Defensive end Tyreke Smith, long a target of the Ohio State football team’s recruiting efforts, committed to the Buckeyes’ 2018 class on Thursday at a high school all-star game in Orlando, Florida.

Smith, from Cleveland Heights, became the unofficial 22nd member of an OSU class when he committed to the Buckeyes at the start of the Under Armour All-America Game.

He picked Ohio State over Penn State, Alabama and Southern California, among others. Smith didn’t waste any time, either, announcing “Ohio State” while he reached into a bag pulled out an OSU cap.

“It’s a blessing, truly an honor” to be recruited by the Buckeyes, Smith said. “It’s been a long process and I’m just happy to be a Buckeye.”

Smith’s commitment is just that at the moment; the first 21 members of OSU’s class signed their national letters of intent during the early signing period on Dec. 20. Smith, who also plays basketball for Cleveland Heights, apparently will wait until the regular signing period, which beings Feb. 7.

“Smith is a great athlete, an explosive guy with a high ceiling,” veteran recruiting analyst Bill Kurelic, of Bucknuts, said of Smith. “He has only played 15 high school games, but we had him rated as one of the top three players in the state.”

As Kurelic and Marc Givler of Rivals.com pointed out, the pursuit of Smith became more urgent for OSU coach Urban Meyer and his staff after five-star prospect Brenton Cox of Stockbridge, Georgia, a longtime commitment to the Buckeyes, had a change of heart and signed with Georgia on Dec. 20.

Ohio State has just three scholarship defensive ends — Nick Bosa, Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper — on its roster headed into the spring due to the departure of seniors Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes, and of fourth-year junior Sam Hubbard, who graduated in December and declared for the NFL draft the day after Ohio State’s win over Southern California in the Cotton Bowl.

“That No. 4 defensive end position for Ohio State is wide open for next year, and it is likely going to need to be filled with a freshman,” Givler said. “When Ohio State lost Brenton Cox, the Buckeyes lost their only early-impact defensive end in this class, but Smith will fill that void very well and give them the depth they need. He is a potential difference-maker moving forward.”

Among the 21 who signed on Dec. 20 was Alex Williams of Pickerington North. Though the 6-foot-6 Williams was considered by recruiting analysts to be a defensive end prospect, Meyer referred to him also as a possible tight end.

Ohio State had been in contention for defensive end Jayson Oweh of Blair, New Jersey, but he was expected to announce his pledge to Penn State later in the Under Armour game Thursday night.

tmay@dispatch.com

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