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.
It’s been so far, so good for Ohio State when it comes to recruiting the offensive line in the Class of 2021.
After signing six linemen in December, the Buckeyes have used a team approach and done a phenomenal job reloading what was a thin unit when Ryan Day took over following the 2018 season.
One key for Ohio State was to lock in the best prospect that its home state had to offer on the offensive line for 2021. The Buckeyes did that when Richfield’s Ben Christman announced he was staying home last June. Six months later, Texas offensive lineman Donovan Jackson joined Christman in the commitment column in early January. Jackson, the country’s top-ranked offensive guard, has family ties to Ohio — and the Buckeyes coaching staff did a remarkable job recruiting him away from Texas, Alabama, LSU, Georgia and pretty much every other big-time college program out there.
With two early top targets committed and wearing the hat of the recruiter and not the recruit, Ohio State has been able to turn the focus to a handful of players from around the country to try to close out another important group of offensive line prospects.
Which players are near the top of the list? Here are some of the top names to know in what should be a tackle-heavy group from here on out.
Nolan Rucci • Lititz, Pennsylvania • ★★★★★
- Clemson, Penn State and a handful of other programs are in a much better shapen than the Buckeyes for Rucci, the country’s No. 3-ranked offensive tackle. But he’s a player the Ohio State staff really likes and is hoping to see on campus this spring to really get themselves into his recruitment. Rucci is a 6-foot-8, 266-pound junior and has ties around the Big Ten — his father played at Penn State and whose brother, Hayden, is a tight end at Wisconsin.
Rocco Spindler • Clarkston, Michigan • ★★★★
- Half of a dynamic offensive line duo at Clarkston High School in Michigan, Spindler has been to Columbus twice in the last six months, and he’s remained in regular contact with Ryan Day and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa with the idea of returning to campus to see the program again this spring. This one seems like it will come down to Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State. But right now the Buckeyes are probably in the trailing position. It’s not quite as big of a gap as one would expect, however.
Garrett Dellinger • Clarkston, Michigan • ★★★★
- Dellinger is the other side of the powerful Clarkston offensive line duo. And like Rocco Spindler, he has been to Ohio State twice. The same schools are involved here, but there’s no expectation that these high school teammates are hellbent on attending the same college. LSU is one of the programs really in the mix for Dellinger as a potential upset candidate over the Midwest powers.
J.C. Latham • Waukesha, Wisconsin • ★★★★
- LSU is also on the primary competitors for offensive lineman J.C. Latham, a Wisconsin native who plays at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Latham first emerged on the recruiting scene as a defensive lineman, but he has moved to offensive tackle and appears to have a bright future there. Ohio State is a definite favorite here, and there’s a commitment date set for April. For another school to beat the Buckeyes here would require some real work between now and April.
Tristan Leigh • Fairfax, Virginia • ★★★★
- One of the country’s fastest-rising offensive line prospects, Tristan Leigh is a definite priority for the Buckeyes, and the feeling appears mutual following his first visit to Ohio State in November. Clemson is now involved after a January trip to South Carolina, and from there, it’s the same group of teams to know: LSU, Alabama, Penn State and Virginia Tech are all going to be involved until a decision gets made.
Jager Burton • Lexington, Kentucky • ★★★★
- One of the few pure guards being aggressively recruited by Ohio State in 2021, Jager Burton is a high-priority recruit from Kentucky who has been in the sights of Day and Studrawa for the last year. Alabama, Kentucky, Clemson, Penn State and Oregon are all up near the top of the list with Ohio State, and the ultimate decision here could come down to the relationship Burton has with the Christman, Jackson and the Buckeyes coaches.
The offensive line is the most difficult position in football, and it’s one of the few spots that will regularly see four-or-more players signed every recruiting cycle. The names at the position change frequently, but those listed above have been clear and obvious priorities for Ohio State in the last year. There will certainly be new names that join them as college decisions get made between now and the summer.