Finding the right fit for your college football program isn't just about what happens on the field, but off it as well. Today, Ohio State added a key piece. How will that commitment impact the Buckeyes?
Ohio State landed a commitment this evening from one of the most athlete defensive tackles in the country when Pocatello, Idaho, Highland four-star Tommy Togiai pledged his services to the Buckeyes following an in-home visit with head coach Urban Meyer and defensive line coach Larry Johnson.
Let's take a look at what Togiai — the No. 126 prospect overall in the Class of 2018 — brings to Columbus.
ON THE FIELD
Standing 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, it's hard to miss Togiai in the interior portion of the defensive line. He's explosive at the snap of the ball and disruptive up the middle, but those aren't even his best attributes.
"His biggest strength is his literal strength," Highland head coach Gino Mariani told Eleven Warriors. "He's a strong kid."
Togiai, who at the age of 12 asked for a membership to Gold's Gym for his birthday, bench presses 32 reps of 225 pounds and squats 595 pounds. He also runs a 4.9-second 40-yard dash.
"He's off the charts as far as athleticism," Mariani said. "He's very elusive at 300 pounds, if you can imagine. It makes him very tough to block. If you try to one-on-one him, you've lost the battle. And most double-teams, he runs right through and destroys anyway. He's a nightmare for anybody."
Togiai recently helped Highland to a 14-8 win over Coeur d’Alene in the state championship, giving the Rams their 11th title in program history and first since 2014. He led the team this season with 93 tackles and 11 sacks, which includes two sacks of Washington four-star quarterback commit Colson Yankoff in the final game of his high school career.
Like most high school defensive linemen, Togiai uses his strength and speed to run past or overpower opposing players. But Mariani believes he's more than capable of becoming an elite interior defender under the tutelage of coach Larry Johnson.
"When he gets ahold of him, he'll make him a great player," Mariani said. "Just the drills he's given us to prepare Tommy for this season has paid dividends, not only for him, but the rest of he line. Teaching him different techniques, not just brute strength, but to learn to use your hands and quickness."
Togiai, whose father was a professional rugby player in Samoa, will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and Polynesian Bowl in January.
IN THE CLASS
Togiai becomes the 21st member of Ohio State's Supreme '18 recruiting class, and he joins IMG Academy five-star defensive tackle Taron Vincent and junior college transfer Antwuan Jackson at the defensive tackle position.
It's one of great need, too, with starter Tracy Sprinkle and veteran Michael Hill both set to depart Columbus following the Cotton Bowl and Dre'Mont Jones sure to test the NFL waters this offseason.
The trio of Jackson, Togiai and Vincent makes the defensive tackle position one of the strongest pieces of Ohio State's top-ranked recruiting class. And that surely helps alleviate some of the concerns about the Buckeyes striking out on the outside following defensive end Brenton Cox's recent decommitment.
Last recruiting cycle, Ohio State was one of five finalists for Bingham, Utah, four-star defensive tackle Jay Tufele. And despite his relationship with the above-mentioned Johnson and rave reviews following his official visit, the distance from home was ultimately too much for the Buckeyes to overcome.
Tufele committed to USC and — along with Florida State's Marvin Wilson — became the latest in a long line of misses at the defensive tackle position for Ohio State. That all changed when the aforementioned Vincent pledged his services this spring. And with Togiai now in the fold, we can finally put to bed the distance narrative, too.
"I've talked to his dad, and dad's not worried about that," Mariani said. "Mom might be, if any of them are worried about that. But at the end of the day, if it's Washington or USC or Ohio State, it doesn't matter, you're still getting on a plane for a couple of hours or getting in the car for 11 or 15. If it was proximity, Utah would be the place he'd go.
"I just think what Ohio State has to offer and the way they're selling it is the right way," he continued. "At the end of the day, at least in my opinion, is the best fit for him."