Bobcats add four to 2021 class, with one still to go

Ohio announced the addition of four new players to the 2021 recruiting class on Wednesday, which was the first date of the late signing period.

The quartet, when combined with the 15 inked in December, brings the 2021 group to 19 players. And the Bobcats aren’t done either.

“Another fairly smooth signing day for us, as it was back in December,” said Ryan Bainbridge, Ohio’s director of recruiting and player personnel.

Ohio head coach Frank Solich, seen here last fall, will return for year No. 17 with the Bobcats next fall and has landed a 2021 recruiting class with 19 players. Photo courtesy of Ohio Athletics/Midge Mazur

“We signed four high school seniors, we only announced three,” he continued. “There is one more high school senior that we are waiting to announce due to his wishes, so that will be coming out hopefully next week.”

Ohio announced the addition of veteran offensive lineman T.J. Jackson, a transfer portal grab, to the roster. Jackson, a super-sized presence at 6-foot-7 and 375 pounds, has already enrolled at OU and will be eligible to play in 2021 as a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech.

Jackson appeared in 24 games for the Hokies, and OU expects him to compete for a potential starter’s role at tackle on the OL during spring camp. Ohio associate head coach/offensive coordinator Tim Albin vetted Jackson with Va. Tech OC Brad Cornelsen, who Albin once recruited back in Oklahoma.

“He is big, as you can see on paper. He’ll be tough to get around,” Albin said. “(Cornelsen) had a lot of good things to say about T.J. We’re looking forward to getting him started.”

Cornerback Shakari Denson, a cornerback from Claxton, Ga., became the highest-rated recruit in the class when he signed with OU. Denson was committed to Michigan State until a coaching change led to a different staff in place in East Lansing.

When Denson became free, Ohio was happy to land the defensive back. Ohio cornerbacks coach De’Angelo Smith was the point man on the recruitment.

“That was all him,” said Ohio defensive coordinator Ron Collins. “De’Angelo was all over it.”

Ohio also added a potential No. 1 WR, a big target that could fit into the ‘X’ slot in the Bobcats’ offense. It was an area of need with the transfer of Shane Hooks last month.

Aramoni Rhone, from Orlando, Fla. and listed at 6-foot-5, will be among the tallest players at the position during Frank Solich’s 17-year run in Athens.

“He’ll be the tallest receiver we’ve had here,” Albin said. “Gonna be a target for us, an outside guy. He’s everything that you just said.”

Defensive end Tillman Weaver, from Sandy Springs, Ga., rounds out the small group announced Wednesday. Weaver put up huge numbers last fall, and will have a lot of upside. Weaver has played just one season of high school football.

“He’s a late bloomer. He didn’t get evaluated until this fall,” Collins said. “Nobody had really seen him.

“When we watched him and evaluated his fundamentals and techniques, he stood out,” Collins added. “He’s a guy who is not only producing, but also has a really high ceiling. We’re fired up about him.”

The class, as a whole, contains 10 offensive players and nine defensive players. Every position group, except for specialists and quarterback, landed reinforcements.

The Bobcats hit both their home state (seven players) and some national hot spots well. Ohio signed three players from both Georgia and Florida, and landed four from the ‘DMV’ – Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia – area.

Frank Solich, who appears on track for season No. 17 with the Bobcats, said the class was impressive for its balance and size, despite the constraints of recruiting during a pandemic. The class is currently ranked eight in the MAC (99th nationally) by 247sports.com, and fifth in the league with an average rating of 81.68 per recruit.

It’s the kind of group Solich believes will keep the Bobcats building momentum.

“We’ve put a few good classes now together that I think are special, and can help us in our quest to move the program forward,” Solich said. “That’s our intent.”

Here’s a capsule look at the four players, plus another, Ohio announced as official scholarship additions to the roster on Wednesday. They’ll join the group signed in December to form the complete 2021 recruiting class.

Ohio currently has 19 players in the 2021 class, a number that is expected to increase by one as early next week to an even 20.

Though he appears as with this grouping, tight end Will Kacmarek actually signed with Ohio on Dec. 18, 2020, or two days after the start of the early signing period. Recruiting scores assigned to each player are taken from 247sports.com, and players are listed in order of their grade on that platform.

Shakari Denson, CB, 6-0, 170, Claxton, Ga. – 0.8516

A two-time all-state selection, Denson logged 17 intercepts in high school and is the highest-rated players in the Bobcats’ 2021 class. Originally committed to Michigan State, Denson is the highest-rated player (80) to sign with Ohio according to ESPN’s own ranking/grading criteria.

Aramoni Rhone, WR, 6-5, 190, Orlando, Fla – 0.8477

Rhone has the size and potential that seems to indicate he’s the immediate replacement for the now elsewhere Shane Hooks in the WR group. Rhone had 42 catches for 568 yards in his career at Plant City HS, and had other offers from Cincinnati, Arizona State and Coastal Carolina.

Tillman Weaver, DE, 6-3, 240, Sandy Springs, Ga. – 0.8104

Weaver played just one season of high school football, and racked up 71 tackles, 10 sacks and 40 tackles for loss at Riverwood HS, which finished 11-1 in 2020. Had one other listed offer, Arkansas State.

T.J. Jackson, OL, 6-7, 375, Cumberland, Va. – 0.8099 (HS rating)

A transfer from Virginia Tech, Jackson is a mammoth-sized early enrollee who is expected to compete as a starter at offensive tackle at Ohio. He logged 24 career games with the Hokies, including a pair of starts in 2019 at right guard.

Will Kacmarek, TE, 6-6, 240, St. Louis, Mo. – 0.7500

Kacmarek signed with Ohio two days after the start of the early signing period, and had no other D-I offers according to 247sports.com. Kacmarek was a two-time captain at Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School, and a two-way starter with 41 catches for 510 yards and 162 tackles and 23 sacks over his career.

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