Four-Star Defensive Tackle Jay Tufele Could be the Final Piece to Larry Johnson's 2017 Defensive Line Haul

By Andrew Ellis on August 11, 2016 at 10:10 am
Four-star defensive tackle Jay Tufele
The Salt Lake Tribune

It's really tough to find things to complain about when Urban Meyer is running your program. That certainly holds true when it comes to the recruiting scene as Meyer – alongside Nick Saban – is recognized as the best of the best when it comes to securing the nation's top high school talent. 

A few years back, thanks to the failed pursuit of Clemson's Deshaun Watson, quarterback recruiting was viewed as a bit of an Achilles' heel for the Buckeyes. The 2016 class saw the likes of Antwuan Jackson and Rashard Lawrence spurn Ohio State in favor of the sunny SEC skies, leading some to get a tad bit concerned about the recruitment of highly rated defensive tackles.

The concerns were short-lived as the 2017 class currently features a pair of the nation's top tackles. Cincinnati's Jerron Cage (Winton Woods) has been committed since July of 2015. The pledge from the four-star was a bit of a surprise given that his brother plays for Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish. The commitment from Las Vegas' Haskell Garrett, the country's No. 4 defensive tackle, was even more of a surprise. The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder made the call in February before he had even visited campus. 

Looking on the edge for 2017, five-star Chase Young is expected to be the only defensive end to sign with the Buckeyes come February. After bringing in a pair of the nation's best this year – St. Thomas Aquinas' Nick Bosa and Gahanna Lincoln's Jonathon Cooper – it shouldn't be too surprising that Young is likely to be the lone edge rusher. 

With limited spots remaining for the 2017 class, Urban Meyer and Larry Johnson continue to focus on the interior part of the defensive line. That focus appears to have been narrowed down to the nation's third-ranked defensive tackle – Utah's Jay Tufele

Tufele's recruitment has been a quiet one and there hasn't really been much to report since the Buckeyes extended an offer back in March. Yes, the Bingham High School product – all 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds of him – did list Ohio State as his leader in late May, but it's hard to read into it when he has yet to make the trip to Columbus.

From a visit standpoint, there really hasn't been much going on. He checked out USC and UCLA in the spring, but outside of his appearance at The Opening last month, the summer has been pretty uneventful. 

While in Oregon for the Nike festivities, Tufele indicated that the Buckeyes, Wolverines, and in-state Utes were his top three schools. He also discussed a decision timeline, which currently looks like it won't happen until national signing day as he's planning on taking all five officials. 

Part of the reason for the quiet recruitment probably stems from the fact that Tufele resides in Utah where the talent pool – and subsequent recruiting coverage – obviously pales in comparison to the Californias and Floridas of the world. Another reason is perhaps because Tufele is just a quiet, family-oriented type of kid, which is one reason not to count out the home-state school. The University of Utah is a mere 20 minutes from his hometown.

Bingham High School was also once the home of another pretty darn good defensive tackle who ended up spending his college days in Salt Lake City. After some time in the junior college ranks, Star Lotulelei went on to star at Utah and would ultimately be selected 14th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers.

Beyond Utah – and ignoring the Oregon crystal balls for now – there's a good chance that this recruitment may come down to Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines definitely have a bit of longevity working in their favor as they extended an offer in October of 2015, nearly five months before Ohio State followed suit.

One thing that may be working against Michigan? With this week's commitment from Toledo's James Hudson – a DT/DE that the Wolverines are recruiting for the interior part of the line – the fighting Harbaughs now have a trio of defensive tackles in the fold for 2017. While they are absolutely still hot on the trail for Tufele, it remains to be seen how a loaded position group could impact things. 

For the Buckeyes, Larry Johnson is expanding his East Coast allure out West yet again. Tufele has cited his relationship with the Buckeyes' defensive line guru as one of the lead factors in his recruitment thus far.

"Coach Johnson, me and him have been talking for a while," he said. "He's an amazing guy. He came out to the All-Poly Camp just to be with me. And I really appreciate it. Coach (Urban) Meyer, he's an amazing guy too. They're on the top right now (of college football)." Via

The fall and winter months will surely tell the tale in this recruitment. The Buckeyes and Wolverines will have to work especially hard to sell the family atmosphere to Tufele and those closest to him. 

With only a handful of targets remaining on the board, this could be one of the more interesting ones to watch as we inch closer to national signing day.

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