Ohio State has been out in full force trying to put together the 2024 and 2025 recruiting classes. With the coaches recruiting and sending out offers, now is the perfect time to break down the positional needs going into the spring and summer.
This past season, the Buckeyes had a relatively light 2023 class, bringing in 20 high school recruits and five transfers. The final count had the Buckeyes finishing 4th overall in 247Sports overall ranking with an average player rating of 92.97, which only trails Alabama and Georgia. Of the 20 recruits, 19 of them were four-stars, so overall the class was solid.
There is no secret that maintaining high level recruiting has become more challenging in the NIL era, and the level of importance placed on high school recruiting has changed across the country. That is why the 2023 class felt need-focused, and with a goal of building future depth. This will be even more so the goal in the 2024 class, with an emphasis on culture fits as well. Ohio State’s director of player personnel was asked about the impact of NIL and recruiting, and it highlights a changing philosophy for the Buckeyes moving
“Definitely a new mindset of how we’re gonna have to approach things during this time,” Pantoni said. “Obviously, way more heavy in Ohio, in the Midwest. And then regionally, we’re going to do our best as we’ve always have, but we may have to pull out of recruiting some guys nationally quicker than we have if we know right away, the NIL is going to be a main factor in their recruitments. It’s just probably not something we’re going to want to end up being able to compete with by choice as well.”
Pulling out of national recruitments earlier may make some fans unhappy, but even with that caveat the Buckeyes put together an incredibly solid national class in 2023 without NIL being the basis. We saw how schools like Texas A&M, Miami, and others who prioritized monetary incentive fared on the field – and in roster retention. That is why focusing on positional need, and understanding the transfer portal will be there to bolster the roster when needed, is the new identity of recruiting.
Ohio State’s big board starts with players who want to be there, but the positions of needs when looking at the roster as well as the 2023 class are obvious. Building a need base class with long term roster construction – and retention – in mind starts with the biggest positional needs in the 2024 class.
2023 Class: Miles Walker
Current Roster: Josh Fryar (JR-RS), Zen Michalski (SO-RS), George Fitzpatrick (FR-RS), Avery Henry (FR-RS), Tegra Tshabola (FR-RS)
Ohio State only landed one player with an offensive tackle designation. With only five tackles on the current roster, this is a position with huge depth concerns. The Buckeyes have work to do in this area still. Many expected a more significant expert in the transfer portal, but those recruitments led to some dead ends.
Replacing two starters this season who have both been projected in the first round by some outlets, the sparseness of the position will leave position coach Justin Frye with a lot of pressure heading into his first full cycle as a recruiter. There will be additional pressure to get the next Paris Johnson Jr. into the program, and five-star tackles do not grow on trees.
Regardless of if the player is a five-star or not, the Buckeyes need to land more than one tackle in the 2024 class.
2023 Class: Joshua Mickens, Jason Moore
Current Roster: Jack Sawyer (JR), J.T. Tuimoloau (JR), Mitchell Melton (JR-RS), Caden Curry (SO), Omari Abor (FR-RS), Kenyatta Jackson Jr. (FR-RS)
The Buckeyes have quite a bit of talent stacked in this room, led by the two returning former five-star recruits in Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau. With Mitchell Melton healing from his injury still, this room still could use some depth given the transfers out of the program in Tyler Friday and Javontae Jean-Baptiste. This turnover gives Larry Johnson some room to work with though.
Coming into the 2023 class, Ohio State was pretty full in this room and were still able to land two-players who can play on the outside. 2024 will be a real opportunity to have a strong defensive end class, Tuimoloau will likely be gone after this season, and Sawyer could play himself into a top pick. That scenario would create an incredibly inexperienced room with a lack of depth. The best way to correct that is to have a big year in recruiting.
With only two players added in 2023, there is ample room for Larry Johnson to have a big class.
2023 Class: None
Current Roster: Miyan Williams (JR-RS), Treveyon Henderson (JR), Deamonte “Chip” Trayanum (SR), Evan Pryor (JR), Dallan Hayden (SO), Xavier Johnson* (SR-RS)
Ohio State was incredibly thin at the position in 2022 on and off the field. The Buckeyes battled injuries in the program, starting with Pryor’s knee injury in the spring, and then Henderson and Williams battled injuries throughout the regular season. Losing those backs led to a reliance on true freshman Dallan Hayden, gadget player Xavier Johnson, and running back turned linebacker turned running back Chip Trayanum.
All this without landing a running back in the 2023 class.
Not getting a back in the 2023 class isn’t the biggest loss now that the room is still together entering winter workouts, but a common theme arising here is the importance turns to 2024. There are a ton of big names at the position carrying offers from Ohio State, but running back coach Tony Alford needs to close on them this year now that this is a priority position.
Getting two backs should be the bare minimum, and if not, depth becomes a real concern.
2023 Class: Jermaine Mathews, Calvin Simpson-Hunt
Current Roster: Denzel Burke (JR), Jordan Hancock (SO-RS), Jyaire Brown (SO), Davis Igbinosun (SO), Ryan Turner (FR-RS)
The cornerback position will always be a position of need from a recruiting stand point. Ohio State lost a player in JK Johnson who played significant snaps due to the players projected ahead of him battling injuries. Cam Brown moving on from Ohio State was another player that adds to to the turnover. Whether it’s players moving on to the next level or transferring out means this position always needs to be a priority.
This is also a position where corners coach Tim Walton can not afford a miss on the trail. Looking at the past few seasons, recruiting misses at corner have led to some tough years statistically for the pass defense. This position is not as high on the list as the first three, but this will probably be an eternal positional need.
2023 Class: Arvell Reese
Current Roster: Tommy Eichenberg (SR-RS), Steele Chambers (SR-RS), Cody Simon (SR), Reid Carrico (SO-RS), C.J. Hicks (SO), Gabe Powers (FR-RS)
Ohio State landed one player in the 2023 class in Reese, but they missed on some of their national targets. This room was bolstered by the decisions of Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers to return. In Knowles’ system only two are able to play, so the depth here is currently pretty good. There are quite a few players who have limited experience, but the recruiting pedigree of the past two classes classes speak for themselves.
Adding five star C.J. Hicks and two top-100 recruits in Powers and Carrico provides a talented future pool of players to choose from.
The reason this position is pivotal for 2024 are the two names leaving. There is also the added element of the transfer portal, which we’ve seen take players at random times. Knowles missed on three out of three big time recruits, so this class won’t only be important, but will also show Knowles’ ability as a recruiter at Ohio State. If the Buckeyes miss this year, there will be a lot of questions for this room depth wise moving forward.
2023 Class: Lincoln Kienholz
Current Roster: Kyle McCord (JR), Devin Brown (FR-RS), Tristan Gebbia (SR-RS)
This one comes down to the current state of college football. Quarterbacks stay and go due to the new freedom the transfer portal provides. Only one player gets on the field, so this means there is a definitive clock for quarterbacks to maximize their draft prospects. Now if Kyle McCord wins the job, this room likely finishes the year with all four quarterbacks. But the next year brings a lot of questions about who is going to be in the program.
There was already drama here with the Dylan Raiola recruitment, but there is still a huge need in every recruiting class to land a quarterback. The Buckeyes have thrown out offers, and looking at the profiles of the past three Ohio State recruits, Ryan Day will lock in on one with a similar skillset. Time will tell here.
The Buckeyes have found their last two quarterbacks at the 11th hour, but as always this is a priority.
Recruiting is a year round topic. The Buckeyes have changed their philosophies, and that means there is a different way to dive into how recruits are viewed. From a recruiting class standpoint, positional need, culture fit, and traits will now be the order in which players are recruited. Ohio State addressed their needs first in the 2023 class, and the Buckeyes will be looking to do the same in 2024.
This year the priority positions have changed a little, but there will always be must haves in each recruiting class. There is still a lot of time left, and over the next few months the Buckeyes’ true targets will become clearer. Without the full picture, there is definitely areas we know Ohio State will need to target this recruiting class.