I bet that there’s a lot of you out there that thought this day might never come, but friends the nation’s top remaining 2021 prospect, J.T. Tuimoloau, has finally announced where he will be playing his college football, and you bet your Buckeye-loving booty that his new home is gonna be Columbus, Ohio. Cue the fireworks, both from Mark Pantoni and your local, neighborhood Fourth of July celebrations!
BREAKING: Five-Star DL J.T. Tuimoloau has Committed to Ohio State, he tells @On3Recruits and live on @cbssportshq— Hayes Fawcett (@Hayesfawcett3) July 4, 2021
The #1 Player in the class of 2021 chose the Buckeyes over Oregon, Washington, and USC.
Tuimoloau will play basketball for the Buckeyes as well. pic.twitter.com/dKTtekfGnF
The 6-foot-4.5, 277-pound Tuimoloau is the No. 3 rated player in the 2021 recruiting cycle according to 247Sports’ Composite Rankings, the second-rated defensive lineman, and the top player from the state of Washington. He also grades out as the 24th best prospect since recruit rankings became a thing in 2000. That means that he is in the same ballpark as players like Ted Ginn Jr., Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, Matt Barkley, Julio Jones, and others. He becomes the third-highest rated Buckeye in the recruiting rankings era, behind only Terrelle Pryor and Ginn.
The pandemic has made Tuimoloau’s recruitment even more unique than his general reticence to speak publicly would have in the before-times. Despite having early crystal balls in Ohio State’s favor dating back to as early as March 17, 2020, because of the NCAA-instituted dead period, the Sammamish, Wash. native made it clear that he would not be making his selection until he could make all of the visits that he wanted to.
Then, the dead period was kept in place through the summer of 2020, then the fall, and past the December early signing period, through the traditional February signing period, and even still through the spring of 2021.
When the NCAA finally allowed students and coaches to meet on campus at the beginning of June, the Tuimoloau family set out to take five visits during the month — in addition to J.T.’s high school graduation and his final high school basketball game (the season was delayed to the spring due to the pandemic).
Ultimately, the family only took four of those visits. After visiting in-state Washington and then USC, Tuimoloau came to Ohio State in mid-June and raved about his visit to the only media member that he willfully interacts with, 247Sports’ Brandon Huffman.
He then flew directly from Columbus to Eugene, Ore. where he visited with the Ducks. After that visit, he went home, and was scheduled to quickly turn around and head to Tuscaloosa, Ala., but decided to cancel the visit with Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide saying “It’s just a feeling I’ve had for a while now and after getting back from my official visit to Oregon, we decided not to take the trip to Alabama.”
From there, J.T. focused his decision-making process on the four schools that he visited, and after discussions with his family, decided to play for Ryan Day and Larry Johnson.
Despite being the top-player in 247Sports’ ratings, Tuimoloau’s commitment won’t be enough to push Ohio State to the No. 1 spot in this season’s recruiting rankings, as they remain in second place behind ‘Bama. However, the Tide does have five more players in their class than the Buckeyes do, so it’s not a perfect comparison.
Nevertheless, Tuimoloau will be joining a class full of talent. He will now forever be linked with the player one spot behind him in the composite rankings, Jack Sawyer. The No. 4 ranked player is also a defensive lineman, and the expectation is that those two will be bookending the Ohio State line for the next three years before they both head off to make millions of dollars as first-round NFL draft picks.
Tuimoloau will also be joining another top-10 overall player from the state of Washington as his friend Emeka Egbuka is also in the class. The No. 1 wide receiver in the country enrolled early and had a great spring with the Buckeyes. Egbuka and Tuimoloau knew each other from home, but Tuimoloau is even closer with his former high school teammate Gee Scott Jr. who is heading into his second year in Columbus — and first as a tight end.
With Tuimoloau’s commitment, Day and company secured three of the country’s top nine players in the 2021 cycle (with Sawyer and Egbuka), four of the top 18 (with Donovan Jackson), five of the top 22 (with TreVeyon Henderson), six of the top 26 (with Kyle McCord), and seven of the top 49 (with Jakailin Johnson).
The other DLs in the class for Ohio State are Mike Hall (No. 52 overall) and Tyleik Williams (No. 164). With defensive ends Tyreke Smith and Zach Harrison holding a seniority advantage, it would make sense if they were the starters for OSU’s season-opener against Minnesota (happening just about two months from now), but it would be shocking — given Johnson’s propensity to rotate in as many talented players as possible — if Tuimoloau and Sawyer were not in the mix early and often. With this commitment, the DE group becomes one of the deepest on the team, especially when also including Tyler Friday and Javontae Jean-Baptiste.
Sawyer obviously has an advantage over Tuimoloau — having gone through spring practice, six full months of conditioning with Mickey Marotti, and already being acclimated to life on campus (Sawyer is also from just down the road in Pickerington) — but expectations will be high for both during their freshman seasons, and given their skills and ability, there’s no reason to think that they won’t live up to (and even exceed) every single one of them. No doubt that the OSU coaching staff — and especially Coach Mick — is itching to get the immediate difference-maker on campus as soon as humanly possible.
Huffman says of Tuimoloau:
Powerful, athletic and nimble, with room to still add significant weight at the next level. Has lined up on the edge, mixing with hand down while also standing up. Elite pass rusher, who can mix a variety of moves with pure strength to shed his blockers. Can drop into coverage against running backs, receivers and tight ends and has the athleticism and ball skills to be a force in coverage. Has even played safety ... As he continues to add weight and strength, figures to be among the elite pass-rushers at the next level. Projects as an instant impact Power 5-starter and a Top Ten overall draft pick.
It was a long wait, but it was well worth it. Welcome to this big, beautiful (sometimes dysfunctional) Buckeye family, J.T.!
Check out the high school highlights for J.T. Tuimoloau: