That changed in a big way on Friday. Both Russaw and James included Ohio State in their top six school lists despite not visiting campus this spring or summer. Both athletes had the same six schools represented in their lists: Ohio State, Alabama, Alabama State, Florida, Auburn and Georgia.
Speculation in the recruiting industry suggests Russaw, an edge rusher, and Smith, a defensive tackle, want to play at the same school. It’s also going to be hard to keep them out of their home state, particularly away from Alabama, which is the projected leader for both.
But Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson is taking a swing at landing the duo anyway. Both Smith and Russaw are expected to use one of their remaining official visits to Ohio State sometime this fall, giving Johnson and the Buckeyes a puncher’s chance at landing each. Neither is deciding anytime soon and will likely take their decisions into December.
Russaw had a dominant junior season, as he accumulated 130 tackles (27.5 for loss) with 16 sacks. He’s considered the 26th-best player and third-best edge rusher in 2023 per 247Sports’ composite rankings. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound prospect told 247Sports Johnson deserves credit for getting OSU on his trimmed-down list.
“I haven’t got a chance to go down there yet but I really think I can play edge. (Larry Johnson) also thinks I can play edge there and I do too,” Russaw told 247Sports of Ohio State. “It’s an open scheme and I’d just rush the passer. Coach Larry Johnson thinks I can do it and he can coach me up, that’s why I picked them (on his top six).”
Smith, a 6-foot-4, 310-pound prospect, began his high school career at Carver High School (Montgomery, Alabama) but played his junior season at IMG Academy. He transferred back to Carver in the offseason and will be teammates with Russaw for the tandem’s senior season. Smith is considered the 13th-best player and the second-best defensive lineman in the 2023 cycle.
Ohio State has two defensive linemen committed this cycle in Jason Moore and Will Smith Jr. Other defensive line targets include Matayo Uiagalelei, Damon Wilson, Keon Keeley, Desmond Umeozulu, Jordan Hall, Jalen Thompson and Kayden McDonald.
11 OSU offers on MaxPreps’ sophomore All-America team
After releasing its preseason All-America teams for seniors and juniors earlier this week, MaxPreps announced its sophomore preseason All-America team on Friday. Eleven recruits with Ohio State offers made the list.
Cracking the first-team offense are wideout Winston Watkins Jr., running back Jordon Davison, tight end Bear Tenney and wideout Dakorien Moore. The first-team defense includes defensive lineman Armondo Blount, defensive lineman Elijah Griffin, linebacker Weston Port and safety D.J. Pickett.
Bonsu to commit Sunday
Ohio State’s 2023 class could reach 20 commitments by the end of the weekend.
Four-star New Jersey safety Jayden Bonsu will announce his commitment at 4 p.m. Sunday and will pick from a final three of Ohio State, Miami and Michigan State. His announcement will be made live on 247Sports’ YouTube channel.
Although Miami was thought to be the frontrunner for Bonsu in late July, momentum has shifted toward the Buckeyes, who are the favorite to land Bonsu. OSU has two safeties currently committed in 2023 in Malik Hartford and Cedrick Hawkins. Should Bonsu pick the Buckeyes, OSU may have its safety recruiting for the class wrapped up, barring the (unlikely) event they can flip Caleb Downs from Alabama later in the fall.