Making The Grade: A Pair of the Nation's Top Defensive Ends, Late Steal at Linebacker Highlight Buckeyes' Defensive Haul

By Andrew Ellis on February 4, 2016 at 10:10 am
Nick Bosa leads a stellar group of 2016 defensive signees.
Sporting News

Ohio State signed a total of 25 new student-athletes on Wednesday and finished with the Big Ten's top haul and No. 4 class in America. On Tuesday, Birm took a look at the different position groups on offense. Today, we examine the 11 new Buckeyes that Luke Fickell, Greg Schiano, and Larry Johnson will have at their disposal. 


At one point, the Buckeyes had two of the nation's top defensive ends in the fold, and neither of them were Nick Bosa. Washington, D.C's Terrell Hall would ultimately decommit shortly after the Buckeyes secured a commitment from Bosa, the nation's top-ranked strong-side defensive end.

Jonathon Cooper's rise toward the top of the national recruiting rankings has been well documented, and even better for the Buckeyes is that the fringe five-star is already on campus. Cooper checks in at No. 2 in the weak-side defensive end rankings.

Bosa brings the strength and ability to move around the defensive line while Cooper brings incredible effort and speed off the edge. Even with the departure of Terrell Hall, this is the defense's top new unit and the best duo in the country. 

Grade: A+


Let me preface this by saying that the overall grade for this position isn't indicative of the Buckeyes' lone defensive tackle commit. More so, it is about the players that they failed to land at a position of need. 

The Buckeyes wanted a pair of defensive tackles in this class. The top names on the board were the same guys everyone in America was chasing – Rashan Gary, Antwaun Jackson, and Rashard Lawrence. Larry Johnson and the Buckeyes were never really in it for Gary, but they made things very close for both Jackson and Lawrence; both of whom would end staying in SEC territory. 

The good news? Malik Barrow was playing like a five-star before he suffered a knee injury early in the season. His ranking on the various recruiting sites may have taken a bit of a hit because a) people were initially unsure if he would end up at end or tackle and b) the aforementioned injury. Barrow is already taking classes in Columbus as he continues to go through rehab. 

With guys like Dre'Mont Jones and Jashon Cornell potentially moving inside, this isn't some catostrophic miss by any means.  

Still, the interior defensive line will be a huge area of focus for 2017.

Grade: C-


Thanks to last year's group, linebacker recruiting wasn't a huge need this cycle. Tuf Borland surprised nearly everyone when he committed to Ohio State in April. The Wisconsin Badger legacy's crystal ball still reads 100 percent in favor of his father's alma mater. Borland is automatically included on the prestigious all-name team as well. 

After the surprise commit, many thought the Buckeyes would just bring in a single linebacker for 2016. They flirted with players like Aaron Hansford briefly, but nothing really transpired. A few weeks back, with the help of Dwayne Haskins, the Buckeyes flipped one of the nation's top linebackers from Maryland. Keandre Jones brings size, speed, and a ferocious hitting ability to the Buckeye defense. 

Walnut Ridge athlete Malik Harrison is expected to ultimately end up at linebacker as well. The three-star caught the eye of Luke Fickell, and given his track record with Darron Lee, it would be silly to doubt his evaluations. 

Not bad for a group that wasn't really a need, eh? 

Grade: A


On Wednesday, Kerry Coombs discussed the Ohio State secondary and how the corners and safeties are often interchangeable, so we will go ahead and lump them together into a single group. 

The secondary was a huge need for the Buckeyes' class. Three early departures have created some holes on the depth chart, so there should be plenty of opportunity for early playing time next season. The chase for Jordan Fuller came to a close Monday night as the longtime top target chose the Buckeyes over Michigan and Notre Dame. Urban Meyer has already identified the four-star as someone who is likely to see playing time early and often. 

Wayne Davis and Kareem Felder are both physical corners. Davis is known for his press coverage while Felder is an all-around playmaker in the secondary. Brooklyn's Jahsen Wint was relatively unheralded as a recruit but definitely brings the wood in his highlights. This group of defensive backs, including former Louisville pledge Rodjay Burns, could find the field in some capacity in 2016. 

Grade: A-

Special Teams

This one is pretty simple. Ohio State needed a punter so they went out and landed the nation's best at the position in Drue Chrisman. Additionally, they are bringing in a number of players who could contribute on special teams and in the return game, including do-it-all athlete Demario McCall

Grade: A

View 86 Comments