The seemingly endless, hard-fought battle for the No. 3 ranked player in the 2021 recruiting cycle will finally reach it’s much anticipated conclusion later today. Five-star defensive lineman J.T. Tuimoloau of Eastside Catholic (WA) will reveal his collegiate destination on CBS Sports Network at 4 p.m. ET and what better way for the Buckeyes to celebrate the holiday by getting of their biggest BOOM on the defensive side in program history, sort of.
If you glance all the way back to the class 18 years ago in 2004, Ohio State was able to secure a commitment from a five-star prospect that was graded as a cornerback by the name of Ted Ginn Jr. from Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio. Of course Ginn would wind up becoming an all-time great, game-changing wide receiver for the Buckeyes and has gone on to play an extensive career with seven different franchises in the national football league despite being a current free agent.
So, who really is the highest ranked defensive signee in the recruiting era for the Scarlet and Gray? At this very moment, it’s five-star defensive lineman Jack Sawyer of Pickerington Central (OH). Unfortunately for college football offensive lineman throughout the Big Ten —and the country even — he would be the guy paired up with Tuimoloau in the 2021 class to make a frightening tandem at the spot, if Ohio State ultimately ends up as J.T.T.’s pick. Sawyer trails Tuimoloau by a modest 0.0008 points on the 247Sports composite scale, which means he would fall to the second highest-ranked defensive Buckeye ever in this scenario.
Yep, you read that correctly. A program that has reeled in elite level prospects like Nick Bosa, Joey Bosa, Baron Browning, Zach Harrison, Raekwon McMillan, Jeffrey Okudah, Noah Spence, Shaun Wade, Donte Whitner, Chase Young, and many, many more — none of them were as highly regarded coming out of high school quite like Washington native J.T. Tuimoloau is.
Brandon Huffman, national recruiting editor and west coast guru of 247Sports, projects the Army All-American as a future top ten pick on day one of the NFL Draft and interestingly enough, compares him to former standout Ohio State defensive lineman and four-time pro bowler Cameron Heyward of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
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. Could be a top tight end prospect if he focused on offense, with natural pass-catching skills, ability to track the ball and high point it and run after the catch. Also a high-major basketball player, averaging nearly a double-double in prep career. 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.
Barton Simmons, formerly of 247Sports and now the director of personnel at Vanderbilt University, also gave rave reviews for what Tuimoloau will bring to the table for whichever program welcomes him later this afternoon.
Thick, sturdy athlete with a powerful lower half and a frame that will add mass easily on the college level. Operates primarily as an edge defender in high school but frame allows the possibility to kick inside as he continues to mature. Extremely unique talent in terms of versatility. Anchors effectively against the run and shows the ability to set the edge. Uses hands and length to keep blockers away from his body and is active shedding and chasing. Strong pass-rusher even with limited technique. Shows rare ability to play in space given his size. Can drop into coverage and understand pass concepts. Runs well downfield and has athleticism and ball skills to be a top tier tight end. Validates athleticism on the basketball court where he is a Division I prospect if he pursued it. Needs to continue to refine technique and show some polish as a pass rusher. Projects as an immediate power five impact player and has the upside to be drafted in the top ten overall.
Will this one end up in favor of the Buckeyes?
It seems that the chances are more than favorable if Ohio State can overcome the obstacle of Tuimoloau heading well over 2,000 miles from his home state to Columbus for three years, at minimum. It’s a barrier that the other three schools in his finalists group don’t have to worry about as Oregon, USC, and Washington are all far closer to home.
However, everything else seems to give little cause for concern for the Buckeyes, and if all goes as planned for head coach Ryan Day and the coaching staff, it will unquestionably be a historic day for the Ohio State program and defensive line coach Larry Johnson will surely have a memorable holiday weekend.