Fairburn (GA) Langston Hughes 2023 tight end Jelani Thurman is set to make his college decision on Sunday July 17. The decision will technically be made from his top eight, but is more realistically being made from the four schools he took official visits to in Ohio State, Michigan State, Alabama, and Auburn.
If you’re casually following OSU recruiting or just haven’t paid much attention to this recruitment, you may be wondering why the Buckeyes are looking at another tight end when they already have an elite one in Ty Lockwood on board. You may even be wondering why Ohio State wants another player at the position when they already have someone committed there and have limited spots remaining in their current class.
Today, I provide five reasons why the program not only wants Jelani Thurman, but why they feel they need him as part of their top-ranked 2023 recruiting haul.
RELOADING THE ROSTER
While the 2022 roster has 6 tight ends on it, none of them are really proven commodities and one of them will be leaving following this season. The current tight ends are Mitch Rossi (Redshirt Sr.), Cade Stover (Redshirt So.), Joe Royer (Redshirt So.), Gee Scott Jr. (Redshirt So.), Sam Hart (Redshirt Fr.), and Bennett Christian (Fr.).
Rossi will be departing following the season and with the transfer portal and rules being how they are, it’s a good bet at least one of the other five players in that room moves on after this year. The Buckeyes are bringing in Ty Lockwood, but again, without any of the aforementioned named being proven commodities at the position, and an appetite to play 12 personnel fairly often, the staff feels like reloading the room with more talent is important.
The staff isn’t just going to add another tight end for the sake of numbers, but if they can find the right guy, they want to bring them in. That leads to the next point….
I spoke with a number of people on a few sides of this recruitment and the consensus on Thurman as a prospect is that he is a “freak talent” that is being a bit underestimated by fans and analysts in this cycle.
At 6-foot-5, 230-pounds he has an ideal frame that he pairs with long arms, a big catch radius, and incredible athleticism, gifted to him by his parents (former NFL LB Odell Thurman and former WNBA player Kara Braxton). He also is a versatile tight end who can play attached or be flexed out, with the ability to also play the H-back position that the Bucks have used Rossi at the last couple of years. Thurman is a very willing blocker, which is key for playing at OSU as well.
Thurman is ranked as a 4-star, the No. 135 overall player, No. 9 tight end, and No. 11 prospect in Georgia per the Composite, but from what I am hearing, Ohio State (and others) view him as a much better prospect than even that strong rating.
(FINALLY) GETTING TWO IN A CLASS + A PERFECT PAIRING
For a few cycles now, Ohio State has been trying to put together a two tight end class. In 2020 they added Royer, but missed on also adding Michael Mayer and passed on offering Luke Lachey. In 2021 they brought in Sam Hart, but just missed on Hudson Wolfe and passed on offering Jack Pugh. In 2022 they got Bennett Christian and had Benji Gosnell committed before deciding he wasn’t the fit they were looking for. They also missed on pairing Christian with Holden Staes, among a few others, and passed on offering in-state prospects Elijah Brown.
Long story short here is that the Bucks have wanted to bring in a two tight end class for a while, but will only do it if it’s the right two, not any two.
With Thurman there is not only an opportunity to bring in that second tight end to bolster the talent on the roster for years to come, but they feel he would be the right prospect to add to this class. And that is not only because of his talent, but also because they feel his skill set compliments Ty Lockwood’s very well.
As previously mentioned, OSU likes to play 12 personnel when they can, and sources have indicated to me that the staff feels that Lockwood and Thurman would be the perfect fit in the current offensive scheme. Leading me to…..
KEY TO OFFENSIVE SUCCESS
I’m not going to pretend to be some big Xs and Os guru, but I spoke to someone this week who has a great knowledge about the modern spread offense, inclusive of the scheme that Ryan Day runs in Columbus.
One thing they called out, specifically when it comes to Ohio State, is that you can have all the five-star receivers you want, but you need a lot more balance to be able to go against the best and compete at the national level. They explained to me how important the tight end is in the offense—even if they don’t catch 50 balls for 800+ yards in a season, the position plays such an integral role in both the passing game and run game.
This person I spoke to has forgotten more about football than I will ever know, so when they preach to me how important getting elite tight end play is for Ohio State to be able to compete for national championships with Alabama, Georgia, and others, I listen. That alone makes adding a talent like Thurman to pair with Lockwood a need not a want.
BIG RECRUITING WIN
OK, maybe this is a stretch when it comes to being a “need”, but this would be a huge recruiting win for Ohio State.
First off, it is believed that the top two contenders are Michigan State and Ohio State. Mel Tucker is building something big in East Lansing, so to be able to deny him an opportunity to add a game-changer like Thurman would be huge in the future race for a Big Ten (and B1G East) crown.
Second, Thurman has some big time offers. His four official visits were OSU, MSU, Alabama, and Auburn. Beating out two SEC schools in the Tide and Tigers would be a nice win for a kid from the South, and the Bucks will have also edged out big time programs like Clemson, Florida State, Miami, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, Ole Miss, Tennessee, USC, and others.
Third, Thurman resides in Georgia, so keeping that pipeline flowing to Columbus would be huge for future recruiting and planting flags in the Peach State. The state has become one of the best, and arguably the best, when it comes to putting out Division I prospects every year, so bringing in another highly ranked player from the area would surely be positive for OSU.
Finally, adding Thurman would help in Ohio State’s pursuit for the number one class in the final team rankings. Right now being ranked a 4-star and No. 135 nationally is solid, but there is a consensus thought that Thurman could move up with a strong senior season. 247Sports already has him ranked 68th overall and if the other services start to agree with them, Thurman could really give a nice boost to the Buckeyes’ efforts in finishing number one overall.