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Last updated: 11/22/2011 1:20 PM

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Football
5-Star DE Alolphus Washington Fills Big Need for Ohio State
By Brandon Castel

It is only November, but Christmas came early for Ohio State coach Luke Fickell and his staff Tuesday as they landed one of the top players in the class of 2012.

There is still more than two months until National Signing Day, but Alolphus Washington was not going to make everyone wait that long. In a ceremony at his high school Tuesday morning, the Cincinnati Taft product announced he was going to be a Buckeye.

The 6-4, 260-pound defensive end immediately becomes the top-rated prospect in Ohio State’s 2012 recruiting class, which has been twisting in the wind since Jim Tressel’s forced resignation back in May.

Ohio State did land a commitment from 4-star wide receiver Michael Thomas (Fork Union Military Academy) back in October, which might explain why Washington’s high school teammate, Dwayne Stanford opted to pick Oregon over the Buckeyes after visiting Eugene.

Stanford is a 6-5, 195-pound receiver who caught 32 passes for 720 yards and nine touchdowns during the regular season. He was considered to be a three-star prospect by most recruiting services. He also may have been steered away by the fact Ohio State already has three receivers committed to their class.

Nothing was going to steer Washington away, not even the uncertainty surrounding Ohio State’s NCAA fate, which should be announced in the coming weeks. The U.S. Army All-American selected the Buckeyes over a number of major offers, including Michigan State, Alabama, Michigan, Miami (Fla.), Oregon and Cincinnati.

“The coaches have just told me that Ohio State will always be Ohio State no matter what,” Washington told reporters during his announcement ceremony.

“It tells me they have faith in Ohio State just like I do.”

They certainly have faith in Washington, who is widely considered to be the top-rated player in the state of Ohio. That is good news for the Buckeyes, because they already lost the state’s other top-rated prospect, offensive tackle Kyle Kalis, to Michigan.

Like Kalis, however, Washington fits a major need for the Buckeyes.

“They actually told me that I could come in and get some early playing time,” said Washington, who is rated as a 5-star prospect by Scout.com and 4-star by Rivals.com.

“The defense that they want to play isn't the defense that they are playing right now. They don't really have a rush end right now so they think I can come in and play early at that position.”

The Buckeyes expected to have one of the better rush ends in the country, or at least in the Big Ten, this season but senior Nathan Williams was lost for the year with a knee injury after playing in just one game.

“Nate threw a wrench in to things basically because of what his position was and what we were going to ask him to do, and what we thought we had,” Ohio State Defensive Coordinator Jim Heacock said Monday.

“All the off season we’re thinking we have Nate on one side, and he can be that drop guy, that ‘Will Smith’ guy. Then you put Johnny (Simon) on the other side and you’re going to get pressure. Then all of a sudden Nate’s not there and now we didn’t really have…Solomon (Thomas) couldn’t play and then the next two guys are both freshmen.”

With Williams sidelined, the Buckeyes have been forced to reshuffle their entire defensive front in 2011. They tried to play redshirt freshman J.T. Moore and true freshman Steve Miller at the ‘Leo’ or ‘Viper’ spot that was being played by Williams, but they simply were not ready for everything that position demands.

Instead, Ohio State has been forced to use Simon out of position in order to fill that void, which has caused a trickle down effect on the rest of the line. Williams was a senior, but could apply for a medical redshirt if he wants to return from micro-fracture surgery on his knee.

“My understanding is that he’s seriously considering coming back and kind of moving in that direction,” Heacock said.

“But I haven’t heard anything definite yet.”

Even if Williams does return, there is no telling when he would be fully recovered from that type of injury. Either way, the Buckeyes should be even better up front next season, but they would love nothing more than for Washington to step in and take hold of that rush end position they so desperately lack this season.

The Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference player of the year had 90 tackles, 23.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery for a touchdown and one interception for a touchdown during the regular season.

All indication is that he will be in the mix as a true freshman, along with J.T. Moore, Steve Miller and Kenny Hayes. Miller and Hayes, in particular, were both highly recruited players in the class of 2011, which Heacock once called the best freshman class he can remember on the defensive line. 

 

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