Although he was widely expected to end up at Ohio State, Mentor five-star defensive end Brenan Vernon committed to Notre Dame on Tuesday evening, just two days after he wrapped up an unofficial visit with the program.
The 6-foot-5 and 245-pound Vernon, who is considered the sixth-best defensive lineman and No. 18 prospect overall in the class of 2022, landed an offer from defensive line coach Larry Johnson last August and immediately had several crystal ball predictions placed in favor of the Buckeyes.
However, the nearly 15-month dead period prevented him from visiting campus and meeting with the coaching staff, and that allowed the Fighting Irish to keep things close until in-person recruiting opened back up.
Vernon then took an unofficial visit to South Bend on June 6 and had nothing but great things to say about Notre Dame, defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman and defensive line coach Mike Elston.
“What really struck my attention was Notre Dame,” Vernon told BuckeyesNow and other reporters gathered at Ohio State’s one-day camp on June 22. “I love Notre Dame very much. An amazing program down there, just like here (in Columbus). Great guys.”
Vernon indicated that he wasn’t particularly close to a decision during his camp visit but did acknowledge he could choose a school at any moment if it felt right – a feeling he apparently got on his second trip of the month to Notre Dame this past weekend.
“There’s still so much I have to see and all these schools are so different,” Vernon said. “I’m just slowly building relationships and getting to know the schools personally and it’s a great process so far. But if I really got that good feeling and I’m standing there on campus and I know that this is exactly what I want, I would make the decision right then and there.”
“In my opinion, I’ll just know. It’ll click with me, and I’ll just know exactly what I want when I see it.”
Now, there’s certainly a long way to go in Vernon’s recruitment, seeing as he can’t sign with the Fighting Irish for another 17 months. But what will ultimately help the Buckeyes’ in their attempts to flip him from his pledge moving forward is his relationship with and admiration for Johnson.
“Coach J works wonders,” Vernon said. “Buddy’s a guru, you know what I mean? He’s a wizard with his craft. There’s no other way to describe him.”
As for the positional impact, Ohio State is still looking for its first commitment along the defensive line for the current recruiting cycle, and it would be a stretch to predict how many players the staff will take in the class of 2023.
Other notable names to keep in mind, however, include Allen, Texas, five-star end David "D.J." Hicks; Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco four-star end Matayo Uiagalelei; and Kissimmee (Fla.) Osceola four-star Derrick LeBlanc, all of whom camped in Columbus this month.
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