Ohio announced four more additions to its roster during Wednesday’s National Signing Day. Ryan Bainbridge, Ohio’s director of recruiting and player personnel, said that an unnamed fifth recruit would announce his intent in a matter of days.
Bainbridge unveiled four recruits, TJ Jackson, Shakari Denson, Amani Rhone and Tillman Weaver. Bainbridge also mentioned tight end Will Kacmarek, who signed a few days after the early signing period back in December.
“I think we’ve really rounded out our class, especially on defense,“ Bainbridge said. “Overall, I’m really excited about this class. I think this is a really good group of guys that maybe has the highest ceiling of any class that I’ve been a part of at Ohio.”
Here are the four signees Ohio announced Wednesday:
Name: T.J. Jackson
Height/Weight: 6’ 7”, 375 pounds
Hometown/High School: Cumberland, Virginia/grad transfer (Virginia Tech)
In back-to-back seasons, Ohio’s picked up a guy out of the transfer portal who can help its offense right away. Last year, it was quarterback Armani Rogers, and this year, it’s offensive lineman T.J. Jackson.
Jackson played in 24 games for Virginia Tech and started two as right guard. Since Jackson is a graduate transfer and an early enrollee to Ohio, he’ll be able to find his rhythm with the Bobcats as early as spring ball. Ohio offensive coordinator Tim Albin is excited about the experience and depth Jackson can bring to an offensive line that gave up nine sacks in three games.
“That’s going to be a need at tackle. I think that’s where he’ll start,“ Albin said. “It’ll be tough to get around him, so we’re looking forward to getting him here and getting him started.”
Albin said Jackson is currently dealing with a death in the family, so he’s not in Athens yet. Once Jackson joins the team, it’s expected he’ll immediately become an anchor of the line.
Name: Shakari Denson
Height/Weight: 6’ 0”, 170 pounds
Hometown/High School: Claxton, Georgia / Claxton High School
According to ESPN, Shakari Denson is the crown jewel of Ohio’s signing class not just this year, but ever. The four-star cornerback from Claxton, Georgia, is the highest ESPN recruit Ohio has ever had. During his time at Claxton High School, Denson totaled 17 interceptions and was a staple for the Tigers’ defense.
It wasn’t easy to get Denson to Ohio. He originally committed to Michigan State. Once Denson reopened his recruitment, local Georgia State and Ohio’s Mid-American Conference foe Kent State badly wanted Denson’s services. Bainbridge credits Ohio cornerback coach De’Angelo Smith for being able to secure another key piece for the Bobcats.
“Coach Smith had a great relationship with Shakari even before he committed to Michigan State,“ Bainbridge said. “When he (Denson) decommitted from Michigan State, it was just very natural for him to continue building that relationship and get him here.”
Name: Aramoni Rhone
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 190 pounds
Hometown/High School: Orlando, Florida / Plant City High School
While defense seemed to be the focus of Wednesday’s additions, Ohio also managed to secure a potential stud on offense.
Aramoni (pronounced Ar-mon-knee) Rhone is a potential No. 1 receiver in Ohio’s offense. His size and speed could make him a perfect companion to quarterback Kurtis Rourke. The last receiver Ohio recruited with Rhone’s skillset out of Orlando also was a perfect fit in Ohio’s offense.
It’s unknown if Rhone will end up being the heir replacement to Shane “Hollywood” Hooks, who transferred to Jackson State, next season. But Albin was pretty excited to bring him to Athens.
“He’s going to be a target for us,“ Albin said. “Not that he can’t go inside, but we’ll start him outside and use him in the red zone with his height. He’ll be the tallest receiver we’ve had here.”
Name: Tillman Weaver
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 240 pounds
Hometown/High School: Sandy Springs, Georgia / Riverwood High School
Tillman Weaver is unlike any of the other signees Ohio’s had this season and perhaps ever. What makes the 6-foot-3 edge rusher an exciting pickup for Ohio is that he had 71 tackles (40 for loss) and 10 sacks for Riverwood High School last season.
But what makes Weaver unique was that was his first season ever playing football.
Yes, you read that right. Weaver turned himself into a Division I caliber football player in only one season on the gridiron. He plays fast and aggressive, but his inexperience makes him raw. Ohio defensive coordinator Ron Collins can’t wait to mold him into a dominating defensive end.
“We’ve watched him and evaluated his fundamentals and techniques,“ Collins said. “He really stood out to me because he had only played football for that one fall. So you know we’ll get a guy who’s already producing, but obviously, he’s got a really high ceiling.”
Once Bainbridge’s mystery recruit reveals himself, Ohio will have 20 new players for its 2021 roster. It was about as balanced as a class can be. 10 players play offense, and nine play defense. Surprisingly, Ohio did not sign any quarterbacks. Coach Frank Solich said that Kurtis Rourke, who injured his shoulder in Ohio’s win over Bowling Green on Nov. 28, should be ready to return by spring ball.
Solich also mentioned that graduate transfer Armani Rogers has not communicated that he won’t be coming back for another season. Six-year seniors like Rogers, De’Montre Tuggle and Cam Odom who are coming back next season have aptly earned the nickname “super seniors.” Solich believes he knows everyone who’s coming back but will still allow time for guys who are still of the fence about using their extra year of eligibility.
“We’re pretty well set on who’s returning,“ Solich said. “Now, again, you know I hate to put an end to everything and say we would never consider something ... We’ll always look at things and see what’s in the best interests of our team.”