Son of former Bengals linebacker verbally commits to Ohio State

Ohio State football received a verbal commitment from Jelani Thurman over the weekend, giving coach Ryan Day 19 members of the 2023 class and a second tight end.

Thurman, who is the son of former Bengals linebacker Odell Thurman, is a four-star prospect at Langston Hughes High School in Fairburn, Ga.

He is the No. 10 prospect in his home state and the No. 8-ranked tight end in 247Sports Composite rankings that combine multiples sources.

In 247Sports’ own rankings, the younger Thurman is the No. 3 tight end in the country, fifth-ranked in his state and 69th nationally.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, he is also a candidate to join the Buckeyes’ basketball team according to

He is the second tight end to join this class, joining four-star prospect Ty Lockwood of Thompson’s Station, Tenn.

Ohio State last signed multiple players listed as tight ends in the same class in 2016 when Urban Meyer was still the head coach and Ohioans Luke Farrell, Jake Hausmann and Kierre Hawkins all joined the fold.

The Buckeyes are set to have five scholarship players at the position this season as well as sixth-year senior Mitch Rossi, a former walk-on who became a regular last season as a tight end, H-back and fullback.

The five scholarship players include only three who signed as tight ends — sophomore Joe Royer, redshirt freshman Sam Hart and true freshman Bennett Christian.

Junior Cade Stover was recruited as a highly-regarded linebacker while classmate Gee Scott Jr. arrived as a four-star receiver prospect.

Adding a second tight end in this class appears to be a sign Ohio State is further committing to building depth at the position after starting to use more multiple tight end sets since Day replaced Meyer in 2019.

Meyer’s 2014 national championship team got a lot of mileage out of so-called “12 personnel” (one running back, two tight ends and two receivers) thanks to veterans Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett, both of whom Meyer inherited from predecessor Jim Tressel.

After that season, numbers at the position fluctuated, and therefore so did 12 personnel’s prominence in the offense.

Although it has never been one to garner notable numbers in the passing game, the tight end has been identified by offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson (who also coaches the position at Ohio State) as a key one because of the demand on it for blocking in the running game and keeping teams honest in the passing game.

Last season, Jeremy Ruckert caught 26 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns.

He was picked in the third round of April’s NFL Draft by the New York Jets one year after Farrell went to the Jaguars (then coached by Meyer) in the fifth round.

The latter pick ended a four-year draft drought for Ohio State tight ends.

Ohio State also had tight ends drafted in back-to-back years in 2015 (Heuerman) and ‘16 (Vannett) after going 10 drafts without one.

Thurman is the second player from Georgia to join the 2023 Ohio State class, joining Ellenwood Cedar Grove cornerback Kayin Lee.

Since 1988 when John Cooper became head coach and increased the program’s focus on national recruiting, Ohio State has signed 23 players from Georgia beginning with Tim Walton of Columbus Carver High School in 1989.

Cooper ultimately signed four players from Georgia, including starting linebacker Kevin Johnson of Athens, in his 13 years at Ohio State.

Tressel recruited the state more heavily, signing eight Georgia natives in 10 years, including starters Brandon Mitchell (Atlanta), Anderson Russell (Atlanta), Larry Grant (Norcross), Cameron Heyward (Suwanee) and Bradley Roby (Suwanee).

Ohio State signed six players from Georgia in seven years under Meyer, including starters Raekwon McMillan (Hinseville), Vonn Bell (Rossville) and Antwuan Jackson, who attended the same high school as Lee.

Since taking over for Meyer as head coach, Day has signed five players from Georgia, including starters Harry Miller (Buford) and Steele Chambers (Roswell).

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