If the college football world can take anything from the last decade of Alabama dominance, and now the rise of Clemson as a potential dynasty, it should be the importance of elite defensive tackle play. Just look at some of the names Alabama and Clemson have brought through their programs up front. Names like Marcell Dareus, Terrence Cody, A’Shawn Robinson, Jonathan Allen, Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins, Quinnen Williams.
That’s an unbelievable list. That kind of power in the middle of a defense can, as we saw in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl (playoff edition), absolutely wreck any offense. It can completely transform how a defense plays.
While the Ohio State Buckeyes have produced plenty of elite talent on the outside of their lines, the interior hasn’t reached the Clemson or Alabama levels yet, despite excellent coaching from Larry Johnson. Part of that can’t be helped. There are more elite defensive tackles in the south than there are in the north, and Clemson, Alabama, and really the entire southern part of college football are always going to have an advantage for the dominant tackles.
It does seem, however, like Ohio State is refocusing on defensive tackle recruiting under Ryan Day, after it slipped in the past few years. The Buckeyes have already landed Ty Hamilton, who I consider to be a bit of a diamond in the rough, and today, they landed a commitment from four-star defensive tackle and Cincinnati product Darrion Henry.
So, is Henry the type of dominant defensive tackle that the best teams in college football need to have? It certainly seems like it.
On the field
The first thing that I look for when watching a defensive tackle recruit is versatility. It’s not that hard to be a massive space filler, and that doesn’t necesarily reflect talent. It’s much more impressive when a tackle shows off athletic ability by lining up at tackle, end, and anywhere else he’s needed.
On his tape, I count four different spots for Henry: tackle, end, stand-up edge, and tight end. That gives a pretty resounding answer to the versatility question. Henry is a tremendous athlete for his size (6-foot-4.5, 279 pounds), which means Ohio State can likely add a little more weight to his frame to make him even more disruptive inside.
He has great quickness off the snap, and while he doesn’t have the best bend in the world, his strength and athletic ability make him a threat as both a power rusher and as a more refined finesse rusher. His move set isn’t quite there yet, but he flashes the ability to become a Michael Bennett-esque figure, where he can do whatever Ohio State needs.
On top of his quickness and strength, Henry is excellent at the point of contact. He knocks linemen back with ease, and has a quick first move after that initial contact. He rarely misses when he makes contact with the ball carrier, and I don’t see him going for arm tackles, which means he’s going to be an absolute handful for opposing teams to clear out when they want to run up the middle.
That’s exactly what Ohio State needs: an elite athlete, with good size, a solid fundamental base, and plenty of versatility. Those are the exact kind of guys Clemson and Alabama churn out every single year, and those are the exact kind of guys that make it so difficult to move the ball. Henry isn’t a space filler, he’s a football player. That’s what you want at tackle.
In the class
Henry is the 15th member of Ohio State’s 2020 class, and the latest commitment from last weekend’s mass visit, joining Clark Phillips III, who committed on Friday, Jayden Ballard, who committed last Thursday, and Cody Simon, who joined earlier today. He’s the fifth defender in the class, along with Phillips, Simon, Lejond Cavazos, and fellow defensive tackle Ty Hamilton. He’s also a pretty different player from Hamilton, which means that the two should compliment each other pretty well.
Henry committed to Ohio State over offers from, well, just about every team in the country. This recruitment really came down to the Buckeyes, and a quartet of SEC schools (Tennessee, Alabama, LSU and Georgia). Tennessee threatened for a second, as did LSU, but Ohio State was never in serious danger here. Larry Johnson rarely misses on top in-state line talent, and he wasn’t missing here.
Henry’s commitment moves Ohio State from their number five spot into the fourth spot in the 2020 class rankings. This, paired with the Simon commitment, was just enough to leapfrog Georgia. Next up, LSU, who holds a pretty sizable lead for the third spot.