Heat Check: Major Updates to Our 2021 Board As Buckeyes Continue to Roll Despite Unprecedented Dead Period

By Andrew Ellis on April 7, 2020 at 10:10 am
New Jersey DT Tywone Malone has surged up our 2021 recruiting board.

Recruiting is all about comfort and relationships. Sometimes you're gaining momentum on the trail, sometimes you're losing it. How are some of Ohio State's key prospects trending? Let's take a look.

It would be a vast understatement to say that the spring has not gone as expected. That goes for businesses, education, the entertainment industry, and just about all other aspects of life due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Needless to say, there are far more pressing issues than anything related to Ohio State athletics and the sports world as a whole.

Despite the strange times, recruiting efforts are still going on across the country even if there's a much different feel thanks to the extended dead period. FaceTime calls and virtual campus tours have helped to make up for what was expected to be a busy few months filled with both unofficial and official visits.

Ryan Day and the Buckeyes have been the story of the dead period despite it absolutely not being business as usual. Thanks to the strong relationships built by the staff, Ohio State managed to add five commitments in March, and all of those came at two very needy position groups – running back and defensive back. 

The additions of TreVeyon Henderson and Evan Pryor mean that for the first time in what seems like forever, you won't see a single running back on our recruiting board. Tony Alford made a major statement with the 2021 duo and the addition of Trey Sermon from the transfer portal. In a matter of two weeks, Alford re-established himself as an elite recruiter and made up for some misses from the previous class.

Kerry Coombs also managed to make some noise in the defensive backfield, including the former No. 1 prospect on our board in St. Louis cornerback Jakailin Johnson. Cincinnati La Salle's Devonta Smith earned an Ohio State offer and didn't waste much time hopping on board. Nashville defensive back Andre Turrentine gives Coombs a versatile defender who could end up at corner or safety. Unlike at running back, we're still expecting at least another two or three additions to help with the reload in the secondary.

Ryan Day has the No. 1 class in the country and he's extended Ohio State's lead over No. 2 Clemson. With 15 commitments now in the fold, the Buckeyes still have some pressing needs for the 2021 class. And with all that transpired in March, our recruiting board has gone through some major changes as well.

J.T. TUIMOLOAU DL 1 6 ★★★★★ Washington•Alabama•USC
J.C. LATHAM OT 2 5 ★★★★ LSU•Alabama•Oklahoma
TYWONE MALONE DT 3 NA ★★★★ Rutgers•Ole Miss•TAMU
TUNMISE ADELEYE DL 4 5 ★★★★ Florida•Bama•TAMU•Oklahoma
DERRICK DAVIS JR. SAF 5 8 ★★★★ Penn State•Clemson
JANTZEN DUNN DB 6 NA ★★★★ Oklahoma•Miami•Louisville
EMEKA EGBUKA WR 7 10 ★★★★★ Clemson•Washington
TROY STELLATO WR 8 11 ★★★★ Clemson
JAGER BURTON OG 9 NA ★★★★ Kentucky•Clemson•Alabama
JAYLIN DAVIES CB 10 NA ★★★★ Alabama•Washington•USC
HUDSON WOLFE TE 11 NA ★★★★ Alabama•Georgia•Tennessee

*Last month's edition can be found HERE. 

With the running back room looking great and the defensive backfield partially filled, the focus now switches over to Larry Johnson and the trenches. The Buckeyes have two great ones already in Jack Sawyer and Mike Hall, but the defensive line haul is expected to be at least five and possibly as many as six come next February. 

Washington's J.T. Tuimoloau has surged up to the top spot on our board, and the five-star is a player who could make an impact virtually anywhere on the line. A former teammate of Gee Scott Jr.'s, he's one of the country's very best and the Buckeyes and Huskies appear to be battling for his services. The dead period certainly doesn't help Ohio State here, but Larry Johnson could wrap this one up when he's finally able to make the trip to Columbus. 

If you're looking for a true space-eating defensive tackle, then New Jersey's Tywone Malone is just the guy for you. Checking in at nearly 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds, he's listed as the nation's No. 7 tackle and the best prospect in Jersey. Malone is also a star baseball player and has talked about playing both sports in college, so we'll see if that factors into his recruitment at all.

It's a little surprising that neither Michigan nor Penn State are among the standouts right now, so the Buckeyes are instead battling it out with the likes of Rutgers, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M. Malone debuts at No. 3 on our board and his recruitment is expected to last into his senior season. There's still plenty of time for other schools to emerge as serious contenders. 

IMG Academy's Tunmise Adeleye is the other defensive lineman on our list, and it's probably going to be an adventurous recruitment for the Texas native. I'm not sure where he best projects in college, but he's a disruptive pass rusher even if he's a bit undersized at 6-foot-3 and 240-250 pounds. Florida and Ohio State seem like the frontrunners with Oklahoma and Texas A&M in the next group. 

Sticking with the IMG theme, offensive tackle J.C. Latham moves up to the No. 2 spot and he seems like a candidate to end up as a composite five-star. The 6-foot-6, 285-pounder was looking to announce on April 18, but it sure seems like the dead period will shake things up a bit. LSU continues to be the top competition for the country's No. 6 tackle. 

Jager Burton is the other top guy in the trenches, and it still feels like this one will come down to Ohio State and Kentucky for the Lexington native. We continue to hear positive things, but there's also a lingering concern that he may want to stay closer to home. Alabama and Clemson are also in the mix.

Kerry Coombs has several options remaining in the secondary, and we've got a trio of names on the board. Safety Derrick Davis Jr. could be this year's Kourt Williams as he may project as a safety or outside backer. The COVID-19 outbreak has hurt the Buckeyes here as multiple spring visits had been in the works. Clemson and Penn State remain the stiffest competition. 

Kentucky athlete Jantzen Dunn remains another top option at either corner or safety. Oklahoma, Miami, and Louisville are strong contenders, but I get the feeling the Canes are really worth watching here. His father Mitchell was a guard for the Miami basketball team back in the mid-90s. Despite the ties to Coral Gables, it's safe to view the Buckeyes as the current favorite. 

Jaylin Davies is the newest addition in the defensive backfield, but there's no reason for optimism until the California corner makes the trip to Columbus. He's consistently mentioned Ohio State as a top option and the Buckeyes have made plenty of noise out West, but it's going to take some time for this one to really take off. At 6-foot-1 and 165 pounds, Davies is the nation's 11th-best cornerback. 

Switching over to the pass-catchers, not a lot has changed for Brian Hartline. Emeka Egbuka and Troy Stellato continue to be the top guys at wideout, but unfortunately neither one of them will be on campus anytime soon. Clemson is the competition here and I don't see a scenario where the Buckeyes miss on both.

Would Hartline even be able to take two more? It sure seems likely and Egbuka is especially someone you can't turn down, but other position groups are far more needy right now. This is going to be one of the top storylines to follow once the recruiting world gets back to normal. 

The tight end isn't the most glamorous position in Columbus, but we've long expected the Buckeyes to sign a pair for the 2021 class. Colorado's Sam Hart is already committed and we've been watching Hilliard's Jack Pugh, but it would appear that Ohio State is locked into a battle with the SEC for the top remaining target. 

Savannah, Tennessee's Hudson Wolfe is considering schools like Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss, and the in-state Volunteers, but some are suggesting the Buckeyes are the leaders in the clubhouse at the moment. 247 Sports Director of Recruiting Steve Wiltfong tossed in a crystal ball pick for Ohio State just last week. That would be a major win over some national powers and give Kevin Wilson quite the pairing at the position.

So, Ryan Day and the Buckeyes are continuing to chug right along even in this weird world that we're currently living in. In the absence of media availability at the WHAC and spring practice reports, at least we've gotten some good news on the recruiting trail to hold us over for the time being.

Here's to hoping things can get back to normal as soon (and safely) as possible. Social distancing and a mostly quarantined lifestyle aren't the most exciting things in the world, and there are only so many Netflix series and Big Ten Network replays to keep us occupied in the meantime.  

Stay safe out there (or in there), folks. 

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