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 afternoon from one of the nation's most confident, physical and versatile defensive backs when Jacksonville Trinity Christian four-star safety Tyreke Johnson pledged his services to the Buckeyes on Twitter.
Let's take a look at what Johnson — the fifth-best safety and No. 39 prospect overall in the Class of 2018 — brings to Columbus.
ON THE FIELD
Take one look at the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Johnson, and the first thing that stands out is his size. He’s built to play safety at the next level, but loves to use his length to cover wide receivers one-on-one and be disruptive on the outside.
“Tyreke’s a competitor,” Trinity Christian head coach Verlon Dorminey told Eleven Warriors. “You get the same thing you get when you got Shaun Wade except just a little more vocal. He likes to hear himself talk.”
There’s no denying that, either, as Johnson has seen a number of his highlights go viral on social media that show his physicality and trash-talking ability — which his coach chalks up to a competitive spirit.
“He’s a good kid,” Dorminey said. “He is at times full of himself, but he’s never been in trouble. He’s never gotten a demerit. I’m sure they’ll tone him down a bit up there, though.”
Johnson played an integral role in the Conquerors winning four-consecutive state titles during his six-year varsity career — and yes, I said six, as he first saw time at the varsity level as a seventh grader.
Trinity Christian used Johnson all over the field, and he racked up 1,885 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns as a receiver, running back and returner. He also recorded 141 tackles, 11 interceptions and six pick-sixes as a defensive back. He was the team’s punter every season, too.
“He was all over the place for us, but once you get there, you’re going to be able to focus on one thing. You’re going to play safety or corner, and you’re going to get good at what you do,” Dorminey said. “He’s going to learn technique and fundamentals, and he’s going to be able to hone his game.”
IN THE CLASS
Johnson becomes the 19th member of Ohio State’s Supreme ‘18 recruiting class, and he joins four-stars Josh Proctor and Jaiden Woodbey at the safety position. Keep in mind, though, that’s just where recruiting services have him ranked.
If Proctor and Woodbey sign with the Buckeyes later this month despite rumors about the strength of their respective pledges, the staff will move Johnson to cornerback at the next level.
Ohio State also holds commitments from four-star cornerback Sevyn Banks and three-star Marcus Hooker, who flip to safety upon his arrival in Columbus, as well.
Johnson’s commitment also seems to end all hope of Houston five-star cornerback Anthony Cook ending up in Columbus. He was regarded as the staff’s top target for much of the cycle, but they shifted their focus to Johnson when Texas jumped into the lead in mid-October. He’s set to make his decision on Dec. 20, and the Buckeyes plan to only take five defensive backs this cycle.
As mentioned, Johnson will follow in the footsteps of the aforementioned Wade, who chose Ohio State nearly two years before signing day and stuck with his pledge despite visiting Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech late in the process.
“It will be great for Tyreke. Who wouldn’t like to go somewhere where you’ve already got a good friend there,” Dorminey said. “They’ve gone through the same hoops that you have to jump through, and they’re coming in at the same time [as early enrollees]. And he’s not just on the team, but they’re going to be playing the same position.”
Wade was already committed at the time, but Johnson tagged along to campus for last season’s blowout win over Nebraska. Most believed the Buckeyes were a long shot at that point in time, but it was then assistant coordinator Kerry Coombs laid down the foundation which resulted in today’s decision.
“I know he really likes coach Coombs,” Dorminey said. “Coach Coombs really does a great job with his defensive backs, and you can tell he really cares about his kids.”
Naturally, few people imagined an elite athlete from the south like Johnson would ever leave the state of Florida to play college football — and that includes his father, Earl. But in the end, his relationships with Coombs and Wade made the decision easy.
“Tyreke is a very mature young man and, yeah, I worry about him being far from home,” the elder Johnson said. “But he understands the choice he makes will probably affect the next 40 years of his life. Tyreke looks at it as a business decision. He knows he has our support. He knows we’ll be there on the drop of a dime if we have to be. We’ll try to make as many trips as we can. He might have some hidden fears, of course, but Shaun being there and knowing he has a big support system was a big factor.”