The second signing period of 2018 doesn’t get here until the first Wednesday in February, but this past Friday night, Ohio State made its best sales pitch to defensive end recruits Tyreke Smith and Jayson Oweh, and anybody else who was watching.
The Buckeye defense sacked USC quarterback Sam Darnold eight times. Seven of those sacks were by five different defensive ends, and three of them will be playing in the NFL next season.
There is an open and inviting landscape for pass rushers at Ohio State and defensive line coach Larry Johnson has no qualms about playing as many as he can — no matter how young they may be. In each of the past two years, freshmen have been able to play alongside talented upperclassmen, which should be a blazing signal fire to the 2018 defensive end targets still on OSU’s radar.
Tyreke Smith is the best defensive end in Ohio. A 4-star prospect and the No. 4 weakside defensive end in the nation per the 247Sports Composite, he is reportedly down to Ohio State and Penn State, but even before the Cotton Bowl, the Buckeyes felt very good about their situation.
Oweh, meanwhile, is the No. 6 strong side defensive end in the nation. Out of Blairstown, New Jersey, Oweh is believed to be down to Ohio State and Penn State, with PSU trending up.
Both prospects would be welcome additions in a class that Urban Meyer says currently has about two spots left.
Walking off the AT&T Stadium Field, in talking about his Rushmen, Johnson smiled and said, “That’s what it’s all about.”
At a place as storied as Ohio State — Heisman winners; running back legacies; a linebacker history like few others; cornerbacks like perhaps no other, it was the defensive line that won the Cotton Bowl, and it was the Buckeye defensive ends who made it happen.
The Rushmen have been talked about all season. Four talented defensive ends who rotate, but then on passing downs will line up together. For a pass-rushing recruit, there isn’t much else you need to say. There is playing time available because passing downs are only increasing.
OSU may not yet have a defensive end in their 2018 signing class – Alex Williams could start out on offense — but it is difficult to imagine a better place to play if you’re a pass rusher.
True freshman Chase Young came to Ohio State with five defensive ends in front of him – four of whom were sure-fire NFL players. And yet, because he was good enough to play, he was in the game against USC, terrorizing and sacking a future first-round NFL Draft pick at the end of the game.
But it’s not just that he was “good enough to play.” Young didn’t just show up and he was suddenly capable of playing like that. He was obviously very good, but he was also taught by – as Urban Meyer says – the best defensive line coach in the United States. There’s a reason why at least one other school was trying to convince recruits that Larry Johnson was retiring.
Two weeks ago, Johnson shot down those rumors. And this past weekend, he just made the best recruiting pitch to a defensive end that you are ever going to see.
There is still over a month to go until the next signing day, but on Friday night in the Cotton Bowl against USC, the Ohio State coaches made their last best pitch to both Oweh and Smith. The pitch? If you come to OSU, you will get after the quarterback as soon as you are ready, and Larry Johnson will get you ready sooner than anybody else.
If you are a defensive end and this game wasn’t enough to convince you of that, nothing else will.