The Hurry-Up: An Early Signing Period Primer As Ohio State Waits On Decisions from Joshua Mickens, Damon Wilson, Matayo Uiagalelei, Kayin Lee and Ajani Cornelius

The Early Signing Period has arrived.

Beginning at 7 am Wednesday morning, Ohio State will receive its National Letters of Intent from its commitments from the 2023 class, as their label officially switches from commits to signees.

But some uncertainty remains. As it stands, Ohio State has 20 players committed to its 2023 class. Could that number grow? Could it possibly shrink? With Signing Day almost here, we’ll delve into the storylines Ohio State fans should be following throughout the day.

An unexpected signing announcement from Joshua Mickens

Four-star 2023 Indiana defensive end Joshua Mickens always intended to sign Wednesday. That was never in doubt. But the former LSU commit had always planned on being a silent signee and then announcing his decision at the All-American Bowl in San Antonio on Jan. 7.

Those plans have now changed, as the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Mickens plans on announcing his commitment at noon at a ceremony at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis.

Bluntly, it would be shocking if Mickens’ pick was any other college besides Ohio State. Mickens took two visits to Columbus in November, one for the Nov. 12 game against Indiana and then went on an official visit for the Michigan game on Nov. 26. He decommitted from LSU a few days later and has not since been linked to any other school.

In his senior season, Mickens made 74 tackles (20.5 for loss) and 6.5 sacks. He would be the fourth defensive lineman to commit to OSU this cycle, joining Will Smith Jr., Jason Moore and Kayden McDonald.

What about the five-star defensive ends?

The news for OSU appears to be good on Mickens. On Damon Wilson, not so much.

The five-star Florida talent has been trending toward Georgia for weeks now and various 247Sports writers made projections for him to choose the Bulldogs when he makes his commitment at noon Wednesday.

So, what about Matayo Uiagalelei? That race appears too close to call at the moment. All three of his finalists, Ohio State, USC and Oregon, seem to think they have a chance at landing the premier five-star talent. Ohio State has been viewed as the favorite in this recruitment for a long time, but the allure of staying home at USC might have at least evened the scales with the Buckeyes.

It seems the only concrete way the world will know for sure which way Uiagalelei is leaning is when he announces it to the world himself at a Signing Day ceremony at St. John Bosco (Bellflower, California) at noon Wednesday. Landing Uiagalelei would be a Signing Day coup that would make the 2023 class appear much stronger on paper. Should he go elsewhere, OSU is looking at its first class of only signing one five-star player in the 247Sports composite rankings since 2016.

Is Kayin Lee on flip watch?

Last year’s Signing Day was mostly drama-free, but the day wasn’t without its drawbacks as OSU cornerback commit Terrance Brooks flipped to Texas. Could the Buckeyes lose another cornerback in the early signing period again?

Perhaps, but that’s far from a certainty. Four-star cornerback Kayin Lee has been aggressively courted by Auburn and the Georgia prospect visited the SEC school’s campus earlier this month and sported Tigers gear during his state championship game.

It also didn’t help that OSU quality control coach Miguel Patrick, Lee’s former high school coach, left Columbus to become UAB’s defensive line coach.

But Tim Walton and OSU have made a strong effort to keep Lee in the 2023 class, and there’s cautious optimism from the Buckeyes that he will sign with them in the end. Lee will make his final decision about his future this week and OSU certainly hopes that will be in Columbus.

OSU’s top transfer target Ajani Cornelius to commit Wednesday

The drama doesn’t stop with high school prospects, as Ohio State eagerly waits for the decision of its top transfer portal target this offseason, Rhode Island offensive tackle Ajani Cornelius.

Cornelius will announce his decision at 6 pm Wednesday and is expected to choose from a group of OSU, Tennessee, Nebraska and Oregon, as he has made an official visit to each.

One day before the decision, where Cornelius will end up remains uncertain. From OSU’s perspective, the Buckeyes will need to either land the potential impact player or go back to the drawing board at that position.

The other two transfer tackles they’ve offered thus far are seemingly off the board, as UTEP tackle Jeremiah Byers committed to Florida State Monday and Tulsa tackle Dillon Wade told 247Sports he is down to Auburn and USC. As of now, it appears it’s Cornelius or bust for the Buckeyes.

Also of note

Earlier this month, Ohio State five-star 2023 wide receiver commit Brandon Inniss cautioned he may delay his signing until February with the uncertainty of Brian Hartline’s future with OSU at the time, with rumors swirling he’d interviewed for the Cincinnati job. Now that Hartline has said he’ll be in Columbus for at least another season, Inniss feels no need to wait until February and announced he’d sign with OSU on Wednesday.

In his senior season for American Heritage High School (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), Inniss hauled in 73 receptions for 1,336 receiving yards and 15 receiving touchdowns while adding 1,947 all-purpose yards. He’s the highest-ranked prospect in Ohio State’s 2023 class.

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