushing the passer, Cornell possesses a lightning-quick first step, which allows him to get around the opposing offensive tackle easily. Against the run, he possesses solid play-recognition skills and does an excellent job overall.
"Cornell has a great motor and is always around the ball, so he can be an every-down defensive end who will be a terror to game plan against for opposing coordinators."
Hilliard and Cornell both have made it known that they are going to be pitching Ohio State to other potential Class of 2015 Buckeye recruits.
Who the duo might help OSU go after, first and foremost, is Berea (Ky.) running back Damien Harris, seen as possibly being pretty close to a decision in the Buckeyes' favor. Harris also is pretty close with Hilliard and Cornell, so they might finally nudge him Ohio State's way for good.
At the top of that list is Cleveland Benedictine linebacker Jerome Baker, who at last glance was juggling between OSU, Florida and Tennessee, while also in Ohio, Hubbard tailback Larry Scott has whittled his choice down to Ohio State or Michigan State, with OSU seemingly the favorite right now.
Brentwood (Tenn.) wide receiver Van Jefferson is down to the Buckeyes and the in-state Tennessee Volunteers, and Woodbridge (Va.) offensive guard Matthew Burrell could be committing soon to OSU, especially with all the momentum Ohio State's had on the recruiting trail as of late.
Contact Steve Hemmelgarn at firstname.lastname@example.org