Garrett Stover

Buckeye Freshman Linebackers ‘As Tough As They Come’

To this point, with about 10 days until college football’s final signing day, Ohio State has signed two linebackers in the 2024 recruiting class. They are not expected to add any more and will hold steady with the pair of Payton Pierce and Garrett Stover.

The duo has come from Texas and Ohio, respectively. Pierce (6-1 220) attended Lovejoy High School in Lucas, Texas where he posted 181 tackles and 40 tackles for loss as a senior. Over his final two seasons, he produced 312 tackles, 61 tackles for loss, and 14 sacks. He was ranked the No. 16 linebacker in the class and the No. 204 player overall.

Pierce ended up one of five finalists for the High School Butkus Award, given annually to the top linebacker in the high school ranks.

“This is a guy who has wrestled,” OSU head coach Ryan Day said back on the first signing day in December. “He’s done so much for his team. He’ll play quarterback. He’s very versatile and he’s done a lot of things. He comes from an unbelievable program and great family. Brings a toughness, hard-hat mentality. We’re very excited about him.”

Stover (6-0 205), meanwhile, is the cousin of OSU tight end Cade Stover and attended Big Walnut High School in nearby Sunbury, Ohio. He was a First-Team All-State selection as a senior following a year where he posted 89 tackles, three tackles for loss, three sacks, and two interceptions. Stover was ranked the No. 9 safety in the class and the No. 105 player overall. Despite the ranking and experience at safety, he is expected to be a linebacker for the Buckeyes.

“Stover is out of Big Walnut here, cousins of [OSU tight end] Cade Stover, brings the same type of mentality as Cade,” Day said. “He’ll play linebacker for us or safety. He has some versatility there. But again, really, really talented player that is going to be a big part of our class.”

In addition to his versatility and athleticism, another added bonus of signing Garrett Stover is that he grew up a Buckeye.

“Ohio guys are going to be important for that locker room to really understand what it means to be Buckeyes,” Day said.

This will also be the first winter and spring for second-year linebackers Arvell Reese and Nigel Glover. Both of those players are from Ohio as well. Glover, who attended Clayton Northmont High School outside of Dayton, was a late-summer transfer from Northwestern and redshirted without seeing any action. Reese, from Glenville High School in Cleveland, was a regular on special teams throughout the season, but dealt with an injury and a side quest to defensive end.

The Buckeyes have lost starting linebackers Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers to the NFL, and third-year sophomore Reid Carrico to the transfer portal. They return fifth-year senior Cody Simon, who should be OSU’s starting middle linebacker this year. Third-year players CJ Hicks, Gabe Powers, and Sonny Styles are all back as well, as is graduate Kourt Williams, who has two years of eligibility remaining.

Spring practice will open in about six weeks for the Buckeyes in what is going to be one of the most anticipated seasons in program history. For the true freshman linebackers, however, their anticipation is going to center on just trying to keep up.

There will be a lot that needs worked out in the spring when it comes to defensive coordinator Jim Knowles building his depth chart. There are a number of options, and while true freshmen aren’t generally part of the immediate plan, he certainly likes the makeup of Payton Pierce and Garrett Stover.

“The two linebackers, I just think they’re as tough as they come, in terms of being Silver Bullets,” Knowles said last month. “You are losing Tommy, you are losing Steele, and you want guys with just a hard-nosed mentality. I think those two represent that. They’re just hard nosed, physical linebackers that you can count on to work. They’re both hard workers who are going to be great team guys.”

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