When news broke a few days ago that Ohio State was preparing to host Jarren Williams on an official visit next weekend around the Illinois game, it turned heads.
Williams is a quarterback, from Central Gwinnett High School in Lawrenceville, Georgia. But wait a minute — Ohio State gained a commitment from its No. 1 QB target for the 2018 class, five-star Emory Jones, 15 months ago, and as officially as such things go, he is still committed.
But Jones is looking hard at Alabama, recruiting analysts have said for several weeks, even though the Crimson Tide appears set at the position for several years.
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“I am surprised it has reached this point,” Rivals analyst Marc Givler said. “But sometimes when you are dealing with kids from some distance away, as for example with Emory and Anthony Cook (a five-star cornerback prospect from Houston the Buckeyes are courting), it is very easy for a kid to say he will have no problems going away from the home area for college. But as it gets closer to final decision time, sometimes you find out it is a big deal.”
That apparently is what the Buckeyes are finding out from Jones, who otherwise has said little to the media or analysts. Though Jones attended the Friday Night Lights camp at Ohio State in July — just like he did the previous year — and though he made an official visit to Ohio State the weekend of the win over Penn State, he also has made some trips to Alabama, which is much closer to his hometown of Franklin, Georgia.
“He always hinted he might make a visit or two to other places after he committed, but in terms of him possibly getting serious about another place, you laughed that off at first,” Givler said. “But the way this is playing out is pretty surprising.”
Steve Wiltfong, director of recruiting for 247Sports, concurred.
“Normally it's easy to hang on to your quarterback,” Wiltfong said. “This situation is unique because Emory is from SEC country, and it's closer to home and he committed early and I don’t think everyone around him was sure.”
Jones’ mother has been on board from the start with Ohio State, Givler said, though he does not expect her to put up a hurdle if her son changes his mind and picks Alabama.
But what’s interesting is the quarterback list at each school going forward. Ohio State and Alabama are stacked, with the Crimson Tide showing sophomore Jalen Hurts as the current starter with 2017 signee Tua Tagovailoa waiting in the wings.
“The thing about Hurts is he is no three-and-done player; he is probably going to be there four years,” Givler said. “And the coaches there love Tua, he’s their next guy. That has already been determined.
“Whereas at Ohio State, the starting job is going to be up for grabs this spring with J.T. Barrett departing. You’ll have junior-to-be Joe Burrow, sophomore Dwayne Haskins Jr. and redshirt freshman Tate Martell, all highly regarded guys, too, going for it. The position isn’t set like it is at Alabama.”
Jones intends to be an early enrollee wherever he ends up, which means he could jump right into the competition at OSU in the spring. But if Jones heads to Alabama, that could mean Williams, who also intends to enroll early, could be the fourth man in the queue at Ohio State. But that’s not a given, either, because the four-star talent, long committed to Kentucky, is looking elsewhere, too.
“We’re six weeks out and the clock is ticking,” Givler said. “This is going to get interesting.”