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Buckeyes have small, talented group of top linebacker options

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Barrett Carter is the top remaining target for the Buckeyes in the Class of 2021 at linebacker. (Barrett Carter/Courtesy)

Ohio State Football Recruiting

Buckeyes have small, talented group of top linebacker options

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. 

Thanks to ebb and flow of the recruiting cycle, each new year provides new needs for college football programs like Ohio State and the way that the 2021 cycle is shaking out, there appears to be a limited need for linebackers this time around for the Buckeyes.

That doesn’t mean that Ryan Day, Al Washington et al aren’t recruiting them, of course, but they’re certainly approaching the position with extreme selectiveness.

Of course, it also helps the Buckeyes that Reid Carrico is the nation’s top-ranked inside linebacker and an Ohio prospect and already committed to Ohio State.

So where are the Buckeyes looking for additional linebackers? How many are they looking for? Those are the big questions and right now the answers appear relatively simple. In an ideal situation — one unaffected by any further attrition — the goal number for linebackers in 2021 appears to be just two.

Here are some of the names to know being recruited still by Ohio State.

Al Washington-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Al Washington is on the prowl for just one more linebacker in the Class of 2021. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

  • Barrett Carter • Suwanee, Georgia  • ★★★★

    • Unlike the other positions we’ve written about here in the last week, the linebacker group is being arranged by order of priority rather than by national recruiting ranking. That’s why Barrett Carter, the 4-star prospect from North Gwinnett High School, is at the top of the list. Carter is currently the country’s No. 6-ranked outside linebacker but he’s versatile enough to play inside or outside depending on what the defense needs. Smart, fast and aggressive on the field, Carter is a Chicago native who is equally impressive off the field. He last visited Ohio State in November and the Buckeyes — along with Georgia, Clemson, Auburn and others — are pushing for any kind of advantage in this recruitment. Carter is priority one and there’s some thought that, because Carrico is already committed, no other linebackers will get much attention until the Georgia standout makes his choice.
  • Smael Mondon • Dallas, Georgia  • ★★★★

    • Another Georgia star, Mondon is an exciting athlete with prototypical linebacker size. The problem is that he’s not yet visited Ohio State but he was visited by Al Washington last month so interest is still there from the Buckeyes.
  • Aaron Willis • Baltimore, Maryland  • ★★★★

    • Willis visited Ohio State in November and is one of the top linebacker prospects on the East Coast. He has offers from all of the country’s major programs and as a borderline Top 100 prospect, it’s easy to see why. Willis doesn’t have the “big” linebacker frame of Malik Harrison and other more recent Buckeyes but is more of a hybrid/Bullet prospect.
  • Junior Colson • Brentwood, Tennessee  • ★★★★

    • Ohio State also hosted the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Colson last season and the Buckeyes are a big fan of recruiting the Volunteer State. Colson has 32 offers to his name and recorded 175 tackles as a junior. He’s going to be a major priority for Jeremy Pruitt and Tennessee so if there’s any real desire from the Buckeyes to get him into the mix, they’ll need to pump up the intensity in this recruitment.
  • Greg Penn • Hyattsville, Maryland  • ★★★★

    • Early in the recruiting process Penn looked like a player who could very likely end up at Ohio State but the relationship between the Buckeyes and the 6-foot-1, 225-pound inside linebacker has slowed down, most likely as a result of Carrico’s early commitment.
  • Yanni Karlaftis • West Lafayette, Indiana  • ★★★★

    • Greg Mattison’s relationship with Karlaftis — forged while recruiting his brother George during his time at Michigan — has persisted and the 6-foot-3, 205-pound linebacker visited Ohio State last summer but there’s been little planning to get back to this point. With his brother at Purdue, and that being his hometown, it’s hard to imagine Karlaftis ends up anywhere else.
  • Dallas Turner • Fort Lauderdale, Florida  • ★★★★

    • Ohio State hosted Turner for what he dubbed an “extravagant” visit in November but since then his recruitment has turned toward a pair of SEC powers, Alabama and Georgia, thanks to January visits to each school. At 6-foot-4 and 235-pounds, Turner — who recently transferred to St. Thomas Aquinas High School — has the frame to play along the defensive line and his positional flexibility may mean some clarity is required before the Buckeyes can decide whether or not to really push forward in his recruitment.


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.