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Buckeyes looking for next star defensive end on recruiting trail

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Ohio State target Jahzion Harris has big-time potential, but is he NFL first-round pick material? (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Recruiting Question of the Day

Buckeyes looking for next star defensive end on recruiting trail

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. Tuesday’s inquiry wonders if there’s anyone on the recruiting board to fill the role that will be left when Chase Young heads off to the NFL following his junior season.

Ohio State Recruiting Question of the Day


There are a variety of ways to tackle this, so let’s cover as much ground as possible.

First of all, it’s pretty important to set a reasonable expectation here because Chase Young qualifies as a once-a-decade type of player and NFL prospect for most programs. He’s a surefire top-three pick in the 2020 NFL Draft after he forgoes his remaining eligibility, and at nearly 6-foot-6 and 270-pounds, a freakish athlete like that is rare even at a place like Ohio State where first-round picks are kind of the norm.

How do the Buckeyes replace that kind of talent and productivity? First, Ohio State will have to recruit monsters — and then the players have to be developed. The latter is Larry Johnson’s specialty, and that’s why players like Young have continued to choose Ohio State in the first place.

The work he’s done with Buckeyes freshman Zach Harrison is already clear, and he’s probably the closest thing anybody could find on the current roster to a Young-caliber replacement. Harrison’s an athletic marvel, and he’s quickly picking up the tools of the trade that have made Joey and Nick Bosa and now Young the envy of college football.

It’s Johnson’s ability to develop top talent into superstars that has programs all over the country trying to remind top prospects that Johnson isn’t a spring chicken anymore. No matter how much he insists he’s not going anywhere any time soon, those rumors will persist and get louder every year.

Spring chicken or not, the work that Johnson has done and continues to do is drawing attention. But his recruiting success isn’t always in line with the national rankings. He recruits the players he wants and has more than enough cachet to get the final say if any internal recruiting debates pop up at Ohio State. Johnson knows what he is looking for in a defensive lineman, and anyone that he decides to extend a scholarship offer to is worth getting excited about for the program.

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Chase Young has become great because he’s listened to Larry Johnson, who has been watching him closely for years. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Don’t think that means Johnson doesn’t miss on players he wants, though. Ohio State would have loved to have had a better chance at guys like North Carolina’s Desmond Evans or South Carolina’s Jordan Burch, but those didn’t pan out. Clemson commit Bryan Bresee is a generational talent, but like a lot of top prospects right now, he felt the call of Clemson and never really gave Johnson and Ohio State a shot once his recruitment went national. Whether or not that’s because of Johnson’s age is irrelevant.

What is relevant is that neither Ohio State nor Johnson are resting on any laurels or previous accomplishments. The Buckeyes have an early commitment from Jack Sawyer, the country’s top-ranked defensive end in 2021. Sawyer is the country’s top-overall prospect, but even comparing him to Chase Young seems premature and a bit unfair.

The 6-foot-5, 240-pound junior won’t be the only defensive end the Buckeyes recruit in 2021, of course. Ohio State is all over a number of big-time prospects to join him, including names we’ve talked about here like Jahzion Harris, Landon Jackson, Demeioun Robinson and many others. Are any of those players capable of becoming All-American, NFL first-round pick types? Only time and development will tell.

The best way to stay on top of all that recruiting #stuff? Subscribe to Lettermen Row’s Scarlet Sunrise newsletter to start your day with the Ohio State news you need to know. 

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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 and and has been covering the Buckeyes for seven years.