Top-15 2024 Linebacker Payton Pierce Commits to Ohio State: “It Just Really Fits Me the Way That They're Coached”

By Garrick Hodge on April 11, 2023 at 7:01 pm
Payton Pierce

After he visited Ohio State for the first time, the decision was practically already made.

Four-star 2024 Texas linebacker Payton Pierce sat in his hotel room in Columbus on March 25 reflecting on his experience on campus and his time spent with Ohio State's coaching staff. 

"It was really starting to dawn on me, this is where I wanted to go," Pierce told Eleven Warriors ahead of his announcement Tuesday, when he officially committed to the Buckeyes.

Pierce told his parents that day he wanted to go to Ohio State, but they requested he take a week to think about it to ensure that's what he wanted. The next week, Pierce visited Tennessee. When he returned to his home in Texas, he still knew Ohio State was the place for him. On Wednesday, he told his parents again he'd like to commit to Ohio State.

Pos Name Rating Rank Size School
WR JEREMIAH SMITH ★★★★★ #2 NATL | #1 WR 6-3 | 198 Chaminade-Madonna Prep (Opa Locka, Florida)
WR MYLAN GRAHAM ★★★★★ #27 NATL | #5 WR 6-1 | 170 New Haven (New Haven, Indiana)
RB JAMES PEOPLES ★★★★ #69 NATL | #5 RB 5-10 | 192 Veterans Memorial (San Antonio, Texas)
QB AIR NOLAND ★★★★ #84 NATL | #8 QB 6-3 | 195 Langston Hughes (Fairburn, Georgia)
OT IAN MOORE ★★★★ #88 NATL | #4 IOL 6-5 | 295 New Palestine (New Palestine, Indiana)
LB GARRETT STOVER ★★★★ #139 NATL | #12 LB 6-0 | 195 Big Walnut (Sunbury, OH)
LB PAYTON PIERCE ★★★★ #151 NATL | #15 LB 6-1 | 225 Lovejoy (Lucas, Texas)
OT DEONTAE ARMSTRONG ★★★★ #313 NATL | #25 OT 6-6 | 280 St. Edward (Lakewood, OH)
OL DEVONTAE ARMSTRONG ★★★★ #354 NATL | #23 IOL 6-4 | 265 St. Edward (Lakewood, OH)
OL MARC NAVE ★★★★ #549 NATL | #31 IOL 6-5 | 315 Central Catholic (Toledo, OH)
Prospect Rating Data: 247Sports

"I think just the type of players that they have on the team and just how competitive the environment is, it just really fits me the way that they're coached, the way they practice and the way their defense is ran," Pierce said of why he committed to the Buckeyes. "I just really think it fits me better than all the other schools I've been recruited to. The environment is one I want to be in, you're with a bunch of guys that want to be the best, have the standard of being the best and are going to college to be the best. I want to be a part of it and lead those guys in my class. I also have great relationships with the coaches, I feel like they not only can make me the best player I can be but also the best person."  

On Thursday, Pierce FaceTimed the three coaches that have recruited him the hardest at Ohio State – Ryan Day, Jim Knowles and James Laurinaitis – to inform them of his decision. He waited until Tuesday to make his decision public, not wanting to take anything away from Easter weekend. 

"We talked about it for 20 minutes and my parents were on the FaceTime call," Pierce said describing his phone call with OSU's coaching staff to let them know he was committing. "They were pretty excited. I think they might've known it was coming because I asked if I could give them a call at a certain time and they all said 'Yeah, let's go.' We talked about how special of an opportunity it is that I have with me being able to help build this defensive side of the class. I'm really looking forward to it." 

With Pierce in the fold, Ohio State now stands at 10 commitments total for the 2024 class. Following Pierce's commitment, the Buckeyes have leapfrogged Michigan and LSU in 247Sports' national recruiting rankings and now have the No. 2 recruiting class nationally, with Georgia sitting at No. 1. Pierce said he's all too eager to help be a peer recruiter and convince more players in the class to commit to the Buckeyes.

"I've already talked to some guys and they're talking about how they're going to commit soon," Pierce said. "I haven't really talked to any defensive linemen yet, so I might text Nigel Smith, he lives right down the road from me. We just need to build this class defensively, we're stacked offensively and there's still more people to get, but I think having that big D-line in front of the linebackers makes our job a lot easier. So finding the best D-linemen to play with the best defensive line coach in the country is really important."

Eight of Ohio State’s 10 commitments so far are on the offensive side of the ball, while the two defensive commitments, Pierce and in-state prospect Garrett Stover, are both linebackers. After Pierce got off the phone with Day, Knowles and Laurinaitis, he sent a text to Stover informing him of his decision. Stover immediately called Pierce, enthusiastic about the news.

"I texted him right after I got off the phone with the coaches on Thursday and told him I'm in," Pierce said. "He called me right when I sent him a text, didn't even send a text back. He was super excited and pumped. He was almost yelling into the phone with how excited he was. It made me feel better about my decision because those are the type of guys I want to be around, who will support you and stuff. That's exactly how I would have responded and it's safe to say there's guys on Ohio State that are similar to me and like-minded.

Considering Pierce's high school (Lucas, Texas) wears scarlet and gray uniforms, it seemed only natural that he'd want to don scarlet and gray at the next level once Ohio State offered him on Jan. 20, right?

“It's pretty cool," Pierce said of Ohio State wearing very similar uniforms to his high school. "I think Ohio State does it a little bit better than us because we gotta tweak up our black jerseys a little bit, ours have white numbers and we like the Ohio State red numbers. We're trying to get our coach to change it. But it's cool having similar uniforms, it'll look really familiar when I step on campus."

The Pierce File

  • Class: 2024
  • Size: 6-1/225
  • Pos: LB
  • School: Lovejoy (Lucas, Texas)
  • Composite Rating: ★★★★
  • Composite Rank: #151 (#15 LB) 

Pierce was offered by the Buckeyes in January after Knowles made the trek to his school to extend the offer personally. 

“I was pretty excited,” Pierce said of picking up the offer. “I've always kind of wanted an offer from Ohio State. They hadn't offered me yet in coach Knowles’ first year and then a couple of weeks before Laurinaitis got there, coach Knowles offered me and came down to my school and watched me wrestle. I was all super excited to get the offer. It's pretty exciting because they're the biggest brand in college football and everyone knows who Ohio State is and what they're known for.”

Both Knowles and Laurinaitis were instrumental in bringing Pierce to Columbus, and the Texas product had developed a close relationship with Laurinaitis dating back to his coaching tenure at Notre Dame. During his recruitment, he spoke with both coaches every week.

From a personal standpoint, Pierce is thrilled to have his recruitment over with so he can focus on his senior season, and also be there for a high school teammate who is dealing with a much tougher battle off the field. 

“It feels so good having it done before spring ball this year because last year was just a beatdown having to talk to all these coaches and stuff every day,” Pierece said. “Unfortunately, one of the players on our (high school) team, Sam Reynolds, got diagnosed with leukemia last week. So going on all these recruiting visits and stuff, especially when I know I want to go to (Ohio State), it's better for me to commit now so I don't have to go on all these recruiting trips and can spend time with my team getting ready for spring ball and spend time in the hospital with Sam on the weekends and stuff. It worked out perfectly.”

Pierce picked Ohio State over the likes of Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Arizona, Arkansas, Baylor, Colorado, Duke, Florida State, Illinois, Louisville, LSU, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Penn State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Wisconsin.

Pierce gives OSU a stout run-stopping Mike linebacker

Per 247Sports' composite rankings, Pierce is the 151st-ranked player and the 15th-ranked linebacker in the 2024 cycle. At 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, Pierce is likely to slot in at Mike linebacker in Ohio State's defense, though he could also see time at Will. 

"It's a super linebacker-friendly defense," Pierce said of Knowles' defensive scheme. "Just the way they play, they're super active blitzing. It's really appealing for someone like me, because I feel like those are kind of my strengths, making plays and running around all over the field and stuff. That's what really sticks out." 

As a junior, Pierce racked up 131 tackles (21 for loss), six sacks and five forced fumbles. He also played quarterback for Lovejoy, rushing for 10 touchdowns and passing for two. Pierce lined up primarily as a middle linebacker in high school, but also occasionally blitzed off the edge. 

Pierce displays great awareness as plays develop and a quick first step that is instrumental to his success as a run-stopper. He can hit like a truck. He often creates havoc at the line of scrimmage and is adept at shedding blocks and making plays for his defense. He may need time to develop his coverage skills against faster players at the collegiate level, but Pierce has the potential to be a future starting linebacker in OSU's defense.

Pierce said he plans on enrolling early at Ohio State and will be in Columbus next January. 

"I'm ready to step foot on campus and go compete," Pierce said. "I feel like I have a chance to play early if I do what I'm supposed to and I have confidence in myself. Obviously I'm going to go in there to be the best I can be, and I know the coaches will help me do that. I'm super grateful to do this, not a lot of people get to say they got to play at The Ohio State University, so it's pretty special."

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