COLUMBUS â€“ After the longest recruiting battle in recent history, 5-star defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau has made his college choice.
He’s heading to Ohio State, picking the Buckeyes over Oregon, USC and Washington. The country’s No. 3-ranked 2021 prospect, a star at Eastside Catholic (Sammamish, Wash.), announced his decision on Sunday, bringing to a conclusion one of the more interesting recruiting sagas we’ve ever covered.
Ohio State waited almost two whole years to get Tuimoloau and his family on campus. Ryan Day and his coaching staff left no stone unturned, highlighting every opportunity that the Buckeyes football program and the city of Columbus could provide him. The official visit to Ohio State was about a pathway to success.
The focus of this trip from the Buckeyes point of view was development: From Larry Johnson and what he can do on the field to what the city of Columbus and recent name, image and likeness legislation will do for Tuimoloau off of it. Ohio State had its annual job fair on Friday night, showing the 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive end just a sample of the connections that the Buckeyes have to the biggest and most lucrative businesses in Ohio and around the Midwest.
Lettermen Row is breaking down the commitment of J.T. Tuimoloau and what his recruitment means for Ohio State, the Big Ten and the entire 2021 recruiting class.
What J.T. Tuimoloau gives Ohio State on field
If J.T. Tuimoloau wanted to be a tight end, he’d be one of the country’s best prospects at the position. If he wanted to pay attention full-time to basketball, he’d a high-level Division 1 basketball player.
The point? The 6-foot-5, 277-pound Tuimoloau is just a very different kind of athlete. He has size, speed, strength, quickness and a true love of competition that separates him from a lot of young athletes. Tuimoloau wants to dominate every rep, every snap he takes and he’s done it on offense and defense with the Crusaders.
He even did it on the sidelines. After waiting through Covid and not getting to play his senior year until this past spring, Tuimoloau was ruled out of his final high school game with a leg injury. Though he couldn’t suit up, he stepped up and served as a de facto coach and cheerleader for his teammates.
â€œHe loves them. He loves the program. He loves football,â€ Eastside Catholic coach Dominic Daste told ScorebookLive.com. â€œI couldnâ€™t ask for a better kid.â€
A lot of times, highly-regarded players like Tuimoloau make things about themselves. He isn’t that guy, avoiding the glitz and glamour that came with his fame instead. That commitment to working hard in private will carry him a long way at a place like Ohio State. The national ranking will mean nothing when he arrives on campus in Columbus.
What will matter his high-level talent and the ability to step into the Buckeyes defensive meetings and learn the system in place. As he does that, he’ll have a chance to contribute inside of a loaded position group based on talent alone.
The Buckeyes comparison here is Cam Heyward, a former first-round NFL draft pick and still one the league’s most productive players.
What pickup means for Ohio State 2021 recruiting class
Ohio State put together a very good recruiting class in the 2021 cycle but the late addition of Tuimoloau takes things to another level. The country’s No. 3-ranked player gives the Buckeyes three of the nation’s Top 10-ranked prospects in that cycle and the top two players in Washington. Tuimoloau joins Emeka Egbuka, who committed to Ohio State last December.
Where J.T. Tuimoloau really helps the Buckeyes is, of course, the position he plays. Ohio State will lose a number of key defensive linemen following the 2021 season but there’s also a concern that draft eligible players like Zach Harrison opts for the NFL a year early and Tuimoloau — along with fellow 5-star freshman Jack Sawyer — helps mitigate the long-term concerns at the position. Larry Johnson has to restock his room and the 2021 defensive line haul of Tuimoloau, Sawyer, Mike Hall and Tyleik Williams is about as good a group as the Buckeyes have ever brought in together.
The Buckeyes brand continues to lure in recruits from all over the country. There’s no one in Washington being heavily pursued in the Class of 2022, but with Gee Scott, Emeka Egbuka and now Tuimoloau on the Ohio State roster, there’s no reason Ryan Day should feel any reluctance when recruiting that area in the future. Clearly the top players in the Pacific Northwest have no problem heading to Ohio.
How J.T. Tuimoloau impacts 2021 recruiting rankings
There was no chance for Ohio State to surpass Alabama as the country’s No. 1-ranked 2021 class, even with Tuimoloau. However, his commitment means the 2021 Ohio State recruiting class has surpassed the 2017 class as the Buckeyes best ever in the internet recruiting era. The 2021 class boasts six 5-star prospects as Tuimoloau joins Sawyer, Egbuka, Donovan Jackson, Treveyon Henderson and Kyle McCord with the Buckeyes. The 2017 class had five players ranked as 5-star prospects: Chase Young, Baron Browning, Jeff Okudah, Shaun Wade and Wyatt Davis.