Larry Johnson has been one of the best coaches on staff for nearly a decade now. He has produced many great defensive linemen in his tenure and has recruited at a high level. The defensive line was solid in 2023, helping lead the way to victory in most games.
The interior of the defensive line shined in 2023 as Mike Hall, Tyleik Williams, and Ty Hamilton were outstanding for most of the season. The real problem with the unit was with the pass rush. Johnson has failed to deliver a double-digit sack rusher once again as J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer failed to live up to their lofty expectations from a pass rush standpoint.
Johnson gets a C+ for the pass rush not getting home. He did a pretty good job in recruiting the 2024 class by securing two five-star players in tackle Justin Scott and edge Eddrick Houston. Hopefully we see some sacks in 2024.
Tim Walton has been one of Ryan Day’s best coaching staff hires. I was skeptical of him last season, giving him a D- grade as the secondary did not play well in 2022. But Walton sure has turned things around as he coached up the likes of Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock, and Davison Igbinosun into one of the best cornerback rooms in the country.
He also appears to have hit home runs in the 2023 recruiting cycle with Calvin Simpson-Hunt and Jermaine Mathews both getting on the field as true freshmen. He also locked up two top-100 recruits for the 24′ class in Aaron Scott and Bryce West. The future of this room is bright indeed. Walton deserves an ‘A.’
Perry Eliano gets a ‘B-‘ for his second season in Columbus. He did a great job in getting former five-star Sonny Styles ready to play for 2023 as he had a big impact on the season. Lathan Ransom has also developed into one of the best safeties in the Big Ten under Eliano’s watch.
But Eliano gets only a ‘B-‘ for his failed attempts to land a big recruit. Ohio State’s top-rated safety for 2023 is the No. 257 player nationally, Jaylen McClain. The Buckeyes thought they were in the driver’s seat for five-star KJ Bolden, who just so happens to be Eliano’s cousin. But he chose Florida State instead.
I think Eliano is a fine coach and knows how to develop talent. I just want to see him to start to get it done on the recruiting trail before he gets graded any higher.
There is no doubt that this defense has played better since Knowles arrived last year. He is a great tactician and turned this once-depleted defense into a top-five defense in the country in most major statistical categories. He has been a very good hire.
We just need to see him do it against Michigan. In the biggest moment of the season for Knowles and the defense, they could not get off the field as Michigan ate off seven minutes on a crucial fourth-quarter drive. Knowles needs to figure out how to shut Michigan down next season. That is if he’s still around as rumors are swirling that he is a candidate for the open Duke head coaching position.