Five-Star Defensive Tackle Jahkeem Stewart Enjoys Learning from Larry Johnson, Thinks He “Could Fit Perfectly” in Ohio State’s Defense

By Dan Hope on June 7, 2024 at 12:08 pm
Jahkeem Stewart

Jahkeem Stewart took full advantage of his opportunity to learn from Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson on Thursday.

Ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2026 recruiting class by three of the four major recruiting media outlets, Stewart certainly didn’t need to prove himself at Thursday’s camp. Yet Stewart went through every drill with the rest of the defensive linemen – often taking extra reps at the behest of Johnson – because he wanted to learn from one of college football’s top defensive line coaches.

While Stewart lived up to his billing as the top prospect on the field – even in a talented group of defensive line recruits, the 6-foot-6, 270-pound junior had the look of a man among boys – it wasn’t a perfect day for the five-star defensive tackle, as Johnson asked him to repeat several drills over the course of the camp. But Stewart believes his opportunity to learn from those mistakes will make him a better football player.

“Coach Johnson, he's a great coach. One of the best defensive line coaches in college football history. Just getting a chance to work with him, the drills he had me going through, it was my first time going through those drills. And he wanted me to mess up. He he tried to push me to my limits. And he felt as though I did a great job doing what I needed to do and accepting his challenge. So it was all great,” Stewart told Eleven Warriors on Thursday night.

Stewart’s decision to travel up to Columbus and participate in Thursday’s camp served as further proof that his interest in Ohio State is strong. Stewart was also on campus for Ohio State’s spring game, a visit which wowed him, and says he hopes to return to Columbus for the Buckeyes’ rivalry game against Michigan in November.

“I came up for the spring game, and it was mind-blowing. So I can imagine the team up north game is going to be even more mind-blowing,” Stewart said.

While Stewart hasn’t officially narrowed down his list of finalists from the top 15 he released in February, other contenders for the New Orleans standout include LSU, his home-state school; USC, where he’s visiting Friday; and Oregon, where he’s also looking to visit this month. But Ohio State seems to be right in the thick of the race coming off of this week’s visit.

“I really love it,” Stewart said of Ohio State. “It's a great school, great academics. I'm just looking forward to the coaching.”

“I feel like I could fit perfectly in the defense.”– Jahkeem Stewart on Ohio State’s defense

Stewart has built close relationships with both Johnson and graduate assistant defensive line coach LaAllan Clark, who is a Louisiana native like Stewart.

“Coach Clark, he makes me feel at home because he understands me,” Stewart said. “He understands how to communicate with me on everything. He's a big part of me coming up here. Because, like I said, he always makes me feel home. He always makes me feel safe. He's a great coach. Great person. Great character. And that all matters for me.”

Stewart also spent time talking to Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and defensive coordinator Jim Knowles during this week’s visit and liked what he heard from both of them.

“Coach Day, he's a great coach,” Stewart said. “He told me that he loves what I'm doing, just continue to stay humble and hungry and just keep my head on forward. And God's gonna paint the way for me. He told me he really wanted me and he's looking forward to recruiting me and just planning on what he can do for me and my family.”

Knowles sold Stewart on his ability to create one-on-one matchups for Stewart, who said he often draws triple-teams in his high school games.

“I ain't have a one-on-one in a long time. So, he told me that he could create one-on-ones for me. And every time I have a one-on-one, we know what happens there,” Stewart said.

Jim Knowles and Jahkeem Stewart
Jim Knowles talking to Jahkeem Stewart during Thursday’s Ohio State camp.

Ohio State has told Stewart he would play the 3-technique defensive tackle position in its defense with the possibility to also play some snaps at defensive end to create mismatches. Stewart believes playing in Ohio State’s defense would enable him to maximize his skill set.

“I feel like I could fit perfectly in the defense,” Stewart said. “With the technique Coach Johnson’s teaching, and me being the person I am, my second effort, I want it more than a lot of these kids out here. The majority of these kids out here, majority of these men out here, no disrespect, it's going to be a lot of trying to just block me and compete with me for four quarters. And with Coach Johnson's mindset, we'll do great things together.”

Stewart is considering the possibility of reclassifying into the 2025 recruiting class, which means he could be on a college football team at this time next year, though he says his focus right now is on preparing for his junior season at St. Augustine High School. He says he could make his college decision in either January or February.

Ultimately, Stewart says he’s looking for a school where he trusts the coaches to develop him both as a football player and as a person.

“I want to see how they can use me and allow me to become a better person. A better football player and a way better person,” Stewart said. “It's really all about me. The school and the coaches can only suggest you to do something. You're a man at the end of the day, so they're not going to force you to do nothing. So you got to want to be held accountable. That's really about it. Character and trusting the school, trusting the coach that they're going to make me a way better person.”

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