Ohio State's 2020 Defensive Recruiting is About to Pick Up Following Slow Start

By Andrew Ellis on June 9, 2019 at 8:30 am
Jeff Hafley is about to make some major moves on the recruiting trail.

"Calm down, bros." –Jeff Hafley

The current makeup of Ohio State's 2020 recruiting class certainly isn't short on star power and positions of need. Ryan Day and his staff have already addressed the offensive line with four commitments; including Paris Johnson Jr. and Luke Wypler, who are ranked as the best at their positions. And Brian Hartline's work with the wideouts has been nothing short of phenomenal. 

Still, there have been lingering concerns surrounding the defensive side of the ball. Cornerback Lejond Cavazos remains the sole defender on board for 2020, and while his re-commitment to the Buckeyes was a big one, most were expecting a few more to be on board as we head into the summer. 

We've been cautioning that people be patient with defense this time around, but that hasn't stopped a sense of worry from permeating throughout the interwebs and in our ongoing Class of 2020 recruiting threads. Your patience (or lack of) is about to pay off because the Buckeyes are in a position to load up on the defensive side of the ball — and soon. 

Earlier this week, the staff talked about how this month is a crucial time on the recruiting trail. With several changes on the defensive side of the ball, Jeff Hafley, Al Washington, and Greg Mattison have been using their time to build relationships with some of the long-standing targets while also doing plenty evaluating of their own.

Hafley was asked about the pacing of the defensive recruiting and expressed no concern over the process due to the new faces on the staff:

some of these guys are being recruited in September and I’m working to play the Rams in September.

A star-studded visitor list is already taking shape for the month, and a number of the prospects are likely to make a decision in the near future. As we make our way through June and into the early stages of July, I think it's fair to put upwards of six defensive prospects on commitment watch, and a handful of them are top-of-the-board targets for Ohio State's staff. 

Olney, Maryland's Mitchell Melton is at Notre Dame this weekend and is slated to check out Ohio State and Michigan over the next two weeks. Checking in as a three-star outside linebacker, Melton is a guy the staff likes as a bit of a hybrid linebacker/defensive end. There are some strong family ties to Ohio and a summer decision seems likely. Can they lock him up before he heads to Ann Arbor on June 21? 

Pickerington Central defensive lineman Ty Hamilton is making an official visit to Penn State this weekend and his next two weeks will mirror that of Melton. Hamilton camped for the Buckeyes' staff last week and now it's just a question of how he fits into the defensive line equation. Is the recently offered legacy target more of a pass rusher or an interior lineman? If the Buckeyes push, this one could come to an end pretty quickly.

Don't be surprised if the weekend of June 21st ends up being the most important recruiting time of the year. We're still waiting for more details on the weekend's events, but Ohio State is already expecting several top targets and current commits to be around for the festivities. 

Cornerback Clark Phillips will head to Columbus on the 21st as the Buckeyes' top cornerback target is getting close to a commitment. He's taken an official to Cal and has talked about heading to South Bend, but this is looking like one that could go down before month's end. Corner remains a big need and adding the nation's No. 4 player at the position would obviously be a major win for Hafley and Co.

Both Paris Johnson Jr. and Darrion Henry will be in town. We've never doubted Johnson signing with the Buckeyes, but Larry Johnson should have a real shot at getting Henry in the fold right around that time. He's already talked about moving up his timeline and securing the state's No. 2 prospect has been a major priority for a while now.

Buckeye linebacker target Kourt Williams is scheduled to be in Happy Valley this weekend and will then make the cross-country trip to Columbus for the 21st. The Bellflower, California four-star is the staff's top target at the hybrid bullet position. Ohio State's is getting the last visit and the 6-foot-1, 216-pounder will absolutely be on commitment watch.

Ohio State is recruiting Michigan playmaker Cameron Martinez as an athlete, but we're lumping him in with the defensive group for now since his future may be brightest at safety. He's made a number of visits lately to Northwestern, Penn State, and Kentucky, but the looming trip to Columbus is the one we've been waiting for. He's an athletic high-academic prospect that the Buckeyes would love to add in the coming weeks. 

This is a special place. We’re not just going to bring in anybody.– Jeff Hafley

Defensive commits have been hard to come by, but there's absolutely no reason to panic as we head deeper into a pivotal month of June. Ohio State sits at No. 10 in the national team rankings and is currently atop the Big Ten. The average rating per commit (94.08) is trailing only Georgia and Clemson.

Urban Meyer's departure did leave some questions surrounding Ohio State recruiting and just how far the national reach would extend without his Florida ties. Thus far, Ryan Day is showing no sign of slowing down with commitments from Texas, Arizona, and Washington. California is another one that should be added to the list sooner rather than later as well. 

While any concerns on offense have already been put to rest, there's still the lingering uneasy feeling on defense. In truth, Ohio State is right where it needs to be and in a great spot for several of its top defensive targets. I'd expect the class to have an entirely different feel by next month at this time.

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