Center Stage: Al Washington, Linebacker Recruiting a Major Key for Ohio State's 2022 Class

By Andrew Ellis on July 14, 2020 at 10:10 am
Al Washington is set to take center stage for the 2022 class.

It's Al Washington's time to really shine.

Every Ohio State recruiting class has a different feel to it. The 2020 haul had a heavy focus on quarterbacks and wide receivers while the current class has Kerry Coombs stocking up in the secondary and Tony Alford assembling the best running back duo in the country. 

We've talked plenty about Ohio State's current linebacker situation that includes seven juniors and seniors that will be vying for playing time this coming season. Needless to say, the linebacker room is going to need to be addressed in a big way. Al Washington has already made a name for himself on the trail, but it may soon be his turn to take center stage.

The Buckeyes have two in the fold for the 2021 class already in Ironton four-star Reid Carrico and three-star safety/linebacker Jaylen Johnson from Cincinnati La Salle. LSU commit Raesjon Davis is someone the staff would love to flip, but I think the next cycle is when we're really going to see an uptick on the linebacker front. And the board is already coming together quite nicely for the Class of 2022. 

Shawn Murphy Manassas, Va. 6-foot-2, 220 pounds ★★★★ No. 3 // No. 1 ILB
Gabe Powers Marysville, Ohio 6-foot-4, 220 pounds ★★★★ No. 43 // No. 4 OLB
Dasan McCullough Olathe, Kan. 6-foot-5, 220 pounds ★★★★ No. 73 // No. 8 ATH
C.J. Hicks Dayton, Ohio 6-foot-4, 215 pounds ★★★★ No. 162 // No. 15 ATH
Justin Medlock Manvel, Texas 6-foot-1, 200 pounds ★★★ NA // No. 8 ILB

While it's still plenty early in the process, our best guess right now is for Ohio State to sign four linebackers for the 2022 class. Two or three signees tends to be the more typical number, so we're looking for a bigger class as Ryan Day and Al Washington reload what will be a bit of a depleted unit. 

Dayton athlete C.J. Hicks is already committed and looks like the early leader for the class. Hicks was the most impressive player at Saturday's Elite Underclassmen Camp and many came away thinking he'll be a candidate for a fifth star. At 6-foot-4 and approaching 220 pounds, he's certainly on the linebacker trajectory despite his "athlete" billing. Hicks has earned an invite to the Under Armour All-America Game and will surely continue to be an active recruiter for the Buckeyes. 

One of those players Hicks is working on was also in attendance at the camp, and Ohio State appears to be an early favorite for the nation's top inside linebacker. Manassas, Virginia's Shawn Murphy is being chased by every major program in the country, and it may turn out to be a battle between the Buckeyes and Crimson Tide.

Murphy is a different player than Hicks and a camp isn't the ideal setting for someone who likely projects as an inside backer. That's just not the place where a Raekwon McMillan or Teradja Mitchell type is really going to flash. The two of them have grown close, but Murphy is obviously going to do what's best for him in the long run. It's safe to say Ohio State should be in it for the long haul.

Is Marysville linebacker Gabe Powers a lock to end up close to home? Not necessarily. But it feels like it would take a strange turn of events for another program to come out on top. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Powers has the ideal frame for the position and is being recruited for one of the outside backer slots. 

At this point, it really doesn't seem like any other school is giving the Buckeyes a run for their money. One thing I do feel is worth monitoring is whether or not Clemson throws an offer his way. Dabo Swinney made things a little interesting in the Reid Carrico pursuit, but I'm not sure I see the Powers recruitment reaching that point. Despite his affinity for Ohio State, this one could take some time as a decision isn't excepted in the immediate future. 

I'm of the belief that Olathe, Kansas four-star Dasan McCullough is the most intriguing prospect in the Class of 2022. As a sophomore, the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder played primarily safety but was utilized all over the field for Blue Valley North High School. He can cover in the secondary, hits like a linebacker, and there's also a chance he ends up as a 6-foot-6, 250ish pound pass rusher. 

I think it's fair to keep McCullough on the linebacker board for now, and Al Washington has the Buckeyes in prime position to grab one of the country's most versatile prospects. McCullough is from Ohio, still has family in the state, and his father has a longstanding relationship with Kevin Wilson. Needless to say, Ohio State has plenty working in its favor on this one.

Outside of the in-state duo, Texas's Justin Medlock is the only one 2022 linebacker offer to have a crystal ball pick in for the Buckeyes. It's still way early for the class, so there's no sense in worrying that he's "just" a three-star at this point. Ohio State offered in May and the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder has already struck up quite a relationship with Ryan Day and Al Washington. 

Medlock's father played linebacker at Texas A&M, but the Aggies have yet to offer. Right now it's looking like Ohio State, Texas, and LSU may be the top contenders with no decision necessarily in sight. Medlock has already taken note of just how many players the Buckeyes will be losing at the position over the next two years. 

The linebacker board is certainly going to expand in the coming weeks and months, but Al Washington really has Ohio State in a great spot for each one of these targets. Guys like Teradja Mitchell, Dallas Gant, and K'Vaughan Pope are in line for expanded roles before exiting the program after 2021. Fortunately, the Buckeyes are already on track for a nice little reload come 2022. 

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