From Top to Bottom: Our Annual Look at Ohio State's Lowest-Rated Signees and Their Potential Impact in Columbus

By Andrew Ellis on February 20, 2021 at 10:10 am
Jaylen Johnson was one of the leaders of the 2021 recruiting class.
Jaylen Johnson
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The latest signing day haul is once again strong from top to bottom.

Ohio State signed the nation's second-best recruiting class earlier this month, finishing behind only the record-setting Crimson Tide haul. We've spent a bit of time looking at the star-studded group – including the 15 early enrollees – and speculating on who could make an instant impact in 2021. 

Ryan Day signed 21 new players and he's hoping to bump that number up to 22 as the Buckeyes continue the pursuit of five-star defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau. The latest crop of talent includes five five-star prospects, 13 four-stars, and a trio of three-stars. At least a pair of those five-stars will be among the top offseason storylines. TreVeyon Henderson should push the running back room and Kyle McCord will be in the mix to start under center.

But each year we also like to look at some of the less-heralded signees and what they may bring to the table. Dawand Jones was just that back in the 2019 class and the same can be said for Chris Olave in 2018. It's not always the blue-chip prospects that go on to do big things in Columbus. 

Lowest-Rated Signees: Class of 2021
Player Hometown Pos. Measurables Rating Pos. Rank Nat. Rank
Sam Hart Aurora, Colo. TE 6-foot-5, 225 pounds ★★★ No. 16 No. 392
Jaylen Johnson Cincinnati, Ohio SAF 6-foot-1, 200 pounds ★★★ No. 29 No. 412
Jesse Mirco Fremantle, Australia P 6-foot-3, 200 pounds ★★★ No. 6 NA

When it comes to scary position groups and the Buckeyes potentially looking into the portal, we've mostly talked about cornerback as the neediest of spots. I think tight end quietly isn't all that far behind. Jeremy Ruckert will be one of the best in the country, but there's a whole lot of uncertainty behind him thanks to the departures of Luke Farrell and Jake Hausmann.

Sam Hart is the lone tight end signee in the 2021 class. He shouldn't need to make an immediate impact assuming Cade Stover and Joe Royer serve as Ruckert's primary backups. Still, the Colorado three-star is already on campus and will provide some depth to the depleted room. I'm always a fan of taking tight ends that hold offers from teams like Notre Dame and Iowa.

Hart will have plenty of competition beyond just 2021. Ohio State currently has two tight ends committed for the 2022 class in Georgia's Bennett Christian and North Carolina's Benji Gosnell. The biggest question moving forward may be how the position is utilized by the next man up at quarterback. No one's expecting a repeat of the performance against Clemson, but Hart is a capable pass-catcher who hauled in 31 balls for seven touchdowns as a junior in 2019.

Cincinnati's Jaylen Johnson was one of the leaders of the 2021 class. After his commitment in January of 2020, Johnson was one of the more active recruiters helping to assemble the nation's second-best haul. At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, he's starting out at safety, but some do think he could grow into a linebacker down the road.

If he sticks to the secondary, Johnson appears to be more of the strong safety type as opposed to the single-high look the Buckeyes have employed of late. His best long-term trajectory may actually be as a run-and-cover linebacker. As for the early expectations, it'll be tough for him to carve out a role beyond special teams. 

In terms of early impact from the true freshmen, you probably don't have to look much further than the special teams. Aussie native Cameron Johnston spent four seasons booting for the Buckeyes – all the while winning a national championship – before heading off to the NFL. It's now Jesse Mirco's turn to do much of the same in 2021. 

Drue Chrisman is gone, which means that the door is wide open for Mirco to step into the starting punter role. Our early depth chart projection has him pegged to do just that as a true freshman. The ProKick Australia star was a name that we hadn't even heard before when he committed back in May of 2020. Now he's on track to be a major part of Ohio State's special teams efforts in 2021. 

Big things are expected from Jack Sawyer, Emeka Egbuka, and the other top-rated Buckeye signees. Let's not forget about the rest of the bunch as a more typical offseason will go a long way in preparing them for what's to come.

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