The Buckeyes have plenty of time to make another move.
Ohio State's offensive line was superb last season, and the unit should once again be one of the country's best in 2020. Greg Studrawa has done a fine job of developing a number of players since arriving in 2016, and we'll all be watching this time around as 2018 signee Nicholas Petit-Frere looks to live up to his five-star billing.
Despite all of the positives, Ohio State's offensive line recruiting hasn't been without its bumps in the road. The most recent loss went down on Friday when one of the nation's top tackles – and a longtime Buckeye lean – sided with the Crimson Tide. JC Latham had been a top-of-the-board target for some time, and it was the biggest blow the team has been hit with during the 2021 cycle.
Studrawa still has six months until December's early signing period, but many are already labeling him as this cycle's Tony Alford. I've even seen some folks clamoring for Ryan Day to replace him with former Notre Dame coach Harry Hiestand. It's unfortunate (and unwarranted) that some have reached that point when the Buckeyes already have two of the country's best in the fold for the 2021 class.
Alford re-established himself as an elite recruiter with a pair of big-time gets, but Studrawa has never really been viewed in that light. Petit-Frere was more of an Urban Meyer/Greg Schiano win and there have been several major losses over the years; most notably Jackson Carman to Clemson. Still, the overall play in the trenches hasn't led to too many complaints.
As things stand right now, there are four names to really watch as Studrawa and the Buckeyes look to land another offensive tackle to complement Ben Christman. If none of them end up working out, then Ohio State could be fishing for a developmental player in the mold of a Dawand Jones (a pleasant surprise in 2019) or perhaps more of a local product.
JC Latham • Milwaukee, WI • ★★★★★
NATL: #17 / POS: #5
While Latham made his pledge to the Crimson Tide less than a week ago, the five-star certainly has some family members who love Ohio State. The spring shutdown was a big blow to the Buckeyes' chances, but getting him back on campus could certainly shake things up. The 2021 NFL Draft is shaping up to be the third-straight that's seen an Alabama tackle selected in the first round, which is going to be tough to overcome. Nick Saban is also expected to add five-star Texan Tommy Brockermeyer. We'll see if that has any impact on this one.
- Outlook: A Daunting Task
Tristan Leigh • Fairfax, VA • ★★★★★
NATL: #13 / POS: #3
Right now the most buzz seems to be with a player who's actually rated higher than Latham. We haven't talked much about Tristan Leigh, but Ohio State is in the top group and has been in contact regularly. The Atlantic Coast standout checks in at 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds and was in Columbus back in November for the Penn State game. The biggest thing working in the Buckeyes' favor? Time.
Leigh named his top-15 schools in May and seems to be nowhere close to a decision. That's great news for the Buckeyes and will give the staff – as well as fellow five-star Virginian TreVeyon Henderson – ample time to put in some work. LSU, Clemson, and Oklahoma are the other heavy hitters in this one, and I think the Buckeyes are in the No. 2 or 3 spot at the moment. This is the one to watch most closely in the coming months.
- Outlook: Hope
Garrett Dellinger • Clarkston, MI • ★★★★
NATL: #76 / POS: #12
While time is working in the Buckeyes' favor for Leigh, the opposite can be said for the No. 5 player in the state of Michigan. Clarkston's Garrett Dellinger is set to announce his decision in just over a week on June 24. Ohio State has quietly been doing some work on this one, but it seems unlikely that it'll be enough to top LSU. The Buckeyes and Wolverines may be fighting for second place, though it's difficult to tell when dealing with someone who says very little about his recruitment.
Dellinger has the ability to play tackle or guard, so a commitment may have very little impact on LSU's chances with Leigh. The Tigers don't have a single offensive line commit for 2021 as both Dellinger and Leigh seem to be at the top of the board in Baton Rouge.
- Outlook: Unlikely
David Davidkov • Winnetka, IL • ★★★★
NATL: #137 / POS: #17
The Buckeyes, Wolverines, and Hawkeyes were at the top before the country's No. 17 tackle pledged to Iowa back in April. David Davidkov had planned trips to all three schools before electing to put an end to his recruitment. Those trips were set to go down this month, but that's clearly no longer in the cards due to the COVID-19 situation.
Kirk Ferentz has churned out some fine offensive tackles over the years, so we really can't knock anyone for siding with the Hawkeyes. However, there's been some unrest around the program of late amid numerous accusations of racism. The school announced yesterday that strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle was out after 21 years on the job.
Obviously the bigger issue here is far more important than anything related to recruiting or college football in general, but it's something to monitor as we move forward with the 2021 class. There have plenty of folks calling for Kirk Ferentz's job as well.
- Worth Watching
The Best of the Rest
Oak Park, Michigan's Rayshaun Benny is another player who's already made multiple trips to Columbus. He's 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds and is listed as a tackle, but I think there's a lot of positional uncertainty with the four-star. Most schools are recruiting him on offense, but the in-state Wolverines are pushing for the other side of the ball, and defense is reportedly what Benny prefers to play. He seems destined to end up in the Big Ten or at a school like Kentucky, but for now, he's likely in the next tier behind the big four targets.
There have been some rumblings that Ohio State could get in the mix for another five-star in Warwick, Pennsylvania's Nolan Rucci. He's an enormous human at 6-foot-8 and 295 pounds and seems to be favoring Wisconsin, Penn State, and Clemson. His brother Hayden is a tight end for the Badgers. From the Buckeyes' side, there's no reason for any optimism whatsoever right now.
Within the state of Ohio, there's not a whole lot of options behind Christman. The next tackles on the list are the No. 31 and 32 players in the state, and both of them are already committed to Kentucky. Stow's David Wohlabaugh and Mason's Paul Rodriguez joined the Wildcats' class within 24 hours of one another back in February. Both offer sheets consist mostly of MAC schools at the moment.
Ohio State needs two more offensive linemen in the Class of 2021, and at least one of them has to be a tackle. Greg Studrawa's recruiting hasn't been bad over the years. I think "weird' would be the more operative term to describe what's went down recently. The Buckeyes seem to get one or two elite guys in a class and then take a few developmental players as well.
We saw it in the 2020 class with two studs in Paris Johnson Jr. and Luke Wypler and a trio of three-stars that are probably going to take some time. Sometimes those players work out much like Dawand Jones seems to be. Other times you just get a depth piece whose primary use is in the third and fourth quarters when you're beating Rutgers by 100 points.
Offensive line may very well be the toughest position to project. Ohio State has a handful of top options to focus on after the unfortunate JC Latham news. And Greg Studrawa still has time to bounce back.