COLUMBUS — The methodical approach to recruiting defensive linemen used by Larry Johnson and Ohio State is going to be tested in the Class of 2022.
By the time July rolls around, Johnson typically has had time to work with and evaluate up-and-coming prospects during one-day recruiting camps with the Buckeyes — opportunities that allow him to identify who will become a top target in the future. The legendary defensive line coach doesn’t rely much on things like highlight tapes or rankings, preferring instead to see young players in person, learning how well they move and how receptive to his coaching they are.
So, without summer recruiting camps, Johnson and Ohio State find themselves a little bit further behind in the 2022 evaluation process than in previous years.
That doesn’t mean there’s not a handful of early targets emerging for the Buckeyes. There have been nine 2022 defensive linemen offered to this point, but a few of those players have started to stand above the rest in terms of Ohio State’s attention.
Travis Shaw • North Carolina
The country’s No. 3-ranked defensive tackle in the Class of 2022, Travis Shaw has made a virtual visit to Ohio State this year and has steadily risen up the program’s board of interest. The Greensboro (N.C.) Grimsley product has 27 offers, including the nation’s elite programs like Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma and more.
At 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds, Shaw is a special prospect physically and an absolute top target for Ohio State.
Caden Curry • Indiana
Ohio State loves big-bodied defensive ends. Caden Curry, who currently checks in at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, is most certainly that. The Greenwood (Ind.) Center Grove star has the body of a defensive tackle but moves like a defensive end, and that’s an appealing combination for Larry Johnson and the Buckeyes.
Curry recorded more than 100 tackles as a sophomore and will continue rising up the national rankings boards as more offers come his way. Right now, the top target has 14 scholarships with the Buckeyes and Alabama leading the way.
Billy Schrauth • Wisconsin
Though it’s unclear exactly where the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Schrauth ends up, there is continual contact between he and Ohio State, including from assistants Greg Mattison and Greg Studrawa. Wisconsin is the presumptive favorite for the Fond Du Lac prospect, who has offers from 11 early programs.
The Buckeyes will need to get the country’s No. 5-ranked defensive tackle prospect on campus if they intend to upset the local favorite.
Mykel Williams • Georgia
Another 6-foot-5, 255-pound defensive end, Williams fits the profile of the big, versatile lineman that Larry Johnson is seeking. The Columbus (Ga.) Hardaway star was offered by the Buckeyes in May after a first-team all-state selection as a sophomore. He holds 23 offers early from the likes Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and LSU — and like most major prospects from the Peach State, it will require a pretty valiant effort on the recruiting trail to take him from the southern powerhouses.
Enai White • Pennsylvania
Considering he’s a top-10 overall talent who has been talking to Ohio State “for a while,” it would make sense to have the 6-foot-5, 225-pound White higher on this list. But the Buckeyes aren’t the only big-time program making overtures to the country’s No. 1-ranked weakside defensive end. Pennsylvania’s top prospect is getting the full-court press from Penn State, of course. But LSU, Alabama, Georgia and every other major school is counted among his 40 offers.
White has the athletic ability to play on the edge in a 4-3 defense or to line up as an outside linebacker. Larry Johnson will have his work cut out for him to make this recruitment more interesting for the Buckeyes. There are no crystal ball predictions yet, so at the very least there’s no early leaning for White.
There are dozens of other defensive line prospects around the country, including inside of Ohio, who will no continue to be monitored closely by the Buckeyes. There are some, like Gabe Powers — the top-ranked player in Ohio in the Class of 2022 — who could outgrow the linebacker position he’s listed at. Then there are others like defensive tackle Derrick Shepard who would really benefit from the chance to work out in person for the Ohio State coaching staff.
Then there are players like Shemar Stewart and Wilfredo Aybar, potential 5-star talents who the Buckeyes have offered but haven’t had a chance to get on campus yet. That group is going to be worth watching, but only when things return to normalcy on the recruiting trail. Others, like Kenyatta Jackson and Ernest Cooper, from Florida and Texas respectively, are getting a lot of attention and will be top of the board targets as the Buckeyes are able to evaluate them in person when football returns.