Top-10 Safety Kainoa Winston Says He's Excited to Visit Ohio State in the Spring, Speaks with Safeties Coach Matt Guerrieri Around Five Times a Week

By Garrick Hodge on February 27, 2024 at 11:35 am
Kainoa Winston

When four-star 2025 safety Kainoa Winston earned an offer from Ohio State last May, the top-100 prospect couldn’t stop smiling.

“I was excited when I first got the offer, I was ecstatic,” Winston told Eleven Warriors. “Just getting an offer from Ohio State, you see them on TV, it means a little more than most schools because Ohio State, their name holds a lot of meaning. I was excited because they play well and put kids in the league and develop them.” 

In the months after he received his offer, things were fairly quiet between Ohio State and Winston. But communication has ramped up in a hurry as of late, with the Buckeyes showing the 5-foot-10, 185-pound prospect he’s a priority. In the January active period, safeties coach Matt Guerrieri, secondary coach Tim Walton and Ryan Day visited Winston at his high school to assure him he’s a top target for Ohio State in the 2025 cycle.

“It was cool seeing all of them,” Winston said. “It was my first time seeing them in person, I had been talking to them through text message and all that. They showed me how important I am to them by coming to my school. I scheduled my spring visit mostly because of that. I’m interested in them because they’re interested in me.”

The visit from the trio of coaches caught Winston’s eye, and he’ll make his first visit to Ohio State on March 23. According to the 247Sports composite rankings, Winston is considered the No. 100 overall prospect and the No. 9 safety in the 2025 cycle.

“It’ll be my first time in Ohio,” Winston said. “When they came to my school it was almost a sales pitch a little bit. They were talking about Columbus and all the networking there is there as one of the biggest cities in America. I just want to get down there and see the campus, see how they practice and all that. I just want to see how Columbus is.” 

Guerrieri hasn’t been Ohio State’s safeties coach long, but he’s already made a favorable impression on the Washington, D.C. product. Winston estimated he and Guerrieri talk around five times per week.

“We talk about things like football and some stuff about Ohio State,” Winston said. “We’ll also talk about life, just getting to know him. I like him, personally. He’s more of a family man than just being a coach. I’ve connected with him a lot.” 

Winston has also spoken with Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and said he is intrigued by playing in a three-safety defense. 

“He was talking about how they play three safeties, a nickel, a strong safety and free safety. I like how they play defense," he said.

Ohio State hasn’t told Winston what specific role they envision him in at the collegiate level as of yet. The Buckeyes are intrigued by Winston’s versatility and could allow him to line up either in the box or as a free safety. At Gonzaga High School, Winston primarily lines up as a free safety. 

“I’m big enough to play strong but also fast enough to play free safety,” Winston said. “I play fast and physically. I’m fast and physical enough to play downhill and hit hard and fast enough to cover in the backend as a free safety.”

Winston said he’s locked in an official visit to North Carolina and likely will take one to Ohio State if the initial spring visit goes well in March. Other schools that stand out to Winston include Penn State, Tennessee, Oregon and USC. 

“I definitely want to decide before my senior season,” Winston said. “I’m not trying to go past August without making a decision. I’ll probably commit in either June or July. I’ll be looking at development and the people, how they take care of the kids and if they have a relationship with them outside of football.”

Winston is intrigued by the success Ohio State has had historically on the field, and the Buckeyes will be a strong contender in his recruitment moving forward.

“Competition,” Winston said of the most appealing thing about potentially playing for Ohio State. “They’ve had a lot of success and a lot of defensive backs getting put in the draft. There’s a lot of competition and development there.”

View 8 Comments