Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
This week’s topic: Level of concern with Ohio State’s defensive recruiting in 2024
The Ohio State Buckeyes have been ghost pepper-hot on the recruiting trail as of late, securing five verbal commitments for their 2024 class since March 27. Quarterback Air Noland was the most recent OSU football pledge, choosing the Scarlet and Gray over Alabama, Clemson, Texas A&M, and others this past Saturday night. He, along with running back James Peoples and wide receiver Mylan Graham join Jeremiah Smith in what is shaping up to be a special offensive class.
Ohio State currently sits fourth in the 247Sports class rankings, with a 94.23 average player rating to boot. Quarterback, wide receiver, and offensive line are essentially checked off the recruiting list already – provided OSU continues to recruit and hold onto their own – while running back is, at the very least, in a great spot. I assume that Tony Alford and company will want to include one more in this class, but if they only end up with the No. 5 back, I don’t think coaches will be losing any sleep.
So what’s the problem here, Gene? This sounds like a fantastic 2024 class. Already! You throw in a tight end or RB2 and this group is arguably better than last year’s class. Plus, on the other side of the ball you’ve got... Oh, ok. Now I see it. The Buckeyes have one defensive commit. You kinda need defense to round out the (any) class, don’t you? I guess we should address the tiny elephant in the room.
Currently, Garrett Stover is the only defensive player committed to Ohio State, and for what it’s worth, he is a more-than-capable offensive weapon for his high school. He is also the cousin of Cade Stover, who came to Columbus as a defensive player and... Well, you know the rest. So there is an alternate universe in which OSU only is only targeting offense, which would be a tad bit concerning.
And that is more or less what Gene and I wanted to debate: On a scale of 1-10, what is our current level of concern regarding the Buckeyes’ lack of defensive commitments? With 1 being “not at all” and 10 being “for the love of Woody, fire this entire defensive staff”.
Personally, I am holding at a 2. Primarily because it is so, so early in the process. I mentioned in my piece last week that many programs are just now starting to build their respective 2024 classes. Texas has two total commitments. Bama has four, only one of which is from a defensive player. It’s not like this cycle is nearing its conclusion and Ohio State is in flip mode (shoutout Busta Rhymes) or scrambling to find uncommitted three-stars. There is a long way to go, and we have seen a guy like Larry Johnson do some of his best work late.
Now, do I have total confidence in this defensive staff? That is certainly debatable. But I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for now. Jim Knowles is still relatively new on the scene and was never really known as a recruiter. So what did OSU do? Brought in James Laurinaitis, whose hiring I think will pay huge dividends. Tim Walton and Perry Eliano have now had a year plus to strengthen their working relationship, and if you really look at it, they did quite well between class of ‘23 recruits and defensive backs in the transfer portal. And of course, Johnson’s reputation speaks for itself.
Finally, my concern level is low because the Buckeyes seem to – at the very, very least – be in good standing with a number of high-level defensive recruits. Corners Bryce West and Aaron Scott are in-state studs, so I would almost expect Ohio State to land them eventually. Texas linebacker Payton Piece has been given at least one Crystal Ball to OSU. And there has been a ton on recruiting sites and/or social media RE: the likes of Colin Simmons, Eddrick Houston, Dylan Stewart, Justin Scott, and the list goes on. Point being, Day and Co. are in the mix for a lot of players, and that is all you can ask for at this point.
The Buckeyes’ defensive staff does need to show proof of concept, both on the field and on the recruiting trail. But I think they will get there. And when it comes to recruiting, all it takes is one “class-maker” for others to jump on board. I am willing to wait for that marquee player and trust the process... For now.
As is usually the case, I find myself pretty much in lock step with Josh on this one. I’d probably put my concern just a tad bit higher around a 3 or 4, but for virtually all the same reasons I am certainly not in panic mode just yet.
Like Josh said, the offensive side of this 2024 class is more or less wrapped up. I would be shocked if they dont still add a second running back, and that will almost certainly be in-state ball-carrier Sam Williams-Dixon. I also think they likely add another wide receiver, whether thats Jeremiah McClellan or whoever else Brian Hartline wants to hand pick. They still also need a tight end (Damarion Witten would be my pick here) and should take a swing at one or two top national offensive lineman now that they’d got the in-state kids in the fold.
However, the defensive side of the ball remains bare outside of Garrett Stover, but like Josh outlined, I expect that to change rather soon.
The 247Sports Crystal Ball has been very kind to the Buckeyes as of late, and that doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. Just this morning, Ohio State received two more Crystal Ball predictions for in-state cornerback Bryce West, bringing the total up to five for the top player in Ohio and top-50 recruit overall. Pair him up with fellow in-stater Aaron Scott, and you’ve got yourself a heck of a 1-2 to get your secondary recruiting rolling.
Speaking of the secondary, the Buckeyes are also the trendy pick for in-state safety Reggie Powers. The Centerville product may be lower rated than his fellow Ohio prospects as a three-star recruit, but Ohio State really like what they see in him. With Perry Eliano listed as his primary recruiter, I trust that he knows a thing or two about players in the secondary, so I have no issue with Powers as a potential diamond in the rough candidate.
I think the hiring of James Laurinaitis is going to pay dividends for Ohio State, and it appears to be a large reason why the Buckeyes are in a favorable position to land Texas native Payton Pierce. The four-star linebacker was originally Crystal Ball’d to Oklahoma last year, but after his latest visit to Columbus received three Crystal Balls to Ohio State instead, with one coming from 247Sports Director of Recruiting Steve Wiltfong.
My level of concern being a bit higher than Josh stems from the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any real traction along the defensive line right now. Larry Johnson has stacked a few solid classes together in recent years, but there isn’t seemingly a trendy pick for Ohio State to land any top prospects at the position at this current time. Things could change in a heartbeat, as they often do in recruiting, but I need to see some tangible results here before I feel fully confident in the defensive recruiting as a whole.