Ryan Day and Ohio State signed 24 players on Wednesday, with perhaps a couple more to follow suit in February.
The Buckeyes are still very much in the lead for Michigan athlete Cameron Martinez, who will sign in February but just wanted to see what Day does to replace Jeff Hafley.
Another player or two may emerge, but the Buckeyes are pretty much at their limit in terms of class size.
The 2020 class is comprised of 14 players on offense, nine on defense, and one place-kicker, with one more defensive player likely to be added in Martinez down the road.
As is the case with all recruiting classes, this one had some drama. Some sure things — like 5-star Arizona running back Bijan Robinson — fell victim to the distance factor, and the post-signing day defection of 4-star California cornerback Clark Phillips to Utah was a blow.
Ultimately, however, every class is judged by the players that were signed, not by the ones who got away.
Ryan Day’s first full recruiting class has plenty of answers, but also a handful of questions.
Yesterday we started with the offensive side of the ball. Today, let’s look at the defense.
Where are the defensive tackles?
Ohio State will be losing three fifth-year senior defensive tackles in Robert Landers, Jashon Cornell, and DaVon Hamilton, so you would have expected two or three tackles to be signed. Maybe they were and maybe they weren’t. The Buckeyes signed three defensive linemen and each of them could be considered a tweener between end and tackle. Darrion Henry, listed at 6-5, 279 has probably grown into a defensive tackle at this point. Jacolbe Cowan is rated the No. 15 defensive tackle in the class, but if his listed 262 pounds is accurate, he’s going to need to add some weight. Three-star Ohioan Ty Hamilton is similar to Cowan at 6-3 260. Bolstering the numbers at defensive tackle is the fact that both Taron Vincent (sophomore) and Jaden McKenzie (freshman) redshirted this season.
How much does the Clark Phillips loss hurt?
Clark Phillips is the No. 4 cornerback in the 2020 class and the No. 47 player overall. After being committed to Ohio State for six months, he decided to look around once Jeff Hafley took the Boston College job. Phillips ended up at Utah, who has had six defensive backs drafted this decade. (Ohio State has had six first rounders just in the last six years.) So how much does the loss hurt? Well, it’s not great. The Buckeyes will be losing at least Damon Arnette and Jeff Okudah at corner, and possibly Shaun Wade as well. They didn’t sign any corners in the 2019 class because they had a decommitment from Jordan Battle, who settled on Alabama late in the process — even though everyone knew it was coming. The Buckeyes did sign two corners in this class with Lejond Cavazos and Ryan Watts, and they are both big and athletic. Ohio State needs 2018 signee Tyreke Johnson to begin to emerge as classmates Sevyn Banks and Cameron Brown have. A full, healthy season next year from senior Marcus Williamson would help greatly as well. Not that a freshman like Phillips would have solved any problems next year, he would have at least added to the solutions.
How are the departures being replaced?
Not that anybody from this class is going to step in and replace a departed starter, but they do need to replace that roster spot in the position room and provide depth. We have already talked about the defensive tackles and the cornerbacks, but there are other positions to think about as well. Ohio State will be losing a defensive end, and maybe they have one in Ty Hamilton. However, there is also 2019 signee Cade Stover who moved to defensive end late in the season and is redshirting. The Buckeyes lose one linebacker and sign three in Cody Simon, Kourt Williams, and Mitchell Melton. Of course, Melton (6-3 235) could possibly grow into an edge rusher, and Williams was courted as a Bullet. Good thing too, since somebody has to replace Brendon White’s spot since he hit the transfer portal this month. Jordan Fuller will finally be departing, which leaves a huge hole at safety. The Buckeyes signed Lathan Ransom out of Arizona. Ryan Day is very high on him. He is a big hitter and an athletic defender. Can he be the sweeper that Fuller was? Also, both of OSU’s safety signees in 2019 — Ronnie Hickman and Bryson Shaw — will be redshirting this year, so they will also be counted on next season.
Who are the signees in the two-deep in September next year?
The cornerbacks may have to be in the two-deep next season. If Shaun Wade returns, the Buckeyes will have seven cornerbacks on the roster — eight if you include Amir Riep, who is Wade’s backup. But out wide at corner, only Sevyn Banks and Cameron Brown have established themselves as the probable future. Safety Lathan Ransom will be competing to be Josh Proctor’s backup next season, but he’ll have some competition in Marcus Hooker, Ronnie Hickman, Bryson Shaw, and others. Kourt Williams could find himself in the two-deep at Bullet, provided there is a need for a backup Bullet next season. The linebackers will be too deep to let a freshman into the mix. Perhaps Darrion Henry gets into the two-deep on the interior.
Where is the strength of this class?
The strength of the class defensively is probably versatility and flexibility. Wherever needs arise, the bulk of these defenders are malleable enough to possibly end up on either end of a particular spectrum. Cody Simon, for instance, could probably end up playing any of the three linebacker spots. We have already talked about the tweener defensive linemen who could do this or that. Lejond Cavazos and Ryan Watts are both safety-sized corners. Watts is 6-foot-3, which makes him a very rare kind of cornerback, provided he can handle it. Kourt Williams could be the next Pete Werner at Sam/Bullet. When one guy can handle both theoretical positions, it allows the personnel to remain the same while the defense changes and shifts.
What is the biggest area of concern?
The defensive line is the biggest concern. Darrion Henry was a Top 100 guy for much of the cycle, so he was certainly a big get. He and Jacolbe Cowan will get the most attention of the defensive line, but for all of us who slept on DaVon Hamilton way back when, we may not want to do the same thing to his brother Ty. Overall, the defensive line numbers have been relatively low the last two classes, which followed bigger classes. Next year, it will likely be time for another big group of monsters.
Who was the biggest coup?
Lathan Ransom was the top safety in the West, so to get him to leave Arizona and come all the way to Ohio is a very big deal. If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Ryan Day who said, “Lathan Ransom is going to be as good a safety as we’ve had here in a long time.”