Jeffrey Okudah was part of a recruiting battle that sort of became a slaughter.
The Buckeyes got involved early on and led pretty much wire-to-wire, even if Okudah (6-1 193) did have to wait until January to commit. Don’t let that distract you from what Ohio State was able to accomplish here, however. They went into Texas and signed the top-rated cornerback prospect in the nation. Even if they led wire-to-wire, you should appreciate what they pulled off.
Okudah was a 5-star prospect and a top 10 player in the 2017 class. An Army All-American, he posted 43 tackles, five pass breakups, and nearly 800 yards of total offense as a senior for his South Grand Prairie High School in Grand Prairie, Texas.
Prior to his senior season, Okudah participated in Nike’s The Opening, where he ran a 4.49 40-yard dash, clocked in a 4.03 20-yard shuttle time, and put up a 41.6″ vertical jump. His numbers gave him the No. 2 SPARQ score at the event, behind running back and current teammate J.K. Dobbins.
Okudah was one of 10 early enrollees this winter for the Buckeyes and he put his spring camp to good use. He got a ton of reps and capped his spring very well with a nice finish in the Buckeyes’ spring game.
What to Like
First off, Jeffrey Okudah is a long, tall corner with rare athleticism. He can turn and run with anybody, but also has the speed to catch up if he gets caught cheating. One of the things that you’ll notice right away, however, is that contact doesn’t seem to bother him. And not always to his benefit.
Here is the play Jeffrey Okudah was hurt on. He's fine per reports. pic.twitter.com/erB4w0DJNC
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) January 8, 2017
Based off of his high school highlights, he wasn’t asked to play a lot of press coverage. That obviously has changed for him now. Throughout the spring he was face to face with opposing receivers. That is a lot of pressure to put on a freshman cornerback, but he responded throughout camp.
He has the length to not lose contact with his man, and he does a nice job of timing his hands when the ball is arriving.
He’s also very helpful in run support, as you can see here.
Well, I mean, he’s an Ohio State cornerback, so the potential is nearly unlimited. Even without playing a down yet, the standard is First Round NFL Draft Pick. That’s just how the Buckeyes are operating right now at cornerback. Jeffrey Okudah fits right into that mold.
He can run with any receiver he lines up against, can support the run like a safety, and he keeps his head down and hand up when he’s in the classroom. He is still just a freshman, however, so each of these things comes and goes, but when it all finally clicks, he’s going to be very, very good.
“They should be going to the prom,” Kerry Coombs said of Okudah, Shaun Wade, and Marcus Williamson this spring. “And they’ve put themselves through mat drills, Mickey’s strength program, my anguish for the first three months of this year, and they’ve come out the other side as effective players. Are they good enough yet? No, but we’ve got a long time between now and August 31st. They have all the skill set that they need to be phenomenal players, and they will be.”
Here you can see Okudah at the top of the screen get beaten by Terry McLaurin, though the catch should have never been allowed. Even as the ball is coming down, though, you can see his hand nearly getting in there.
The other thing he has going for him is his maturity.
“What sold me was the plan they had set out for me after football,” Okudah said on signing day. “Not many schools go into that much detail about life after football stuff, so when Coach Meyer told me about the Real Life program that he’s implemented, that really sold me as well as my family.”
Jeffrey Okudah was told back in the winter to be ready to play this year. He’s spent every day at Ohio State since he arrived working to make that happen. He expects to play.
“That’s my intention,” he said. “I know a spot is open, so it’s all-out competition. I know the best two corners will get on the field, so it’s whatever I make of it. I’m just excited to get the opportunity and run with it.”
Here he is making a diving PBU in the spring game.
Ohio State left spring with a top group of three cornerbacks — Denzel Ward, Damon Arnette, and Kendall Sheffield. Coombs wants at least one more player to enter that picture, and Okudah is battling with his fellow freshmen Shaun Wade and Marcus Williamson to get there.
Whether or not Okudah breaks into the cornerback rotation this season, he will be expected to contribute in kick coverage. As one of the fastest players on the team, it is easy to envision him covering kicks and getting down the field expeditiously.
But don’t be surprised to see him get some time at cornerback. Coombs said this spring that the major lesson he learned from last year’s rotation was to simply play the guys and let them excel.
The Bottom Line
If you polled 100 people around the Ohio State football program and asked them who the top pro prospect in this group of freshmen was, Jeffrey Okudah would be one of the top vote-getters. In fact, he might be the top vote-getter. He and Shaun Wade are the prototype of what the NFL is looking for at cornerback. That is also why they are the prototype of what Ohio State is looking for.
There are no guarantees for freshmen, but there’s probably 80 different FBS programs where Okudah would already be penciled into a starting lineup. Even after sending two cornerbacks into the first round of the NFL Draft, the Buckeyes are still deeper than most programs at the position.
Jeffrey Okudah adds to that depth, and he might just add to the rotation while he’s at it.