Ohio State appears to be on the verge of adding a former five-star recruit to its linebacker room.
Former USC linebacker Palaie Gaoteote IV, a five-star prospect out of high school and one of the top linebackers in the transfer portal this year, is now listed as a student in Ohio State's public student directory, indicating that he will be enrolling in the university. Gaoteote could begin classes as soon as Tuesday, when Ohio State's six-week Summer Session 2 is set to begin.
Neither Gaoteote nor Ohio State had confirmed he would join the Buckeyes as of late Friday night, though Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington hinted at a coming addition to his room with a pair of tweets on Thursday and Friday:
Ohio State has been pursuing the potential addition of Gaoteote since former Tennessee linebacker Henry To'o To'o's commitment to Alabama in May. At the time of To'o To'o's decision, Gaoteote was expected to transfer to Texas, but Ohio State jumped back in the race and appears to have convinced Gaoteote to become a Buckeye instead.
Rated as the top inside linebacker and the No. 15 overall player in the class of 2018, Gaoteote was previously recruited by the Buckeyes out of high school before ultimately choosing USC. He is ranked by 247Sports as the third-best linebacker in the transfer portal this year, behind To'o To'o and Mike Jones Jr., who transferred to LSU from Clemson.
With the Trojans, Gaoteote made an immediate impact as a true freshman, registering 38 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. He was limited by an ankle injury in 2019, but still had 58 tackles and three tackles for loss in eight games. Gaoteote only played in USC's first two games in 2020, missing time with a concussion before electing to enter the transfer portal.
If Gaoteote joins the Buckeyes, he'll immediately become the most experienced linebacker on Ohio State's 2021 roster and will likely be in line for a starting spot at either Mike or Will linebacker. The Buckeyes are replacing their top four linebackers from last season: Pete Werner, Tuf Borland, Baron Browning and Justin Hilliard.
A cousin of Ohio State defensive tackle Haskell Garrett, who he previously played with at Las Vegas' Bishop Gorman High School, Gaoteote would be the second transfer addition for the Buckeyes this offseason. Noah Ruggles, a graduate transfer kicker from North Carolina, announced he was transferring to Ohio State last week.