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Jim Knowles comes up short on recruiting trail yet again after whiffing on Viliamu-Asa

The Buckeyes lost their top remaining linebacker target to Notre Dame.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 15 Ohio State Spring Game Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ohio State had a ton of momentum on the recruiting trail as the calendar flipped to July, but things have cooled off significantly since the commitments of Justin Scott and Miles Lockhart back in the month’s opening week. It has been especially tough at linebacker, where after missing out on both Sammy Brown and Edwin Spillman earlier, the Buckeyes have now whiffed on their top remaining target at the position.

On Sunday, 2024 four-star LB Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa announced his committed to Notre Dame over Ohio State. The nation’s No. 8 linebacker and No. 102 player overall in the cycle became the latest LB to spurn the Buckeyes — and the most disappointing, as it seemed as though OSU had a great chance to land the St. John Bosco product. The news comes after Spillman committed to Tennessee on Friday and Brown committed to Clemson in June.

The miss on Viliamu-Asa becomes the latest recruiting loss for Jim Knowles, and yet another instance where it felt like Ohio State was in the lead until the very end. A similar thing happened last year with Tackett Curtis, where it seemed like he was destined to be a Buckeye until he eventually wound up at USC. It is becoming a troubling trend for Knowles, and it’s a legit concern that his recruiting chops are not up to par. OSU bringing in James Laurinaitis as a GA to try and help in that department echoes that concern.

In a way its hard to blame Knowles here, as it sounds like a recent church retreat was the deciding factor for Viliamu-Asa.

“Honestly man I couldn’t see myself [at Notre Dame], but I could at the two other schools.” Viliamu-Asa told Hayes Fawcett of On3. “But I read Hebrews 11:1 which talks about faith as assurance in the things we can’t see. And going to the mountains really solidified my answer because I felt God wanted me to have faith, which required trusting in what I could not see.”

Still, it is a concerning trend in a string of misses for the Ohio State DC, especially since Viliamu-Asa was the first player the Buckeyes offered in the 2024 class. Since Knowles arrived in Columbus, OSU has yet to land even a top-15 linebacker target. They have brought in just two LBs in total thus far between the 2023 and 2024 classes in four-star Arvell Reese (No. 18 LB in 2023) and four-star Payton Pierce (No. 20 LB in 2024), with Reese being from in-state.

What’s equally concerning is the lack of other options left at the position in this current cycle. Of the 11 other linebackers holding Ohio State offers (not including Pierce), eight are already committed elsewhere. Five-star linebacker Justin Williams is almost certainly ending up at Georgia, while four-star Kristopher Jones is also a lean for the Bulldogs. That leaves just Devin Smith, who is the No. 57 LB in the country and doesn’t seem to have much interest in Ohio State.

It will be curious to see what happens the rest of the way, but with both Buckeye starting linebackers set to leave after this season, bringing in only two linebackers over these last two recruiting classes seems less than ideal.

Quick Hits

  • On a more positive note, the Buckeyes got some potentially good news on the recruiting trail when it comes to the hardwood, as Chris Holtmann’s group remains in the running for a five-star center. Aiden Sherrell, a 6-foot-10 California native, is set to announce his decision on Aug. 13, and among his top five schools are Ohio State alongside Alabama, Michigan State, Oklahoma and Texas.