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Al Washington, Ohio State still searching for right fit at linebacker

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Al Washington is having his reputation as a great recruiter put to the test early in his Ohio State career. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Recruiting Question of the Day

Al Washington, Ohio State still searching for right fit at linebacker

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. Today we examine the Buckeyes linebacker targets in 2020 as 5-star prospect Mekhail Sherman is off the big board after committing to Georgia.

Ohio State Recruiting Question of the Day

Despite taking an official visit to Ohio State, 5-star linebacker Mekhail Sherman committed to Georgia last week as expected.

The Buckeyes had Sherman at the top of their recruiting board for a while, but in the recruiting game, things change. There’s ebb and there’s flow — and in this, the ebb flowed in a different direction when all was said and done in the recruitment of the Washington D.C. standout.

But there is no reason for Ohio State to fear, for the options are plentiful at linebacker. There’s also not a huge need at the position in 2020 for the Buckeyes, especially at the traditional linebacker spots. Yes, the Buckeyes will want to bring in one or two true linebackers, but the focus in 2020 is on the hybrid Bullet position that will be deployed this year and beyond.

That means a change in recruiting philosophy.

It also means that new linebackers coach Al Washington is going to have his reputation as a top-tier recruiter tested very early in his Ohio State career. For this cycle to be a success, the Buckeyes will need two traditional linebackers and two Bullet-type athletes to join the Class of 2020. There are, again, a number of options.

We wrote about what characteristics Washington is seeking from his recruits about a month ago. But with Sherman’s recruitment over and him off the list, let’s examine who remains a viable target for the Buckeyes in 2020.

First of all, let’s put this out there: Ohio State is in the final 12 or whatever for California 5-star Justin Flowe, but that’s not going to happen. The Buckeyes also remain on the periphery for Seattle-area 5-star Sav’ell Smalls. Despite his friendship with Gee Scott, Smalls is almost assuredly not going to Ohio State either.

So, moving on, it seems to me that the top target on the Buckeyes board is Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) standout Mitchell Melton. If there is concern anywhere about his star rating, Melton’s frame and his game make him a much better prospect than his national ranking is giving him credit for.

He’s a player that the Buckeyes are recruiting as a potential replacement for Malik Harrison in the defense. Another player with a similar athletic profile is Cincinnati Princeton’s Jaheim Thomas, who has been discussed at length here in the past and who I believe still grows out of the linebacker position and into a defensive end. But for now, we’ll list him here.

I’m a big fan of Utah’s Noah Sewell, who was recently offered by the Buckeyes and is more of a true middle linebacker prospect. He’s expected to visit in June and could be worth watching closely if that visit occurs.

jaheim thomas ohio state-jaheim thomas-jaheim thomas linebacker-jaheim thomas football-jaheim thomas cincinnaati

Jaheim Thomas camped at linebacker in the summer of 2018. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State recently offered New Jersey’s Cody Simon, and it remains a school of interest for Massachusetts 4-star Kalel Mullings as well.

Lastly, before I move on to the hybrid linebackers, I’ll say this: I believe the Buckeyes should crank up the heat on Penn State linebacker commit Derek Wingo to see if he’d be interested in Ohio State again. He was extremely interested a year ago and continues to tear up every camp and combine he visits. The Buckeyes have always done well at St. Thomas Aquinas and Wingo is a star.

There is no shortage of standouts at the hybrid position for the Buckeyes to sift through, either. This spot, a linebacker/safety mix, includes recently offered Ohioan Rickey Hyatt, California 4-star Kourt Williams and Erasmus Hall (Brooklyn, N.Y.) athlete William Mohan. Ohio State has offered all three, and though it’s likely they’ll want to verify that Hyatt can fill that role during a camp workout this summer, I think it’s reasonable to expect that he’d be the most likely guy to fill that spot because of his local ties.

Williams, who recently added offers from Alabama and Oklahoma, had the Buckeyes at the top of his list following a March visit to the school and is returning for an official visit to Ohio State in June. Mohan is from the same school as former Buckeyes star Curtis Samuel and current Ohio State players Jahsen Wint and Matthew Jones. He visited last summer and will return to Columbus in June as well.

The coming camp season will be vital for the Buckeyes and Al Washington as they look to see who fits best within the Ohio State program and an evolving defensive scheme.

The best way to stay on top of all that recruiting #stuff? Subscribe to Lettermen Row’s Recruiting with Birm newsletter. 

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Keep Borland and Werner on the BENCH

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.

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