Early look at biggest recruiting needs in 2021 Ohio State class

Jeremy Birminghamabout 2 years
Aritcle written by:Jeremy BirminghamJeremy Birmingham



There are about four months until Ohio State inks its 2020 recruiting class.

The Buckeyes have 21 verbal commitments in a class that could end up anywhere between 24-to-27 players deep, meaning there aren’t a lot of new names popping up right now. Plus, the current recruiting quiet period combined with training camps taking place all over the country has brought the momentum Ohio State gathered throughout the summer to a screeching halt while it prepares for the season.

But on Sept. 1, recruiting is going to accelerate again, primarily in the Class of 2021. That’s the date when college programs are allowed to kick open the doors of communication with high school juniors, and it’s when the relationships with those players that have mostly just been bubbling below the surface become real, tangible things.

The Buckeyes are off to a good start in the Class of 2021. The early commitments from top-100 prospects Jack Sawyer, Kyle McCord, Jayden Ballard and Ben Christman are all from players who play positions that will be considered a major need in the next cycle. That quartet of early commitments is working hard to add the best of the best from around the country to join them in Columbus, but what positions are going to prove most important next year?

Let’s break down the biggest needs for Ohio State in the Class of 2021.

Ohio State may need to find another quarterback

This is sort of an evergreen comment when it comes to Ohio State recruiting, at least until the depth chart at quarterback reaches a somewhat stable place.

If Ohio State ends up adding a second quarterback in 2020 — and that’s still a possibility — then this need fades away, because Kyle McCord is locked in and ready to be the guy in 2021.

But if there are no other players added, it would be understandable to shudder when looking ahead at the Buckeyes quarterback room.

Look at the current roster and the issue becomes easy to see:

  • Justin Fields: A sophomore with three years of eligibility, but it’s wise to expect him to leave Ohio State after the 2020 season with a year of eligibility remaining.
  • Gunnar Hoak: A grad-transfer from Kentucky who has two years to play in Columbus. He’ll be gone after the 2020 season.
  • Chris Chugunov: The fifth-year senior will be gone following this season.

Yes, 2020 commit Jack Miller will be on the roster in 2021 as a sophomore and should be considered the favorite to be the starter for the Buckeyes. But it’s just him and McCord on the roster as scholarship athletes. That’s not good.

Landing top running back is major priority for Ohio State

This is another subsection that could change based on who gets added still in 2020. But after the disappointing losses of Bijan Robinson and Jaylan Knighton, there’s going to be a need for bell-cow back in 2021, and that’s why Donovan Edwards is so important for Tony Alford and Ohio State in the Class of 2021.

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Donovan Edwards has been a top target for Tony Alford for more than a year already. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

The Buckeyes are going to have an interesting decision to make from now until February. While there’s a glaring need at tailback in 2020, there’s no value in adding players that aren’t Ohio State-level talents. Time is short when it comes to finding those guys in 2020, but there’s a lot of time left to do so for 2021. Maybe that creates a greater priority than previously thought for a guy like Edwards, North Carolina’s Evan Pryor or any of the nation’s top 2021 running backs.

Ohio State needs another big year at wide receiver

It may seem counterintuitive because the Buckeyes are on track to sign the country’s best receiver class in 2020, but Ohio State needs to pull in at least another four-man receiving group in 2021.

Jayden Ballard has given them a good starting point. And thanks to how early Brian Hartline pinpointed his top guys in the current class, the Buckeyes have been able to do that in 2021 as well, narrowing down the top targets at the position following a series of spring and summertime visits from the elite targets around country.

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Emeka Egbuka (middle left), Beaux Collins (middle right) and Lorenzo Styles (right) are all major priorities for the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Emeka Egbuka, Beaux Collins, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Lorenzo Styles have all been on campus. Collins, Harrison and Styles have visited multiple times, and that group has emerged as not only the top list of targets, but also a potential list of commitments.

Brian Hartline has quickly earned a reputation as one of the country’s best recruiters, and with two-plus years to build relationships with his top choices at receiver, I think it’s safe to predict another big-time class in 2021.

Ohio State has to load up at cornerback

The Buckeyes have done a very good job recruiting and developing cornerbacks, and they’ll need to do that again in 2021.

Ohio State has two top cornerbacks committed for 2020. But whether they add another player or not in this cycle, the Buckeyes are going to aim high at cornerback in 2021.

It should be very interesting to see what Jeff Hafley is capable of doing as a recruiter when he has a full year under his belt. Right now, he’s the nation’s fourth-ranked recruiter and has done it essentially with one arm tied behind his back. Hafley has already connected with Tony Grimes, the top-ranked cornerback in 2021, as well as a host of other top defensive backs. Hafley’s reputation combined with Ohio State’s history of creating top-tier cornerbacks should set up a big year at the position.