January 12, 2012

Looking at 2013: Defense

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Yesterday we took an in-depth look at the Ohio State recruiting board for the 2013 on the offensive side of the football. Today it's time to a position-by-position look at the defense where Urban Meyer and his staff have already targeted many of the nation's top prospects.

Defensive End (Need: 1-2)

If there is one position on the roster that the Buckeyes are definitely set at for the foreseeable future, it's the defensive end position. After a tremendous haul in 2011, Ohio State went out and landed three of the nation's premier defensive ends in the nation for the 2012 class. With a log-jam at the postion, expect Meyer and staff to be selective with offers at this position.

Currently, three prospects are reporting verbal offers at the defensive end position, in Tashawn Bower, Elijah Daniel, and Joey Bosa. Of the three, Bower seems the most realistic but even he will be a tough pull as he lists early offers from some of the premier programs in the nation.

Daniel was excited about his early Ohio State offer, but many feel he will head south to play his college football as he also holds some big early offers and has a brother playing in the SEC.

In Ohio, it's a down year at the defensive end position, especially when you compare to the bumper crop of 2012. Pickerington North product Jake Butt is an outstanding prospect but may be a better fit at tight end, leaving Pickerington Central's Taco Charlton as the top pure defensive end in Ohio's 2013 class. Charlton is receiving interest from Ohio State but no offer has been extended at this time.

Defensive Tackle (Need: 2-3)

Another position where Ohio State isn't exactly in dire need is the defensive tackle spot. The Buckeyes have a handful of young players on the roster that are already contributing at a high level and the arrival of Army All-American Tommy Schutt in the fall will only strengthen the depth. Still, with some upperclassmen at the position as well as the potential for Johnathan Hankins to go pro after his junior season, this is a position that will need to be addressed with multiple prospects.

At the moment, two defensive tackle prospects are reporting verbal offers from the Buckeyes. The first to land an offer was Austintown (Ohio) Fitch two-way lineman Billy Price. Price plays some defensive end at the high school level but will surely move inside at the next level. Price was one of the first juniors offered by Ohio State coming off a strong performance at the Columbus NIKE Camp back in May and the Buckeyes are considered the early leaders.

The junior tackle reporting a verbal offer is Baltimore (Md.) Gilman school product Henry Poggi. Meyer recruited the state of Maryland hard when he was at Florida and the early indications are that he will continue to do just that while at Ohio State.

Heading back to Ohio, Huber Heights Wayne product Lovell Peterson is another one for Ohio State fans to watch. Peterson has been on the recruiting radar since his freshman season where he started at offensive tackle for Wayne. Peterson is among Ohio's most versatile linemen and has started games at offensive tackle, guard, center, and defensive tackle. While Peterson is arguably the state's top interior offensive line prospect, he also impressed on defense as a junior and may have more potential on that side of the football.

Linebacker (Need: 2-3)

There is no question that the linebacker position is an area of concern right now on the Ohio State roster. Meyer and staff are working hard to close out a solid 2012 haul at the position and will surely be looking to add more talent and depth in the 2013 class as well.

Over the summer, the first junior linebacker to be offered by Ohio State was Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers product Jaylon Smith. As most know by now, Smith is the younger brother of Ohio State running back Rod Smith and is one of the Midwest's top junior prospects. Talks of Smith following his brother to Columbus may be a bit premature as the athletic linebacker is keeping all of his options open at the moment but Ohio State still sits in good shape in that recruitment.

Recently a pair of elite juniors have also picked up verbal offers from Ohio State in Florida product Daniel McMillian and E.J. Levenberry Jr. out of Virginia. Levenberry is expected to make an unofficial visit to Ohio State over the weekend for the Men's basketball game against Indiana.

In Ohio, there will be plenty of options for the Buckeyes but the prospect that separated himself from the pack is Trotwood-Madison's Mike McCray. McCray is a legacy recruit and is coming off a dominant junior season in which he helped lead Trotwood to a state championship. The Buckeyes are showing a high level of interest in McCray so far and an offer in the not too distant future certainly would not come as a surprise.

Rounding out a deep group of Ohio junior linebackers are Ben Gedeon, Courtney Love, Shane Jones, and Darrien Howard. All four are on the Ohio State radar and it could come down to camp season to determine which, if any, grab an offer from the Buckeyes.

Cornerback (Need: 3)

With Travis Howard graduating and rising star Bradley Roby becoming draft eligible after next season, the cornerback position is definitely a critical one for Ohio State's 2013 class. Luckily, it is not only a strong year in Ohio at the position but the Buckeyes find themselves in good standing with some elite national prospects.

The Buckeyes are the current leader for five-star prospect Cameron Burrows out of Trotwood (Ohio) Madison. Burrows is one of the nation's premier prospects and lists the Buckeyes along with Alabama and LSU as his top three. Burrows has been to Ohio State numerous times over the last year and the smart money is on the Buckeyes to ultimately land his services.

Another big-time national recruit that Ohio State is in the driver's seat for is Voorhees (N.J.) Eastern Regional product Eli Woodard. Woodard was offered in June following an impressive camp performance and since that time has made multiple trips back to Columbus. Woodard lists Ohio State as his favorite and would make for an outstanding one-two punch with Burrows.

Not to be outdone by the above two is Hilliard (Ohio) Darby's Caleb Day. Day is the No. 10 prospect in Ohio in the 2013 BuckeyeGrove.com rankings and like Woodard, picked up his offer following an impressive camp performance back in June. Day has the ability to project to multiple spots including safety and wide receiver. Day is considered a strong lean to Ohio State and it would not be a surprise if he made an early verbal commitment to the Buckeyes.

Staying in Ohio, Avon product Ross Douglas is another player that is getting a look from Ohio State. With the Buckeyes in a strong position on some other targets it is unclear if Douglas will land an offer but he is still being recruited as a legitimate target.

Safety (Need: 2)

With multiple safeties graduating after the 2012 season, it is likely that Ohio State will take a pair of prospects at the position in the 2013 class. Much like the corner spot, safety is absolutely loaded in the state of Ohio for the 2013 class.

The lone offered safety prospect that is not currently committed is Seffner (Fla.) Armwood product Leon McQuay. McQuay is one of the top juniors in the state of Florida and he did make an unofficial visit to Ohio State during the season. Still, pulling a player of McQuay's talent level out of the Sunshine State is never an easy thing to do.

As mentioned above, there will be no shortage of outstanding safeties in Ohio for the 2013 class. Cardinal Mooney standout Marcus McWilson is without question Ohio's top unoffered junior prospect after a dominant junior season and playoff performance that helped Mooney take home another state title. McWilson can cover sideline to sideline and make plays up in the box. McWilson is a safety that simply finds the ball and makes plays.

Similar in both playing style and ability to McWilson is Toledo Central Catholic product Jayme Thompson. Thompson has only been playing football for a few years but has been improving rapidly over the course of the last year. Thompson is a fantastic athlete with great closing speed and, unlike some basketball players on the football field, is anything but soft. Thompson's biggest strength may be his versatility as he possesses the ability to play free safety, strong safety, or corner at the next level, depending on scheme.

Now we get to the elephant in the room, Alliance Marlington product Dymonte Thomas. Thomas is the cousin of running back Bri'onte Dunn and is an early Michigan verbal commit. Thomas was not pleased with the way he was recruited early on by Ohio State but the new regime now has 13 months to correct that mistake.

This is one that will be speculated about endlessly until National Signing Day 2013 but for right now Thomas seems perfectly content with his commitment to Michigan.

Kicking Specialist (Need: 1)

The graduation of Ben Buchanan after the 2012 season leaves a hole at the punter spot. It is possible that it could be filled by class of 2012 wide receiver/athlete Frank Epitropoulos but it is likely that the Buckeyes will need to bring in a kicking specialist, if for nothing else but insurance. Currently, there are zero known targets at the position.


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