The highly publicized recruitment of Olentangy Orange High School senior Zach Harrison finally came to a close Dec. 19 when he committed to Ohio State during a private ceremony that was live-streamed on Twitter.
While staying under the radar was an impossibility for the five-star recruit, the same can’t be said for the list of central Ohio athletes who signed on the opening day of the early signing period for football.
What might have gotten lost in the commotion is that including the 6-foot-6, 245-pound Harrison, there were six area defensive linemen from the 2019 class who committed to Power 5 programs.
Also factoring in that Dublin Jerome offensive lineman Cam Craig signed with Purdue and DeSales linebacker Joey Velazquez signed with Michigan, central Ohio is showing its depth in the middle of the field.
Pickerington Central, which won the 2017 Division I state championship and was a state semifinalist this fall, had a pair of major recruits on its defensive line in DeWayne Carter and Karter Johnson.
The 6-4, 275-pound Carter will play football and baseball for Duke in the ACC.
“It’s truly a blessing to be able to have the opportunity to play both sports at the highest level,” Carter said. “I am very grateful and excited to get to Duke and start rolling.”
The 6-4, 300-pound Johnson played his first three prep seasons for Gahanna before transferring to Central, where he teamed with Carter to create one of the state’s most imposing defensive fronts. He chose Texas Christian from the Big 12 out of 11 Power 5 scholarship offers.
“It’s an honor to be a Horned Frog,” Johnson said. “I love the people in Fort Worth and I can’t wait to create great memories at TCU. It was great playing with DeWayne. He’s a great teammate and a great guy.”
Velazquez initially committed to play baseball for Ohio State but ended up signing to play baseball and football for Michigan after changing his mind in June.
While splitting time on offense between running back and quarterback, Velazquez was named Division III district Defensive Player of the Year last fall.
“Being able to sign with Michigan and complete this part of my high school career means the world to me,” Velazquez said. “I fully understand, though, that signing is just the first phase of my next chapter of my journey. I will take the things I’ve learned at DeSales … with me to outwork everyone.”
One of Velazquez’s teammates, defensive lineman Rodas Johnson, will be an opponent next year after signing with Wisconsin.
Purdue landed two other players from the area in Reynoldsburg wide receiver Mershawn Rice and Westerville Central defensive lineman Dontay Hunter II.
The Boilermakers are just 6-6 entering their matchup with Auburn in the Music City Bowl on Friday, Dec. 28, but they beat Ohio State 49-20 on Oct. 20.
“It feels great to be connected to a powerhouse like Purdue,” Hunter said. “It’s great to take all of this Ohio talent to the great city of West Lafayette, Indiana. The energy around the entire football program (is appealing). The program is really on the rise, big time.”
Another area player headed to the ACC is Upper Arlington defensive lineman Jackson Ness, who signed with Boston College.
In addition to Harrison, nine other central Ohio players decided to stay in the state.
Ohio University, which has appeared in 10 bowl games since Frank Solich became coach in 2005, reeled in Reynoldsburg’s Jay Amburgey (OL) and Jeremiah Burton (DL), Pickerington North’s Tyler Foster (TE) and Ben Johnson (LB) and Hilliard Bradley’s Cannon Blauser (LB).
Cincinnati bounced back from a 4-8 finish in 2017 by reaching double digits in wins this season under second-year coach Luke Fickell, a DeSales graduate. Signing with the Bearcats, who are 10-2 heading into their matchup with Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl on Monday, Dec. 31, were Bradley’s Zach Hummel (LB) and Marion-Franklin’s Dorian Holloway (LB/WR).
Walnut Ridge’s Julius Wood (DB) signed with Miami University and Marysville’s Tyler Connolly (OL) committed to Akron.
Below is a list of central Ohio players who announced their football commitments during the early signing period, which began Dec. 19:
NAME, HIGH SCHOOL, COLLEGE
Jay Amburgey, Reynoldsburg, Ohio U.
Alex Azusenis, Olentangy Liberty, Colorado State
Cannon Blauser, Hilliard Bradley, Ohio U.
Jeremiah Burton, Reynoldsburg, Ohio U.
DeWayne Carter, Pickerington Central, Duke
Payton Collins, Hartley, Eastern Kentucky
Tyler Connolly, Marysville, Akron
Cam Craig, Dublin Jerome, Purdue
Griffin Crosa, Dublin Scioto, North Dakota State
Ian Drummond, Olentangy, Elon
Josiah Ezirim, Hilliard Davidson, Eastern Kentucky
Tyler Foster, Pickerington North, Ohio U.
Sam Glover, Pickerington North, Navy
Camby Goff, Reynoldsburg, Air Force
Zach Harrison, Olentangy Orange, Ohio State
Dorian Holloway, Marion-Franklin, Cincinnati
Eric Holsinger, Dublin Scioto, Bucknell
Zach Hummel, Hilliard Bradley, Cincinnati
Dontay Hunter II, Westerville Central, Purdue
Ben Johnson, Pickerington North, Ohio U.
Karter Johnson, Pickerington Central, TCU
Rodas Johnson, DeSales, Wisconsin
Jordan Kirkbride, Hartley, Dartmouth
Mark Lee, Northland, Eastern Michigan
R.J. Mehan, Worthington Kilbourne, Bucknell
Jackson Ness, Upper Arlington, Boston College
Mershawn Rice, Reynoldsburg, Purdue
Joey Velazquez, DeSales, Michigan
Julius Wood, Walnut Ridge, Miami U.