Halloween was a day filled with no tricks and purely treats for the Ohio State football staff.
Larry Johnson and company landed a big-time piece to the puzzle on Monday when four-star Georgia defensive tackle Kayden McDonald announced his commitment to Ohio State. He picked OSU over Clemson, Oklahoma, Michigan and Florida.
McDonald is the 21st Ohio State commit of the 2023 cycle and the third defensive lineman. He’s the second true defensive tackle prospect in the current class along with Will Smith Jr., though fellow commit Jason Moore could play either defensive tackle or defensive end for OSU. McDonald’s commitment breaks a small drought on 2023 commitments for the Buckeyes, as New Jersey safety Jayden Bonsu was the last player to commit to the Buckeyes before McDonald on Aug. 14.
The McDonald File
- Class: 2023
- Size: 6-3/310
- Pos: Defensive tackle
- School: North Gwinnett (Suwanee, Georgia)
- Star Rating: ★★★★
- Composite Rank: #293 (#40 DL)
OSU had been recruiting McDonald dating back to early in his junior season, giving him an offer in September 2021. He took an unofficial visit to Columbus that October for the Buckeyes’ 2021 home game against Penn State game, but Ohio State’s pursuit of McDonald quieted in the coming months as the Buckeyes underwent significant coaching turnover on the defensive side of the ball.
With Jim Knowles replacing Kerry Coombs as defensive coordinator, McDonald’s OSU recruitment picked back up this fall. He did not visit Columbus in the spring or summer but took an official visit to Ohio State on Sept. 24 for the Wisconsin game, and it was on this visit Johnson and Ryan Day made their most effective sales pitch for McDonald to become a Buckeye.
McDonald also fell in love with how passionate Ohio State fans were during his visit to Columbus.
“I think Buckeye Nation is amazing,” McDonald told Eleven Warriors earlier this month regarding what the most appealing thing about playing for Ohio State would be. “The fans, the tradition there, really, just Buckeye Nation is great.”
|WR||BRANDON INNISS||★★★★★||#23 NATL | #3 WR||6-0 | 190||American Heritage (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)|
|WR||NOAH ROGERS||★★★★||#45 NATL | #7 WR||6-2 | 195||Rolesville (Rolesville, NC)|
|OT||LUKE MONTGOMERY||★★★★||#46 NATL | #5 OT||6-5 | 280||Findlay (Findlay, OH)|
|DL||JASON MOORE||★★★★||#62 NATL | #6 DL||6-6 | 255||DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, MD)|
|WR||CARNELL TATE||★★★★||#63 NATL | #11 WR||6-2 | 185||IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida)|
|CB||CALVIN SIMPSON-HUNT||★★★★||#104 NATL | #11 CB||6-0 | 175||Waxahachie (Waxahachie, Texas)|
|TE||JELANI THURMAN||★★★★||#105 NATL | #4 TE||6-5 | 230||Langston Hughes (Fairburn, GA)|
|S||MALIK HARTFORD||★★★★||#147 NATL | #10 S||6-2.5 | 175||Lakota West (West Chester, OH)|
|CB||KAYIN LEE||★★★★||#182 NATL | #25 CB||5-11 | 185||Cedar Grove (Ellenwood, GA)|
|IOL||JOSHUA PADILLA||★★★★||#200 NATL | #9 IOL||6-4 | 280||Wayne (Dayton, OH)|
|LB||ARVELL REESE||★★★★||#205 NATL | #17 LB||6-3 | 212||Glenville (Cleveland, OH)|
|CB||JERMAINE MATHEWS||★★★★||#214 NATL | #27 CB||6-0 | 175||Winton Woods (Cincinnati, OH)|
|OL||AUSTIN SIEREVELD||★★★★||#238 NATL | #11 IOL||6-5 | 320||Lakota East (Middletown, OH)|
|WR||BRYSON RODGERS||★★★★||#246 NATL | #32 WR||6-0.5 | 175||Wiregrass Ranch (Zephyrhills, FL)|
|S||CEDRICK HAWKINS||★★★★||#253 NATL | #20 S||6-0 | 175||Cocoa (Cocoa, FL)|
|RB||MARK FLETCHER||★★★★||#259 NATL | #15 RB||6-1 | 225||American Heritage (Fort Lauderdale, FL)|
|S||JAYDEN BONSU||★★★★||#267 NATL | #24 S||6-1 | 210||St. Peter's Prep (Hillside, NJ)|
|DT||KAYDEN MCDONALD||★★★★||#293 NATL | #40 DL||6-3 | 310||North Gwinnett (Suwanee, GA)|
|DL||WILL SMITH JR.||★★★★||#320 NATL | #46 DL||6-3 | 260||Dublin Coffman (Dublin, OH)|
|QB||BROCK GLENN||★★★★||#379 NATL | #22 QB||6-2 | 195||Lausanne Collegiate School (Memphis, TN)|
|OL||MILES WALKER||★★★||#499 NATL | #38 OT||6-6 | 285||Brunswick High School (Greenwich, CT)|
|Prospect Rating Data: 247Sports|
The Georgia prospect also took the Buckeyes much more seriously in his recruitment after the hiring of Knowles.
“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.”
OSU’s coaching staff was in daily contact with McDonald after his official visit. Both Johnson and Day continued to stress McDonald’s importance to OSU, with Day stopping in to visit McDonald during the Buckeyes’ off week.
“The staff made it very clear that Columbus is home for me,” McDonald said.
McDonald based his college decision on academics, the ability to play early and the potential to win a national championship. Johnson sold McDonald on his potential to earn playing time as a freshman, and he also relishes the opportunity to be developed by a coach of Johnson’s caliber.
With the likely departures of defensive tackles Taron Vincent and Jerron Cage after this season, McDonald very well could have a shot at cracking the rotation in his freshman season as the Buckeyes will likely only have five scholarship defensive tackles from this year's roster at the start of the 2023 season. While Mike Hall, Tyleik Williams and Ty Hamilton will likely lead next year’s rotation, McDonald will have a chance to compete for playing time behind them along with Jaden McKenzie, Hero Kanu and Smith Jr.
He’ll major in broadcasting at Ohio State, and former OSU quarterback Kirk Herbstreit is one of McDonald’s 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.”
McDonald is the third player from the Peach State to commit to OSU in 2023, joining tight end Jelani Thurman and cornerback Kayin Lee. He’s a product of North Gwinnett High School (Suwanee, Georgia), the same high school current Ohio State cornerback Jordan Hancock attended. He joins a lineage of Ohio State players from Suwanee that also includes current freshman wideout Kojo Antwi and former Buckeye stars Bradley Roby and Cam Heyward.
McDonald likely wraps up Ohio State’s defensive tackle recruiting for 2023, though the Buckeyes will certainly remain in hot pursuit of five-star defensive ends Keon Keeley, Damon Wilson and Matayo Uiagalelei.
Ohio State holds steady at No. 4 in the 2023 national recruiting class rankings with McDonald’s commitment. He picked OSU over 35 other Division I schools that offered him, many of which were much closer to home. Now, he’ll have the opportunity to be an anchor of OSU’s defensive trenches in future seasons.
McDonald gives OSU a true defensive tackle presence
At 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds, McDonald is built as a true nose tackle, though he also has the agility and size to be able to play three-technique in Ohio State’s defensive front.
At North Gwinnett High School, McDonald has been a nightmare for opposing offenses to handle in the run game, but he’s also been an effective pass rusher with a quicker first step than one would expect for a player of his size. McDonald has consistently displayed powerful hands and block-shedding techniques and often draws double-teams from opposing offensive lines to prevent him from attacking the middle.
“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 the skill set he’ll bring to a college team.
In eight games this year for North Gwinnett, McDonald has recorded 46 tackles (27 for loss) and eight sacks to go with nine quarterback hurries, a pass deflection and two fumble recoveries. His junior season was even more impressive, as he racked up 95 tackles (58 for loss) in 12 games with a whopping 19 sacks and 15 quarterback hurries while also adding three pass deflections.
You know how Day has utilized Mitch Rossi as a fullback out of the I-formation several times this season? Well, he may be tempted to do the same thing for McDonald in a William Refrigerator Perry-style package where McDonald could be used as a ball carrier. McDonald has been a goal line back for North Gwinnett the past few years, running for 176 yards on 35 carries with six touchdowns this year.
According to 247Sports’ composite rankings, McDonald is considered the 293rd-best player and the 40th-ranked defensive lineman nationally in the 2023 cycle.