Back in January of 2014, former Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer made a monumental hire along the defensive line for his coaching staff. That was when he poached the previous longtime Penn State staffer Larry Johnson from the Big Ten rival program. Meyer brought him to Columbus with the intention of making the defensive trenches a strength for years to come, and make no mistake — that is exactly what has happened.
Johnson has been tremendous at developing the players that he’s had the opportunity to coach and his resume speaks for itself. But also, what he has accomplished on the recruiting trail for the program is invaluable.
The North Carolina native has had the tough task of recruiting some of the very best players in the country along the defensive front and he’s exceeded any possible expectations with the talent he’s added. Johnson, since being hired in the beginning stages of 2014, has played a major part in the Buckeyes adding eight players on the defensive line that were ranked inside the Top 50 players in their respective recruiting classes.
It all kicked off back in the 2016 class when the duo of Nick Bosa and Jonathon Cooper committed and signed with Ohio State. Johnson than followed that pairing up with the massive addition of Chase Young from Maryland immediately after in the 2017 cycle. Not to be forgotten, Johnson would dip into Florida for Taron Vincent and keep Tyreke Smith home in the corresponding class. Four of the handful in those three years were five-star prospects.
In 2019, the Buckeyes had a long-standing battle with Michigan for the services of Zach Harrison that would ultimately end up in favor of Ohio State. After a year hiatus from top 50 defensive lineman that would end a four-class streak, Larry Johnson bounced back in a jaw-dropping way with the recent additions of both J.T. Tuimolaou and Jack Sawyer — two top five prospects and the highest ranked defensive lineman signings in program history.
Perhaps those previous big-time victories on the trail by Johnson for those elite defensive lineman should be enough to convince you that the Buckeyes might have a better chance than some may think to land at least one of the three Top 50 prospects at the position that are considering Ohio State this cycle.
The trio consists of three out-of-state talents in Shemar Stewart, Omari Abor, and Enai White. All three have begun narrowing down their respective recruitments and the Buckeyes are included in their top schools as we head down the stretch.
Shemar Stewart is a five-star prospect that hails from Monsignor Pace (FL) and is the top-ranked player in the sunshine state. The No. 8 prospect in the country has well over 30 offers under his belt and is obviously being pursued by the best of the best. Ohio State received a visit from Stewart back in June and they know who they have to outlast going forward as the 6-foot-5, 260-pounder included the Buckeyes in his top group on Thursday with Clemson, Georgia, Miami (FL), and Texas A&M.
Abor, who was receiving previous buzz about being a Buckeye a few months back, feels like a name that has since slipped away a bit. Nonetheless, the Duncanville (TX) standout did include the program in the five schools that are still in the picture for his signature on Friday. Ohio State, who admittedly seems to have some work to do in this one, remains in the mix along with Alabama, LSU, Texas, and Texas A&M.
The final top 50 player on the defensive line considering the Buckeyes is high four-star EDGE Enai White of Imhotep Institute (PA). White, much like the aforementioned Abor and Stewart, has trimmed down the teams in-play for him. It’ll be one of Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, or Texas A&M that’ll ultimately be the call and this is likely the one that the Buckeyes have the best shot at for now. It seems to be a matter of who White feels is a better schematic fit for his skillset.
Make no mistake about it, there is a lot of work to be done with all three of these highly-touted prospects. But if history tells us anything, Larry Johnson should not be taken lightly nor doubted in these kind of battles. In fact, I’d go as far as saying you should likely expect one of the three to be in the class when the finish line approaches for the Buckeyes 2022 recruiting class. But who will it be?