Ohio State linebackers coach James Laurinaitis has had an eventful past six months. After moving back to Ohio State from Notre Dame, Laurinaitis quickly got promoted from graduate assistant to full-time linebackers coach.

Last season, Laurinaitis did much of the linebacker coaching work, allowing defensive coordinator Jim Knowles to focus on the entire defense. This year, however, Laurinaitis will fully take over the linebackers on the field. He got a taste of this new role during spring practice, but his performance will be closely watched as he has to replace both starters from last season.

“I certainly felt like the linebacker coach last year. I think the guys would have said the same thing. It’s little things to me. So I think for me, it’s just knowing that the title brings that those are your guys. That’s your room. And there’s a lot of responsibility with that. But I cherish that.”

Ohio State Linebackers Coach James Laurinaitis

The biggest change for Laurinaitis has been in recruiting. As a graduate assistant, he could talk to recruits on the phone or when they visited campus, but he couldn’t travel to meet them. That changed after head coach Ryan Day let special teams coordinator Parker Fleming go, leaving a spot on the staff for Laurinaitis. He then traveled to schools around the country, including Florida, with Coach Day.

Once officially named the linebackers coach, Laurinaitis experienced the demands of recruiting firsthand. This hard work is essential for being a good recruiter, and Laurinaitis is already showing his skills. Since becoming a full-time coach on February 15, he has secured two linebacker commitments. Tarvos Alford, the No. 8 linebacker in the 2025 class from Vero Beach, Florida, committed to Ohio State in late March. Recently, five-star Riley Pettijohn, the country’s fifth-best linebacker, also chose Ohio State.

These commitments give Ohio State two of the top eight linebackers in the nation, a feat they haven’t achieved in one class since 2018. Laurinaitis has also helped secure other linebacker recruits. As a graduate assistant, he worked with Knowles to land four-star Payton Pierce from Lucas, Texas, in the 2024 class and three-star Eli Lee from Akron, Ohio, before being promoted.

While many high school prospects may not remember Laurinaitis playing for Ohio State or in the NFL, they respect his achievements and his coaching skills.

“My relationship with coach Laurinaitis is top tier. With coach Laurinaitis, being an alumni from Ohio State and a Butkus winner, it’s just cool him being a position coach. He knows a lot about the game. So that’s cool he can develop players good. With him coming from the League, he knows a lot about ball. And definitely playing linebacker (in) the League for a long time.”

New commit Riley Pettijohn