Highly-Rated Defensive Tackles Bolster an Already-Stout Defensive Line

By Kevin Harrish on January 29, 2017 at 7:15a
Haskell Garrett is Urban Meyer's highest-rated defensive tackle recruit.
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Ohio State has landed just one top-10 defensive tackle recruit in Urban Meyer's tenure – until now.

It seems there have always been more misses than hits for the Buckeyes when it comes to defensive tackle recruiting.

Over the years, Ohio State missed out on Neville Gallimore (Oklahoma), Christian Wilkins (Clemson), Rashard Lawrence (LSU), Antwuan Jackson (Auburn) and Rashan Gary (Michigan). The team has failed to bring in an interior lineman ranked higher than Tommy Schutt (No. 9) since Meyer's arrival.

Defensive Tackle Recruiting
Year Player Rating Position Rank
2012 Tommy Schutt Four Star 9
2013 Michael Hill Four Star 15
2015 Robert Landers Three Star 29
2015 Davon Hamilton Three Star 89
2016 Malik Barrow Four Star 30
2017 Haskell Garrett Four Star 6
2017 Jerron Cage Four Star 14

The defensive tackle position has always been quite a unique situation for Meyer and Ohio State. At every other position, the Buckeyes seemingly take their pick at the nation's top talent. Since Meyer's arrival, Ohio State has landed a top-5 recruit at every position on the field except defensive tackle.

"You must not watch us play because teams don't run inside"– Dre'mont Jones

Instead, the Buckeyes have relied on position changes and unheralded recruits to hold down the defensive tackle position. Over the past two seasons, Adolphus Washington, Tracy Sprinkle, Dre'mont Jones, Nick Bosa and Jalyn Holmes saw snaps on the interior defensive line – all were recruited as defensive ends. Michael Hill, Robert Landers and Davon Hamilton also played meaningful snaps, but none were incredibly sought-after recruits coming out of high school.

Despite the lackluster recruiting, the defensive line has continuously been a strength for the Buckeyes, particularly the rush defense – 2016 was no exception. Ohio State finished the season ranked in the top-20 for rush defense and No. 3 in rushing touchdowns, giving up just eight on the season.

In the words of Jones, "teams don't run inside" on the Buckeyes.

With the success the team has had in the trenches without the help of the nation's top recruits, Buckeye fans should be very excited about the future, because those top recruits are coming.

Ohio State's 2017 class consists of two defensive tackles – Jerron Cage (No. 14) and Haskell Garrett (No. 6). The pair matches Meyer's total number of top-15 defensive tackles over five seasons in a single class.

Cage, Ohio's top defensive tackle prospect, brings an uncoachable size and quickness to the Buckeye defensive line. While he could be a redshirt candidate as a true freshman, Ohio State will look to him as a disruptor on the inside.

Garrett surprised everyone – the coaching staff included – when he committed in February of 2016. Nearly one year later, he's stuck with his commitment and is a few days away from becoming Ohio State's highest-rated defensive tackle recruit under Meyer.

Still, the Buckeyes might not be done yet. Marvin Wilson, the nation's top defensive tackle, and Jay Tufele, the nation's No. 3 defensive tackle, have yet to make their college decisions and Ohio State is a favorite for both.

While its possible or likely neither Wilson or Tufele commit to the Buckeyes on signing day, giving the team two more defensive tackle misses to swallow, one thing is clear: Ohio State has made vast improvements where they were needed most. Cage and Garrett are huge gets, and that should not be ignored.

It's been quite a while since Buckeye fans have anxiously awaited the debut of an interior lineman the way they have with flashier skill players, but perhaps that will change in 2017.

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