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Predicting the rest of Ohio State’s 2023 recruiting class on the defensive side of the ball

Ohio State currently boasts the nation's top class. Here’s a look at who they could finish with on defense.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Last week’s three offensive commitments thanks to a trio of top-100 receivers jump-started the Ohio State 2023 class to where they’re typically used to being. Among the top recruiting classes nationally more times than not, the Buckeyes were able to gain some serious talent thanks to their efforts on the trail. All of the momentum that surrounded the coaching staff in the current cycle finally paid off in a big way. But of course, even with those three major booms, the question of who is next is never far behind.

Now in a recruiting dead period, the on-campus visits for Ohio State have concluded with this past weekend’s incredible guest list. Both official and unofficial visits commenced over the past few days, and once again, the momentum was totally on Ohio State’s side. That was proven on Monday, as the Buckeyes received some more fireworks.

Giving the Buckeyes their first defensive commitment in some time, long-time Buckeye target Kayin Lee announced his commitment after just coming off his official visit to Ohio State. The No. 145 player nationally, Lee is the 18th ranked cornerback in the country in 2023 and now the seventh-best player in Ohio State’s current class. Giving the Buckeyes 14 total commitments as of now, his pledge was enough to give Ohio State the edge to jump Notre Dame as the top-ranked class in the country per the 247Sports Composite.

It didn’t take too long for the Buckeyes to see their work from the weekend pay off, and little hints on social media by other fellow 2023 commits pointed to the potential boom. While this commitment is certainly being celebrated, and rightfully so, if there’s one aspect of Ohio State recruiting that remains true, it’s wanting the train to continue rolling and looking at who’s next.

Offense by the numbers

Offensively speaking, the Buckeyes currently have nine players committed on that side of the ball. With the receiver spot being filled up, Ohio State is really focusing on adding a quarterback to the class, at the very least one more offensive lineman — preferably a tackle — and there’s potential for a running back and even another tight end to be added if the right name wants in the fold.

Of the more likely scenarios, the staff desperately wants to continue adding offensive linemen, and Ryan Day has made it abundantly clear he wants a signal caller in this group as well. As for running back, the Buckeyes have a great one committed in Mark Fletcher, but another would be ideal. Tony Alford has Justice Haynes and Richard Young on that wish-list, but neither of those is really considered an Ohio State lean at this point. Fletcher could be the sole back taken in 2023 if that’s what it comes down to.

Finishing up with the tight end spot, Ty Lockwood was the first member of the 2023 class, and is an excellent addition to a room that could use some more elite depth. Though another is desired by Kevin Wilson, it’s not a guarantee by any means that another tight end will be added, and that’s not a make or break situation. 2024 will certainly focus on two tight ends being in the fold, and the transfer portal is also worth looking at if in a bind.

All of that to say the over/under is probably near 2.5 in terms of offensive players still likely to be added to this 2023 class overall. Having 11 or 12 guys on offense would make sense, and it gives the defensive side of the ball a chance to at least match that same total for a class that could be anywhere from 22-24 players when all is said and done.

Defense by the numbers

At five current commitments, Ohio State has plenty of room on the defensive side of the ball for additions to this 2023 class. Taking a look at who is already in the fold, here are the five guys that have given the Buckeyes their verbal:

  • Kayin Lee — four-star cornerback out of Georgia and the most recent commitment.
  • Dijon Johnson — four-star cornerback out of Florida and Ohio State’s highest ranked defensive commitment.
  • Malik Hartford — four-star safety from Ohio.
  • Cedrick Hawkins — four-star safety out of Florida.
  • Will Smith — three-star defensive lineman from Ohio.

The focus now is on who is left and at what positions. Right off the bat, the secondary has solid numbers right now. With Jim Knowles and his defensive scheme though, the safety position especially is going to call for more depth. Yes, two are already locked in, but at least one more is likely and two are possible if it’s a player you can’t turn away.

At cornerback, there’s also true two corners already locked in, but like the safety spot, one more certainly isn’t out of the question, and if the staff doesn’t seem to find that guy, taking two more safeties makes complete sense with how the scheme shapes up and the potential to move a player to corner down the road if need be.

At linebacker, clearly Ohio State has room to fill here. Without a linebacker in the fold yet, Knowles has made his top target clear as possible, and the Buckeyes look to be in a great position for Tackett Curtis fresh off his official visit. Thanks to some pretty solid depth on the current roster, and the 2022 class featuring two linebackers courtesy of C.J. Hicks and Gabe Powers, realistically speaking, the Buckeyes could take just one in the current class, but the safer assumption here is that two would be the goal.

Lastly, the defensive line is far from being finished thanks to only having one committed player along the front. Right away, the bet is the Buckeyes wanting to add at least one more interior guy and two more guys on the edge. Four would make for a solid haul depth wise, and based on who Ohio State is still after, if they get their top targets, it could be an elite position group in 2023.

Doing the basic math here, five guys in the fold plus the thoughts from above could equal out anywhere from 11 to 13 guys in total if they add six or eight more players on the defensive side of the ball. For this experiment, let’s tally it up as the offense adding three more players to get to 12 overall, and the defense keeping up their end of the bargain and adding seven more players also to get to 12 players on their side of the ball, totaling 24 members in the 2023 class.

Prediction time

Now that the math is out of the way and best guesses have been made for how the numbers shake out, the fun part of predicting who the Buckeyes finish with on defense can begin. Without further hesitation, here’s the guesses for who will make up the rest of the defensive side of the ball in 2023.


It was touched on briefly that Ohio State still really wants to add at least one more safety to the class — and possibly even two. The guess here is that the staff not only gets one guy, but two safeties for 2023, and they couldn’t be more thrilled.

  • Caleb Downs — The top safety in the country, Downs is the No. 11 player nationally and has long been the apple of every program’s eye when it comes to the defensive secondary. Though he’s from Georgia, the in-state Bulldogs aren’t the runaway favorite. While Joenel Aguero is also on Ohio State’s radar, it looks like it could be a scenario where one of the two between Downs and Aguero go to the school the other doesn’t.

There’s still plenty of work to be done, but right now the prediction is Caleb Downs as the guy.

Director of Recruiting for 247Sports, Steve Wiltfong, has his Crystal Ball prediction logged for the Buckeyes, so this is an easy call right now. Bonsu is in.


Things could certainly change and they may quickly, but right now, in this case another cornerback may not be added to the class. The realistic chance of landing two more safeties moving the defensive back total to six seems like the call here. Sure, a new name could pop relatively soon, but the higher ranked targets out there with Ohio State offers right now seem to be trending elsewhere.

There is, however, one potential name that the Buckeyes could soon add to the room.

  • Jermaine Mathews — While officially listed as an athlete, Mathews projects to be a corner at the next position, and Ohio State would seem to be the current favorite at land the in-state product. A Cincinnati native, the four-star recruit is currently the No. 9 player in Ohio in the 2023 class, and has a pair of Crystal Ball predictions in favor of OSU from both Wiltfong and Ohio State insider Bill Kurelic. Mathews is set to make his decision on July 1 — this Friday — so we will know rather soon if him joining the Buckeyes’ class is a reality or not.


The Buckeyes need one for sure, and the assumption here is they’ll land their top guy and be more than satisfied with who they end up with. Not only as a depth piece, but elite talent in his own right, the defense gets better with this guy in the fold.

  • Tackett Curtis — From the moment he was named defensive coordinator, Knowles has had a target on the back of his top player on the board at the position, and his work has been relentless to say the least. Curtis has long been his guy, and while Knowles may have spent most of his free time in Louisiana, it pays off by landing the seventh best linebacker in the country and the No. 81 player nationally. Curtis is in.

Defensive line

The position group that will see the biggest number of additions in this exercise, the prediction is that Ohio State land a total of three more defensive linemen to add to the arsenal of position coach, Larry Johnson.

  • Matayo Uiagalelei — The No. 21 player nationally and the second ranked edge rusher in the country, the prediction is for the Buckeyes to pull off the major win here and land Matayo for their 2023 class. Both Matayo and his father Dave have raved about what Ohio State is doing on and off the field, and believing his official visit in mid June was all he needed to see, Uiagalelei is in for this class.
  • John Walker — The Florida native has seemed to be in a great spot with the Buckeyes for quite some time, and seeing Bill Kurelic of Bucknuts submit his Crystal Ball for Ohio State to land Walker is nothing to take lightly. Walker was in town over the weekend for his official, and while he doesn’t plan to announce until October, the bet here is that the No. 97 player overall and the 11th best defensive lineman in the class is in for the Buckeyes.
  • Darron Reed — A Columbus native, but out of Georgia, Reed is another player that seems to be in a good spot with Ohio State and their staff. Another player that was on campus this past weekend for his official visit, the Buckeyes may be in a two-horse race, with the foe being LSU. Wiltfong of 247Sports has his Crystal Ball on the Tigers, but Kurelic has his for the Buckeyes. Ohio State’s official did come after the LSU visit for Reed, so the key here is believing this visit put the Buckeyes over the top and that the No. 228 player nationally and the 34th best defensive lineman is in.


The seven names above are how Ohio State gets to seven more defensive commitments, totaling 12 to finish off its 2023 class. Sure, some of those picks feel safer than others, but if Ohio State is able to land each of those players or even the majority, this class will be another epic haul for the Buckeyes and among the top classes in the country when all is said and done.