The Ohio State Recruiting Almanac For The Penn State Game

COLUMBUS – Every home game this season Ohio State has had recruits on campus. It’s common practice. However, the volume of how many recruits visits varies from game to game.

Saturday night when the Penn State Nittany Lions travel to Columbus for a primetime Big Ten East showdown, the volume of recruits may hit an all-time high under Ryan Day with over 50 highly regarded recruits expected.

Additionally, men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann and wrestling coach Tom Ryan will have some key visitors in as well to soak up the game-day environment at Ohio State.

Defensive Line Dominant

Two of Ohio State’s official visitors this weekend are along the defensive line, including four-star defensive lineman Hero Kanu who visited Columbus on his own dime this summer and camped with OSU defensive line coach Larry Johnson twice. The big difference this time around is that Kanu will be joined by his mother. Building a good relationship with Mom could give the Buckeyes a big leg up in this recruitment.

Four-star defensive end Marvin Jones Jr. out of American Heritage (FL) will also be making his first visit to Columbus on an official. Larry Johnson has been building his relationship with Jones Jr. for some time and with a good visit this weekend the Buckeyes may be able to vault to the top of his list.

Two other major defensive line targets for Ohio State will be in town as well on unofficial visits. Five-star defensive end Omari Abor out of Duncanville (TX) will make his second trip to Columbus after taking an official visit in June. Center Grove (IN) four-star defensive lineman Caden Curry will make his second trip to Columbus this fall as well after taking his official visit for the Oregon game.

When it comes to the 2023 defensive line, there will be two big defensive tackles on campus for Saturday’s game. The first is four-star Keith Sampson Jr. out of New Bern, North Carolina who camped with Larry Johnson this summer and holds an offer from the Buckeyes. The other defensive line prospect is Kayden McDonald out of North Gwinnett (GA) High School. The four-star prospect is a former high school teammate of Ohio State cornerback Jordan Hancock and he picked up an offer in September.

Plenty of Studs Coming to See Coach Stud

The headliner of the offensive line group is undoubtedly St. John Bosco (CA) standout Earnest Greene who visited Ohio State unofficially this summer. He has visited Texas and Georgia this fall and many assume his trip to Athens put the Bulldogs in front of the Buckeyes. This official visit will be an opportunity for Greg Studrawa and Ryan Day to flip the momentum back to the Buckeyes.

Four-star offensive lineman Carson Hinzman from Saint Croix Central (WI) will visit Ohio State once again after taking an official visit in June. The 6-foot-4 and 280-pound prospect earned an offer from the Buckeyes on his official visit. Hinzman’s recruitment appears to be shaping up as a battle between Ohio State and the in-state Wisconsin Badgers.

Sliding over to the 2023 offensive line group, it is headlined by two in-state prospects with four-stars Luke Montgomery and Josh Padilla. Saturday will be Montgomery’s second time in Columbus for a game this fall. As for Padilla, this will be the third game he’s been in Columbus for this season and a decision might not be too far off. 

Another offensive line prospect that will be in town is four-star Brycen Sanders of Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This will be the second time the 6-foot-5 and 280-pound prospect has visited Ohio State since visits opened in June. However, he has yet to receive an offer from the Buckeyes. Maybe that changes this weekend.

Nwankpa and Branch Headline Defensive Back Visitors

Ohio State will get two of its top remaining targets in the 2022 class back on campus for the game on Saturday. Those targets are of course five-star safety Xavier Nwankpa out of Southeast Polk (IA) and four-star safety Zion Branch out of Bishop Gorman (NV). 

Nwankpa has been to Iowa a handful of times this fall and the home state school is fighting Ohio State tooth and nail here. Notre Dame is the other school in the running and Nwankpa visited South Bend last weekend when the Fighting Irish beat USC. Getting the 6-foot-2 and 190-pound defensive playmaker back on campus before his Dec. 8 decision was vital for the Buckeyes.

Speaking of USC, that seems to be the Buckeyes’ main competition when it comes to Zion Branch, and with the head coaching change in Los Angeles, this weekend’s visit could help seal the deal for Ohio State. Clemson and Alabama are expected to receive visits at some point but the Trojans and Buckeyes are the most talked-about teams for Branch

For both Branch and Nwankpa, this will be their second visit to Ohio State, and both times they visited together.

When it comes to the other defensive backs that will be on campus, the big name is probably Elliot Washington out of Venice, Florida. The 2023 four-star prospect camped with Matt Barnes in June and the two seemed to click. Pulling Washington out of the south will be tough but this weekend could go a lot way in making that happen. 

DeSmet High School in St. Louis, Missouri has been good to Ohio State. They signed cornerback J’Kailan Johnson out of their last cycle. Now the Buckeyes are hoping to get another defensive back out of DeSmet in 2023 four-star Christian Gray. After camping with the Buckeyes in July, Gray is high on Ohio State and having Johnson in the program doesn’t hurt. 

One in-state prospect to know in this group is four-star Lakota West safety Malik Hartford who has been one of Ohio’s hottest junior prospects this fall. He has picked up a handful of offers in October and Ohio State is beginning to show interest.

A Big-time Lineup of Linebackers

He may be a defensive back, he may be a linebacker, or maybe he ends up a mixture of both. We are of course talking about Pickerington Central five-star defender Sonny Styles. There is not a more important recruit for Ohio State in the 2023 class than the 6-foot-4 and 205-pound local product, so getting him on campus again is big for Ryan Day. 

If you add Styles to the linebacker group there might not be a better positional group of visitors. Troy Bowles out of Tampa Jesuit (FL) is the headliner, the four-star prospect camped at Ohio State this summer and he seems to mesh really well with Al Washington. The Buckeyes seem to be in the driver’s seat here early.

The other star linebacker that’ll make his way to Columbus for the Penn State game is Jaiden Ausberry out of University Lab in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He is another player that camped with Al Washington this summer and the two got along well but this will be a tight race for the five-star prospect from the south. 

Additionally, one of the more intriguing visitors for this weekend is Marist (IL) three-star linebacker Jimmy Rolder who has gone from no offers to ten in just over two weeks, including one from Ohio State. This will be the 2022 prospects’ first time meeting the Ohio State coaching staff let alone visiting Columbus.

Young Quarterbacks Flocking to Ohio State

Ever since Ryan Day took over as the head coach in Columbus he has made Ohio State a very attractive place for quarterback prospects evident by this weekend’s visitor list.

Perhaps the country’s No. 1 prospect in the 2024 class, Jadyn Davis will be on campus once again. The Catawba Ridge (SC) standout camped with Ohio State and Ryan Day in June before visiting earlier this season for the Oregon game. Ohio State has worked hard to build an early lead here and the hope is that Saturday’s showing adds onto that.

Two other 2024 quarterbacks will be in town along with Davis. Adrian Posse out of Monsignor Pace in Opa Locka, Florida earned an offer from Ohio State after a June camp and this will be his first trip back to Ohio State since that camp. Dylan Raiola out of Burelson, Texas is the other 2024 quarterback that will be in attendance and this will be DFW natives’ first visit to Ohio State

Joining his brother Luke, 2025 Findlay (OH) quarterback Ryan Montgomery will be making his second visit to Ohio State this season. It comes after landing an offer from Notre Dame following a trip to South Bend last weekend.

As for 2023, five-star Dante Moore out of Martin Luther King in Detriot, Michigan will make the drive down to Columbus. The star signal-caller earned an offer from Ohio State this summer following a camp performance.

Running Backs and Route Runners

At the running back position, it all begins with Richard Young. The five-star prospect out of Lehigh Acres, Florida will be making his third trip to Columbus since June. He and Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford have formed a close bond, so being in town for Saturday’s game can only help the Buckeyes’ chances here.

On top of getting Young back on campus, Ohio State will also get four-star Justice Haynes out of Blessed Trinity (GA) back to Columbus once again. Tony Alford is planning to take two running backs in 2023 and potentially pairing Haynes with Young would be a home run.

A third running back will be in Columbus on Saturday and that will be Willtrell Hartson out of Massillon Washington. The Ohio native is someone Ohio State likes and is keeping a close eye on. This will be Hartson’s second visit to Columbus this season.

Going out wide, Brian Hartline will get some of his top 2023 targets on campus as well. Namely four-star wide receiver Carnell Tate out of IMG Academy (FL) who is the top receiver prospect on Ohio State’s board. After delaying an early October decision, Tate has slowed his recruitment down a bit but the Buckeyes still remain near the top of his list.

Joining his brother Zion, four-star Bishop Gorman (NV) wide receiver Zachariah Branch will also be in Columbus. He is another prospect high on Hartline’s board. Much like his brother’s recruitment, USC’s coaching situation being in flux plays a role in Zachariah’s recruitment. If Ohio State were able to land his older brother that might also net them the younger and quicker Branch.

An in-state wide receiver will also be in town in the form of Minnesota commit Anthony Brown out of Springfield (OH) who camped with the Buckeyes twice this summer will visit for the second time this season. Ohio State and specifically Brian Hartline are keeping a close eye on Brown.

Commits Coming into Town

The Buckeyes currently have 16 commitments in the 2022 class and 14 of them are expected to be in town for this weekend’s game against Penn State. All five of the in-state commitments will be in town led by ‘Captain Buckeye” himself, C.J. Hicks. He will be joined by close friend and top-notch recruiter Kyion Grayes, both of whom will look to close the deal with mutual pal Xavier Nwankpa. Getting out of state commits like Terrance Brooks back on campus are almost as important as the targets because the Buckeyes will be able to spend some time with them as well.

Ohio State’s lone 2023 commit will also be in Columbus for Saturday’s game and that is of course four-star tight end Ty Lockwood out of Independence (TN) High School. The 6-foot-5 and 225-pound prospect will surely have his recruiting hat on.

Only Three For Holtmann and Co.

There might not be a better display of what the Ohio State fan base is like than a big-time home football game and every program in Columbus knows it. As a result, Chris Holtmann and his coaching staff are bringing in only three visitors this weekend but they are all key officials.

With three prospects in town that means that essentially each assistant will be able individually in charge of one prospect. For assistant coach Ryan Pedon, his prospect will be four-star point guard George Washington III out of Christian Academy of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky. Washington visited earlier this fall for the Akron game after visiting during June. Ohio State also sent Pedon to see him on the first day of the evaluation period. Needless to say, the Buckeyes are high on this young man and this official could go a long way in this recruitment.

Assistant Jake Diebler will be in charge of showing the highest ranked basketball visitor around and that would be Sean Stewart out of Windermere High School (FL). The high four-star prospect is someone a lot of schools are after but Diebler has put in a lot of work here. He went down to Florida to see him on the first day of the evaluation period during the summer on the AAU circuit. Ohio State is swinging big with this massive forward prospect and Diebler is setting them up nicely. This weekend’s visit will be key.

Finally, first-year assistant Tony Skinn will play host to four-star guard Jahnathan Lamothe out of St. Frances Academy in Baltimore Maryland. A DMV product himself, Skinn is well-known and well-liked in the area so the Buckeyes have used that to gain some traction in this recruitment. Following the theme, Lamothe is a player that Skinn went out to see on the first day of the evaluation period. The rankings on this young man are mixed but the Buckeyes would be ecstatic to land him and this official visit could go a long way in helping them do that.

Wrestling Program Ready To Turn The Page to 2023

Tom Ryan and his staff have done a masterful job putting together their 2022 recruiting class led by Nick Feldman, Nic Bouzakis and Seth Shumate, all of whom are top-20 pound-for-pound wrestlers in the country. And all of whom will be on campus again this weekend.

The Buckeyes only have a couple of targets left in the 2022 class with the main one being Jesse Mendez, another top-five pound-for-pound prospect who visited in June for an official and again last month. With less than two weeks till early signing day, the focus is on Mendez and St. Edwards senior Luke Geog who will be in town on Saturday. Ohio State is at or near the top for both Geog and Mendez as signing day rapidly approaches.

As for 2023, the Buckeyes are already off to a great start landing top-10 pound-for-pound prospect in his class Rocco Welsh. And after the size of their 2022 class, the next class won’t be the biggest but there are still needs. Primarily, the long-term answer at 125-pounds after Malik Heinselman, which is why Latrobe (PA) product Vinny Kilkeary is a key visitor for Ryan and Co. this weekend. Kilkeary took an unofficial visit for the Oregon game last month and if this official goes as planned he could be a Buckeye sooner rather than later, filling a big need.

Another prospect that the wrestling program is excited to get on campus this weekend is Davison (MI) standout Josh Barr who took home the 2021 Fargo title at 160-pounds. Ohio State is battling a slew of top-tier programs here like Iowa and Penn State but the Buckeyes are giving it their best shot. Pairing Barr with Welsh long-term would be a dream for Tom Ryan, making this official visit crucial. 

Teays Valley’s (OH) own Camden McDaniel will also be on an official visit this weekend. Adding someone like McDaniel to the program could answer a few different questions, which are why the Buckeyes wanted to get him on campus this weekend.

Due to the pandemic shutting down all visits last fall it has been quite some time since Ohio State athletics have seen a visit weekend of this magnitude.

For all the post-visit coverage on all of these prospects stay locked here to Buckeye Scoop!