Ohio State is the defending national champion of college football; a program rich in tradition and history and with legends and future greats up and down their coaching staff. Foremost among that staff of legends is Larry Johnson, Sr. who coaches up the Buckeyes defensive line, a position of strength in Columbus throughout the rise of the Scarlet and Gray.
There have been All-Americans and award winners and Hall of Famers, both on the collegiate and professional levels. For the Buckeyes to continue succeeding, the defensive line must remain stout, and as we prepare to fully dive in to the 2016 recruiting class, it's an undeniable truth that defensive line depth must be addressed.
Which players are the most likely to join the Buckeyes and make their way into the pages of Ohio State lore? Let's examine a few names that could potentially line up for the Scarlet and Gray in 2016, starting with defensive tackle, where the Buckeyes signed three players in 2015. After that, we'll transition into defensive end, which is perhaps the single biggest area of concern for 2016's class.
RASHAN GARY // PARAMUS, NJ // PARAMUS CATHOLIC
The country's second-ranked overall player in the class of 2016, Rashan Gary hails from Paramus High School, the alma mater of Michigan teammates Jabrill Peppers and Juwann Bushell-Beatty and the school once coached by current Wolverines' recruiting staff Chris Partridge. Close friends with Ohio State commitment Kareem Walker and their top quarterback target Jarrett Guarantano, there's many who believe that the battle for Gary could come down to a fight between the Big Ten's two great traditional powers.
Gary is 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds, an ideal size for an interior line prospect and Gary's highlights showcase an ability to use his hands and feet with equal deftness. There are few high school prospects annually that receive the label "can't miss" and Gary certainly seems to have earned that distinction.
MICHAEL WILLIAMS // FORT WORTH, TX // ALL SAINTS EPISCOPAL
A high school teammate of Buckeye freshman Demetrius Knox at Fort Worth's All Saint's Episcopal, Mike Williams is the 21st-ranked defensive tackle in the country. Williams is being recruited by Ohio State's Tim Beck and says that the Buckeyes, along with SMU, TCU and Stanford, are all standing out to him right now in his recruitment.
Williams has not yet visited Ohio State, but if the Buckeyes can arrange that trip he certainly becomes worth watching a bit closer. The 6-foot-2, 280-pound Williams says that he speaks with his former teammate Knox almost every other day and it will be interesting to see how that relationship can help the Buckeyes' cause.
MALIK BARROW // ORLANDO, FL // IMG ACADEMY
Formerly of Tampa Catholic, Malik Barrow is one of a handful of recent transfers in to Bradenton's IMG Academy. Although he's currently listed as a defensive end, Barrow is the country's 349th-ranked player and is considering scholarship offers from Ohio State, Michigan State, Miami, Boston College, Penn State and a dozen-plus more, but it's the Buckeyes and the Spartans who are thought by most to be at the top of the list.
At 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, Barrow builds his game on a quick first step and powerful hands. He's sure with his tackling and the increased competition he'll face every day at IMG will provide him with an excellent opportunity to improve daily.
Barrow is being recruited by Larry Johnson, Sr. and Luke Fickell.
NAQUAN JONES // EVANSTON, IL // EVANSTON
The most recent offer on the list, Evanston's Naquan Jones is a three-star lineman at 6-foot-4 and 283 pounds. The Buckeyes and the Wolverines have each offered in the last week, giving the country's 28th-ranked defensive tackle his two biggest "name" offers to this point. Ohio State and Michigan join Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa, South Carolina and others.
Jones, who is being recruited by Chris Ash, has not yet visited Ohio State. Since Jones is from the Midwest, it would not be surprising to see him on campus this spring. He will be a fast-rising prospect; he already has offers from most of the region's best programs, and Notre Dame and others should enter the fray soon. Jones's recruitment should be intriguing as we head into the summer.
NICK BOSA // FT. LAUDERDALE, FL // ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
Bosa is a household name to the Ohio State fanbase, and the Buckeyes hope to add another member of the Bosa family to the 2016 class. Nick Bosa, the No. 2 strong-side defensive end in the country and the country's 10th-ranked player, is being heavily recruited by everyone in America. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound St. Thomas Aquinas star has visited Columbus numerous times and even attended a handful of games outside of the Buckeye State.
The nephew of former Buckeye Eric Kumerow is said to actually be more advanced than older brother Joey was at the same stage in his career. All signs currently point to Ohio State, but the Alabamas and Florida States of the world certainly won’t be throwing in their towels any time soon. USC is a school to watch in this equation as well.
Currently, Bosa does not have a timeframe for his decision, but rumors are that he would like to decide prior to the start of his senior season.
KYREE CAMPBELL // WOODBRIDGE, VA // FREEDOM
Kyree Campbell is another defensive end who could line up at defensive tackle in college. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, Campbell (who is from Woodbridge, Va.) is the country's 21st-ranked strong-side defensive end. With offers from Ohio State, Alabama, Auburn, North Carolina, Michigan, and Notre Dame, the lineman has his pick of the litter. Right now, the Buckeyes are listed as the 100 percent favorite on the 247Sports crystal ball.
Whether or not Ohio State is able to keep their hold on Campbell is likely to come down to their continued pursuit. As one of the country's most sought-after defensive lineman, Campbell will require dedicated effort from Larry Johnson, Sr., who is recruiting him for the Buckeyes.
TERRELL HALL // WASHINGTON, D.C. // ST. JOHN'S COLLEGE HIGH SCHOOL
One of the country's fastest-rising 2016 prospects, Terrell Hall is a 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end who is now ranked as the 40th-overall player in his class. Hall has made multiple visits to Ohio State, and the Buckeyes are battling Penn State and Maryland for the District of Columbia standout.
Hall told 11W that he plans on making a return visit to Columbus this spring to watch the national champions practice. The Buckeyes feel like they are in excellent shape to land the four-star talent, and they hope he makes a decision by summer.
JOSH KING // DARIEN, IL // HINSDALE SOUTH
Another primary target of defensive coordinator Chris Ash, Hinsdale South's Joshua King is the 49th-ranked player in the country. At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, King is the fourth-ranked strong-side defensive end in the nation and a player Ohio State has made a priority for months. He told 11W that Ohio State – along with Michigan State – are the two schools recruiting him with the most tenacity among his near 20 offers.
King plans on returning to Ohio State this spring and the Buckeyes are hoping that another visit could seal the deal. There was some scuttlebutt that the Darien star would commit over the winter, but he says he's got no firm date or time in mind for a decision.
AUSTON ROBERTSON // FT. WAYNE, IN // WAYNE
Before making the move to Fort Wayne, Auston Robertson grew up a Buckeye fan in Lima, Ohio. His relationship with Stan Drayton (Robertson’s uncle) only helped to intensify those feelings for the Buckeyes. While Drayton has moved on to the Chicago Bears, Robertson has indicated that it will not have an impact on his recruitment.
The country’s seventh-ranked weak-side defensive end has a slew of offers from Midwest powerhouses including Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, as well as the aforementioned Buckeyes.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Robertson has indicated that Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan State are currently sitting atop his list, but he plans on visiting Ann Arbor sometime within the next few months. Robertson is close friends with another talented prospect from Fort Wayne, Austin Mack, and the two plan on announcing their decisions together on June 7 in Fort Wayne at the Redefining Athletic Standards Camp.