Heat Check: Five-star Defensive End Damon Wilson Reclaims Top Spot on Ohio State's Recruiting Board As the 2023 Cycle Enters the Home Stretch

By Garrick Hodge on November 4, 2022 at 11:35 am
Damon Wilson

We’re in the home stretch of the 2023 recruiting cycle.

The commitment of four-star defensive tackle Kayden McDonald on Monday filled a significant need for Ohio State’s current class and gave Larry Johnson another massive recruiting win. In turn, it also eliminated the need for half of the targets on last month’s board because the Buckeyes should now be set at defensive tackle for 2023 with McDonald in the fold. 

Although there aren’t many spots left to fill for Ohio State’s recruiting class ahead of Early Signing Day on Dec. 21, some prestigious high-priority uncommitted targets remain. We’ve gone from 10 prospective recruits to five in this month’s edition of Eleven Warriors’ editorial of Ohio State’s recruiting board, but each would be a massive get for the Buckeyes. We even threw in some honorable mentions for good measure. Let’s delve right into it.  

The Board
DAMON WILSON DE 1 3 ★★★★★ Alabama•Georgia
KEON KEELEY DE 3 1 ★★★★★ Alabama•Florida
SAMSON OKUNLOLA OT 4 7 ★★★★★ Michigan State•Alabama•Miami•Florida
ARION CARTER LB 5 6 ★★★★ Michigan•Alabama•Memphis

Damon Wilson

In recent months, it sure seems like the three widely-known five-star defensive ends have all had their turn taking over the spotlight atop the Heat Check. So it should be no surprise that after more twists and turns in October, Damon Wilson has regained the top spot for November. 

While Wilson took an official visit to Georgia last month, a few Crystal Ball projections from 247Sports were cast in Ohio State’s direction after Ryan Day and Larry Johnson visited Wilson in Florida during the Buckeyes' off week. 

The momentum has shifted back to Ohio State in the final stretch before the Early Signing Period. Still, the five-star defensive end may take another visit to Georgia this weekend for the Bulldogs’ massive matchup with Tennessee. Wilson remains undecided on a school, and it’s unclear when exactly a decision is expected. But Ohio State has done well enough to believe it is the frontrunner to land Wilson, even with a potential visit to Georgia looming. 

Matayo Uiagalelei

Uiagalelei seems determined to keep a quiet recruitment until his decision, likely to be late in the cycle. It feels like Ohio State has led for Uiagalelei for months, and as it stands, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to think otherwise. We’ll see if anything changes within the next month. 

Keon Keeley 

Keeley went the opposite way of Wilson in that the momentum seemed to be in OSU’s favor ever so slightly after the five-star defensive end took his second gameday visit to Columbus this fall in September for the Wisconsin game. 

That momentum has since shifted toward Alabama, though Day and Johnson clearly don’t believe they’re out of this recruitment yet because they also stopped in to see Keeley on the same trip they took to visit Wilson. Ohio State will continue to battle for Keeley until the end of his recruitment, but Alabama appears to hold the lead for now.  

Samson Okunlola

Frequent Heat Check readers will know Okunlola’s section usually reads the same month after month. It’ll go something along the lines of Ohio State is still interested, but a visit has to happen before any serious consideration is given. Well, that much holds true again this month. Still, within recent weeks, there’s been cautious optimism coming from Ohio State that Okunlola is actually going to make an official visit to Ohio State on Nov. 26 for the Michigan game. However, that visit is not set in stone. A source told Eleven Warriors that Okunlola’s recruitment will have “a lot of factors” to it but that he has still been responsive in communicating with OSU. 

The matchup with Michigan will be significant for many reasons, of course, but that day will also offer a preview on if the Buckeyes will have an opportunity to secure a premier offensive tackle for their 2023 class. 

Arion Carter

Alright, so there’s good news and bad news here regarding Carter, a Memphis commit. The bad news is Carter is trending toward Alabama at the moment. As for the good news, Carter is still expected to take an official visit to Ohio State on Nov. 12 for the Indiana game, so the Buckeyes will have a chance to sway the Tennessee product on that visit. It feels like if OSU is going to take another linebacker this cycle, it’s Carter or bust, so it remains to be seen if Arvell Reese will be the lone linebacker commit added to OSU’s roster next season. 

Honorable mentions

Although he’s now committed to Alabama, Ohio State hasn’t given up pursuing five-star safety Caleb Downs. Ryan Day and Perry Eliano attended one of Downs’ high school games during Ohio State’s off week in a game that featured many highly-touted prospects and remain persistent in trying to get the Georgia product to visit for the Michigan game. Until momentum starts to swing toward that happening, Downs will stay in the honorable mention category. 

Speaking of safeties, Ohio State offered four-star Notre Dame safety commit Adon Shuler last month, making it appear that they’d still like a fourth safety for the 2023 class. But the vibe a few weeks after the offer has been given is Shuler is fully locked in with the Fighting Irish and flipping him doesn’t seem likely at this point. 

With McDonald’s commitment, there isn’t a glaring need for another defensive tackle anymore, so there’s no need to include Jordan Hall on the board, even though he had an official visit to OSU set for the Michigan game. It remains to be seen if that visit will still materialize, as he’s heavily forecasted to Georgia at this point. The same logic can be applied to four-star prospect Daevin Hobbs, who has a Nov. 25 decision date looming. But OSU will not be the North Carolina resident’s pick, as he’s likely bound to play for a southern school. 

Meanwhile, the only race left to decide for Qua Russaw and James Smith where Ohio State is concerned is what spot on the table will the Buckeyes hat be placed when the pair make their commitment that will almost certainly be to a different school.

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