Ohio State Buckeyes: Larry Johnson keeps winning on recruiting trail

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Wayne grad Robert Landers is part of a deep rotation forcing Ohio State DL coach to get creative with his personnel

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Nature or nurture?

Which has more to do with success in college football — raw ability or developed talent — is a frequent topic of discussion.

The answer, of course, is both, but that works out well for Ohio State’s Larry Johnson, who has proven to be an elite recruiter and teacher in his many years as a defensive line coach.

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J.T. Tuimoloau’s announcement Sunday he will play for Johnson at Ohio State this fall was just the latest win for Johnson and the Buckeyes.

The Sammamish, Wash., defensive end is the second five-star end prospect to join the Buckeyes’ 2021 recruiting class and the sixth since Johnson became OSU defensive line coach in 2014.

How much impact Tuimoloau — or fellow five-star freshman Jack Sawyer — has this fall remains to be seen, but there is little doubt both have their sights set on making it to the NFL in the long run and see Johnson as someone who can help them get there.

“Talking to him in person, you just know he knows what he’s doing,” Tuimoloau told CBS Sports when he committed. “You can see it how he’s producing.”

Johnson has been a college coach for 25 years, but he made his name at Penn State.

From 1996-2013, he churned out All-Big Ten players and All-Americans while mentoring six players who were taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Over that time, Johnson’s efforts displayed he did not have to have the best of the best material coming in to turn a player into an elite one coming out, but he does know what to do with those top prospects when he gets them.

While two of his first-round picks at Penn State — Tamba Hali and Jared Odrick — were four-star recruits, Cameron Mabin was a three-star prospect.

The other three — Courtney Brown, Jimmy Kennedy and Michael Haynes — played before the contemporary star-ranking system was fully in place. Brown and Kennedy were highly regarded prospects coming out of high school while Haynes came in under the radar.

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Johnson’s work at Penn State made him the target of Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who lured him away from Happy Valley when Mike Vrabel vacated the defensive line coaching position to take a job in the NFL.

Since then Johnson has continued to be a difference maker both on signing day and draft day.

He has coached 13 NFL Draft picks at Ohio State, including 2021 picks Tommy Togiai and Jonathon Cooper.

Of the group overall, six were five-star prospects according to at least one recruiting service while another six were four-star prospects and one was a three-star.

“It’s kind of hard to put it in words, but he’s the kind of guy who gets you there to where you want to be,” Tuimoloau told CBS. “He talks with you about all of the little things. He sees things you don’t see and breaks them down. There is a reason why you see a lot of his players in the league making a name for themselves. That guy is just real.”