To maintain its place among the nation’s elite college football programs, Ohio State cannot rest on the success of its 2017 recruiting class. The Buckeyes are looking to secure top targets for 2018, and they currently have three commits in the class. Each is ranked among the top 61 prospects in the country.
We’re going position-by-position to review the names you need to know in advance of the next signing day. Names will be added and removed, but it’s a place to start the adventure to 2018.
PREVIOUS RECRUITING RESETS:
- QB: Should Ohio State recruit another quarterback in 2018, who could it be?
- RB: Who are the top choices to join Brian Snead in Columbus at running back?
- WR: Breaking down a number of Ohio State’s top WR targets for 2018
- TE: Jeremy Ruckert leads a talented group of tight end options
- Offensive tackle: Jackson Carman is the man at offensive tackle
- Offensive guard: Peach State dreaming as the Buckeyes look for offensive guards
- Defensive end: Ohio State is chasing a number of the country’s best defensive ends
- Defensive tackle: Taron Vincent tops the list, but who else is a big Buckeyes target?
Tuesday afternoon we drop back into coverage and put our spotlight on the linebacker position – starting with those players listed by the 247Sports.com composite as outside linebackers – and the first group that will be recruited primarily by new Ohio State linebackers coach Billy Davis.
The Buckeyes tradition at linebacker obviously is very solid, but for the first time in a long time, it won’t be Luke Fickell selling the vision, and it will be fun to see how that shakes out. Fickell was a “player’s coach” that connected to kids with a mentor-esque aura, and his love for the Ohio State program shone through in every thing he did. It was easy for him to express why he was the right person to lead the young men he recruited. Whether or not Davis can connect with players the same way and take advantage of his NFL pedigree will ultimately mark him a success or otherwise.
The Buckeyes signed three potential linebackers in the 2017 class, though one of them (Brendon White) will now start his Ohio State career at wide receiver. Five-star prospect Baron Browning and Indianapolis 4-star product Pete Werner are very talented players that could push for playing time, on special teams at the least, this coming fall. In 2018, there’s no definite number of linebackers that you should expect to be added, but the spring and summer could open up a few spots, and so we’re going to go look at it as though Ohio State will sign four linebackers next February on signing day.
Ohio State and the top outside linebacker choices
Lets get to the names that you need to know
Dallas Gant | Toledo (Ohio) St. John’s Jesuit | ★★★★
Ohio’s top linebacker in 2018 , this Toledo-area prospect is right at the top of the list for the Buckeyes in 2018.
Gant is nearly college-ready physically at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, and plays a smart, aggressive style of football that fits the Ohio State defense well. He could also play the middle linebacker position: His former high school coach, Doug Pearson, compared him to a Raekwon McMillan-type of person and talent.
Gant was very close to Fickell, and multiple sources confirmed to Land of 10 that he may have committed to Ohio State by now had Fickell not departed for Cincinnati. Notre Dame and Michigan State continue to try to play spoiler, but I think the Buckeyes win out in the end. I expect a decision this spring.
Adrian Jackson | Denver Mullen | ★★★★
The Buckeyes have been at the top of the list for this Denver star since he made his first visit to Ohio State in the summer of 2016.
But it’s sometimes hard to tell exactly where things stand between the Buckeyes and Jackson. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound prospect was a safety until his junior year at Mullen High School but made the transition to linebacker smoothly and without losing the explosiveness that makes him a Top-10 player at his position. He’s recently visited USC and has included the Trojans – along with the Oregon Ducks – in his top tier of schools with Ohio State.
Payton Wilson | Hillsborough (N.C) Orange | ★★★★
The Buckeyes recently offered North Carolina’s seventh-ranked prospect, and he returned the favor in-kind by putting Ohio State among his final six schools.
Top 7? pic.twitter.com/hcucDo1e42
— Payton Wilson (@payton_wilson21) February 22, 2017
The country’s ninth-ranked outside linebacker has not visited Ohio State yet, but the US Army All-American has stated he plans to be on campus in Columbus this spring, and potentially for the April 15 Buckeyes spring football game. A 6-foot-4, 220-pound athlete, Wilson’s body type and game are very similar to 2017 signee Pete Werner. He shows excellent lateral quickness but is in no way shy about going downhill and initiating contact in the middle of the pile.
Christopher Oats | Cincinnati Winton Woods | ★★★★
Ohio has a couple of big-time talents that may play linebacker in college and this is just one more example of that.
If there’s a “problem” with Oats, it is that this particular prospect also kind of looks like he could be a defensive end at the next level. That’s only a problem because you don’t know where he goes, not because he’s not talented enough to bring into your class. Ohio State actually offered Oats before offering Gant, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see both Ohio prospects end up in the Buckeyes’ recruiting class.
Xavier Peters | West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West | ★★★★
Speaking of Ohio prospects that are worth watching, it’s time to start paying attention to this one.
Peters, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound linebacker, is one of the country’s fastest-rising prospects this winter. He’s added offers from South Carolina, Oregon, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, UCLA and Pittsburgh in the last three weeks and has visited Kentucky, Penn State and others. Peters recently had some contact from Ohio State but does not have an offer at this time.
One could argue that, at least in this cycle, the Buckeyes would be set at this position if they just stayed inside Ohio’s borders.
Deandre Square | Detroit Cass Tech | ★★★★
What’s a Buckeyes recruiting class without some Detroit Cass Tech flair to it? There’s a chance we could find that out in 2018 unless things get heated up.
That’s where Square, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound safety for the Technicians, comes in. A projected outside linebacker, Square runs well and is a big-hitting defensive back as a soon-to-be senior in high school. When he adds good weight to his frame, he’s got the potential to take his first team All-Michigan status to the next level.