Ohio State sent three defensive ends off to the NFL last month, and they’ll be sending at least one more there next year in Nick Bosa. As such, the Buckeyes hit the position hard in the 2018 recruiting cycle.
Ohio State signed four defensive ends — Tyreke Smith, Tyler Friday, Javontae Jean-Baptiste, and Alex Williams — this past winter. Smith was the highest-ranked of the four, coming in at the No. 34 player in the nation and the No. 4 weakside end in the nation. Friday was the No. 93 player in the class, followed by Jean-Baptiste at No. 219, and Williams — a local prospect — at No. 617.
With four healthy defensive ends on the roster currently, the freshmen shouldn’t be critical to the Buckeyes’ success in 2018, but the coaches will still want them to show what they have.
As a foursome, Smith, Friday, Jean-Baptiste, and Williams are all a little bit different from each other. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson has already talked to them about where he sees them eventually fitting in.
“We have. We talked about that from day one,” he said. “I think Tyler Friday is more of a big, five-technique kind of guy who can play a bit on the end and do a great job. Tyreke is a guy who is very athletic and can drop into pass coverage and also rush the passer. I think they are both unique skills you can use, and Baptiste is the same kind of guy.”
Friday (6-3 262) is perhaps more of a brute at the position, while Smith (6-3 260) and Jean-Baptiste could be moved around more. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, “JJB” is a terrific athlete who was a productive terror on the edge in high school.
At 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds, Alex Williams is different than everyone else in the class. Deemed a big athlete with a possible future at tight end or defensive line on signing day, Williams appears headed for defensive end to begin his Buckeye career.
“You take Alex, he is a guy who can play on a tight end, big strong, physical, athletic guy,” Johnson said. “I think they match really well, those four guys.”
Watching Tyreke Smith on film and you’ll see quite a bit of similarity to former Buckeye Tyquan Lewis. That wouldn’t be a bad fate for Smith and the Buckeyes. Lewis was a former Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, after all.
“He is. I think he is a clone, that’s what we looked for,” Johnson said of Smith. “Good basketball player, good feet, good movement skills, really smart. I think his ceiling is very high.”
Smith’s football ceiling may approach cathedral levels, but living up to Tyquan Lewis’ standards will be a lot to ask. Living up to his basketball standards, however, sounds much easier to do.
“That is hard to say,” Johnson said when asked who was the better basketball player. “Tyquan would probably fight me over this, but I have seen Tyreke play more basketball, so I would say Tyreke Smith.”