Positional Versatility Remains a Key for Kerry Coombs, Larry Johnson and Ohio State's 2021 Defensive Recruiting Class

By Andrew Ellis on April 4, 2020 at 1:15 pm
Larry Johnson and Kerry Coombs are focusing on versatility in 2021.

Listing a prospect as an "athlete" is one of those things that goes back about as far as we can remember, or at least to when the recruiting services first started appearing on the internet. It's not a new development and is something Ohio State has taken advantage of plenty of times throughout the years. 

Usually, when we see that label, we think of a hybrid wide receiver/running back prospect like a Curtis Samuel or a high school quarterback who isn't going to see the field in the same way at the next level; someone like Jalin Marshall comes to mind.

For Ohio State, the focus seems to have shifted a little bit on the defensive side of the ball. And while many of the top remaining targets aren't listed as athletes, it's clear that the Buckeyes coaching staff is zeroing in on some targets that would bring positional versatility. This seems to be especially true along the defensive line and in the secondary. 

With lingering needs in the backfield and in the trenches, the majority of the staff's top remaining targets have the potential to find themselves in multiple spots at the next level. Larry Johnson has two linemen in the fold and is looking for about three more to help with the reload. New Jersey defensive tackle Tywone Malone is one of the key targets, but the 6-foot-4, 300-pounder may be the only one with a definite position in mind. 

Two of the other top guys include Washington five-star J.T. Tuimoloau and IMG Academy's Tunmise Adeleye. Tuimoloau is about 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds and is listed as a defensive tackle on 247 Sports and as a strongside defensive end on Rivals. His size screams tackle but his highlight tape shows an athletic edge rusher who also excels as a tight end. 

Adeleye is a native Texan who's now at IMG's football factory in Bradenton. He's listed as a strongside defensive end and has seen action on the edge in both three- and four-man fronts. Adeleye is listed at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds (closer to 260 per Rivals) and certainly doesn't have the length of a guy like Tuimoloau. He's not the long and ridiculously athletic Zach Harrison type of pass rusher, but he's been extremely productive and could move inside with some added bulk.

Last year the Buckeyes landed three linemen who all could project at a number of different spots in Jacolbe Cowan, Darrion Henry, and Ty Hamiton. There may be some similarities when all is said and done this go around. 

Versatility remains a theme in the secondary as well despite cornerback being one of the team's most pressing 2021 needs. Three commits are already in the mix with Jakailin Johnson, Andre Turrentine, and Devonta Smith. Johnson and Smith both seem destined to play corner while Turrentine will bring some flexibility. 

Coombs remaining targets are guys we've been talking about for some time now, and each of the big three brings some positional versatility to the table. Jantzen Dunn and Kamar Wilcoxson are both athletes being recruited as defensive backs who can play either cornerback or safety. Ohio State loves the long defenders in the mold of Jeffrey Okudah and Gareon Conley, and both of the 2021 four-stars check in right around 6-foot-2 and would bring plenty of length to the secondary.

Pennsylvania safety Derrick Davis Jr. is in a similar situation but his outlook revolves around two different positions. He's listed as a safety by 247 and an outside linebacker by Rivals, and Davis could be more of the Kourt Williams type of defender in Ohio State's scheme. He has the athleticism to play in the secondary but could bulk up to join Al Washington's room if need be. 

The Buckeyes already have plenty of known commodities committed in its top-ranked 2021 recruiting class. We all know that Kyle McCord is going to play quarterback at Ohio State and TreVeyon Henderson will help bolster Tony Alford's backfield.

Other top remaining targets have a few more question marks surrounding their futures, but a little bit of versatility just means the Ohio State staff will have to determine the best fit if Columbus does end up being the ultimate destination. 

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