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Jack Sawyer, 5-star targets could lead to huge 2021 defensive line class

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Jack Sawyer committed to Ohio State early and hasn't looked back. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football Recruiting

Jack Sawyer, 5-star targets could lead to huge 2021 defensive line class

The 2021 recruiting class is officially on the clock and the Buckeyes are off to a great start after finishing the 2020 cycle as the nation’s fifth-ranked recruiting class. With ten commitments already, it’s time for Ohio State to begin narrowing down its lists and Lettermen Row is going position-by-position to break down a number of the top targets being courted by Ryan Day and the Buckeyes. 

According to the fine folks at 247Sports.com, Ohio State has offered 159 prospects in the 2021 recruiting class.

More than 20 percent of those extended offers are out to defensive linemen.

So when Lettermen Row talks about the Class of 2021 and its needs, it’s hard to look beyond the defensive line as the top priority for the Buckeyes. That’s why it was so vital for Ohio State to get off to a quick start at the position. With the early commitments from in-state stars Jack Sawyer and Michael Hall, Ryan Day’s program did just that.

With a likely need for four more defensive line prospects in the Class of 2021, two more at defensive end and two more at defensive tackle, the Buckeyes aren’t close to done at the key position in this recruiting cycle. Who are some of the biggest names still being courted by the legendary Larry Johnson and Ohio State?

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Larry Johnson has his eyes set on a big 2021 class of defensive linemen. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

  • J.T. Tuimoloau • Sammamish, Washington • ★★★★★

    • The Buckeyes may be looking for a pair of defensive tackles and a pair of defensive ends. But the best-case scenario for Ohio State would be to land a player like Tuimoloau who can play either spot. There’s an undercurrent of confidence around this recruitment from the folks in Columbus, but until the country’s No. 4-ranked prospect makes his first visit to Ohio State there’s little to actually report. If Tuimoloau visits this spring as expected, the recruitment between the Buckeyes and this 5-star talent could heat up rapidly.
  • Tunmise Adeleye • Katy, Texas • ★★★★★

    • A recent transfer to the IMG Academy in Florida, Adeleye is another potential combo option on the defensive line who has a major interest in the Buckeyes. Adeleye has been to Columbus and will be back this spring. Ohio State has been considered one of the favorites here for months, though it will be interesting to see what impact — if any — his transfer will have on his recruitment.
  • Damon Payne • Belleville, Michigan • ★★★★

    • The Buckeyes have recruited Payne for almost two years and have been at the top of his list for nearly the entire time. Michigan, Michigan State and a number of other schools have continued to push for the 6-foot-4, 295-pound lineman, but his recruitment is almost certain to take him out of Michigan.
  • Tywone Malone • Oradell, New Jersey • ★★★★

    • There are few true 1-tech defensive tackles around the country these days, and there are even fewer of them that want to play football and baseball in college. But Bergen Catholic’s Tywone Malone is a very rare prospect, and that’s why he’s probably the top true defensive tackle target left for the Buckeyes. Penn State, Michigan, Alabama and every other major program in the country is feeling similarly, though. Ohio State needs to get Malone back on campus and show him the path to playing time on the gridiron — and the diamond — if they want to have win this national recruiting battle.
  • Landon Jackson • Texarkana, Texas • ★★★★

    • There aren’t many prospects who have the frame and raw physical talent of Landon Jackson, and that’s what has drawn the Buckeyes to the 6-foot-6, 240-pound defensive end. Jackson has not visited Ohio State yet, but he has consistently suggested that he will over the past few months. Until it happens, it’s hard to put too much stock in this recruitment for the Buckeyes.
  • Demeioun Robinson • Gaithersburg, Maryland • ★★★★

    • One of the country’s premier edge rushers, Demeioun Robinson is a player who is seriously coveted by the Buckeyes. The country’s fourth-ranked weakside defensive end, Robinson has been at the top of the list for Ohio State for a while now, and he’s become close to a number of Buckeyes commitments in the last few months. A spring return to campus is expected. The staff in Columbus is hoping that visit, whenever it happens, will catapult Ohio State into the lead.
  • Travion Ford • St. Louis, Missouri • ★★★★

    • Another exciting edge rusher, Travion Ford does have a visit date set for seeing Ohio State this spring: March 6. That visit is one that could shape his recruitment for good. After missing four games as a junior due to transfer rules in Missouri, Ford won a state title and led his Lutheran North team in sacks. At 6-foot-4 and 225-pounds, Ford has the tools to be a big-time player in the Big Ten.
  • Monkell Goodwine • Fort Washington, Maryland • ★★★★

    • On the flipside of Travion Ford is Monkell Goodwine. At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds already, Goodwine’s frame is college-ready. He has offers from Georgia, Alabama, LSU and all the big boys from around the country. Goodwine said he wants to be “just like Chase Young,” but will he follow the fellow Maryland native’s path to Ohio State?
  • Aaron Armitage • Blairstown, New Jersey • ★★★★

    • The Buckeyes missed on Jayson Oweh and King Ojabo from the Blair Academy in the 2018 and 2019 cycles respectively, and they’re once again in the mix for that school’s top defensive lineman. Armitage has been to Columbus twice and is also very high on Penn State and Michigan, among others.
  • Jahzion Harris • Brooklyn, New York • ★★★★

    • Early in his development, it seemed like a sure bet that New York’s top 2021 prospect would eventually end up at Ohio State because of the program’s ties to his high school, Erasmus Hall. However, Harris didn’t make a visit to Columbus last year, and he’s been mum on any return plans for this spring. Physically, Harris has developed since he burst onto the national recruiting scene as a freshman — but not quite as quickly as some in the recruiting game expected.
  • Jahvaree Ritzie • Kernersville, North Carolina • ★★★★

    • One of the lesser-known names on this list is North Carolina’s 10th-ranked prospect. Ritzie is a 6-foot-4, 265-pound lineman who Larry Johnson and Kevin Wilson visited and offered in January. The Buckeyes have done a great job recruiting in North Carolina and are hoping that they can get Ritzie on campus this spring.
  • Najee Story • Solon, Ohio • ★★★★

    • A very early offer inside of Ohio usually means a quick commitment, but in the case of Najee Story, that’s not happened. That’s probably a good thing for both sides. Story missed most of his sophomore year with a broken leg and didn’t really get back to full speed even as a junior while he worked to regain trust in his own body. The Buckeyes are still involved and watching Story’s development, but he’s taking his recruitment slowly to make sure he’s finding the best fit for his future.
  • Marcus Bradley • Gaithersburg, Maryland • ★★★★

    • One of the few true 3-technique defensive tackles still being courted by Ohio State after the commitment of Michael Hall, Bradley visited the program twice in three-week stretch in November and has become a popular choice to eventually join the Buckeyes 2021 class. Bradley is a teammate of Demeioun Robinson, and Ohio State is working on the rare two-for-one from Quince Orchard High School.

Birm

Birm is Lettermen Row's Director of Recruiting and the site's primary Ohio State sports photographer. A Toledo, Ohio native, Jeremy has been in similar roles for elevenwarriors.com and Landof10.com and has been covering the Buckeyes for seven years.