There’s only a couple of spots left to fill in Ohio State’s 2023 recruiting class.
Defensive tackle, in particular, is still a position where the Buckeyes would like to add another high-profile prospect. They’ll get an answer before the month concludes on one of their top remaining priority targets.
Ohio State put a full-court press on four-star Georgia defensive tackle Kayden McDonald on Sept. 24 when he took an official visit to Columbus, his first trip to Columbus since October 2021 when he came for the Penn State game.
“Ohio State was a great visit,” McDonald told Eleven Warriors. “I saw everything. I met with one of the professors with broadcasting, people from the academic side and strength and conditioning. I watched the practice on Sunday after they dominated Saturday’s game.
Buckeye nation turn me up pic.twitter.com/7ySbww6P5H— Kayden (@KMac_DT) September 27, 2022
“The gameday atmosphere was insane. It was a surreal environment. Of course, the defensive line played great, they contained the run and the pass rush was efficient.”
Asked about the difference in his visits compared from last year to this year, McDonald couldn’t help but gush about how different defensively the Buckeyes look compared to what he saw a year ago.
“It’s a different vibe with coach Knowles being the defensive coordinator,” McDonald said. “The defense looks faster. They’re playing more together and relentless. It’s a relentless defense and a national championship type defense.”
McDonald stayed in Columbus until that Sunday evening before flying home. Ryan Day and defensive line coach Larry Johnson had several meetings with McDonald on his visit after the Buckeyes thumped Wisconsin 52-21 and kept conveying a simple message.
“The staff made it very clear that Columbus is home for me,” McDonald said.
McDonald said one of the bigger selling points Johnson and OSU have made to him is the opportunity to come to Columbus and fight for playing time early and crack the two-deep in his freshman season. The 6-foot-3, 310-pound prospect said he speaks with Johnson two times a week, Day weekly and has nearly daily communication with someone from OSU’s staff.
“We’re heavily talking almost every day with the staff,” McDonald said of his relationships with Ohio State. “They keep saying Columbus is home.”
McDonald will base his college decision on three factors: Academics, the ability to play early and the potential to win a national championship. While Johnson has been selling him on the potential contributions he could make to the Buckeyes in his first few years, Ohio State could be a good fit for McDonald academically, too.
McDonald is already thinking about his career prospects whenever his football career is over, whether after college or a professional career. The defensive standout said he wants to be a sports broadcaster one day, ideally an analyst for ESPN breaking down games.
Former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit is one of his current broadcasting idols.
“Kirk Herbstreit went there, and his son is on the team now,” McDonald said. “That just could open so many doors for me if I pick Ohio State with my major.”
Is Ohio State surging for #Rivals250 DT Kayden McDonald? @adamgorney has intel on him and many other prospects in this week's Recruiting Rumor Mill: https://t.co/Om01Q7u5Vl pic.twitter.com/Btlzr1RTfW— Rivals (@Rivals) August 22, 2022
It’s no secret why McDonald is in such high demand as he winds down his recruitment. In six games for North Gwinnett High School (Suwanee, Georgia), McDonald has racked up 34 tackles (20 for loss), seven sacks, seven quarterback hurries, two fumble recoveries and a pass deflection.
“I can disrupt every play, stuff the run and clog up the middle and get to the quarterback up the middle and close the pocket,” McDonald said of what skillset he’ll bring to a collegiate team.
Interestingly enough, he’s also a playmaker on offense for North Gwinnett, primarily as a goal-line running back. This season, he’s recorded 32 carries for 163 yards with six touchdowns. If Day and OSU are finally bringing back the I-formation and utilizing Mitch Rossi as a fullback, surely there could be enough innovation to create a package for McDonald in the goal line as well.
Big man touchdown alert! Four-star DL Kayden McDonald scores the rushing touchdown. This was actually his seventh carry of the game. https://t.co/GV80aHLPzh pic.twitter.com/3CtGOgnmF5— Jeremy Johnson (@JeremyO_Johnson) August 20, 2022
North Gwinnetts second touchdown was scored by 2023 Rivals250 defensive tackle Kayden McDonald (@KMac_DT) on this 7-yard rumble https://t.co/rG4uTsit1D pic.twitter.com/Z8qAv5azSK— Jed May (@JedMay_) September 10, 2022
In the meantime, the Buckeyes will have to continue recruiting McDonald heavily as he approaches an Oct. 31 commitment date. After the official visit, McDonald is intrigued by what the Buckeyes have to offer.
“It’s one of my top schools. I’m leaning on Ohio State as one of my top, top, top schools,” McDonald said. “They’re at the very top.”
Other schools in consideration for McDonald are Michigan, Florida, Clemson, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. He will take his official visit to Oklahoma on Oct. 15 and is considering making a trip to Texas A&M on Oct. 22.
“Really, I think Buckeye nation is amazing,” McDonald said of what the most appealing thing about playing for Ohio State would be. “The fans, the tradition there, really, just Buckeye nation is great.”
If McDonald chooses to play elsewhere, other options at defensive tackle are Jordan Hall, who has an official visit scheduled for the Michigan game, and recent offer Daevin Hobbs, who just visited the Buckeyes Saturday for the Rutgers game and is likely a three-technique at the collegiate level.