Larry Johnson, Buckeyes Still Searching for Edge Rushers to Close Out the 2018 Recruiting Class

By Andrew Ellis on December 24, 2017 at 7:05 am
Tyreke Smith will announce at the Under Armour game on Jan. 4.

Some Ohio State fans were left dumbfounded this week when the Buckeyes' first ever early signing period didn't go exactly as planned. Some key targets elected to sign elsewhere and the Buckeyes' 2018 class now checks in at No. 2 in the nation; behind only the Georgia Bulldogs.

Heading into the recruiting cycle, there were a few units whose needs stood out above the rest. Offensive tackle was and continues to be a group that needs to be addressed. Max Wray is already signed, but there's a chance he could slide to the inside at the next level. Jackson Carman's decision to sign with Clemson means that the Buckeyes will continue scanning the country for at least one more tackle. 

I am of the opinion that defensive end remains the most pressing  need in this class. Jalyn Holmes, Tyquan Lewis, and likely Sam Hubbard will all play their final games next Friday in Dallas. That leaves Nick Bosa, Jonathon Cooper, and Chase Young as the only scholarship players remaining at the position. The bad news? Well outside of losing a bunch of really talented edge rushers, Ohio State is yet to land a single defensive end in its 2018 recruiting class. 

The loss of Brenton Cox to Georgia was a bad blow to the class, and while the Buckeye did flip three-star Alex Williams from West Virginia last week, Meyer stated that the Pickerington star is being brought in as more of an athlete who could end up on defense or even at tight end.

The remaining defensive end targets are the same players we've been talking about for some time now, and both recruitments have had their ups and downs. Right now, however, the Buckeyes are in a great spot for one and appear to be trending in the right direction for the other.

Tyreke Smith and Jayson Oweh are both slated to announce their college destinations on Jan. 4 at the Under Armour All-America Game. We've been expecting Ohio State to bring in three new defensive ends this cycle. The staff  lost out on Cox and stopped recruiting Micah Parsons for a number of reasons, but it would still be a major win if they can close things with Smith and Oweh.

Is there any doubt that the Ohio State coaching staff is letting the recent signees know just how important these two are? Jeremy Ruckert and several other of the newest Buckeyes are already putting in work on social media.

Smith's recruitment has been especially interesting to follow. Penn State got involved early on and the Nittany Lions were the presumed favorite as recently as a few weeks ago. But things have changed for the country's No. 4 weak-side defensive end, and the Buckeyes look to be firmly entrenched in the driver's seat. 

Larry Johnson and Urban Meyer were in Cleveland on Dec. 15 to check in with Smith on the hardwood and at the family's home. Penn State was scheduled to be in Northeast Ohio that week as well, but things changed in a big way and that visit never took place. A bunch of crystal balls then started rolling in for the Buckeyes, and it certainly appears that Smith is on track to commit to Ohio State in less than two weeks. That's quite the development for a player who seemed to be all but done to the Nittany Lions. 

The recruitment of Jayson Oweh looks to be a little more up in the air. Notre Dame and Michigan were in the picture for a bit, but things are now down to the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions. Penn State was one of the first major programs to offer and got out in front early on, but Ohio State has surged since offering back in May. 

Oweh checks in as the country's No. 106 prospect and the No. 5 strong-side defensive end. He is still a bit raw and has more of a basketball background, but he clearly understands the importance of being developed at the next level. This is one of the areas he's long mentioned when it comes to Larry Johnson and the Buckeyes. 

The above interview – which was just released yesterday – does't give a whole lot away as the four-star discusses his desire for early playing time, comfort, and the aforementioned player development piece. He also discussed his desire to major in civil engineering while in college. 

Ohio State and Penn State both have checked in with Oweh in recent weeks, and the feedback we've gotten from the Buckeyes' side has been extremely positive. The Nittany Lions, however, also appear to be fairly confident as the Jan. 4 announcement date draws near. 

Jayson Oweh and Tyreke Smith are two of the country's most sought after pass rushers. Landing one is basically a must at this point for the Buckeyes. Managing to sign them both would go a long way in addressing a position of great need and – assuming the staff can track down an offensive tackle – would likely put a bow on the 2018 recruiting class. 

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