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Ohio State may not be done recruiting defensive linemen in 2024

There are a pair of big names to keep an eye on for a potential flip to the Buckeyes before NSD in February.

2024 four-star DL Dominic Kirks
Mick Walker, 247Sports

Ohio State’s defensive line haul in 2024 isn’t nearly what its needs to be. Following early signing day, the Buckeyes officially brought in just two D-linemen. While Ryan Day may claim this group is up to the high standards of the program, that is simply false.

One signee is five-star prospect Eddrick Houston, the No. 33 overall player and No. 7 edge rusher in the cycle, and the other is three-star Eric Mensah, ranked the No. 90 DL nationally. Ohio State had one of the country’s best defensive tackles committed until just last month, when five-star Justin Scott flipped his commitment to Miami, and appeared poised to land a pair of four-stars in Carlon Jones and Amaris Williams before the two committed to USC and Auburn, respectively.

Instead, it is just a two-man class, and even with an elite player like Houston coming to Columbus, that is flat out unacceptable from Larry Johnson — especially given how the last few classes have turned out. Since the 2022 recruiting class, Ohio State has brought in only 10 defensive linemen, totaling five edge players and five defensive tackles. One of those ends has since transferred in Omari Abor, and so now if both J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer both decide to leave for the NFL, the Buckeyes could find themselves with only four scholarship defensive ends, one of which being the true freshman Houston.

Ohio State has come into each of the last few cycles badly needing to replenish the defensive line room, and has come away largely empty handed. The 2023 class was strong, but three of the four additions came at defensive tackle. Stacking a two-man class onto that with just one defensive end while potentially losing both starting edge rushers from this past season seems like recipe for disaster, and it is only accentuated by some of the big swings and misses Johnson has taken at a handful of top national prospects each of the last few classes.

Luckily, not all hope is lost just yet, as there still could be good news coming the Buckeyes’ way along the defensive line. There is a pretty good chance at least one of Tuimoloau or Sawyer return in 2024, and on top of that, there have been rumblings that Johnson and Ohio State are not exactly done on the recruiting trail in this cycle either.

There are two big names floating around that are committed elsewhere, but do not plan to sign their LOIs until National Signing Day in February. Until pen hits paper, the Buckeyes can continue to try and sway them towards Columbus, and given the current situation, they would be smart in doing so.

The first — and most likely — name cropping up is four-star Ohio native Dominic Kirks. A Washington commit, Kirks is listed as the No. 33 DL and No. 251 player nationally per the 247Sports Composite. While the Painesville, Ohioan has accrued nearly two dozen offers during his recruitment, oddly enough none of those have come from Ohio State. However, with the Buckeyes looking to add another impact player at the position, that could be coming as Johnson tries to keep Kirks at home and away from the Huskies.

Kirks did previously make an unofficial visit to Ohio State for the Maryland game, and it sounds as though an OSU offer would be hard to pass up for the in-state talent. Still, the Buckeyes aren't the only ones trying to pry Kirks away from Washington, as USC is also rumored to be heavily involved here. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound lineman will have a potentially tough decision to make between now and February.

The other big name out there right now is five-star defensive lineman Dominick McKinley. A Texas A&M commit, the No. 6 DL and No. 27 overall player in the country in 2024 will also be waiting until February to sign his LOI, and will continue to be courted by all the big names until he does so. He just recently had an in-home visit with Oklahoma, has an official visit with Tennessee scheduled in late January, and the Buckeyes are also reportedly ramping up their efforts with the Louisiana native.

Ohio State was one of McKinley’s original five finalists before he committed to the Aggies in September, and made an official visit to Columbus in June. The Buckeyes were the furthest geographically of his top schools (the other being A&M, Texas, LSU and Oklahoma), but Johnson was able to make a strong connection with McKinley that gave Ohio State a fighting chance in his recruitment. With LJ working him hard yet again and the chance for some potential early playing time with the Buckeyes, a miracle late flip is not out of the question.

Regardless of what happens with Kirks and McKinley, the Buckeyes have some depth problems along the defensive line that the transfer portal can't fix. No big names are leaving one school to come be a backup, even at a place like Ohio State. Eventually, you need to start getting some wins on the recruiting trail and bringing in larger classes at the position, upwards of four of five guys — if not more now in 2025. That is going to keep getting harder and harder to do with rumors of Johnson’s retirement getting louder and louder each year.

There is still time for LJ to pull a rabbit out of his hat in this cycle, but things could snowball quickly if the defensive line issues don't get sorted out quickly.