COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State’s season opener is less than two weeks away, which means the tremendous 2017 recruiting class finally will be unleashed on the field.
Freshmen typically have to bide their time before being called upon, but several of the current crop have shown enough to earn some reps against Indiana. What follows is a list of five freshmen who likely will get a chance to show what they can do in the season opener — and have the talent to make plays in the opportunities they’re given.
On Friday, running backs coach Tony Alford said J.K. Dobbins is “without question” the No. 2 back behind starter Mike Weber.
Dobbins is a dynamic runner, but he’s really earned his spot on the depth chart with his knowledge of the game. Alford said Dobbins has a tremendous grasp of what he should do, and that’s one of the fastest ways to get on the field at Ohio State.
“This guy loves football, and he’s smart,” Alford said. “I would say that in my 22 years — and I say this not to take anything away from anyone else — in my 22 years, this guy has picked it up faster than anybody I’ve ever been around. He’s picked up, he understands the offense and the nuances of it very quickly.”
Weber still hasn’t fully participated in practice as he recovers from a left hamstring injury. Dobbins has taken advantage of those reps, and he’ll get some chances against the Hoosiers to show what he can do — maybe even more than expected if the Buckeyes are cautious with Weber.
With defensive tackle Michael Hill suspended, Haskell Garrett could be one of the beneficiaries on the depth chart. He’s the type of elite defensive tackle that the Buckeyes have come up short for in past recruiting classes, and he’s already impressing those around him.
Coach Urban Meyer said in the same news conference Hill’s suspension was announced that Garrett was making a push.
“Right now he’s on course to play,” Meyer said. “That’s unusual for an interior D-lineman [as a freshman], but he’s really impressive right now.”
A few guys who are more experienced than Garrett will be further ahead in the rotation, but he should get a shot at some point against Indiana.
A former 5-star cornerback, Jeffrey Okudah long has been pegged as a player who could come in and contribute. Nothing he’s done since arriving in January has done anything to dissuade that notion.
If Denzel Ward and Damon Arnette start at cornerback as projected, Okudah will be the second off the bench behind JUCO transfer Kendall Sheffield. Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said Okudah is pushing his way into the mix for consistent playing time.
“Jeff Okudah is making a huge push,” Coombs said. “[He’s] playing really well the last three days.”
On Wednesday, Coombs noted that Shaun Wade was coming off his two best practices as a Buckeyes player. One day later, he had his black stripe removed.
The former 5-star cornerback enrolled early and has been impressing coaches. In the spring game, an up-and-down performance ended on a high note when he broke up a pass that helped clinch victory for the Scarlet team.
Coombs said he’s just behind Okudah in the pecking order, which is a good sign for his chances of getting playing time in Ohio State’s cornerback rotation.
At practice, Chase Young looks no different than fellow defensive ends Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes. Those three are fourth- or fifth-year players. Young showed up in June standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 260 pounds right out of high school.
The former 5-star recruit looks like he was built to rip quarterbacks to pieces, and he flashed that potential throughout practice drills that were open to the media. The way Ohio State rotates on the defensive line will put him out there in the season opener, and it’s a strong bet that he’ll make something happen.
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