Class of 2021 defensive tackle Damon Payne (Belleville, Mich.) officially came off the board this past weekend, as the prized recruit verbally committed to play for Nick Saban and Alabama.
The 6-foot-4, 295-pound product, rated one of the top-few at his position nationally and considered a top-35 player overall by major recruiting outlets, had also considered Ohio State among a list of other powerhouses.
OSU gained some initial traction with Payne early in the recruiting process before interest seemingly appeared to fade in recent months. As a result, the Buckeyes will continue ramped-up focus on a handful of other prime defensive linemen in the mix…
Ohio State currently has one DT in the 2021 group with in-state commit Mike Hall (Streetsboro), and then a pair of strong ends via Jack Sawyer (Pickerington, Ohio) and Tunmise Adeleye (Bradenton, Fla.).
However, with Payne off the board, the importance of landing either J.T. Tuimoloau or Tywone Malone becomes even more critical.
Tuimolaou (Bellevue, Wash.), one of the most heralded players in the country across all positions, is reportedly down to either Ohio State or his hometown Washington Huskies. Tuimolaou lives less than a half hour away from campus and has also been offered a basketball scholarship by Washington. He has shown ability to play in both the tackle or end spots.
Malone (Oradell, N.J.) is also an elite top-10 defensive tackle that has been strongly considering the Buckeyes, who we believe are likely the current favorite. He has developed a strong relationship with defensive line coach Larry Johnson and is a more pure/natural tackle.
Malone holds roughly 30 offers and is largely considering Ole Miss, Rutgers, Texas A&M and others. He is also a dual-sport standout like Tuiomolaou, excelling on the baseball diamond for Bergen Catholic High School.
Ohio State is scheduled to begin preseason camp on August 7, although ongoing circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic certainly have many aspects up in the air.