In his first two seasons in Columbus, Ryan Day has brought in some massive additions to the Ohio State roster via the transfer portal. Guys like Justin Fields, Jonah Jackson, and most recently Trey Sermon have made huge contributions as Buckeyes after coming in from elsewhere. With many big names looking for a new home this offseason, Day and his staff will once again have the opportunity to perhaps make a splash in what has become the college football equivalent of NFL free agency.
While it isn’t entirely clear whether or not Ohio State is looking to add new players via the portal this year, there are a number of guys with links to the program who would have a chance to make an instant impact should they wind up in Columbus. The Buckeyes lost a handful of key guys at the conclusion of the 2020 season, and there is certainly reason to consider making a move to shore up some important positions heading into 2021.
Here are a few of the names to keep an eye out for moving forward...
Jalen Green (Cornerback, Texas)
Just this week, Longhorns defensive back Jalen Green entered the NCAA transfer portal. A former five-star prospect in the Top247, Green was the No. 6 cornerback and the No. 47 player overall in the 2018 class, according to the 247Sports Composite. The 6-foot-1, 197-pound DB played in nine games at Texas this past season, recording 14 tackles, one tackle for loss, one interception and a pass breakup. A veteran of 30 games played in Austin, Green fell out of favor in the rotation a bit in a new scheme under defensive coordinator Chris Ash in 2020.
Ohio State has some prior history with Green, as the program had gone after him hard during his original recruitment. Originally recruited by Kerry Coombs, the Texas native had the Buckeyes in his top five schools as he neared his college decision, but the departure of Coombs to the NFL muddied that relationship and aided in his eventual commitment to the Longhorns instead. Now, with Ohio State searching for answers in the secondary, it isn’t entirely out of the question that the two sides would seek a reunion.
Palaie Gaoteote IV (Linebacker, USC)
One of the most intriguing players in the transfer portal is linebacker Palaie Gaoteote. A former five-star prospect in the 2018 class, Gaoteote was the No. 1 ILB and No. 15 player overall in the cycle. He has had some brilliant flashes at USC, starting five games as a freshman in 2018 with 38 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, but injuries have severely hampered his Trojans career. A pair of ankle injuries limited Gaoteote to just seven games as a sophomore, and he played in only two contests in this past shortened PAC-12 season after suffering a concussion in the win against Arizona.
Reportedly Gaoteote has significant interest in Ohio State, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he is the cousin of Buckeyes defensive tackle Haskell Garrett. In addition, a quick look at his Twitter page shows that almost all of his likes in recent weeks are of Ohio State-related posts. Especially at a position where Al Washington is losing all three starting members of his unit, adding a player with the upside of Gaoteote would be a huge boost to the linebacker core in 2021. However, he is not the only transfer LB on the Buckeyes’ radar.
Henry To’o To’o (Linebacker, Tennessee)
Another guy who falls in that category is Tennessee transfer Henry To’o To’o. Amid all of the chaos happening within the Vols program, the star linebacker elected to enter the transfer portal this past Wednesday. The No. 3 OLB and the No. 44 player overall in the 2019 class, the former four-star prospect led Tennessee with 68 total tackles this season to go along with 7.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a pick-six. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound veteran of 22 starts in two seasons in Knoxville was the Vols’ best defensive player in 2020, and he will be highly sought after in the transfer market.
While schools like Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Oregon and USC appear early to be some of the likely land spots for To’o To’o, don't count out Ohio State just yet. According to Lettermen Row, there have been preliminary discussions between the Buckeyes and the California native, and they expect there to be further conversations in the coming days. None of the linebackers on Ohio State’s current roster have any previous experience as starters on a Power 5 defense, and so adding someone like Gaoteote or To’o To’o could be massive for a unit full of question marks in 2021.
Elias Ricks (Cornerback, LSU)
I was hesitant to throw this one in at all, because Ricks has not yet officially entered his name into the transfer portal, but there has been some smoke that it is a move that could be coming, and if it does become a reality it likely means great things for Ohio State. The former five-star prospect was the No. 2 cornerback and No. 14 overall player in the 2020 class, and the Buckeyes recruited him hard. Even after his commitment to LSU, Ohio State continued to attempt to flip him for months unsuccessfully. If he were to take his talents elsewhere, OSU and USC would be at the top of his list.
They were right in trying to flip the California native, as Ricks was one of the nation’s top cover corners in 2020 as a freshman. In his first year with the Tigers, the 6-foot-2, 196-pound DB hauled in four interceptions — two of which he returned for touchdowns — with five pass breakups. A freshman All-American, Ricks would instantly become the best player in the Ohio State secondary should he decide to leave Baton Rouge. However, as previously stated, nothing is official, and until his name does pop up in the portal, we should assume he will remain at LSU.