Welcome to ‘Eyes on the Trail’, our Monday-Friday Ohio State recruiting notebook from the recruiting staff here at BuckeyeHuddle.com. Keep it locked in here for the latest in all things Buckeye recruiting.
PAYTON PIERCE MAKES FIRST VISIT TO OHIO STATE
Ohio State had a huge recruiting weekend and one of the top prospects in attendance was Lucas (TX) Lovejoy 2024 linebacker Payton Pierce.
The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder has a great relationship with James Laurinaitis at Notre Dame, and upon the former OSU linebacker returning home, Pierce has shown big time interest in the Buckeyes. His first visit to Columbus over the weekend went well.
“The visit was great,” he told Buckeye Huddle. “I had high expectations for it and it went way beyond that. The best part for me was just seeing the culture and how everything is done at an elite level. From the players to the coaches to the facilities, there is a lot of pride in excellence by everyone. I got to spend time with so many great people such as Bobby Carpenter, Mickey Marotti, Mark Pantoni, and even some recruits, including Garrett Stover, who is a great guy.”
Pierce’s time with the staff was also a standout on this visit.
“I got to interact with all of the coaches, which was great,” he shared. “It’s like everyone is together there, not just by position or one side of the ball. I felt like everyone wanted to coach me. I spent a ton of time with Coach Knowles, Coach Laurinaitis, and Coach McGrath, and also had an awesome time with Coach Day. I had already spent a lot of time with Coach Laurinaitis and it was really great to spend a lot of time and really get to know Coach Knowles and Coach McGrath as well. The coaches’ key message was that they really want me and think I fit there, and that if I come there it will be hard, tough, and competitive.”
So, after this trip, where do the Buckeyes stand for pierce?
“I am really starting to narrow down my schools and have it down to about four or five,” he stated. “Ohio State is, with no doubt, in that group.”
Pierce is currently planning on making a commitment after he takes official visits in June, but says he could end his recruitment earlier if “I know it is right”.
He’ll be in Columbus the weekend of June 24 for his official visit, but given how well this visit went, I wouldn’t be totally shocked if Pierce is a member of Ohio State’s class when he makes that trip.
THE RECRUIT WHO SHOWED UP IN A SUIT
I remember covering recruiting for the class of 2011 nearly 14 years ago. In that class, one of the biggest things I’ll remember is how Jeremy Cash flew from Florida to Ohio State for his visit and showed up in a suit. His reasoning was that he was on a business trip and that the visit was like an interview to him—and if he were to go on a job interview, he’d wear a suit.
Fast forward to this past weekend, when Ohio State hosted a big time freshman defensive tackle named Preston “PJ” Carey out of East Northport (NY) St. Anthony’s. The 6-foot-5, 285-pounder stood out amongst the group of prospects in attendance, a little bit because of his size, but more so because of his attire. What did he wear? A full suit and tie.
“If you went to a job interview you’d wear a jacket or a suit, right?” Carey said. “My dad taught me stuff like that when I was younger and I’m just trying to stay on the path of making a good name for myself off the field as well as on the field too.”
Carey didn’t just look good in his suit, he also had a good first visit to Ohio State.
“It was awesome,” he stated when asked. “When I go on these visits I always put myself in the players’ shoes. The facilities and all that stuff is cool, but at the end of the day I’d be coming here to be a student athlete and play football. So when I go on these visits I watch the players in meeting and in practice to see how I would like it and how I’d envision myself doing that one day. I put myself in the OSU players’ shoes and it was awesome. The vibes in the meetings were great as they were having fun but knew when to lock in. It was the same with practice, having fun going through drills, but when it came to scrimmage time and going live, they locked in and knew how to get down to business. That was very important to me.
“What also stuck out to me is that Ohio State has produced some great defensive linemen. The Bosa brothers, Chase Young, many more beyond that. They produce top tier d-linemen, so that is a place I’d want to be. They are playing for national championships. When Coach Johnson was telling me how I can be the next Bosa or next Chase Young, that really stood out to me.”
Carey landed an offer from Ohio State on the visit, his 14th of the process.
“It was amazing to hear the news from Coach Johnson and Coach Day,” he shared. “It’s just another step in the right direction for me, especially with it being the school it is. Right now I don’t have any top list, but if I did, Ohio State would definitely be among my top schools. It’s definitely a top school for me for all the reasons I mentioned and it was nothing but great vibes and great people.”
This was a great first step for Ohio State with a prospect who may be among the best in America in the class of 2026. A decision isn’t expected though for at least another year, so they’ll have to continue to carry the positive momentum for the foreseeable future.
BUCKEYES HOST MORE VISITORS FOR TUESDAY PRACTICE
Ohio State held another practice on Tuesday and hosted a small group of prospects to come check it out. Below is a list of reactions from said visitors, with this being updated as more comments roll in.
2024 LB Quan Rhodes McKee: “I loved it and am looking forward to being back. I really enjoyed the spring practice . I like Coach Laurainitis and Coach Knowles and their no nonsense coaching style. I feel like I can fit in with that type of coaching style. I got to speak with Coach Alford and Coach Fleming. They were asking me how I was liking the visit, how my season went, what I want to major in, and told me they’d love to get me back on campus. If they offered, just being an Ohio kid and growing up a Buckeyes fan, I would commit (on the spot).”
2025 TE Ty Rupe: “It was awesome. Coach Kee was great. The highlight was probably being in the tight ends meeting and seeing how Coach Kee runs his group. Watching the tight ends up close at practice was pretty cool too. Coach Kee talked a lot about his relationships with his guys, how he uses tight ends and what it looks like to play for Ohio State. He’s excited that I get to be in a spread offense this year since we got a new coach and a new offense. I will be back this summer and hopefully back for a game in the fall if it works out with my high school schedule. If they offered, that would be awesome! It’s a great program and a great school.”