This is the 15th installment in a series where Buckeye Huddle looks back on each member of Ohio State’s 2023 signing class and the impact they had as rookies, as well as the impact they could have during the upcoming 2024 season. Up next is defensive tackle Kayden McDonald.
Ohio State signed Kayden McDonald out of North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Georgia where he once had seven sacks in a playoff game as a junior. In 24 games over his junior and senior seasons, McDonald posted 163 tackles, 98 tackles for loss, and 32 sacks. He also rushed for 409 yards and 11 touchdowns on 77 carries as a senior.
McDonald was ranked the No. 35 defensive lineman in the 2023 class and the No. 261 player in the nation. He signed with Ohio State over offers from Clemson, Michigan, Florida, Oklahoma, Georgia, LSU, Texas, and dozens of others. McDonald attended the same high school as current Ohio State defensive back Jordan Hancock.
Currently listed at 6-foot-2 and 319 pounds, Kayden McDonald arrived at Ohio State already looking the part of a college football defensive tackle. But defensive line coach Larry Johnson did have some worries about just how heavy McDonald was going to be when he finally arrived on campus last June.
“I’m concerned that he doesn’t get too heavy,” Johnson said last May. “At 340 he’d be really heavy. At 320 we can deal with that because the game is much faster. Obviously you can’t carry that much weight and play fast in this scheme. So I’m a little concerned where he’s gonna be. He’s saying he’s around 330, 325. We’ll see when he gets here. But I’m hoping I can keep him around 320-325, because he plays well with his body. He’s got long arms. He’s got a big barrel chest.”
Johnson put McDonald at nose tackle because of his size and quickness. He ended up playing in seven games last year. His lone tackle was a tackle for loss. He also batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage.
McDonald also played fullback in the Cotton Bowl against Missouri. He played three snaps in short-yardage situations, which gives an idea of his overall athleticism.
So Now What For Kayden McDonald?
The Buckeyes lost one of their two co-starters at nose tackle last year when Mike Hall entered the NFL Draft as a redshirt sophomore. Fifth-year senior Ty Hamilton is back in 2024, but there is a backup job wide open. Just based on last year’s depth chart and the departures, Kayden McDonald (6-2 319) is the next man up behind Hamilton at nose tackle, but the job won’t just be given to him.
Spring practice will dictate the next step in McDonald’s development. It will be his first spring camp, so he should grow from it quite well. McDonald spent a lot of time on scout team last year but began to push his way toward more playing time as the season went on.
And in doing so, he impressed defensive coordinator Jim Knowles at the time.
“Yeah, he has,” Knowles said last fall. “Our offensive coaches tell us kind of what’s going on with scout team, and he gives them fits down there. So he’s a guy that we’ve wanted to look at if we have the chance, and he seems to be a real force inside, and he plays with a high motor. Just a really positive kid. So yeah, I think he’s got chance to push into the lineup.”
Even if the lineup wasn’t lighter than it was a year ago, McDonald was likely going to see the field more than he did last season. With Mike Hall and Jaden McKenzie out of the picture, it will be interesting to see what McDonald can do when he’s playing more than just bit parts in the fourth quarter or in short-yardage. McDonald was a playmaker in high school, so the expectations for him are high, but he has to show that he’s ready for a significant role in OSU’s defensive line rotation.
Safety Malik Hartford
Receiver Brandon Inniss
Safety Jayden Bonsu
Offensive Tackle Luke Montgomery
Defensive End Joshua Mickens
Tight End Jelani Thurman
Defensive Tackle Will Smith, Jr.
Cornerback Calvin Simpson-Hunt
Quarterback Lincoln Kienholz
Linebacker Nigel Glover
Offensive Guard Austin Siereveld
Cornerback Jermaine Mathews, Jr.
Defensive Tackle Jason Moore
Linebacker Arvell Reese