Ohio State signing day position grades, recent Buckeyes comparisons

Jeremy Birmingham10 months
Aritcle written by:Jeremy BirminghamJeremy Birmingham


Ohio State is the winningest program in college football. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

COLUMBUS — For as much drama as the past year has brought, the early signing period for Ohio State brought none.

The Buckeyes expect to sign all of their commitments coming into the first day of the early signing period on the first day and can now turn their entire focus for the rest of the week to the Big Ten championship game against Northwestern. Ohio State had every commitment signed by 11:00 a.m. EST.

It’s been, as Ryan Day described it on Sunday, a “unique” recruiting year. But despite a bevy of challenges and letdowns and potential snags on the road to signing day, Ohio State put together a special class — starting with its first two commitments, Jack Sawyer and Kyle McCord.

“You want to have somebody who not only has the respect of the other recruits because of their ability, but more importantly how they handle themselves,” Day said. “It’s not just the recruit, it’s their families. In a perfect world, you signed somebody on one side of the ball and then you sign somebody on the other side of the ball who are really kind of the Pied Piper. He’s the one that is going to give great feedback on who these guys are.

“[Ohio State commitments are] in contact with these guys way more than we are. So they’re giving us information about what they’re doing on social media, what they’re saying in the text rooms, all those things. That’s really important because for us, for them to fit who we are with that culture fit, that’s what matters. We did a good job in this class of identifying that early on, and then building from there. But that’s kind of the blueprint for us. The leadership has already been great. And that’s unique because we haven’t even been together. … I think that this this group has a chance to be special.”

Who is Ohio State’s 2021 signing class? Lettermen Row is taking a look at the newest Buckeyes now that the majority of the Ohio State class is officially wrapped up.

Ohio State Signing Class: Offense

The Buckeyes hit pay dirt a number of different ways on the offensive side of the ball in the Class of 2021, and it starts with the quarterback.

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Ohio State signed quarterback Kyle McCord on Wednesday. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Quarterback Position Grade: A+

Ohio State wanted one quarterback, and it got one of the best in the country early in the process and without any drama.

  • Kyle McCord • 5-star • Philadelphia (Pa.) St. Joe’s Prep • 6-foot-3, 215 pounds • No. 25 Overall Prospect • No. 3 Pro-Style QB

    • McCord was the first offensive commitment in the class and a stable, consistent leader for the Buckeyes in the last 18 months. His game is the same way. Chosen by Ohio State because of his strong, accurate arm, McCord is enrolling early and should challenge C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller for the starting quarterback role in Columbus next season. McCord won three straight state titles for the Hawks. Ohio State Comparison: Dwayne Haskins

Running Back Position Grade: A+

After a disappointment filled 2020 cycle, Tony Alford and the Buckeyes roared back and landed two of the country’s best tailbacks in 2021.

  • TreVeyon Henderson • 5-star • Hopewell (Va.) High School • 5-foot-11, 207 pounds • No. 24 Overall Prospect • No. 1 Running Back

    • The country’s No. 1-ranked tailback committed to Ohio State in March despite never visiting the school and instantly became of the class leaders behind the scenes and in front of the camera. An early enrollee, Henderson had offers from almost 40 schools. One Buckeyes source called him “a different dude” and “the best running back in the country, for certain.” He made his first and only visit to Columbus in October for the Buckeyes Bash but hasn’t been inside a single building on campus at Ohio State. He did not play in his senior season because the state of Virginia cancelled fall football. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Ezekiel Elliott
  • Evan Pryor • 4-star • Cornelius (N.C.) William A. Hough High School • 5-foot-10, 190 pounds • No. 81 Overall Prospect • No. 2 AP Running Back

    • North Carolina’s No. 4-ranked prospect, Pryor is a well-rounded, versatile back who is dangerous out of the backfield as a receiver or carrying the football. Like TreVeyon Henderson, he did not get to play his senior year and will head to Ohio State in January. Buckeyes love that he’s a “football guy.” He and Henderson will be roommates in Columbus.  2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Curtis Samuel
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Ohio State landed the nation’s top-ranked wide receive in Emeka Egbuka. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Wide Receiver Position Grade: A

There wasn’t a great need at wideout in 2021, but Brian Hartline made the most of his opportunities, bringing in three well-rounded, athletic receivers who understand and appreciate the challenge of the wide receiver room at Ohio State.

  • Emeka Egbuka • 5-star • Steilacoom (Wash.) High School • 6-foot-1, 210 pounds • No. 9 Overall Prospect • No. 1 Wide Receiver

    • Ohio State beat Oklahoma and Washington for the best receiver in the country, earning his commitment just a week before the signing period started. Egbuka is strong, fast, smart and smooth, a complete receiver without any obvious flaws in his game. He’s the top-ranked wideout in America for a reason. Update: Egbuka will enroll early with the Buckeyes and intends to be roommates with Kyle McCord, Jayden Ballard and Marvin Harrison. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Terry McLaurin
  • Jayden Ballard • 4-star •

    Massillon (Ohio) Washington High School • 6-foot-2, 175 pounds • No. 66 Overall Prospect • No. 8 Wide Receiver

    • One of the Buckeyes early commitments in 2021, Jayden Ballard is a special athlete who could have been a Division I basketball player had he chosen that path. Ballard is just scratching the surface of his physical abilities, but right now he excels in the deep passing game and situations where he can use his long frame to beat defenders one-on-one. Ballard is enrolling early with the Buckeyes. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Drew Carter
  • Marvin Harrison • 4-star •

    Philadelphia (Pa.) St. Joe’s Prep • 6-foot-3, 190 pounds • No. 91 Overall Prospect • No. 15 Wide Receiver

    • His NFL bloodlines are what get Marvin Harrison noticed, but his work-ethic, attention to detail and commitment to his craft are what drew him the attention of Brian Hartline. Harrison made up his mind about joining the Buckeyes early and never looked back. He’ll be enrolling early at Ohio State along with his high school quarterback, Kyle McCord. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Michael Jenkins

Tight End Position Grade: B

The early goal was two tight ends in 2021, and the Buckeyes adjusted midway through the cycle after reassessing their roster needs. Ohio State landed a good one, but like most years, there’s going to be a big learning curve ahead.

  • Sam Hart • 3-star • Aurora (Colo.) Cherokee Trail • 6-foot-5, 225 pounds • No. 390 Overall Prospect • No. 15 Tight End

    • An All-American heavyweight wrestler, Sam Hart committed to Ohio State over Notre Dame, Iowa, LSU, Michigan and more than 20 other schools — and did so very early in the recruiting process. Ohio State coaches have raved about his athletic ability and toughness, and he’s earned reviews as a “poor man’s Jeremy Ruckert” from those in the know. Hart has some developmental time ahead of him, but he’s a physical, aggressive kid who will embrace the grind without causing a stir. Hart has two brothers who’ve played college football and understands the business side of the game well. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Nick Vannett

Offensive Line Position Grade: B-

The lack of a big-time, surefire offensive tackle in the Class of 2021 knocks the Buckeyes down a notch along the offensive line. But as he did in 2020, Greg Studrawa signed some very athletic, intelligent and hard-working prospects capable of playing anywhere on the line. Still, losing out on a couple of big-time targets at tackle leaves Ohio State somewhat vulnerable in the future.

  • Donovan Jackson • 5-star • Bellaire (Texas) Episcopal • 6-foot-4, 308 pounds • No. 17 Overall Prospect • No. 1 Offensive Guard

    • The most physically dominant high school lineman in the country, Donovan Jackson is the top-ranked interior blocker in America and a Texas resident with Ohio roots. Jackson is cerebral and nasty on the field and a gentle giant off of it. He’s a future All-American, first-round draft pick and a player who could compete for early playing in a meaningful role as a freshman despite not enrolling early. He can be that good. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Wyatt Davis
  • Ben Christman • 4-star • Richfield (Ohio) Revere • 6-foot-6, 299 pounds • No. 17 Overall Prospect • No. 6 Offensive Guard

    • One of the de facto leaders in the 2021 class for Ohio State, Christman has seen his national ranking dip over the last two years. But his frame makes him the perfect prospect for what the Buckeyes do on the offensive line. He’s likely to line up at guard for the Buckeyes but has the athletic ability to play tackle if needed down the road or in a pinch depending how he develops under Mickey Marotti. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Jack Mewhort
  • Zen Michalski • 4-star • Floyds Knob (Ind.) Floyd Central • 6-foot-6, 290 pounds • No. 318 Overall Prospect • No. 23 Offensive Tackle

    • The lone senior-film-evaluation offer and commitment for the Buckeyes in the Class of 2021, Zen Michalski is a former Louisville verbal who switched his pledge to Ohio State in early October. Super athletic but very raw, Michalski can play all over the line but is going to get a shot to start his career at tackle for the Buckeyes. He’s Indiana’s No. 4-ranked prospect. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Andrew Norwell
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Ohio State landed a future star in defensive end Jack Sawyer. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Signing Class: Defense

The focus for 2021 was to get Kerry Coombs, returning to Ohio State after a two-year stint in the NFL, reloaded in the secondary. The Buckeyes accomplished that while finding some close-to-home stars in the front seven.

Defensive Line Position Grade: A

When one of the country’s best players grew up dreaming of wearing Ohio State colors and lives just 20 minutes from campus, it’s a pretty safe bet Larry Johnson is going to build a good class around him.

  • Jack Sawyer • 5-star • Pickerington (Ohio) North • 6-foot-5, 255 pounds • No. 4 Overall Prospect • No. 3 Strongside Defensive End

    • Jack Sawyer was commitment No. 1 for the Buckeyes, and no one could’ve kickstarted the class better for Ryan Day. Sawyer is big, strong, athletic — and the scary part is that in each of those areas, he’s only going to get better as he plays more football. The top-ranked player in the Ohio State class did not play as a senior, opting to sit out amid uncertainty caused by COVID-19. He is enrolling early at Ohio State and is ready to be let loose by Larry Johnson after three-plus years of learning the Buckeyes habits from down the road. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Joey Bosa
  • Mike Hall • 4-star • Streetsboro (Ohio) High School • 6-foot-3, 290 pounds • No. 49 Overall Prospect • No. 4 Defensive Tackle

    • There may not be a more underrated prospect in the Class of 2021 for Ohio State than defensive tackle Michael Hall. With a devastating first step and quick hands, Hall is the “best defensive tackle in Ohio in the last ten years” according to one Buckeyes source. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Haskell Garrett
  • Tyleik Williams • 4-star • Manassas (Virginia) Unity Reed • 6-foot-3, 330 pounds • No. 161 Overall Prospect • No. 12 Defensive Tackle

    • Ohio State needed a second big-time defensive tackle in the Class of 2021 and big-bodied Tyleik Williams filled that spot in August. Though he’s almost 330 pounds, Williams has a “thin” frame and moves very well for his size. Tyleik Williams had offers from more than 30 schools, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU. He will enroll early at Ohio State. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Johnathan Hankins
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Reid Carrico is a top-150 player in America. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Linebacker Position Grade: B+

With a ton of returning depth, there was not a big need at linebacker — but the Buckeyes would have liked a pair. That can still happen, but as of right now the grade is a solid ‘B’ while they wait for February.

  • Reid Carrico • 4-star • Ironton (Ohio) High School • 6-foot-3, 225 pounds • No. 84 Overall Prospect • No. 5 Inside Linebacker

    • The definition of small-town Ohio football grit is the Ironton. No one better exemplifies Ironton than Reid Carrico. Whether at running back or linebacker, Carrico put the team on his back, leading it to consecutive state title berths. Carrico has a nose for the football and a nose-to-the-grindstone approach that will quickly endear him to the Buckeyes and his future teammates. He is enrolling early and will be on campus in January to begin his Ohio State career. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: James Laurinaitis

Defensive Backs Position Grade: A

The Buckeyes wanted to restock the defensive backfield and did just that, signing six different players with varying skillsets. Long, athletic and teachable is the mold for Kerry Coombs and the Ohio State staff delivered.

  • Jakailin Johnson • 4-star • St. Louis (Mo.) DeSmet • 6-foot-1, 175 pounds • No. 47 Overall Prospect • No. 3 Cornerback

    • There’s a lot to like about cornerback Jakailin Johnson. The Buckeyes targeted him early and he picked Ohio State over Notre Dame, Clemson, Florida, Georgia and others. With a former NFL cornerback as his high school coach, Johnson is getting better technical training than most young defensive backs, and that could help him make the transition to the college game. He’s quiet off the field but very loud on it. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Damon Arnette
  • Jordan Hancock • 4-star • Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett  • 6-foot-1, 170 pounds • No. 47 Overall Prospect • No. 4 Cornerback

    • A smooth athlete who with natural cover corner skills, Jordan Hancock was a favorite of former Buckeyes defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley — and didn’t drop on the Ohio State list of importance when Kerry Coombs took over. A former Clemson commit, Hancock is the type of defensive back that the Buckeyes love and he’ll get plenty of chances to show his potential as a true freshman. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Gareon Conley
  • Andre Turrentine • 4-star • Nashville (Tenn.) Ensworth  • 6-foot-1, 170 pounds • No. 167 Overall Prospect • No. 9 Safety

    • One of the two true safety prospects in the Class of 2021, Andre Turrentine is a big-hitting, free-ranging athlete who has played cornerback in his high school career. Turrentine may not be the flashiest player on the field, but he’s almost always in the right position and provides security at safety, a major position of need for the Buckeyes. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Vonn Bell
  • Denzel Burke • 4-star • Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro  • 6-foot-0, 192 pounds • No. 192 Overall Prospect • No. 8 Athlete

    • Though he’s played more wide receiver than defensive back to this point in his career, Denzel Burke caught Ohio State’s attention because of his quick hips and his bility to turn and run from the cornerback position. Burke is a bit thin right now, but his frame will allow him to bulk up without losing a step. As he learns cornerback technique, he could be a real steal for the Buckeyes. He has never been to Ohio State’s campus but will enroll early, so his January arrival will be the first time he ever steps foot in Columbus.  2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Denzel Ward
  • Jantzen Dunn • 4-star • Bowling Green (Ky.) South Warren  • 6-foot-2, 180 pounds • No. 203 Overall Prospect • No. 12 Safety

    • Another long, versatile defensive back who can play safety or corner, Jantzen Dunn is a safety net-type player for the Buckeyes because of his ability to play all over the secondary. He privately committed to Oklahoma for a brief moment in April, and that led to pretty wild 48-hours culminating in an Ohio State verbal just two days later. Dunn’s athleticism is obvious — he’s a 4.55 guy in the 40-yard dash and has a more than 40-inch vertical jump — and should be exciting for the Buckeyes. He’s enrolling in January. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Malcolm Jenkins
  • Jaylen Johnson • 3-star • Cincinnati (Ohio) Lasalle  • 6-foot-1, 200 pounds • No. 410 Overall Prospect • No. 29 Safety

    • The lowest-ranked non-punter member of the Ohio State class has been as valuable as anyone in helping build it. Jaylen Johnson is a MaxPreps first-team all-state selection and a state champion wh0 has played cornerback, safety and linebacker for the Lancers. He earned an offer from Ohio State in the summer of 2019 after dominating a one-day camp in Columbus. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Jermale Hines

Special Teams Position Grade: B

Ohio State needed a punter in 2021 and perhaps no position group was harder to evaluate in this cycle without the ability do in-person evaluations. So Matt Barnes and the Buckeyes turned to someone they trusted and plucked a kicker from Down Under.

  • Jesse Mirco • 3-star • Australia ProKick  • 6-foot-3, 200 pounds • No. 5 Punter

    • Though he’s an Australian kicker like Cameron Johnston, Jesse Mirco’s frame and style may lend to Drue Chrisman being a more apt comparison. A former professional on the Austrailian-rules football circuit, Mirco is a 23-year-old who adapted his style and became NCAA-ready in less than four months. He’ll be expected to be the punter for Ohio State next season. 2000’s Ohio State Comparison: Drue Chrisman

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