What Jelani Thurman’s Commitment Means for Ohio State’s 2023 Recruiting Class

Ohio State’s first commit of the 2023 cycle was a tight end.

The Buckeyes got their 2023 recruiting efforts off to a strong start when four-star tight end Ty Lockwood committed to OSU last August. But that wasn’t enough for Kevin Wilson.

Ohio State’s offensive coordinator and tight ends coach long had the desire to find another premier tight end to pair alongside Lockwood in the current class. His search for the second took a lot longer than the first.

Ohio State offered 11 total tight end prospects in the class. Wilson scouted countless others and evaluated several prospects hoping to land offers from the Buckeyes during OSU’s June recruiting camps. But over the last few months, four-star Georgia product Jelani Thurman emerged as Wilson’s top target to join Lockwood in the 2023 class.

Thurman received his offer from Ohio State in February and quickly developed a rapport with the Buckeyes in the coming months. He took an official visit to Columbus June 24-26 and committed to OSU Sunday over Michigan State and others.

It’s not hard to see why Wilson is so intrigued by the potential of Thurman. 

Thurman boasts an elite athletic family lineage, as both his mother and father are former pro athletes. His father, Odell, is a former All-SEC linebacker at Georgia who went on to play for the Cincinnati Bengals. His mother, Kara Braxton, is a former WNBA player who also had a prolific career at Georgia. 

More importantly, Thurman’s film shows he is a versatile tight end capable of being both an efficient run blocker and a pass-catching weapon at the next level.

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On The Field

Similar to Lockwood, Thurman has spent a lot of time split out wide. His high school often takes advantage of his big frame to create mismatches for opposing defensive backs and linebackers, utilizing him with fades, crosses and screens. But Thurman also has enough experience lining up with his hand in the dirt to where it shouldn’t be a major adjustment transitioning to Ohio State’s offense. 

At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Thurman has a lean frame that he could bulk up more when he arrives at OSU to help him block opposing defensive ends. 

A terrific jump-ball receiver, Thurman does an excellent job catching the ball at the highest point over lengthy defensive backs, making him an intriguing red zone target. Thurman also shows enough speed on film that he could be a mismatch for linebackers trying to cover him over the middle. 

Also a basketball player, Thurman showed off his athleticism on the hardwood during his first visit to Ohio State when he caught an alley-oop from 2024 OSU quarterback commit Dylan Raiola, which could be the first time of many those two connect on a pass.

Thurman caught 31 passes for 479 yards and seven touchdowns last season for Langston Hughes High School (Fairburn, Georgia), where he helped lead his team to a state title appearance and also played defensive end. 

In The Class

Every time Ohio State lands a new commit, it seems this section always starts with an update on where it sits in 247Sports’ national recruiting rankings. Well, Thurman’s commitment is no different. 

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In the past month, Ohio State and Notre Dame have each held the No. 1 national ranking multiple times after a flurry of commitments. Notre Dame briefly claimed the No. 1 spot on Friday after landing a commitment from wide receiver Jaden Greathouse. Two days later, OSU surpassed the Fighting Irish and holds the top spot with Thurman’s commitment. 

Ohio State now has two five-star prospects, 15 four-stars and two three-stars committed in its current class.

Pos Name Rating Rank Size School
WR BRANDON INNISS ★★★★★ #18 NATL | #2 WR 6-0 | 190 American Heritage (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
WR CARNELL TATE ★★★★★ #28 NATL | #3 WR 6-2 | 185 IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida)
OT LUKE MONTGOMERY ★★★★ #42 NATL | #4 OT 6-5 | 280 Findlay (Findlay, OH)
WR NOAH ROGERS ★★★★ #51 NATL | #9 WR 6-2 | 180 Rolesville (Rolesville, NC)
DL JASON MOORE ★★★★ #53 NATL | #5 DL 6-6 | 255 DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, MD)
CB DIJON JOHNSON ★★★★ #95 NATL | #11 CB 6-1 | 190 Wharton (Tampa, FL)
TE TY LOCKWOOD ★★★★ #133 NATL | #8 TE 6-5 | 225 Independence (Thompson’s Station, TN)
TE JELANI THURMAN ★★★★ #135 NATL | #9 TE 6-5 | 230 Langston Hughes (Fairburn, GA)
CB KAYIN LEE ★★★★ #146 NATL | #18 CB 6-2.5 | 175 Cedar Grove (Ellenwood, GA)
S MALIK HARTFORD ★★★★ #149 NATL | #8 S 6-2.5 | 175 Lakota West (West Chester, OH)
CB CALVIN SIMPSON-HUNT ★★★★ #173 NATL | #22 CB 6-0 | 175 Waxahachie (Waxahachie, Texas)
IOL JOSHUA PADILLA ★★★★ #180 NATL | #8 IOL 6-4 | 265 Wayne (Dayton, OH)
S CEDRICK HAWKINS ★★★★ #211 NATL | #14 S 6-0 | 175 Cocoa (Cocoa, FL)
RB MARK FLETCHER ★★★★ #221 NATL | #11 RB 6-1 | 225 American Heritage (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
OL AUSTIN SIEREVELD ★★★★ #222 NATL | #10 IOL 6-5 | 320 Lakota East (Middletown, OH)
WR BRYSON RODGERS ★★★★ #267 NATL | #32 WR 6-0.5 | 175 Wiregrass Ranch (Zephyrhills, FL)
CB JERMAINE MATHEWS ★★★★ #358 NATL | #21 ATH 6-0 | 175 Winton Woods (Cincinnati, OH)
DL WILL SMITH JR. ★★★ #452 NATL | #55 DL 6-3 | 260 Dublin Coffman (Dublin, OH)
OL MILES WALKER ★★★ #463 NATL | #38 OT 6-6 | 285 Brunswick High School (Greenwich, CT)
Prospect Rating Data: 247Sports
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Thurman is the second and final tight end and the 19th overall commit in the Buckeyes’ 2023 class. Ohio State becomes the second team to land commitments from two of the top 10 tight ends in the 2023 class, along with Arkansas (Luke Hasz and Shamar Easter).

He becomes the second commit from Georgia in OSU’s 2023 class along with four-star cornerback Kayin Lee. The Buckeyes certainly hope he’s not their last commit from the Peach State, as they remain in hot pursuit of five-star safety Caleb Downs and four-star running back Justice Haynes.

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