Projecting finish as Buckeyes chase 2022 recruiting championship

Aritcle written by:Jeremy BirminghamJeremy Birmingham

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COLUMBUS — Ohio State has the country’s top-ranked 2022 recruiting class.

It’s the same position that Ryan Day and the Buckeyes were in for a good majority of the 2021 cycle. Last year, Covid slowed down Ohio State, and Alabama overtook the lead with a flurry of late commitments. Day’s program signed just 22 new players compared to 27 for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.

So, the question for the Buckeyes is: What if

What if Ohio State had taken four or five more players in the Class of 2021? Could that first, elusive recruiting championship have happened? What if the Buckeyes don’t stop at 22 verbals in the Class of 2022? How good can this class be?

We’ve reached a pretty comfortable middle point of the cycle, so it’s a fair time to posit that question. Ohio State has 16 verbals right now and is effectively finished recruiting at least four positions in this class. Top-ranked prospect Quinn Ewers will be the lone quarterback barring some significant roster changes in Columbus. Dallan Hayden is in a similar situation at running back. Brian Hartline has four receivers, Kerry Coombs has four cornerbacks and Al Washington has two very good linebackers committed. That’s all the Buckeyes need at those positions, though there’s some debate about whether or not a third linebacker gets added — again.

So what about what’s left? Who is going to wrap up the Ohio State 2022 recruiting class?

Here’s the best guess we at Lettermen Row have right now.

Ohio State needs more offensive linemen

There’s a lot of debate about what to do along the offensive line.

Tegra Tshabola is committed, and he’s got huge upside playing inside or outside. That flexibility means there’s more versatility for Greg Studrawa with the rest of the class. But the question that matters most is how many can Ohio State actually take. A handful of top-ranked players are figuring out their recruitments, and most of them made official visits with the Buckeyes in June.

The goal for Ohio State has been to take just three offensive linemen in this cycle. But with attrition that comes naturally or unnaturally, it’s easy to see how the numbers could grow to four or even five. Especially if the right five all want in. That’s a good problem to have for the Buckeyes.

As I see it right now, the most likely additions for Ohio State are George Fitzpatrick, Kam Dewberry and Earnest Greene. I think that trio gives the Buckeyes the most flexibility, athleticism and aggression. It also shows just how national the Ohio State brand is. It’s not easy to go head-to-head with the top schools in Texas and California where Dewberry and Greene are from, respectively. The battle for Fitzpatrick, who isn’t talked about enough, is a national battle with Florida, Oregon, Michigan and Oklahoma.

That’s a big win for the Buckeyes if it happens regardless of ranking.

Who’s In? George Fitzpatrick, Kam Dewberry and Earnest Greene

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Caden Curry is capable of playing any defensive line spot at Ohio State. (Caden Curry/Twitter)

Larry Johnson is going to restock the defensive line

Ohio State needs at least three defensive tackles, and in a best-case scenario, two edge rushers in the 2022 class. The month of June gave Larry Johnson his first real look at the top prospects in the class and valuable insight into what he wants.

The Buckeyes have had Caden Curry at the top of the list for a long time, and I don’t see that changing. He didn’t make an official visit but will in the fall. Curry is unique and perhaps the key piece to how the rest of the defensive line unfolds, because he’s truly capable of playing inside or outside on any given snap.

There’s been a lot of talk about Omari Abor over the last few months, and that’s to be expected. He’s a 5-star prospect and probably the most physically-ready of everyone the Buckeyes are recruiting. Still, with Alabama and Oklahoma very much involved, it’s hard to know exactly where that one goes if he doesn’t make a return trip to Columbus on his own dime. It’s unwise to bet against Larry Johnson, but that battle feels a long way from over.

So what’s the prediction? Let’s get a little crazy.

Who’s In? Caden Curry, Hero Kanu, Chris McClellan, Enai White and Kenyatta Jackson

Can Kerry Coombs, Matt Barnes land both top safety targets?

Let’s assume for a moment that none of the currently committed defensive backs end up elsewhere. The Buckeyes should be expecting a serious battle to make sure that happens, because schools all over the country and trying to plant doubt in the impressionable minds of these top prospects. Kerry Coombs and Matt Barnes are ready for that fight, no doubt.

But with four corners and one safety committed, the two big fish remaining at defensive back are where the real fight will come. Ironically, getting a commitment from Xavier Nwankpa or Zion Branch almost certainly makes it harder to get a commitment from the other.

Yet, Ohio State is hoping to do just that. The Buckeyes have made their pitch to each, shown them both exactly where they fit into the defensive scheme and how they’ll work on the field together.

The question: Will they make that leap? Maybe it’s a result of the incredible success Ohio State has had on the recruiting trail of late, but I think they do. The Buckeyes are certainly ahead in the relationship game with Iowa’s top player, Nwankpa, and are continuing to make a real push with Branch. Yes, he’s got a lot of love for USC, and the Trojans are a serious threat. But Ohio State is on a different level than USC, and I think Branch knows that.

Who’s In? Xavier Nwankpa and Zion Branch

So, there it is. The best guess prediction for how the 2022 Ohio State recruiting class finishes up, if this was the end of the recruiting cycle. If those predictions were to come to fruition, it’d be the best Buckeyes recruiting class ever. Yes, even better than the 2021 group — which is currently the best Buckeyes recruiting class ever.

Will it be enough to win a recruiting championship? That’s what Ohio State is hoping.