Offensive, defensive line top 2022 recruiting priorities for Ohio State football
As the recruiting dead period in college football was lifted on Tuesday and programs across the country began hosting prospects on their campuses, few enjoyed a more favorable starting position than Ohio State.
The Buckeyes held verbal commitments from 12 high school seniors, more than all but two other programs nationally.
But the assembly of their 2022 recruiting class is far from complete, and positions of need remain entering a critical stretch over the summer months.
Those are in the trenches.
“Considering they don't have any defensive line commitments yet, and just one offensive line commitment, that’s going to be a huge priority,” said Bill Kurelic, who covers Ohio State recruiting for Bucknuts.com.
The lone lineman to commit is Tegra Tshabola, a four-star offensive tackle from West Chester who announced his decision last year.
Kurelic estimates at least seven more offensive and defensive linemen could join him in the class, as Ohio State’s preference is to bring in four or more on the offensive side while carving out similar space on defense.
Offensive line recruiting has been a significant emphasis since coach Ryan Day took over for Urban Meyer in 2019. In his first class, the Buckeyes signed six offensive linemen, replenishing the depth on their roster.
But they are also in need of top-end prospects, particularly at offensive tackle where holes might soon open up along their starting unit.
Left tackle Thayer Munford is leaving after next season, and right tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere is eligible to enter the NFL draft. Sophomore Paris Johnson Jr., viewed as the heir apparent to Munford, can turn pro after the 2022 season.
“The good news is they got a lot of (recruits) coming in for visits,” Kurelic said. “It's a matter of landing them.”
Two of the more decorated prospects arrive for official visits this weekend in Zach Rice, who is the highest-ranked offensive tackle in the class, according to the composite rankings from 247Sports, and Aamil Wagner, who is ranked as the 10th-best tackle prospect.
A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, Rice was scheduled to visit North Carolina on Tuesday before coming to Columbus on Friday. He also has visits lined up this month with Alabama, Notre Dame and Virginia.
Few remaining targets loom larger than Rice, especially after the Buckeyes lost out on JC Latham, the top offensive tackle prospect in last year’s class, to Alabama.
Wagner is more of a late-emerging prospect. The Buckeyes first offered the Dayton native a scholarship in March.
They are among the 51 official visitors who are approved to visit Ohio State over the following four weekends.
Two other top offensive tackle prospects in Tyler Booker, from Bradenton, Florida, and Kam Dewberry, of Humble, Texas, are set to visit later in June.
While a ban on in-person recruiting that postponed visits had been in place for nearly 15 months due to the coronavirus pandemic,, decisions from prospects aren’t likely to be put off.
“Some kids will hold out into the fall and winter,” said Marc Givler, a recruiting analyst at BuckeyeScoop.com, “but I haven’t noticed a drastic change in the timelines of these recruits. I think a lot of kids still are in the recent mindset, and trends that we've seen (are to) get the official visits before their senior season starts, try to make a decision before their senior season starts.”
That has certainly been the recent trend at Ohio State.
In the 2021 recruiting class, 19 of the 21 players who ultimately signed with the Buckeyes were committed by the end of August. During the previous cycle, 21 of the ultimate 25 signees were committed by the end of summer ahead of their senior seasons.
As the Buckeyes look to bring some defensive linemen into the fold, they are prepared to host Omari Abor this weekend.
Abor is the fifth-ranked defensive lineman in the class and also is expected to visit Alabama, Louisiana State and Oklahoma in the following weeks. The Duncanville, Texas, native is viewed as a long edge rusher.
Outside of the offensive and defensive lines, the Buckeyes could also seek to bolster depth at linebacker after Dasan McCullough flipped his commitment to Indiana in April.
Two linebacker commits remain between CJ Hicks and Gabe Powers, but the position had already been a priority early in the cycle due to current roster totals. Only seven linebackers are on scholarship entering next season.
“I think June could uncover some linebacker targets that we’re not really talking about right now,” Givler said.
Since McCullough had been committed to the Buckeyes for eight months, there was little urgency to search for another linebacker.
A driving force in his decision to de-commit from Ohio State was Indiana hiring his father, Deland, as their associate head coach and running backs coach. Two of his brothers are also committed to the Hoosiers.
While running back has no similar depth concerns with six current scholarship players at the position, the Buckeyes will look for an addition or two in the backfield. They do not have a running back committed for 2022, and they have signed one in each cycle since 2011.