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National Signing Day, albeit not as exciting as years past due to the early signing period, has come and gone. The 2024 Ohio State recruiting class has wrapped up yet another successful recruiting cycle with a top-five class in the nation.

For the first time since 2019, the Buckeyes did not finish with the top class in the Big Ten with Oregon taking the top spot. Given, that Ohio State did take quality over quantity; they earned the commitments of 22 players, by far the fewest of the top-five classes. According to 247Sports, Ohio State had the third-best average ranking per player, only behind Georgia and Alabama. That Alabama mark does include some players who signed but elected to transfer out after Nick Saban retired.

Let’s take a look at the 10 scholarship defensive commits of the 2024 Ohio State recruiting class. This will only feature the incoming freshmen and not those who transferred in (ie. Caleb Downs). The italicized names are the early enrollees.

Looking at the 2024 Ohio State Recruiting Class: Defense

Defensive Line

Eddrick Houston

The recruitment for Eddrick Houston‘s services was a rollercoaster. For a while, the rumors surrounding defensive line coach Larry Johnson‘s retirement were held against Ohio State. There was even an idea that Johnson told Jaylahn Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer that he would be in Columbus for the extent of their careers. Despite those rumors and negative recruiting, Houston picked Ohio State over the likes of Alabama and Clemson.

As the top defensive commit, Houston has high expectations. As a composite five-star player, there will be a hope Houston can get early playing time. However, he said that his development is more important.

He comes in as an elite athlete at his size (six-foot-three, 270 pounds unverified) and has all the tools coaches look for. Houston has positional flexibility so even if he does not make an impact in 2024, he will get his shot in 2025 when the Buckeyes likely have to replace the entire defensive line.

Eric Mensah

If there was going to be a year where Ohio State could afford to take a few more projects, it would be 2024. The defensive tackle from Virginia looks like a high-upside project for Johnson.

Eric Mensah was a four-year starter at Mountain View High School and was originally a Virginia Tech commit. He caught Johnson’s eye at an Ohio State camp and the opportunity to be developed in a program like the Buckeyes was too good to pass up.

He has a high motor and quick get-off at the line and was able to plug the running lanes in the interior. As an interior defender, that quick response is crucial for the Buckeyes and was a big reason for the emergence of Tyleik Williams. As with Houston, Mensah will not see much playing time as he will focus on development. However, it will be interesting to see if he can make an impact in 2025 and beyond.

Dominic Kirks

The lone signee at the traditional National Signing Day for the 2024 Ohio State recruiting class, Dominic Kirks flipped from Washington to his home state team. Kirks comes to Ohio State from Painesville, Ohio, and elected to make the jump to Ohio State after Washington lost its head coach.

After the Buckeyes lost Justin Scott to Miami (FL) and the rumors swirled around Houston, Ohio State defensive line recruiting felt like it was in a bad place. Now, with the addition of Kirks, the class rounds out well.

Kirks, as a prospect, was a former basketball player who got better and better each year. He has good size for an Ohio State edge rusher and is already pretty polished as a pass rusher. Once he adds a little more size, he can be the latest in a long line of NFL-ready defensive ends.

In just seven games as a senior, Kirks amassed 43 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 11.5 sacks. He has the potential to grow into a real impact player.

Linebackers

Payton Pierce

The Buckeyes dipped into Texas for another elite defender and came away with one of the top linebackers in the class. Payton Pierce was considered a top-16 linebacker in the nation and he showed why with 181 tackles, 40 tackles for loss, eight sacks, four forced fumbles, four pass breakups, and even added a pair of blocked kicks. On offense, Pierce scored 11 touchdowns.

Ohio State’s defense has lacked a true game-changer at linebacker for some time. The 2024 corps will likely be settled going into Spring practice, so Pierce gets to develop behind some veterans. He has a great nose for the football, evident by the nearly 200 tackles in 14 games. His athleticism will be a great foundation for Jim Knowles to build upon.

Garrett Stover

Just like with another star ‘tweener the Buckeyes locked down a few years ago in Sonny Styles, Garrett Stover comes to Columbus with top-20 acumen. Stover was a hard-hitting, downhill linebacker from Walnut Hills in Ohio and was a top-six player in the state. Reportedly, he is going to stick at linebacker despite being listed as a safety on recruiting sites.

As the cousin of Cade Stover, there will be high expectations. The new Stover has a sideline-to-sideline range and will likely look to get as many special teams reps as possible in 2024.

Cornerbacks

Aaron Scott

If there’s one area where Ohio State hit banger after banger after banger, it’s in the secondary, led by the top Ohio recruit, Aaron Scott. Scott comes to Ohio State as a top-five corner in the nation and has enough talent to be able to step in and make a Jermaine Matthews-like impact as a true freshman.

Of all of the commitments, Scott’s was perhaps the most theatrical and cathartic. He was at the table with hats and backpacks for all of the possible schools, put on and tossed aside all of them, including Ohio State’s. He finally “settled” on a Michigan backpack and unzipped it to unveil an Ohio State jersey.

Scott is a sticky, physical corner who plays bigger than he actually is. He has impressive instincts and ball skills and, while stepping into a veteran-laden room, can challenge to be one of the first guys off the bench.

Bryce West

Another four-star player on the way to Ohio State, Bryce West is another physical corner who has a high ceiling. And, like Scott, West is home-grown.

West’s defensive scheme in high school was primarily man coverage. So, he’s had to match up one-on-one with receivers up and down Glenville’s schedule. He’s the latest in a long line of Glenville-to-Ohio State pipeline.

West is a multi-sport athlete but the most impressive stat is the fact that he did not allow a single touchdown in coverage as a junior en route to a state title.

Miles Lockhart

Finally, the third of three elite corner recruits comes from Arizona. Miles Lockhart was a later win for Tim Walton‘s secondary and is no slouch despite being rated lower than the other two.

In his recruitment, Lockhart knew where he wanted to go the second that Ohio State offer came in. For a player from Ohio or a buried three-star recruit who only has Group of 5 offers, it makes sense. For a four-star corner in Arizona with numerous Power 4 offers, Lockhart really wanted to be a Buckeye.

He projects as more of a slot corner, according to his quotes leading up to National Signing Day. With that position currently being occupied by a few solid veterans, Lockhart will have time to develop and make an impact down the line.

Safeties

Jaylen McClain

The top safety in the 2024 Ohio State recruiting class is a top-50 player at his position. Jaylen McClain chose the Buckeyes over the likes of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Georgia among others. The four-star safety has some positional flexibility to him as he can suit up as an outside corner or even a nickel.

McClain is a complete athlete and was a track star in high school. He has the speed to keep up with the best receivers. He can also come downhill to assist in the run game. 247Sports believes that he is a strong tackler and can set the edge when needed. With the safety positions locked up by a veteran on one side and one of the top defensive players in the nation on the other, McClain has no rush to get onto the field.

Leroy Roker

After being plucked from Florida, Leroy Roker is on his way to Ohio State as the second safety in the class. He’s a lower three-star recruit, so could the Buckeyes have found a diamond in the rough?

As with McClain, Roker is a multi-sport athlete. At Bishop Verot, he played basketball and ran track. He did transfer high schools. And he burst onto the scene after a 70-yard touchdown reception to go with a pair of interceptions. He played some running back as well, so he’s more than willing to dish out some hits.

 

2024 Ohio State recruiting
Photo courtesy:  Brooke LaValley/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK
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