The J.T. Tuimoloau saga is winding down.
Tuimoloau, a five-star mega-recruit who must look at Terrelle Pryor’s drawn-out commitment process that lasted until March 19 of his senior year in 2008 and think of it as child’s play, is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks. The defensive lineman is in the midst of taking five official visits to his five finalists: Ohio State, Alabama, Oregon, Washington and USC. On Thursday night, he arrives in Columbus to begin his official visit.
At this point, with the waiting game that has been Tuimoloau’s recruitment up until this point, it’s worth taking a step back to remember exactly what makes him so important to the Buckeyes – and to the other four involved.
Ohio State’s Best Defensive Recruit...Ever
The numbers tell a simple story.
No defensive player, not since the modern recruiting era began in 2001, who has signed with Ohio State has had a higher recruiting rating than Tuimoloau. Not Chase Young, not Nick Bosa, not Jeff Okudah, not Jack Sawyer, not Zach Harrison. None of them. Terrelle Pryor and Ted Ginn Jr. are the only Buckeye signees to have higher ratings than Tuimoloau’s, and Quinn Ewers will join them later this year. Justin Fields’ rating was higher, too, though he inked with Georgia out of high school.
To put that into perspective, in the past two decades Ohio State has produced 25 All-American defensive players and turned 22 defensive players into first-round picks, and when it comes to recruiting ratings, Tuimoloau is on a level of his own.
Tuimoloau has an 0.9990 composite rating, making him the 24th-highest-rated recruit since 2001, tying him with Myles Garrett and Matt Barkley. In the 2021 cycle, he’s the No. 3 overall prospect – just behind USC-bound Korey Foreman and Alabama-bound JC Latham – though 247Sports ranks him tops at No. 1.
So, yeah. He’s good.
One of the primary things that makes Tuimoloau such a special prospect is his uncanny athleticism. Rarely do guys his size – 6-foot-4 and 277 pounds – move the way he does.
Washington, for example, extended a dual scholarship offer in March to Tuimoloau to play both football and basketball. Oregon followed suit later in the week. Brandon Huffman, 247Sports’ go-to reporter in the northwest, has written that Tuimoloau could be a high-end tight end prospect if he focused solely on the position. The defensive lineman has played safety before, and he didn't look out of place whatsoever playing wide receiver during seven-on-seven sessions filmed last year, including when he secured a one-handed touchdown reception in traffic.
Ohio State has had its fair share of freakish athletes on the defensive line. Chase Young looked like a superhero the moment he stepped foot on campus. Nick Bosa seemingly came out of a defensive end factory. Zach Harrison possesses ridiculous speed for somebody his size.
Tuimoloau’s athleticism is in that vein. It helped him lead Eastside Catholic with 64 tackles and 11 sacks as a junior in 2019.
Here’s part of Huffman’s 247Sports scouting report on Tuimoloau, whom he projects will turn into a top-10 NFL draft pick: “Powerful, athletic and nimble, with room to still add significant weight at the next level. Has lined up on the edge, mixing with hand down while also standing up. Elite pass rusher, who can mix a variety of moves with pure strength to shed his blockers. Can drop into coverage against running backs, receivers and tight ends and has the athleticism and ball skills to be a force in coverage.”
Nearly Unprecedented Duo
Seven times since 2001 have two top-four recruits in a single recruiting cycle signed with the same school. It happened in 2004 with Adrian Peterson and Rhett Bomar going to Oklahoma, in 2005 with Patrick Turner and Mark Sanchez going to USC, in 2010 with Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley going to Florida, in 2013 with Robert Nkemdiche and Laremy Tunsil going to Mississippi, in 2016 with Greg Little and Shea Patterson going to Mississippi, in 2017 with Najee Harris and Alex Leatherwood going to Alabama and in 2018 with Trevor Lawrence and Xavier Thomas going to Clemson.
Just one of those times – Urban Meyer’s Gators 11 years ago – were the two recruits both defensive linemen.
If Tuimoloau ends up signing with Ohio State and pairing up with Sawyer, those two would be the second duo of top-four-ranked defensive line recruits to end up at the same school out of high school in the two decades of the modern recruiting era. It would be Larry Johnson’s finest work on the trail to date.
Notably, all signs suggest that Tuimoloau wants to play defensive end at the next level. So, that would give Ohio State three years of a Sawyer-Tuimoloau pairing before they’re both eligible for the NFL draft. A college football team’s dream.
Larry Johnson’s Conveyor Belt
It never ends, does it?
Year after year after year, Johnson has figured out how to stock Ohio State’s defensive line with stud pass-rushers. At some point, one would imagine, the 69-year-old coach will hang it up. But as long as he’s stacking Sawyer on top of Harrison on top of Young on top of the Bosas, he has plenty of reason to stick around.
Adding Tuimoloau would only further the legacy of dominant defensive linemen Johnson will leave when he decides to leave his coaching career in the rearview.
No. 1 Modern-Day Buckeye Recruiting Class
Jim Tressel was a heck of a recruiter. Meyer took it to an even higher level. Day’s trying to do the same.
If Tuimoloau ends up choosing to stay in Columbus, the 2021 class would become the best signed by Ohio State in the modern recruiting era. It would surpass the 2017 class to achieve the highest average player rating. The group already includes five five-stars – Sawyer, Egbuka, Kyle McCord, TreyVeon Henderson and Donovan Jackson – who are among 12 total top-100 prospects.
What’s already one of the most impressive Buckeye recruiting classes ever would only get better – and in a big, big way.
No More Waiting
The first time Tuimoloau ever received a rating by 247Sports, it was a perfect 1.0000 on Aug. 24, 2018. He hasn't spent a day as a recruit ranked outside of the top-10 players in his class. The only question has been where he'll end up.
If he does, in fact, choose Ohio State, the waiting game would cease immediately.
Projections of where he’d go to school would be replaced by projections of what to expect from him in 2021. Because, yes, even if he enrolls in July – after everybody else in his class – he’d contribute right away. Would he be a rotational defensive end? A fixture in the Rushmen package? Both? It’s all possible for Tuimoloau.