National Signing Day by position: Top DT classes
Now that the 2018 recruiting cycle has come to a close, it is time to look back to see with schools signed the best group of defensive tackles.
1. Ohio State
The Buckeyes held steady in the Rivals Recruiting Rankings, thanks in large part to the work the staff was able to do on the defensive line - particularly on the interior. Jackson was the highest-ranked defensive tackle and the third overall player in junior college in 2018. Vincent is capable of lining up anywhere on the defensive line and hits like a ton of bricks. Ohio State also did well to pull Togiai from a region of the country that usually keeps its big talent close by. In a conference that demands strong play up front on both sides the ball, the Buckeyes did a fantastic job bringing in top talent.
2. Penn State
Penn State may not have received as much attention as some others for its finish in the final team recruiting rankings, but a big contributor to its place in the top five was the cast of players it signed at defensive tackle. Mustipher was one of the stars of the week in Orlando during the Under Armour All-America Game after showing creativity in winning one-on-one reps and penetrating consistently in team play. Hawkins and Culpepper both finished as four-stars ranked outside of the Rivals250, but complete a formidable group.
No surprise here that the Tigers were able to pull some top talent at the position out of their own backyard. Cotton and Rosenthal both finished as four-stars outside of the Rivals250, but LSU was able to steal a big player out of nearby Houston when Livingston and Texas A&M parted ways toward the end of the fall. LSU has always had a reputation of developing top talent up front defensively, and with another big body in Jenkins added to the mix, the stable should be full for the next few seasons.
The Trojans made a bit of a surprising charge up the class rankings on signing day, but had both of their defensive tackle commits locked up since December. Pulling Trout out of St. Louis might be considered an unexpected result as there isn’t a rich tradition of Midwest players that have typically had ambitions to play on the West Coast. Meanwhile, Tremblay was a key addition from the junior college ranks to a class that packed in a lot of talent for the number of players included in it.
5. Ole Miss
Much has been discussed in regards to the Rebels' ability - and success - recruiting after all the ups and downs of the past year. Still, Ole Miss finished with a place in the top 30, and while it may not have some of the splashy names at the position that some other teams do at defensive tackle, it finished with a solid group. Headlining the bunch is Jefferson, who finished as a top 20 player in the junior college player rankings. After that, high three-star and in-state prospect Williams and Alabama import Hill join up with Bivens.
6. South Carolina
Opinions vary a little bit on Sandidge’s potential as a college defensive lineman. He showed everyone at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge presented by adidas just how dominant he can be when he turns it on, and can really get rolling when he gets into a zone. Ellis might be the only other name signed on with him, but as 3-4 defensive end from the junior college ranks, he should provide the Gamecocks with some more versatility and power, and enough athleticism to slide to the outside.
Rivals250 defensive tackle Coburn might have provided a little bit of nervousness down the stretch with his decision to wait until February to sign and taking an official visit to Miami before ultimately sticking with Texas, but many also felt he was never in danger of going elsewhere. Ojomo was the subject of a heated battle after the Early Signing Period between a number of teams hoping to get him in their class late. He is a little raw, but physically impressive and graduates as a 16-year-old. Christian Jones has the ability to play anywhere on the defensive line, but signed with Texas with the understanding that he would be looked at as an offensive tackle first.
8. Notre Dame
The Irish were among the teams trying to make a late push for Ojomo as well as fellow Houston-area prospect Otito Ogbonnia, but ultimately ended up having to settle for two prospects that had been committed since the summer. That’s no slight on the duo they signed, as Ademilola is a Rivals250 prospect and was a package deal with twin brother Justin Ademilola. Franklin is a stout prospect, but he’s explosive and can bring a dynamic pace of play to the front line.
The Sooners finished with an impressive top 10 class under coach Lincoln Riley, and ended National Signing Day with one more feather in their cap closing things out with Thompson. The St. Louis-area prospect had a number of options, but chose the Sooners to help shore up the interior of the line after Oklahoma failed to land a four-star prospect or better since 2015. Kelley is a solid player, but committed to the Sooners in the spring and gave them a capable prospect at the position early in Riley’s tenure.
10. Florida State
Perhaps there was a little trepidation surrounding how much work Willie Taggart could do on a short turnaround to fix up the Seminoles' class, but Florida State finished strong in 2018. Both Cooper and Neal had been committed since the summer, but to have a player such as Cooper - who was one of the top players at his position in this class – to stick around was a big win. Cooper was one of the more impressive interior linemen at the Under Armour All-America Game earlier this year and Neal offers a lot of physical potential with his 6-foot-7 frame.