Ohio State ready for first, last swing at J.T. Tuimoloau

Aritcle written by:Jeremy BirminghamJeremy Birmingham


J.T. Tuimoloau is officially on the football roster at Ohio State. (J.T. Tuimoloau/Instagram)

COLUMBUS — The pivotal moment is here: J.T. Tuimoloau is arriving at Ohio State on Thursday evening.

The country’s top-ranked 2021 prospect has played the very long game in his recruitment, but time is now running short. He’s already made two of his five official visits, and the trip to Ohio marks the midpoint of a mad dash to the recruiting finish line.

And that is just one of the things that make this visit so unique. With respect to every show about investigating a murder, the Buckeyes have to absolutely kill it in these first 48 hours with Tuimoloau and his family. Primarily because it’s also the last 48 hours they’re going to get with the 6-foot-5, 275-pound two-sport superstar.

The Buckeyes can’t showcase the home cooking of Seattle like Washington did two weeks ago. Ohio State will take a different approach than USC did earlier this week, too. The Trojans carted Tuimoloau around Los Angeles in a helicopter — there are reports of a parade of sorts that occurred in his honor, but it’s hard to validate the veracity of the things recruitments like his turn into folklore.

For more than a year, the Buckeyes have been considered the favorite for Tuimoloau, though he’s never visited Ohio State. Now, the time for the trip is here and there will of course be a red-carpet rollout. But the hope is that 5-star talent is searching for something greater than just flashy photoshoots.

Recruiting a player like J.T. Tuimoloau makes some people lose their minds. Everyone knows who he is, and everyone knows he’s a difference maker. Ohio State just wants to put Tuimoloau in a room with its coaches. That’s where the Buckeyes can separate themselves.

Larry Johnson-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Larry Johnson’s reputation will be featured by Ohio State with J.T. Tuimoloau. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

The Buckeyes have Larry Johnson.

What he lacks in flash, he makes up for with substance. A lifetime of developing defensive linemen for NFL futures is the recruiting pitch. His legendary reputation opened the door for the Buckeyes. That can’t be the only way through it, though.

It’s the new world of college football, and recruiting requires a commitment to brand building. It needs a plan for capitalizing on name, image and likeness, and Ohio is barreling toward that future. Johnson and Ohio State must be able to showcase how Tuimoloau will be developed and given the chance to make generational wealth through the NFL Draft. They also have to show how the city of Columbus can help him here and now.

Ohio State is losing a lot of defensive linemen after Tuimoloau’s freshman season. Haskell Garrett, Antwuan Jackson, Jerron Cage, Tyreke Smith and Tyler Friday will be gone. Zach Harrion, Javontae Jean-Baptiste, and Taron Vincent will all have the ability to head off to the NFL. There is no proven or experienced talent after that group, especially at defensive end where Tuimoloau will line up. The Buckeyes have a wide-open opportunity for him to make an impact and to do it early.

There will be no shortage of presentations by Ohio State this weekend. It’s an all-hands on deck moment for Ryan Day, and it’s a national recruiting battle against Alabama, Oregon, USC and Washington. This is Larry Johnson’s reputation versus the Nick Saban recruiting machine at Alabama. It’s the worldwide power of the Buckeyes brand versus the allure of Nike’s push at Oregon. It’s the burgeoning city of Columbus versus the glitz and glamour of Hollywood versus the family feeling that Ryan Day promotes above all else against the Emerald City, Tuimoloau’s home.

Two years of phone calls and Zoom videos have led to this.

The Buckeyes first and last chance at winning the J.T. Tuimoloau recruitment has arrived.