Better Know a Buckeye: Dominic Kirks Brings Versatility to Play Anywhere on Ohio State’s Defensive Line

By Josh Poloha on May 9, 2024 at 10:10 am
Dominic Kirks

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.

Dominic Kirks seemed destined to be a Buckeye, but with a high school career that included two different schools *and* a knee injury during his senior season, his road to Columbus took a couple of detours. In the end, the No. 24 defensive lineman (No. 162 overall) in the 2024 class still ended up at Ohio State, the school he always wanted to attend even if his rollercoaster recruitment made it seem like it wasn't going to end up that way at times.

Dominic Kirks

  • Size: 6-4/255
  • Pos: DL
  • School: Riverside (Painesville, Ohio)
  • Star Rating: ★★★★
  • Composite Rank: #162 (#24 DL)

How He Became a Buckeye

A northeast Ohio native, Kirks committed to Washington on June 30, 2023. But when he didn't sign with the Huskies during the Early Signing Period in December following defensive Iine coach Eric Schmidt leaving the program to take the defensive coordinator job at San Diego State, speculation immediately began about Kirks staying much closer to home.

Even though he was committed to Washington, Kirks visited Ohio State during the 2023 season for the Maryland game on Oct. 7. After Kalen DeBoer left Washington to take over at Alabama following Nick Saban's retirement, Kirks decommitted from the Huskies. A day later, he made a mid-January official visit to Ohio State. The Painesville, Ohio product left Columbus with an OSU offer, one he had long been hoping to get amid an on-and-off recruitment with his in-state program.

Less than a week later on Jan. 20, Kirks committed to the Buckeyes, giving OSU a third defensive lineman in its 2024 class alongside signees Eddrick Houston and Eric Mensah. He was the final player to join Ohio State’s 2024 recruiting class directly out of high school, though Julian Sayin joined the class as an Alabama transfer one day later.

“It was a little bit late (in the process), but we saw somebody that had a lot of talent,” Day said of Kirks on National Signing Day in February. “Then Larry (Johnson) spent some time with him and then we brought him down here on a visit to see about the fit. I think that’s important because the position coaches and (general manager Mark Pantoni) do a lot of the evaluating, and then it’s my job as the head coach to see if he’s a fit culturally and can embrace what it means to be a Buckeye.

“I think when Dom came down, you quickly saw that this is what he wanted. He wanted to be a Buckeye. He’s from the state of Ohio. He understands the rivalry. There’s a lot that was positive there. He knows he’s going to have to work and compete. So, excited to see how things go with him.”

High School Years

Kirks showcased his athleticism as both a football and basketball player during high school. On the gridiron, Kirks used his big frame to give opposing linemen nightmares on Friday nights, showcasing the speed to rush from the edge and the strength to run opposing interior offensive linemen over.

He spent his first three years of high school at Villa Angela-St. Joseph in Cleveland before transferring to Riverside High School in Painesville, Ohio, a move that jumpstarted Kirks' recruitment to Ohio State given how well he played during his final high school season.

Kirks had a magnificent senior year, racking up 86 tackles (17 for loss), 11 sacks, an interception and four pass deflections despite playing in just seven games due to a knee injury.

Immediate Impact

Given that he will be a summer enrollee and the fact that Jack Sawyer, JT Tuimoloau, Caden Curry and Kenyatta Jackson Jr. are all back on the defensive end two-deep, Kirks' first season in Columbus will likely be a redshirt year.

At 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, Kirks doesn't need to add much more weight when he arrives at Ohio State. Getting used to the speed of the collegiate game could take some time, though.

"It's interesting because coach Larry Johnson reminded him that when he comes to OSU, he doesn't have to worry about bulking up at this point in time," Riverside coach Dave Bors told Eleven Warriors in January when asked what position he envisions Kirks playing at the next level. "That'll evolve and take care of itself. But he wanted him in shape and to hit the ground running. His weight that he's at right now is totally fine with Ohio State. They want to see how his feet improve, his hips and his flexibility, his use of hands and things like that."

Bors said Kirks knows he has to develop in his first year as a Buckeye before he’ll be ready to play a major role on the defensive line.

​“There's a lot that he can work on and he knows he can work on it,” Bors said. “He's such a gifted athlete right now, but that's a very positive development.”

Long-Term Impact

Depending on how Kirks develops in year one, he could either remain at defensive end or move to the interior defensive line going forward.

“Once they see what he can do with their tutelage, then they'll decide 'Alright, we have this guy that can do this, we'll put another 25 on him then move him inside' or 'We really like what we've been doing with him on the outside, we'll keep him here and tweak the things we think he needs to tweak,'” Bors said. “I could see it either way.”

Sawyer and Tuimoloau will be on their way to the NFL after the 2024 season. At defensive tackle, Tyleik Williams will also be out of eligibility after the 2024 season while Ty Hamilton will also likely be on his way to the NFL unless he chooses to use a sixth year of eligibility. That will leave the door open for Kirks to compete for significant playing time in year two, though he’ll have plenty of competition on the depth chart no matter which spot he ends up at.

Assuming he develops the way Ohio State thinks he can, he has the physical ability to grow into a future starter for the Buckeyes, an opportunity that’s probably most likely to come his way as a third-year player in 2026.

Player Comparison: Dre'Mont Jones

After redshirting his freshman season in 2015, Jones played both on the inside of the defensive line and on the edge during his time in Columbus. He combined for 71 tackles (nine for loss) and one sack during his redshirt freshman and sophomore campaigns before compiling 43 tackles (13 for loss), 8.5 sacks, an interception, two passes defended, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries and a touchdown his junior year, a stellar season that led to him declaring for the 2019 NFL draft, in which Jones was a third-round pick by the Denver Broncos.

Kirks will likely also take a redshirt year in his first season at Ohio State, but he has the size and versatility to make the same type of impact for the Buckeyes as Jones once did. A fellow Northeast Ohio native, Kirks will look to follow in Jones’ footsteps from Columbus to the NFL.

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