Heat Check: Five-star Defensive End Damon Wilson Maintains Top Spot on Ohio State's 2023 Recruiting Board As Five New Names Crack the List Ahead of National Signing Day

By Garrick Hodge on December 2, 2022 at 11:35 am
Damon Wilson

Friends, we’ve arrived at the final Heat Check of the Year for the 2023 recruiting class.

When Eleven Warriors’ monthly editorial ranking top prospects on Ohio State’s recruiting board next publishes in January, we’ll have 12 new names identified as the 2024 class officially will be on the clock after the Early Signing Period comes and goes on Dec. 21. 

After the board was trimmed to only five prospects last month, five new names have been added to this month’s edition, as Ohio State hopes to finish its 2023 class strong. With the dead period officially being lifted Friday, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Ohio State coaches make their final in-person pushes for any of the players listed over the next few days.

The Board
DAMON WILSON DE 1 1 ★★★★★ Georgia
LINCOLN KIENHOLZ QB 4 NA ★★★★ Washington
JAMARION WILCOX RB 5 NA ★★★ Clemson•Kentucky
RUEBEN OWENS RB 6 NA ★★★★★ Louisville
ARION CARTER LB 7 5 ★★★★ Alabama•Tennessee
CALEB DOWNS S 8 NA ★★★★★ Alabama
SAMSON OKUNLOLA OT 9 4 ★★★★★ Miami•Florida
KEON KEELEY DE 10 3 ★★★★★ Alabama

Damon Wilson

For the second consecutive month, Wilson earns the top spot on the Heat Check. In what is essentially a two-team race between Ohio State and Georgia, the Buckeyes will have peace of mind knowing it did whatever it could to land the talented pass rusher from Florida however the recruitment turns out.

The Buckeyes got the last gameday visit for Wilson last weekend when the five-star prospect made the trek to Columbus for the Michigan game. You can bet Georgia and Ohio State will likely make in-home visits to Wilson before he makes a decision. 

In a decision that may come down to the wire, OSU is leaving it all out on the field for Wilson.

Matayo Uiagalelei

It’s still been a quiet recruitment for the prized five-star pass rusher out of California, but Ohio State remains a front-runner for Uiagalelei a few weeks from signing day. Speaking of signing day, that is likely when Uiagalelei will announce his commitment, and if it’s to any other school besides OSU, USC or Oregon, it would be a shocker. 

It seems to me like the trend of December is evident for Ohio State: Root against USC. 

Joshua Mickens

Talk about a fast riser on Ohio State’s recruiting board. The one-time LSU commit and four-star Indiana prospect made his first gameday visit of the fall to OSU on Nov. 12, where he earned a Buckeyes offer shortly after that. He returned for an official visit two weeks later for the Michigan game, and upon arriving home, Mickens decommitted from LSU, reopening his recruitment. 

Of all the players on this board, Mickens is probably the most likely to end up at Ohio State.

Lincoln Kienholz

It may seem strange to rank the South Dakota signal-caller this high on the Heat Check because of both his position and that this is his first appearance on the board. But following the decommitment of Brock Glenn, the Buckeyes are left without a quarterback commitment in the 2023 class. And while they’re also without a running back (more on that later), the depth for the team could be in peril next season, considering Kyle McCord and Devin Brown would be the only scholarship quarterbacks on the roster (assuming C.J. Stroud enters the NFL draft) and whoever loses the quarterback battle could enter the transfer portal.

With that said, Kienholz is Ohio State's best chance at filling the need for depth from the prep rankings, as the four-star prospect made an official visit to Columbus last weekend and was seen as a priority visitor. 

In the coming days, he’ll also likely receive in-home visits from Ohio State’s coaching staff. While the Buckeyes have a great chance to flip Kienholz, it’s not a certainty, as he remains close with Washington coach Kalen DeBoer, a South Dakota native. 

Jamarion Wilcox 

With the decommitment of Mark Fletcher, Ohio State needs a running back commitment for its current class. After building a relationship with three-star Georgia prospect Jamarion Wilcox for months, OSU running backs coach Tony Alford wasted no time in offering Wilcox, who ran for more than 2,000 rushing yards in his senior year. 

Wilcox did not visit Ohio State last weekend, but the Buckeyes are hopeful they can get him on campus for an official visit before he makes a college commitment. While only ranked a three-star, Wilcox is a dynamic player that would bolster OSU’s running back corps.

Rueben Owens

Going from Fletcher to the five-star Owens would be like trading in a pickup truck for the latest Lamborghini model, which could be good or bad, depending on your style, but the sentiment remains the same. 

While Ohio State has been in contact with Owens since Fletcher’s decommitment, flipping him from Louisville will be a tricky task. Owens is more likely to stay with the Cardinals than the alternative, but the Buckeyes will continue to push for the Texas running back over the next few weeks. 

Arion Carter

Ohio State hosted Carter on an official visit on Nov. 12, and by all accounts, that visit went well for all involved parties. 

“My visit was great,” Carter told Eleven Warriors. “It was just great seeing how everything was and how they operated things. The culture up there is really, really good. The bonds that are already high with their coaches got built on top of that with meeting them in person … I finally got up to The Shoe. The atmosphere was crazy, even for them to just play Indiana. It was filled up to the tip. It was a great experience overall.”

That said, Carter’s other top two schools, Tennessee and Alabama, will be challenging to beat in the end. Carter plans to silently sign in December and then announce his commitment at the All-American Bowl in January on Jan. 7. When he reveals what school he chose, Ohio State is more than likely not going to be the team he picks in the end.

Caleb Downs

The five-star Alabama safety commit resurfaces on the list because he visited Columbus for the Buckeyes’ game against Michigan last week. Though he’s ranked this low because flipping him is going to be an extremely tall task for OSU, especially after he saw the Buckeyes give up 45 points in person. But the Buckeyes won’t go down without a fight and will continue recruiting him until he signs his National Letter of Intent in 19 days.

Samson Okunlola

When the five-star offensive tackle did not make the trip to Columbus for the Michigan game last week, admittedly, it seemed like it was time to leave him off the final edition of the Heat Check. Yet, there’s still a slim chance with OSU and Okunlola. Per 247Sports, OSU will be visiting Okunlola in person within the next few days, and the Buckeyes are working on getting him to campus for an official visit, likely on Dec. 10. With a mid-December commitment date approaching, OSU will have to work quickly to pull off a stunner with Okunlola. 

Keon Keeley

The five-star defensive end from Florida has seen the biggest drop in this month’s edition of the board. After Ohio State had a flurry of momentum with Keeley in September, everything has since shifted to Alabama, which is ultimately where he is likely to end up.

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