When I did the Top 10 playmakers on the Ohio State offense over the last month, I started everything by listing playmakers 11-20. It was pretty thin at the bottom. In fact, as I recall, there were technically only 22 players even eligible to be listed.
To be a playmaker on offense, you have to touch the football. The requirements to be a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball for the Buckeyes, however, are a bit different.
And the numbers bear this out.
I will again start off by running through players numbered 11-20, but just so you know, there are over a dozen players who didn’t even make that list, and seven of them are former 5-star prospects.
Interestingly, there are more former 5-star prospects who didn‘t make the list than those who did.
That is absurdly deep.
So who are the 10 who made the cut at Nos. 20-11?
20. Malik Barrow, rFr DT
Malik Barrow has a lot of teammates to work through, but he performed well in the spring. He has now had two full springs at Ohio State — though only one of those was he healthy enough to participate. He knows the defense, and he built up some positive momentum and confidence over this offseason.
19. Erick Smith, Sr SAF
You’re going to be hearing this quite a bit during this series, but Erick Smith could very easily end up much higher on this list. He was a plamaker early in his career and found the football when he was on the field. He’s older now and has a better understanding of the defense, but does he still have the knack?
18. Jonathon Cooper, So DE
If a Martian landed on Earth and the first thing he saw upon entering a random B-Dubs was the Ohio State spring game, he would have thought to himself, “Bleezorp, there is no way that dude wearing No. 18 isn’t one of the Top 10 playmakers on this defense.” It would have been an astute observation, but his lack of understanding about the rest of the Ohio State defensive ends would have been a tad embarrassing for him.
17. Davon Hamilton, rSo DT
I am really expecting big things from Davon Hamilton, but it is difficult to make plays at nose tackle. Hamilton can play both spots, but may not be needed as much at the three tech. Wherever he lines up, however, he will prove to be a difficult man to keep out of the backfield. He is big, strong, and a year better than he was as a talented redshirt freshman.
16. Malik Harrison, rSo LB
Malik Harrison will compete for the starting Sam spot during camp and will bring as much natural ability to the position as any linebacker on the Buckeye roster. If he can break into the starting lineup, then he will be much higher on this list. Having him this high as a backup speaks to his potential in those moments when he will be on the field.
15. Jordan Fuller, So SAF
Jordan Fuller was the backup free safety as a true freshman. Now he is battling Erick Smith for the starting strong safety job while also trying to show Greg Schiano that he can play both spots and help out in a three-man rotation if necessary. If there is a rotation, Fuller will get to show his skills all over the field. If he’s just the strong safety, then he’ll show what he can do as a ball-hawking center fielder.
14. Robert Landers, rSo DT
One of two things are going to happen for Robert Landers this season. Either he is going to continue to struggle against the better teams on the schedule like he did last year, or he is going to take that experience and learn from it. If he learns from it, then you’ll have one of the quickest nose tackles in college football penetrating the opposing offensive line for the Buckeyes.
13. Tracy Sprinkle, rSr DT
Tracy Sprinkle was supposed to give the Buckeyes a pass rusher at defensive tackle last season, which means that he will do it this season instead. Sprinkle could also get some work at nose tackle. Wherever his snaps come from, he’ll bring an ability to get into the backfield and cause problems.
12. Kendall Sheffield, rSo CB
Kendall Sheffield is a wildcard for the Buckeyes because he could absolutely finish this season No. 1 on this list. He’s one of the fastest players on the team and is a dynamic kick returner. He is also a dynamic interception returner. I am assuming you’ll get to see that at some point.
11. Jalyn Holmes, Sr DE
Jalyn Holmes is one of the best defensive linemen in the Big Ten, but there just wasn’t enough room for him in the Top 10. He is a very good bet to move up this list. If the Buckeyes are going to win it all in 2017, however, they’ll need some defensive backs to step up and be in that Top 10 instead of Holmes.