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Defensive Decommits: How did they pan out?

In the wake of the news of a potential decommitment from corner Dijon Johnson, there have understandably been some fans in Buckeye Nation on edge about the defensive recruiting and the possibility of more decommitments. This was quite intriguing to me, so I decided to go back and evaluate all of Ohio State’s defensive decommitments since 2017, and see what impact those players made elsewhere.

2017:

Antjuan Simmons, OLB. When the Ann Arbor product pledged to the Buckeyes, there was the excitement that always comes with pulling a player out of your rival’s backyard. But, Simmons ultimately decommitted from the Buckeyes in November of 2016. One of the hometown teams eventually won out and Simmons was Sparty bound. At Michigan State, Simmons had a decent career at Michigan State and had a very productive COVID-shortened 2020 season. Unfortunately for Simmons, he went undrafted the following spring.

2018:

Brenton Cox, DL. The Georgia 5-Star was seen as a big-time get for Larry Johnson to go with fellow 5-Star, Taron Vincent. But, by December of 2017, Cox decommitted from the Buckeyes and flipped to the Bulldogs. Cox’s career at Georgia never really took off due to some off-of-the-field troubles, and he ended up transferring to Dan Mullen’s Florida Gators. His career at Florida, however, has been much stronger as he has turned himself into one of the better pass rushers in the SEC with his senior year still to play. It is impossible to predict whether the off-the-field troubles would have happened had he enrolled at Ohio State, but the Gator version of Cox is definitely a player Ohio State could have used.

Jaiden Woodbey, DB. The St. John Bosco product had a roller coaster of a recruitment process. He felt like one that would be difficult to hold on to from the day he committed, but Buckeye Nation was optimistic. The optimism eventually waned and Woodbey chose to play for Jimbo Fisher at Florida State. After starting as a freshman, Woodbey, unfortunately, sustained a season-ending injury in 2019 and was subsequently unable to stay completely healthy over the next three seasons. He transferred to the Fighting Jeff Hafley’s before the 2021 season and was somewhat productive despite his injury troubles. With the final chapter of his college career yet to be written, he figures to be the starting safety for the 2022 squad and is looking to improve his NFL draft stock in his last season. Based on his film, his athleticism is not what it once was, but he is a solid contributor in the ACC.

Andrew Chatfield, OLB. Chatfield committed to the Buckeyes as a defensive end, but was projected as a linebacker. When Chatfield decommitted, he accepted a scholarship offer to Florida. His career there never materialized and he has since transferred to Oregon State and is now in his final season looking to get the attention of NFL scouts.

2019

Jordan Battle, S. Look away Buckeye Nation because this one stings. Battle was a highly regarded 4-Star safety out of the NFL factory, St. Thomas Aquinas. Battle’s decommitment stung, but was not unexpected. In the wake of Urban Meyer’s retirement, there was plenty of uncertainty around the future of the Ohio State program, and there were bound to be casualties. Unfortunately, Battle was one of them and he flipped to Alabama. Battle has been a very good player for the Tide and was a part of the team that defeated Ohio State in the National Championship (we all remember that targeting call). Battle figures to be an NFL draft pick at the conclusion of his senior season, and was most certainly a tough loss for the Buckeyes, as the 2019 DB class has proved to be relatively thin, to say the least.

Kane Patterson, ILB. The one-time Ohio State commit was thought to be a linebacker in the mold of a Pete Werner type. His decommitment was a tough one for Buckeye fans to swallow, as he flipped to the Clemson Tigers and Dabo Swinney, arguably a bigger villain than Saban in the eyes of the fan base. His career at Clemson did not live up to expectations as he was mainly a special teams contributor. He has since transferred to Vanderbilt and is looking to make an impact in his senior season.

2020

Clark Phillips, CB. Yet another stinger for Buckeye nation. His relationship with Jeff Haley was very strong, and when Harley took the Boston College job, it became apparent that Phillips was going to look elsewhere. He ultimately took his abilities to the Utah Utes, where he has been a very quality player for the Utes. The Buckeye offense eventually got the last laugh from him in the 2022 Rose Bowl, but even still, Phillips is a player the program could have used last year and this upcoming season.

2021

Tunmise Adeleye, DE. Adeleye’s commitment was met with a fair amount of skepticism, and rightfully so. In fact, our own Bill Greene even predicted that he would decommit. To no surprise, the Bank had this one totally nailed, and Adeleye decommited and flipped to Texas A&M. During the 2021 season, Adeleye redshirted, but he is projected to crack his way into their DL rotation.

Devonta Smith, CB. This decommitment was somewhat surprising for Buckeye Nation, seeing as Smith is a Cincinnati La Salle product, and seemed like a natural fit for the Buckeyes. But, Nick Saban came to town and he got this one flipped in the favor of the Crimson Tide, fittingly enough. Smith is looking to uphold the legacy of Devonta Smiths to play at Alabama but on the other side of the ball.

Recruiting is ultimately a crapshoot in many ways, but coaches at schools like Ohio State and Alabama are like true gambling professionals who understand the math at a very high level. While decommitments may sting, those players do not always live up to their lofty rankings and many of them will experience roster attrition and transfer.

As it has been stated, the biggest losses in recruiting are the players who take up scholarship spots with little on-field production. Based on the analysis, it would appear that Ohio State’s biggest decommitments have been from the DB room, and that, quite frankly, was on display the past two seasons. That being said, the defensive back room is in much better hands moving forward with Burke, Brown, Hancock, and Johnson, who are all capable of being legitimate NFL draft picks.