Whether or not there are there ‘must get’ prospects in recruiting is up for debate but there’s no doubt that some recruits are, for whatever reason, more important for Ohio State in a specific recruiting cycle. For the Buckeyes and the Class of 2022, those players are becoming clear. Who’s on The List? Today’s featured player is Xavier Nwankpa, a top target of the Buckeyes for the last year.
The Ohio State defense runs best when there’s a mistake-erasing, game-changing safety as the last line of the defense.
Turn on the highlight tape and it’s easy to see that Xavier Nwankpa fits that description quite well.
At nearly 6-foot-3 and just about 200 pounds, Nwankpa looks like he could play linebacker. He runs like he could play cornerback and his defensive instincts belie his youth. He’s the country’s No. 5-ranked safety according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings. But clearly there’s one national network that hasn’t seen him play, because anyone who has knows he’s a top-25 prospect in the nation, period.
Not just at safety.
The lofty upside is what drew the attention of Ohio State defensive backs coach Matt Barnes last year, and the substance of Xavier Nwankpa as a person and a young football player have made him a must-get in the Buckeyes 2022 class.
And he knows that. There’s no doubt that the Buckeyes have made him a priority from the start. For Nwankpa, that’s a big piece of the puzzle.
Of course, with his size and skills, everyone around the country is prioritizing him now. That’s why he has to take his time on the recruiting trail. He knows he can’t commit before he makes visits to all his top schools. Getting to Ohio State will be one of his top priorities.
“I haven’t been to Ohio State, but there are people going to school there and going to visit out there that I have great relationships with,” Nwankpa told Lettermen Row last month. “So, I want to see if I can fit in there, too. I was going to visit in April for the spring game, and C.J. [Hicks], Dasan [McCullough] and those guys are still talking about doing something like the Buckeyes Bash around then. If they do, I’ll probably go there then just to see how it is.
“I know I’ll need to take some unofficial tours if I want to have an idea of where I fit in.”
The Buckeyes are hoping he doesn’t need many trips anywhere else to realize where he fits best. Ohio State knows its defense is better with a top-tier, sideline-to-sideline safety who understands the physical and mental side of the game.
That is exactly what Xavier Nwankpa is.
That’s why he’s the third player on The List from Lettermen Row. Jeremy Birmingham and Spencer Holbrook break down his recruitment and why he’s so important for Ryan Day and Ohio State.