Ohio State secured signatures from 19 high school prospects on Wednesday, seven of which rank among the top-100 recruits nationally, headlined by Florida five-star wide receiver Brandon Inniss.
“For me, on a day like today, these 19 guys that have signed right now, they deserve the recognition,” head coach Ryan Day said during his press conference this afternoon. “It’s a great group, and when you look at the quality of the people that we’re bringing in, that’s the focus right now.”
Ten different states are represented, including seven players from Ohio, four from Florida, two from Georgia and one apiece from Connecticut, Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, South Dakota and Texas.
“These are guys that want to be Buckeyes, and they know the opportunity here,” Day said. “A lot of these guys did it for the right reasons, focusing on the things that truly matter.
“It’s the development at Ohio State, it’s the ability to come in and get an unbelievable education, it’s being a part of a program that’s going to be in the national championship hunt every year, but also be a part of the culture and the city of Columbus.
“There’s just so many things that come with being a Buckeye that these guys recognized early on, and it’s about relationships, and I think our coaching staff did an unbelievable job of building relationships throughout this process.”
More News From Sports Illustrated: College Football Bowl Schedule | It’s Time To Get Rid Of College Football’s December Signing Period | How A 12-Team Playoff Would Have Looked Every Year Of CFP | The Ultimate Dabo Swinney Quote
With that said, we’ve compiled a list of our biggest takeaways from the Early Signing Period below.
Buckeyes Strike Out With Elite Defensive Ends
Ohio State went 0-for-3 on Wednesday when it comes to five-star defensive ends, as Keon Keeley signed with Alabama, Damon Wilson signed with Georgia and Matayo Uiagalelei signed with Oregon.
It was a disappointing finish for the Buckeyes, who trended with each player at various points in their respective recruitments but ultimately struck out late in the process due to NIL-related reasons.
“We felt like we were in pretty good position with a couple guys that didn’t work out in the end,” Day said. “We’ll keep recruiting. We’ll keep seeing what’s out there, but we’re always going to swing at the best players at the country.”
It wasn’t all bad news, though, as defensive line coach Larry Johnson was able to secure a signature from Indiana four-star Joshua Mickens, who figures to play the same hybrid role as sophomore Jack Sawyer.
“To add Josh to the class was great,” Day said. “He’s a guy that’s very athletic, a basketball player. For him to make the decision down the stretch was big for us. We think he can be a very, very good player.
“We also like Jason Moore’s ability to go inside and outside. He’s shown that. He was the player of the year in the area, had a big-time season, so he was important to get … I’m glad that we have the guys we have in this class.”
Ohio State Continues To Make Ohio A Priority
As mentioned, the Buckeyes signed seven in-state prospects on Wednesday, including offensive linemen Luke Montgomery, Joshua Padilla and Austin Siereveld, defensive tackle Will Smith Jr., linebacker Arvell Reese, cornerback Jermaine Mathews and safety Malik Hartford.
It’s the highest number of Ohioans in a class since 2020, when Ohio State signed eight players from within the state’s borders. There was a concerted effort to keep them home, too, as local players are often the foundation of championship-level teams.
“It’s more important than ever to make sure we have guys from Ohio and that we’re evaluating the guys in Ohio at a high level because between the transfer portal, the combination with NIL, there’s so many things that come with it,” Day said. “All these guys are going to have an impact. We can feel it.
“Up until the last 48 hours, guys were calling them and recruiting them and talking to them about all kinds of different things, and they stayed loyal. That’s probably not going to go away because of the transfer portal, so the loyalty and understanding what it means to be a Buckeye is very, very important, and now more than ever.”
Ohio State Signs Four Linemen But Need Remains
Even though Ohio State signed four offensive linemen on Wednesday in Montgomery, Padilla, Siereveld and Connecticut three-star tackle Miles Walker, offensive line coach Justin Frye has extended offers to several tackles in the portal over the last week.
That includes Rhode Island’s Ajani Cornelius, Tulsa’s Dillon Wade, UTEP’s Jeremiah Byers and Washington State’s Jarrett Kingston, as the Buckeyes would like to add some starting-caliber players at a position that is likely to lose All-Americans Dawand Jones and Paris Johnson after the season.
“We’re not just going to add guys just to add guys, but if it’s right for them and it’s right for us, we’re certainly going to look down that road,” Day said. “I do think there’s a need to have some impact players in the (offensive) line. We’re going to lose some guys there.”
Cornelius and Byers came off the board on Wednesday, signing with Oregon and Florida State respectively, while Wade is down to Auburn and USC. How things progress with Kingston remains to be seen, but expect Ohio State to continue to be active in the portal in an effort to address that need.
The same goes for a few other positions, namely defensive line given the aforementioned misses, as well as defensive back, which we’ll discuss momentarily. But otherwise, the Buckeyes did a good job of checking off the boxes at other positions this cycle.
“I think we’ve addressed a good portion of our needs,” Day said, noting there’s still more than a month until the traditional Signing Day and another portal window to add pieces. “I don’t think we’re all the way there yet, but this is going to be a long process all the way through until we play next year.”
Scroll to Continue
Five Decommitments Speak To Current Landscape
Georgia four-star cornerback Kayin Lee flipped his pledge to Auburn on Wednesday, making him the fifth player to back off his commitment to Ohio State this cycle.
The others were Tennessee four-star quarterback Brock Glenn (Florida State), Florida four-star running back Mark Fletcher (Miami), Tennessee four-star tight end Ty Lockwood (Alabama) and Florida four-star cornerback Dijon Johnson (Florida).
That’s not an unusually high number, as the Buckeyes averaged just under four decommitments per cycle over the last five classes. The biggest difference is why several of them changed their minds, as they were motivated by name, image and likeness opportunities elsewhere.
“I just think it’s kind of the way of the world right now,” Day said. “Some guys decommit two or three times before they sign nowadays. I would say if it were 10 years ago, I’d probably say, ‘What’s going on?’
“I remember a time when somebody committed that everybody just stopped recruiting them. That doesn’t change anything anymore. With all the different things out there right now, guys are changing their minds and we just have to adapt to it. That just means when they commit, we just keep recruiting them.”
Jayden Bonsu Is MIA-mi Bound?
Along those same lines, the Buckeyes are still awaiting word from New Jersey four-star safety Jayden Bonsu, who took part in a ceremony at his high school on Tuesday while wearing an Ohio State hat but didn’t send in his paperwork on Wednesday as Miami continues to push for a flip.
It’s a surprising turn of events, as Bonsu presumably turned down similar name, image and likeness offers or opportunities from the Hurricanes when he committed to the Buckeyes in August, only for them to pop back up just as he was set to put pen to paper.
It would be a tough pill to swallow for Ohio State if he does flip, as the staff has long wanted to take three safeties in the class – and even potentially a fourth with Bonsu, Hartford Florida four-star Cedrick Hawkins if they could have flipped five-star Caleb Downs from Alabama.
“Being a three-safety defense, we needed numbers there,” Day said. “We didn’t have multiple years recruiting to a three-safety system, so it was important that we did that and will continue to do that.”
With Downs – and every other safety they’ve offered this cycle – now off the board after signing on Wednesday, Bonsu’s importance is only amplified. If he does flip, the Buckeyes will likely have to look to the transfer portal for help on the back end next fall, as well as potentially loading up on safeties in 2024.
Then again, Bonsu could just as easily stick with his commitment to Ohio State, rendering this entire point moot. And now we wait…
Get your Ohio State football and basketball tickets from SI Tickets. Also, be sure to check out our new message…