With all of the offensive commitments scouted and analyzed, we are now moving on to the defense — the side of the ball subject to lots of criticism the past few years, and still to this day after a less than ideal end to the regular season in which I am still coping.
An infusion of defensive talent is needed once again for the 2022 recruiting class, and so far this group is shaping up to have a ton of potential future All-Americans that can possibly earn their way on to the field sooner than most think.
With the addition of Jim Knowles to the staff here in Columbus, the Buckeyes will really be getting the full potential out of their players here.
Current Defensive Commitments
Athlete —Armwood High School, Seffner (Florida) — 6-foot-2, 185 lbs
On to one of the last currently committed defensive prospect headed to Columbus next season, Florida athlete Kye Stokes. Stokes is listed as an athlete per the 247Sports database as he has played WR, CB, and S for his school. He is ranked as the No. 350 prospect nationally, the No. 16 Athlete, and the No. 46 prospect in the state of Florida by the 247Sports Composite. He looks to be playing defensive back here at Ohio State, and I believe he can be a great safety for the Buckeyes.
Stokes has elite athleticism and is a fast rangy safety prospect that can really be that centerfielder Ohio State needs. Many Buckeye fans have lamented the play of the safeties this season, and that is not entirely on the players, as we all know there have been some coaching deficiencies there as well. However, Stokes is the exact type of player Buckeye fans have been clamoring for. He is someone that has played offense and defense, so he has elite ball skills as well as tracking ability when the ball is in the air. He runs a sub-11 second 100 meter dash, and every bit of that speed is needed to be able to cover sideline to sideline as the single-high deep safety.
He is a very effective tackler and is not afraid to take on ball carriers that have 20 lbs on him. If you wanna see evidence he is not afraid to come up and make a tackle in the run game, check out the 2:15 mark of the tape below. Also goes to show the fire he brings to his teammates on the big hits. Great form and a lot of power in his drive through his tackles as well.
When I say he is a physical player, I also mean he can cover any player the offense throws at him and not get bullied around. Whether its a running back out of the backfield, the wide receivers, or the tight end, he can cover them all. You can see evidenced in his highlight tape below, he can really make the opposition regret coming over the middle of the field. He has a great defensive IQ and also makes smart football plays by the dozens, for instance standing up ball carriers and perfecting the Peanut Punch (for those who do not know the Peanut Punch) playstyle that always aims to force the turnover.
He does a great job of reading the eyes of the quarterback and really just playing centerfield and being a ball hawk. Obviously nobody will be Malik Hooker, but that's the type of range he shows on his tape. He makes quick cuts in breaking towards the ball on interceptions and the first two plays in the tape below you can see his ability to run after the catch when making an interception.
At the 1:10 mark of the tape he exhibits the ability to play off-ball on the receiver, flip his hips and run with him into the endzone and makes a great play picking off the pass. He has elite awareness in man coverage, and the athletic ability to cover deep halves or the entire field deep in zone coverage. If you see at 1:50, it is almost as if he runs the route better than even the opposing player and knows the pass is coming from the second the ball is snapped, resulting in an interception that takes the ball deep into the opponents redzone.
He will line up all over the place in Armwoods’ defensive backfield, covering in the slot corner position, the deep safety role, on the ball and off the ball. He is a swiss army knife of dastardly defensive deviousness. With Jim Knowles now taking over the Buckeyes defense, it remains to be seen just how much the personnel will change as far as what happens with the Bullet position, what defensive front will he be lining up in, etc. Based on history, it appears he likes to run a 4-2-5 defense as well, but mixes up coverages immensely and is very aggressive and likes to throw blitzes from all over the field. This will also play to Stokes strength as an elite athlete who can blitz the quarterback.
In the Knowles’ defense, he treats third downs as an entirely different animal. The variety I have seen on tape that he throws at the opposing offense is astounding to be quite honest. It will require versatile players to be able to move around and accommodate some of the more exotic blitzes he likes to use. Stokes is made for this, as I stated he has lined up all over the field and is the true definition of the “Athlete” designation on 247Sports. Open field tackling is going to be crucial in this type of defense, and I see nothing on tape that suggests Stoke will have any trouble translating this part of his game to the next level.
I came away from writing this article much more optimistic about having a true centerfield safety in this class who can cover the deep part of the field, as it seemed to be something lacking in Columbus. I think Stokes will outplay his ranking once he gets the coaching he will receive at Ohio State, and can be the ball hawk we have missed since Malik Hooker was in the defensive backfield ruining the opposing quarterbacks’ day.