Have a question about Ohio State recruiting? This is the place for you, five days a week. Submit your questions on Twitter or on the Lettermen Row forums. Check in daily to see what’s on the mind of Buckeyes fans all over the country. This afternoon’s column highlights a number of top-ranked recruiits Ohio State is still hoping to land on defense in its 2020 class.
Ohio State Recruiting Question of the Day
The prospective defensive class potentially has a solid core (Lejond, Phillips, Gray, Henry, Williams, etc.) but there doesn’t feel like a real crown jewel in the mix as of now. Are there any potential stars you see entering the radar?
— buckeyestoneburner (@buckeyestonebu1) April 28, 2019
In the last two weeks, a pair of longtime targets for Ohio State on defense for the 2020 class had significant developments in their recruitments. And defensive end Bryan Bresee and linebacker Mekhail Sherman have changed the situation a bit for the Buckeyes.
Bresee, the country’s top-ranked prospect in 2020, committed to Clemson. The Tigers had been the favorite to land him for months and he’d not been back to Ohio State since a November visit with the Buckeyes, a trip that happened just days before Urban Meyer retired.
This week, Sherman, who had been the Buckeyes top linebacker target for much of the last year, announced he’d be making a college decision between Georgia and Ohio State, two schools he’d made official visits to in the last two weekends.
He’s not going to pick the Buckeyes, just to be clear.
Taking two of the country’s premier defensive prospects out of the equation is a stinging blow to Ohio State, sure. But it’s hardly the end of the world when it comes to the current recruiting class and how it can end up.
Ohio State has just one defensive commitment at the moment: 4-star cornerback Lejond Cavazos. He’s a fine starting point and a player the coaching staff has coveted for a long time because he has tremendous upside thanks to his prototypical size and elite speed.
Ryan Day’s first coaching staff includes four new assistant coaches tasked with rebuilding a defense that was — and I’m not speaking hyperbolically – the worst statistically in school history. Those new coaches are also trying to create relationships with prospects they likely had never spoken with before January, so it’s entirely reasonable to expect things will move slower on the defensive side of recruiting than on the offensive side of the ball.
But things are moving along pretty well, and there are a number of major prospects who still have a major interest in the Buckeyes. Cincinnati defensive end Darrion Henry is the third-ranked defensive end in the country, and Ohio State is still fighting for Braiden McGregor (No. 5) and very much involved for Jacolbe Cowan (No. 10) and Tyler Baron (No. 11) at the position as well.
The Buckeyes are beginning to emerge as a likely landing spot for 4-star defensive tackle Kedrick Bingley-Jones, who they’ll host for an official visit in June. Larry Johnson continues to search far and wide for players that fit what he’s looking for, and his history of success grants him some leeway at this point. He’ll find the guys that work for what he does.
Ohio State isn’t going to need many linebackers in 2020, and while losing out on Sherman changes the public perception of where the program is, it doesn’t affect the overall scope that much. He’s not a highly-ranked player like Sherman, but the Buckeyes have Mitchell Melton much higher on their board than any rankings service does. Ultimately I think that matters more. Melton may be the only real remaining target at the true linebacker position, because Ohio State is focused on finding players to fit its new bullet position.
That approach may not necessarily lend itself to some of the more familiar national names at this point, but it’s really the secondary where Ohio State can really reload with star power. It could be that portion of the defense where they’re closest to doing so.
Aside from Cavazos, the Buckeyes are in a really solid position with Clark Phillips III and Henry Gray, and though they’re not as well-positioned with top-ranked cornerback Kelee Ringo, there’s still an outside shot to make a move there. I am not willing to count out Ohio State when it comes to 5-star cornerback Elias Ricks, either, despite his current commitment to LSU.
Ohio State is also very involved with top-ranked safety Jordan Morant and Arizona 4-star Lathan Ransom, one of the country’s most sought-after defensive prospects. And the Buckeyes have had West Bloomfield (Mich.) 4-star Makari Paige as a top target for more than a year and are in good shape to land him as well, despite his Michigan roots.
The 2020 defensive class may be starting slower than some would like, but there’s no shortage of interest from big-time prospects all over the country. As summer approaches and many top players prepare to end their recruitments, Ohio State is in a great position to win some key battles.
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