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Helmholdt's Takeaways: Three days in Southwest Ohio

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

The state of Ohio has seen a contraction in the number of prospects it is sending to the FBS level in recent years, but it remains the most talent-rich state in the Midwest. Earlier this week Rivals.com Midwest Analyst Josh Helmholdt spent three days in southwest Ohio attending 7-on-7 tournaments and high school practices to see what the cities of Dayton and Cincinnati have to offer.

MORE: Coaching hot seats, 2020 QB commits

PRINCETON THE EPICENTER OF OHIO IN 2020

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Darrion Henry
Josh Helmholdt / Rivals.com

When the first top 20 in the state of Ohio for the 2020 class was released earlier this summer, Princeton High in Cincinnati was the only school with multiple entrants. It will be hard for another program to match the talent Princeton is putting out in this 2020 class. Four-stars Darrion Henry and Jaheim Thomas are double-digit offer guys already. Henry is currently the No. 3 strongside defensive end in the entire class and is more physically impressive than when he was evaluated for that rating. Thomas, meanwhile, is another in the mold of these long, athletic linebackers Ohio has been kicking out recently, like Chris Oats and Dallas Gant in the 2018 class.

Those are the prospects you know. The ones you do not are led by cornerback Elijah Eberhardt, the third Princeton product who debuted in the Ohio top 20 for 2020. The offer wave has not started for Eberhardt yet, but it will when college coaches see him. He reminds me of Boubacar Cissoko at the same age. Cissoko would go on to start at Michigan as a freshman before running into legal trouble, but when he was a young player coming up at Detroit’s Cass Technical School there was not a cornerback in the country who had better feet or technique at his age. Eberhardt is the first player I have compared to Cissoko since he graduated in 2008.

Other up-and-comers at Princeton include outside linebacker Juan Jarrett, whom head coach Mike Daniels expects to have a breakout season this fall, two-way lineman Vincent Munlin who could project to either offensive tackle or defensive end depending on how he grows physically, and defensive end Todd Harding, who also sees some time at running back despite being 270 pounds. There will be plenty of college coaches roaming the halls of Princeton High over the next year with this 2020 group.

FAIRFIELD'S THREE-HEADED OFFENSIVE MONSTER

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Erick All
Rivals.com

The 2018 class at Fairfield High near Cincinnati was all about the big men, with five-star offensive tackle Jackson Carman and four-star defensive end Malik Vann headlining. This fall, though, the bulk of the attention will go to the offensive skill positions, which features three talented prospects who are in three different stages of their recruitments.

The first and most well-known of Fairfield’s FBS prospects is Michigan commit Erick All, the No. 22 ranked tight end prospect in 2019. He was uncoverable in Wednesday evening’s 7-on-7, regularly beating linebackers and safeties tasked to cover him in the slot and making ridiculous one-handed catches when a defensive back did give him enough cushion.

The second prospect is just coming onto the recruiting scene, and that is three-star 2020 all-purpose back Jutahn McClain, a speedster who holds early offers from Cincinnati, Kentucky, Louisville and Rutgers.

The third prospect is hardly known at all, but that could change. Quarterback Jeff Tyus’ only offers right now are from FCS programs Morgan State and St. Francis (Pa.), but he could merit some late looks in his senior year. The progression we saw in Tyus’ game even since the Rivals 3 Stripe Camp presented by adidas in May is significant. Fairfield head coach Jason Krause said Tyus did not play AAU basketball this summer to focus on football, and it shows. He spun a beautiful football on Wednesday, looked much more polished and was completely in control of his game. A quarterback his size (6-foot-4, 219 pounds) with that kind of arm talent and some athleticism is bound to draw some late looks.

PURDUE IS POPULAR

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Justin Stephens
Rivals.com

The two school names I heard with the most prospects this week was Cincinnati and Purdue. As the hometown school, the Bearcats being prominently mentioned is not surprising, especially with Luke Fickell making their backyard a priority since taking over as head coach. Purdue being so prominently mentioned may not have been as predictable, but does jive with the increased recruiting presence the Boilermakers are having throughout the Midwest under Jeff Brohm’s direction.

Trotwood-Madison teammates Justin Stephens and Sammy Anderson both hold offers from Purdue and profess strong interest in the Boilermakers. They both worked out at a summer camp in West Lafayette last month, which is where Anderson earned his offer. Cincinnati Wyoming quarterback Evan Prater also worked out for Purdue this summer and the response has been strong. It looks like a good possibility the Boilermakers could be the next Power Five offer for the three-star 2020 quarterback.

RUNNING BACK JOHN BIVENS STILL SIDELINED

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John Bivens
Josh Helmholdt / Rivals.com

One of the less encouraging takeaways from the week was seeing Archbishop Alter running back John Bivens still unable to participate in football activities. Bivens suffered a knee injury toward the end of his junior season that involved tears of both the MCL and PCL. He was not wearing a brace nor walking with any noticeable limp, but we’re nine months out from that injury and he has not gotten back to any significant football activity. With that being the case, a return seems unlikely before mid-season, and it will be closely watched how effective he will be when that return does occur.

Several Power Five programs are still pursuing Bivens with urgency, however, and that speaks to the talent of the 6-foot-1, 205-pound back. When we spoke on Tuesday, Bivens listed Cincinnati, Kentucky, Louisville, Nebraska and Toledo as the five schools he keeps in the best contact with, and he is still hearing from new schools like Georgia, which wants him to visit later this summer. There’s no doubting Bivens’ talent when healthy – he’s a big back who runs with explosiveness and power – and if he can return to that form this fall

ANOTHER FOOTBALL OR BASKETBALL DECISION FOR A QB

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Evan Prater

Two-sport stars who play quarterback are recently popular in the Midwest, and the football side of the ledger has not fared very well. Maybe that changes, though, with Cincinnati (Ohio) Wyoming 2020 quarterback Evan Prater. The 6-foot-5, 185-pound Prater is a dual-threat quarterback who started as a sophomore and put up impressive numbers, but in the offseason he plays basketball and is headed to an AAU event in Manhattan this weekend. Prater has several offers for football, but has not seen his basketball recruitment kick off just yet. Still, there are recent examples that caution against assuming football wins out in this type of situation.

Former Sidney, Ohio 2019 quarterback Andre Gordon had significantly more college interest in football than basketball and was clearly considered a higher level talent on the gridiron. Yet, after his junior season Gordon suspended his football recruitment and transferred to a school in West Virginia to focus solely on basketball.

The most well-known two-sport star right now is Minneapolis’ Jalen Suggs, who is a five-star basketball prospect and a Rivals250 quarterback in the 2020 class. Recent buzz actually sounds positive for football with Suggs, but there is still a long way to go and he has not rendered a final decision on the topic. Neither has Prater, and talking with him this week he admitted basketball was his first love and the college attention for football caught him off guard. The excitement for Prater as a quarterback at the highest levels of the game is growing, though, and this is likely only the beginning. He is a talented player, good athlete and his coach raves about his leadership qualities. If Prater turns his focus to football, he could end up a national recruit.