Whether they have been committed for a couple years or a couple months, the entire recruiting process will officially come to an end for those in Ohio State’s 2021 class who are putting pen to paper during the early signing period that runs from Wednesday through Friday.
We got the opportunity to speak with several of those future Buckeyes to preview those players’ journeys as they fax their national letters of intent to Mark Pantoni and Co. and officially join the program.
- Jack Sawyer: “I'm more explosive and faster than I've ever been in my life.”
- TreVeyon Henderson: Shaking off Ezekiel Elliott, J.K. Dobbins comparisons
- Donovan Jackson: Unable to enroll early, Jackson set to follow Marrotti's plan in offseason
- Kyle McCord: Ohio State's first five-star QB since Braxton Miller, McCord ready to run NFL schemes
- Jakailin Johnson: “All the makings” of being Ohio State’s next top-tier cornerback
Hall believes Buckeyes will have “best defensive line in college football”
The first time Mike Hall met Jack Sawyer, Hall had not yet joined Ohio State’s 2021 class, but Sawyer was doing his best recruiting job on his fellow defensive line prospect and was already setting the standard for what he expects from them.
Soon enough, Hall committed to the Buckeyes, and he is now on the path to hitting the ceiling that he believes this three-headed haul of himself, Sawyer and Tyleik Williams will one day hit.
“I believe we will be the best defensive line in college football,” Hall told Eleven Warriors. “That’s the mindset. That’s always been the mindset for Jack. When I first got introduced to him, that was his mindset, and that’s all we talk about is being the best defensive line in college football and to win national championships. That’s been the mindset since day one.”
The Hall File
- Class: 2021
- Size: 6-foot-3/290 lbs
- Pos: DT
- School: Streetsboro (Streetsboro, Ohio)
- Composite Rating: ★★★★
- Composite Rank: 49
Hall is a four-star prospect ranked No. 49 overall while Sawyer is a five-star defensive end ranked No. 4 overall and Williams is ranked No. 161 overall and No. 12 at defensive tackle as a four-star recruit. It’s one of the best three-man hauls in America’s 2021 recruiting class, and in two months (or maybe longer), they could be joined by the No. 3 overall player in five-star defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau.
Hall and Co. are making a concerted push to land the No. 2-ranked strongside defensive end out of Eastside Catholic (Washington) High School after having recently landed a fellow Washingtonian in five-star receiver Emeka Egbuka.
“J.T. doesn’t talk too much that I know of,” Hall said. “But me and J.T. are cool. He’s definitely a cool person to talk to over the phone. He seems like a good person. We try to talk to him every day, but at the end of the day he doesn’t talk back. He’s just like Emeka. They’re not really talkative guys so it’s pretty hard to get those guys to talk when they’re not used to it.”
In an opposite story of Tuimoloau – who has been ranked in the top 10 overall ever since he received his first ranking as a sophomore – Hall was a late bloomer rankings-wise.
In the summer of 2019, Hall was ranked No. 409 overall as a three-star before slowly rising into the top 250 as a four-star, then into top-100 territory and eventually getting to his perch now as a top-50 prospect.
“It’s definitely been crazy going from being underrated and under-ranked and going to one camp and just being a three-star and coming out of nowhere,” Hall said. “But it made me work harder because it made me realize that not everybody is good as when they rank them. Rankings don’t really matter as long as you know your worth and your work ethic and work hard, you can do anything.”
At a summer camp in 2019, Hall blew up after a head-turning performance to jump-start that journey. Even though he was unable to work in Larry Johnson’s group that day, word eventually got around to the Buckeyes’ defensive line coach and he got in contact with Hall to get his Ohio State recruitment truly rolling.
“It was in the summer camp with a lot of people just talking about me, coaches and everything,” Hall said when asked how Johnson got his eyes on him. “I was the top guy at the camp, and people kept talking about me and I guess Coach J heard about it the next day. So they started contacting me when they could.”
That eventually sprouted into a strong relationship between the like-minded pair.
“I talk to Coach J just about every day,” Hall said. “I definitely have a strong relationship with him. We talk about life in general, football, anything. I feel like I can talk to Coach J or any of the coaching staff about anything. It’s just that culture and that bond we built.
“I’m not a talkative person. I like to get comfortable with a person first before I really talk. But Coach J talking, him talking gets me hyped up. Anything he says just fires me up, especially on the pregame speeches. Man, it really makes you wanna be out there like, ‘Man, why can’t I be out there now?’”
Johnson’s plan for Hall is to be a 3-technique in the Buckeyes’ four-man front, and he has a big vision for the 6-foot-3, 290-pound Streetsboro star who has been hailed by many as one of the best defensive tackle prospects to ever come out of Ohio.
“He doesn’t want me to redshirt my first year. I’ll be playing my first year,” Hall said. “He was saying I might have to lose a little weight and gain a little muscle. He said I’m perfect at the weight I’m at now, I just need to lose (fat) and gain muscle so I’ll be right back at the 280-290 range in college.
“He just says as long as I follow his plan that I definitely will be one of the best d-tackles to ever come out of Ohio State.”
Hall believes Johnson is the perfect teacher for him to grow and meet his own career goals as a Buckeye, and he plans on taking in every word that he can from the longtime coach.
“All my coaches throughout high school have taught me to just be a sponge and just listen and take that in and use what they’ve taught and use it on the field,” Hall said. “I still think about that to this day. Just be a sponge and always take coaching. Don’t take it the wrong way. Think of it as a positive and just work harder at it. Just being with Coach J and him being the best coach in the country is really gonna help. Just gonna take it all in and be the best player I can.”
Williams ready to hit campus as early enrollee
We talked about Sawyer last week, so the third head of that three-pronged defensive line is Williams, who committed to Johnson and Co. before ever stepping foot on campus.
Almost two months to the day after his August 27 commitment to Ohio State, though, Williams was able to visit for the Buckeye Bash and get a comforting sense of what it will be like to join the program.
The Williams File
- Class: 2021
- Size: 6-foot-3/330 lbs
- Pos: DT
- School: Unity Reed (Manassas, Virginia)
- Composite Rating: ★★★★
- Composite Rank: 161
“It made me feel real good seeing everything in person for the first time. It gave me a great feeling for the next four years,” Williams told Eleven Warriors.
Like Hall, Williams is more than ready to finally get into the facilities and get mentored by Johnson to help him accomplish his goals.
“It is going to be a great honor playing for Coach J,” Williams said. “He’s real special when it comes to coaching. Also, he puts players in the draft and develops them well, and I believe he can do the same for me.
“My goals when I get there are to maintain great grades and get used to the college field. I wanna make a name for myself early. I would like to improve my pad level and my upper body strength when I get up there.”
Williams will be one of Ohio State's early enrollees, but Hall will not be enrolling until June.
Early signing period preview
When you flip on the best podcast on the Ohio State football beat tomorrow afternoon, you'll be able to get my rundown of what's in store for the Buckeyes during the early signing period.
Here are some of those storylines and thoughts to keep an eye on:
- All 21 commits are expected to sign early, including Emeka Egbuka. What remains to be seen with the five-star receiver is whether or not he will enroll early. Based on what I've been told, I strongly believe he will wind up becoming the 15th early enrollee in the class (which would break the program's record set by the 2020 class), and that will put him in a better position to compete for a starting spot as a freshman. He and his family will have to buckle down and make the decision quickly before the January 5-9 window for move-in dates.
- Ohio State's 2017 class is the most lauded and most talked-about in program history. That class finished with 312.14 total points and a national record 94.59 average player rating with five five-stars. To put it into historical context, this 2021 class is right up there with that impressive group. This Buckeye class currently has 310.39 total points, an average player rating of 94.56 and five five-star prospects set to sign (with Tuimoloau still possibly coming in February or later).
- Tuimoloau is not the lone player who could join the class in February. Four-star linebacker Raesjon Davis, an LSU commit, is not expected to sign with the Tigers during the early period. If he doesn't, that opens up the door for Ohio State and USC to swoop in during National Signing Day in two months.
C.J. Hicks and Dasan McCullough have spoken. The Buckeyes look like they have another commit coming in the 2022 cycle at some point soon.
Whos ready? #BOOM— CJ Hicks (@imcjhicks) December 15, 2020
Boom incoming....— Dasan ccullough (@Dasan2022) December 15, 2020
That could certainly be in line with the announcement of 2022 receiver Kyion Grayes' decommitment from Arizona.