Football: Central Ohio commits relish chance to sign
No matter how long the process takes for athletes to make their college decisions, there’s nothing that Pickerington Central senior Lorenzo Styles Jr. believes can compare to finalizing that choice.
Styles, the Division I district Offensive Player of the Year, signed with Notre Dame on Dec. 16, the opening day of the early signing period for football.
The four-star prospect moved onto the radar of major-college programs during a summer camp in 2018, and he committed to the Fighting Irish on Oct. 13, 2019.
“It makes it even more real because I’m putting pen to paper,” said Styles, who played wide receiver and defensive back for Central, which followed its second state title in three seasons with a state runner-up finish this fall. “I haven’t been (to visit) Notre Dame (during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic), but I’ve been there five or six times total. (Signing) just makes you feel really good.”
Styles started a program-record 55 games for the Tigers and was joined as a major-college signee from his school by Garner Wallace, who played quarterback this season but is expected to be a defensive back at Northwestern.
In addition, running back Nick Mosley signed with Bowling Green, another Football Bowl Subdivision program, and defensive back A.J. Sanders committed to Eastern Illinois, which competes in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Styles, Mosley and Wallace were among 21 players from the area to sign with FBS programs during the Dec. 16-18 early signing period.
When football’s second signing period is held Feb. 3, those who could put pen to paper include offensive linemen Toby Wilson from Olentangy and Tommy Bailey from Gahanna, Groveport running back Jalil Underdown and Westerville Central quarterback Judah Holtzclaw.
Ready’s Tyrese Hudson, who projects as a college wide receiver after playing several positions for the Silver Knights, announced Dec. 15 that he has committed to Marist and is planning to sign in February.
Holtzclaw, who guided the Warhawks to a Division I regional runner-up finish, has been offered a spot by Pennsylvania but could receive additional offers considering the quarterback recruiting market in past years has been slower to develop.
Wilson has 13 scholarship offers.
“With COVID, some guys (in the 2021 class) that are really talented didn’t get the chance to show what they have, but I’ve seen guys have really good senior years and hopefully they’ll be able to show what they have when they get to college,” Styles said.
Pickerington North had a pair of signings in Jack Sawyer with Ohio State and Elijah Hawk with Western Michigan.
Sawyer starred his first three seasons at defensive end and also played quarterback as a junior in 2019 before a knee injury ended his season. He elected not to play this fall with an eye on preparing for college but remains the program’s all-time leader in sacks with 23.
Hawk also played defensive end for North, which won the OCC-Ohio Division and finished 6-2 in 2020.
Another program that had a busy early signing day was Dublin Coffman, which had six players finalize their commitments Dec. 16, including defensive lineman Hammond Russell with West Virginia and running back Bryon Threats with Cincinnati.
Threats, who was first-team all-district in Division I and the OCC-Central co-Player of the Year, initially committed to Purdue in April but flipped to the Bearcats in August.
“There was a lot that went into it,” Threats said. “I was looking at a lot of schools that were recruiting. (Purdue) recruited me just for running back, and I was looking to be recruited as an athlete. UC was one of the schools that was showing me love so I waited the process out, but I knew Cincinnati was where I wanted to be.”
Others who committed to Power Five colleges were Walnut Ridge defensive lineman Jamarius Dinkins (Kentucky), Independence athlete Shawn Munnerlyn (Rutgers), Hilliard Bradley tight end Jack Pugh (Wisconsin) and Coffman linebacker Devon Williams (Minnesota).
Another player from Walnut Ridge, 2019 graduate Julius Wood, signed Dec. 16 with East Carolina after going the junior college route.
Wood originally signed with Miami University but did not qualify academically and instead played for Blinn College in Brenham, Texas, in 2019. Although the Buccaneers did not compete this fall, Wood would be eligible to play for them during their expected spring season before joining East Carolina’s program.
The Pirates compete in the 11-team American Athletic Conference, which also includes Cincinnati.
There are nine others in addition to Hawk and Mosley who signed with Mid-American Conference programs Dec. 16.
While five players signed with Ohio University, Westerville Central's Will Jados (OL/DL) signed with Miami, Hilliard Darby's Connor Jones (RB/LB) signed with Toledo, Coffman's Casey Magyar (K) committed to Kent State and Coffman's Daniel Warnsman (OL) signed with Eastern Michigan.
Among those who signed with the Bobcats was Hartley offensive lineman Jake Skelly, who did not play his senior season after being diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia May 7.
That was the day after he committed to Ohio, which also signed DeSales' Quintell Quinn (RB/LB), Groveport's John Motton (DB), Marion-Franklin's Giovanni Scales (DB) and Darby's Bradley Weaver (TE/DL).
Skelly, who projects as an offensive tackle, said he’ll likely redshirt next year as he continues to recover and regain weight that he lost from cancer treatments the past few months.
“I’m just starting my last phase (of treatment) before I go into maintenance and everything has been going really well,” Skelly said. “I know all of these guys are going to come in and we’re going to win a MAC championship together. It’s going to be a great family between us.”
Below is a list of central Ohio football players who announced their commitments during the early signing period from Dec. 16-18:
NAME (HIGH SCHOOL), COLLEGE
Yaser Awale (Hilliard Bradley), Heidelberg
Jamarius Dinkins (Walnut Ridge), Kentucky
Reece Dykstra (Thomas Worthington), Long Island
Ethan Hand (Olentangy), Indianapolis
Elijah Hawk (Pickerington North), Western Michigan
Will Jados (Westerville Central), Miami University
Connor Jones (Hilliard Darby), Toledo
Casey Magyar (Dublin Coffman), Kent State
Nick Mosley (Pickerington Central), Bowling Green
John Motton (Groveport), Ohio University
Shawn Munnerlyn (Independence), Rutgers
Jack Pugh (Hilliard Bradley), Wisconsin
Quintell Quinn (DeSales), Ohio University
Chance Roberts (Hilliard Bradley), Tiffin
Hammond Russell (Dublin Coffman), West Virginia
A.J. Sanders (Pickerington Central), Eastern Illinois
Jack Sawyer (Pickerington North), Ohio State
Giovanni Scales (Marion-Franklin), Ohio University
Jake Skelly (Hartley), Ohio University
Lorenzo Styles Jr. (Pickerington Central), Notre Dame
Bryon Threats (Dublin Coffman), Cincinnati
Garner Wallace (Pickerington Central), Northwestern
Daniel Warnsman (Dublin Coffman), Eastern Michigan
Bradley Weaver (Hilliard Darby), Ohio University
Dorian Weaver (Dublin Coffman), Findlay
Devon Williams (Dublin Coffman), Minnesota
*Julius Wood (Walnut Ridge), East Carolina
*Previously competed at the JUCO level