Spring Forecast: An Updated Prediction for the Defensive Side of Ohio State's 2020 Recruiting Class

By Andrew Ellis on April 28, 2019 at 8:30 am
Cincinnati's Darrion Henry remains a top target on defense.
Cincinnati (Princeton) four-star Darrion Henry

Ohio State's 2020 class is coming together nicely as Ryan Day continues to do fine work on the recruiting trail. Seven of the Buckeyes' eight commitments are on the offensive side of the ball, but that shouldn't be a surprise – or a concern – given what transpired earlier in the year.

The departures of Greg Schiano, Bill Davis, and Alex Grinch meant that the new defensive staff had to build a whole new relationship with several long-standing Buckeye targets. Jeff Hafley, Greg Mattison, and Al Washington have been on the job for a few months now and it looks as though the Buckeyes are on track for another fine defensive haul. 

Earlier this week, we took an updated look at how Ryan Day's first class may look on offense. With the spring game behind us and official visits underway, we now turn to the defensive side of the ball. 

Defensive Line (3)

It's a bit of a surprise that Cincinnati's Darrion Henry (Princeton) hasn't committed yet and plans on waiting even longer before making a decision. Still, there doesn't appear to be any reason to worry about the state's top remaining prospect. He's 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds and probably projects as an interior lineman. Henry has taken a number of visits but was back in Columbus for the spring game. Alabama offered last month and programs like Penn State, Michigan, and Georgia are also in the mix. He's expected to drop his list of top schools on Monday. 

Princeton High School teammate Jaheim Thomas has basically been connected at the hip with Henry as the duo has made virtually all of their visits together. Thomas is a four-star outside linebacker/edge rusher whose position could be more of a defensive end at the next level. The Buckeyes extended an offer in March after Georgia and Alabama hosted Thomas and the 6-foot-5, 218-pounder earned offered from both SEC powers. If Ohio State wants him, there's little doubt where Thomas will end up.

Larry Johnson has been doing his research on Groveport's Terah Edwards, and I'm not sure if this month's commitment to Northwestern will do much to change that. Edwards can play along the interior on either offense or defense, and he could be a flip candidate down the road. He's the third defensive linemen on our list for now, but there's certainly a chance that number could stretch to four.

*One to watch: Culver, Indiana DE Deontae Craig

Linebacker/Bullet (3)

The new bullet position may add a bit of a new wrinkle to Ohio State's linebacker and safety recruiting, but the gist of it is that Jeff Hafley, Al Washington, and the defensive staff will likely be on the lookout for more players in the Brendon White mold. Guys who are physical enough to play linebacker but also possess the speed and coverage skills of a safety.

Bellflower, California's Kourt Williams (St. John Bosco) is a prime example of someone who could fit into the bullet role. At 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, some programs are looking at him as a safety while others prefer him at linebacker. Williams will make an official visit to Ohio State on June 29th and hopes to make a decision before the start of his senior year. He would bring some versatility to the defense, but we've got him on our list at linebacker. Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and UCLA are also in the picture.

We haven't talked too much about Olney, Maryland's Mitchell Melton, but the three-star is a prospect we will be watching moving forward. It seems as though Mekhail Sherman's recruitment could end with him committing to Georgia, so that would likely move Melton up the Buckeyes' board a bit. The Good Counsel linebacker also holds offers from Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, and Ole Miss.

Westerville's Rickey Hyatt is another candidate to play safety, linebacker, or the bullet spot. At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Hyatt was offered by Al Washington just a few short weeks ago. The staff will likely continue to evaluate to get a better feel of his trajectory, but we've now got him in for 2020.

*One to watch: Brooklyn athlete William Mohan

Defensive Back (5)

The Lejond Cavazos commitment was a big one for the class as the Buckeyes got one of their top defensive targets back in the fold. The four-star has also been an active recruiter for Ryan Day and the staff, which certainly could help out in the long haul. Cornerback is still a major need and we're looking for Jeff Hafley and Co. to sign three for 2020.

Henry Gray is the name we've talked about the most as the former Miami commitment is high on both Ohio State and Clemson. The Tigers landed Jacksonville's Fred Davis earlier in the month and that may help the Buckeyes with Gray. The Hurricanes remain in the picture but we've got the country's No. 6 corner ending up in Columbus. 

Remember when we used to see those "Urban Meyer specials" with prospects like Vonn Bell, Raekwon McMillan, and Nicholas Petit-Frere? It's feeling more and more like La Habra, California's Clark Phillips could be just that for Ryan Day and Jeff Hafley. Both have ties to the Golden State and some are of the belief that the Buckeyes are out in front for Phillips. 

Tuscon's Lathan Ransom is far from a slam dunk at this point, but he's already made the trip to Columbus once and will be back for an official. Notre Dame is a serious contender for the four-star, but for we've still got him penciled in.

Cameron Martinez is a bit different as he may be capable of playing several spots and could be the most versatile player on the Buckeyes' radar. He plays quarterback in high school and could see the field at receiver, H-back, or defensive back at the next level. We've got him in the secondary for the time being, but it would hardly be a surprise if that changed. Michigan and Northwestern are the other top contenders.

*One to watch: New Jersey safety Jordan Morant

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