Florida defensive back Tyreke Johnson (6-1 191) verbally committed to Ohio State on Tuesday, and when he did, he gave the Buckeyes’ 2018 class a very important boost.
Player: Tyreke Johnson (Trinity Christian Academy/Jacksonville, FL)
Position: Defensive Back
Ranking: 247Sports Composite 4-Star, No. 5 SAF, No. 41 Player
Tyreke Johnson played both cornerback and safety on defense for his Trinity Christian Academy football team, and played both positions with a physicality that a lot of high school defensive backs do not possess. When the ball is moving, he is full speed from his first step to his last and has no issues helping out in run support.
Johnson is a tremendous help defender as well, displaying an ability to come off of his own man when the ball is thrown to another receiver. He can cover plenty of ground and has prototypical cornerback size. His size and physicality could have him ending up at safety, but Ohio State is looking at him as a cornerback. If it’s possible for corners to be brutes, he’s one of them.
Current Buckeye freshman cornerback Jeff Okudah was once listed as the nation’s top safety, just as Rivals currently lists Tyreke Johnson. Like Okudah, however, Ohio State will want to give him a shot at cornerback first.
I don’t know if Johnson has Okudah’s speed, which might make Buckeye sophomore safety Jordan Fuller a more apt description. Fuller began his career at cornerback, but then moved to free safety early in his first camp. Free safety at Ohio State is essentially a slot cornerback, so it requires a corner’s skill set — see: Damon Webb.
There is always a place for 6-foot-1 cornerbacks, and the great thing about Ohio State’s defensive system is that they could have three or four starting corners at any time, and still need another to play free safety. OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs should get first crack at finding a spot for Tyreke Johnson, but he’s going to have to work to keep safeties coach (and defensive coordinator) Greg Schiano away.
As a press coverage defense, the Buckeyes require physical cornerbacks who can turn and run, and Johnson can do those things. He has played both off and press coverage. He has the length that Ohio State is looking for in a cornerback and the tenacity to match.
Ohio State currently has five defensive backs committed. Two of them are projected to be safeties — Jaiden Woodbey and Josh Proctor, two project to cornerback — Sevyn Banks and Marcus Hooker, and that leaves Tyreke Johnson, who could end up anywhere. And the position he plays as a freshman may not be his ultimate landing spot. That will be up to his performance and up to team needs.
The Buckeyes signed five cornerbacks and one safety in the 2017 class, and all but Shaun Wade have played this year. All six defensive backs will have a significant head start on Johnson, but there is no shame in redshirting in the Ohio State secondary, just ask Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker, Eli Apple, and Gareon Conley.
That is not to say that Johnson is a good bet to redshirt, just that there are a lot of cornerbacks ahead of him. Depending on how the safeties, develop, however, there may be a greater need there. Damon Webb will depart, as will Erick Smith, but Jordan Fuller will return, and Isaiah Pryor should step in and start alongside him. Redshirt freshmen Jahsen Wint and Wayne Davis have not made much of an impact this season, and will need to step up next season to provide depth.
Bringing in a pair of talented safeties like Woodbey and Proctor will allow the Buckeyes to try Johnson at corner first and see if he sticks.
Tyreke Johnson Highlights
[Tyreke Johnson photo courtesy 247Sports.com]