Better Know a Buckeye: Garrett Stover's Athleticism As a Safety-Turned-Linebacker Gives Him the Potential to Be a Force in the Middle of Ohio State's Defense

By Josh Poloha on May 2, 2024 at 3:10 pm
Garrett Stover

Better Know A Buckeye is our look at every member of Ohio State’s 2024 recruiting class and how they became Buckeyes as they prepare to begin their OSU careers this fall.

The top-ranked linebacker in the state of Ohio (No. 10 linebacker in the country) in the 2024 recruiting class, Garrett Stover was destined to follow in his older cousin Cade's footsteps and don the scarlet and gray on Saturdays in the fall.

He will do just that, and call Columbus – a city less than 30 minutes from his hometown – home to begin his college football career.

Garrett Stover

  • Size: 6-1/220
  • Pos: LB
  • School: Big Walnut (Sunbury, Ohio)
  • Star Rating: ★★★★
  • Composite Rank: #141 (#10 LB)

How He Became a Buckeye

Growing up just outside Columbus in Sunbury, Ohio, it was a lifelong dream for Stover to suit up for the Buckeyes, especially after Cade just finished his career at Ohio State.

That dream became closer to reality on June 1, 2022, the day Stover received an OSU offer after a long, grueling workout with Jim Knowles during Ohio State's first camp of the summer. Ryan Day told Garrett's mom and Cade of the news during his workout. And when Garrett got the news, he couldn't hold back his emotions.

“Coach Day called my mom and me to his office and he did it right there,” Stover said. “He put my dad on speakerphone too since he wasn’t there and said we’re offering your son a full scholarship to Ohio State. Obviously, that was a very exciting moment. I got emotional as well. It was really cool.”

Although he got the offer from his favorite team, the one he grew up watching, Stover wanted to take his time, enjoy the recruiting process and not act on pure emotion.

But after essentially being a season ticket holder at Ohio Stadium throughout the 2022 season and making trips to Notre Dame and Clemson, among others, he wasn't just acting on sudden emotion. Stover wanted to achieve that childhood dream and become a Buckeye and did just that, committing to Ohio State a little over five months after receiving an OSU offer.

"I grew up watching the Buckeyes. It was my dream to play there and be a Buckeye," Stover told Eleven Warriors. "As the recruiting process was dying down and college teams were in season, I just thought I was ready. I knew what I wanted, and Ohio State had everything that I wanted. The most important thing was I wanted to be close to home too. I love Ohio State, everything about it, and I knew I was ready now, so let’s do it and get the thing done. I’m really excited."

He became the first defensive commitment for the Buckeyes in the 2024 class and his recruitment was drama-free from that point forward.

Stover had 16 Division I offers and chose Ohio State over the likes of Notre Dame, Michigan State, Kentucky, Iowa State, Northwestern, Pittsburgh, Boston College and Cincinnati.

High School Years

While stats are hard to come by for a defensive player in high school, Stover showed off his coverage ability, versatility, strength and ability to line up all across the defense throughout his time at Big Walnut. During his first two seasons, Stover was a safety. He made the transition to linebacker as a junior and will remain at that position as a Buckeye.

With his transition from safety to linebacker, Stover showcased his coverage ability as a defensive back and power and instincts to run downhill and make a tackle as a linebacker.

Along with playing football, Stover also ran track during his early high school years. As a sophomore in 2022, he ran an 11.50 100-meter dash, had a 5-10 high jump and a 19-11 long jump.

Immediate Impact

Having already bulked up to 220 pounds, Stover will begin his career in Columbus adding more muscle to his 6-foot-1 frame to maximize his potential as a linebacker. While Ohio State initially recruited him as a safety, he will be a linebacker for the Buckeyes.

With Cody Simon, Sonny Styles, C.J. Hicks and either Gabe Powers or Arvell Reese making up the two-deep at Will and Mike linebacker, Stover isn‘t likely to see much playing time if any during his first season in Columbus. Don't be surprised if he makes some noise as a special teamer this fall, though, where he can showcase his athleticism and versatility early on as a Buckeye.

Long-Term Impact

While Ohio State’s two-deep at linebacker is filled with upperclassmen in 2024, Simon will be gone in 2025 and Styles and/or Hicks could realistically declare for the NFL draft. While Stover will have to compete for playing time with the likes of Reese and Powers, among others, his first real shot to gain playing time on defense will be in his sophomore season.

If Styles and/or Hicks forgo their final years of eligibility, Stover could quickly become one of the most versatile players in Ohio State’s linebacker room.

His ability to be a hybrid-type player in the middle of the defense could allow Ohio State to use Stover in similar ways in the future to which it will use Styles this season, and that could allow Stover to get on the field sooner than if he was solely a linebacker. That said, with James Laurinaitis taking over as OSU's linebackers coach, talent won't be hard to come by in that room, including with fellow freshman Payton Pierce.

If things go according to plan, Stover will be a starting Will linebacker for his beloved Buckeyes by his junior season, showcasing his ability to drop into coverage and defend opponents in the defensive backfield like a safety and sniff out plays in the opponent's backfield as a linebacker.

Player Comparison: Ryan Shazier

Living up to the standard that Shazier set at Ohio State will be a tough task and I'm in no way saying that Stover is as good (or will ever be as good) as the former Buckeye was, but the two share some similar qualities: Good in coverage, a nose for the ball, instincts to make the right play and playmaking ability both as a blitzer and dropping into coverage.

As a freshman, Shazier played in every game, including three starts, before starting every game during his final two seasons at Ohio State as a sophomore and junior.

At 6-foot-2 and 222 pounds, Shazier totaled 317 tackles (45.5 for loss), 15 sacks, one interception, one touchdown and four passes defended in three seasons in Columbus before he was selected in the first round (15th overall) in the 2014 NFL draft.

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