Here is the thing about trying to point out five “Instant Impact” signees from Ohio State’s 2018 recruiting class — there is talented depth in front of each of them, and I think most of them could benefit greatly from a redshirt season.
So we should probably dial back what we mean by “instant impact.” For this class — which is arguably the best class in the nation — an impact is more likely to be found on special teams or in providing depth.
Last year, there were guys like J.K. Dobbins, Kendall Sheffield, and Jeff Okudah, who were not only very talented, but also playing a position where depth was a concern. Depth isn’t as much of a concern this year, at least in terms of the positions covered in this class so far. If there was a defensive end like Tyreke Smith or Jayson Oweh in the class right now, one or both would be listed below.
1. DT Antwuan Jackson
At this point, it feels like people are trying to speak this into existence given that he is a junior college transfer with experience and the need that the Buckeyes could have at the position. The thing is, however, there may not be all that much need. Ohio State may be returning Dre’Mont Jones, but they are definitely returning Bibi Landers, Davon Hamilton, Jashon Cornell, Malik Barrow, Haskell Garrett, and Jerron Cage. Adding Antwuan Jackson into the mix is nice, but he’s not going to just step in and play. There is a lot of depth chart to get through. He will start out fourth on the depth chart at whichever defensive tackle position they put him.
2. TE Jeremy Ruckert
Like Antwuan Jackson, tight end Jeremy Ruckert will start out fourth on the depth chart. Even if he stays there throughout the season, he has the kind of skill set that Urban Meyer wants to find snaps for. Meyer and his coaching staff love the potential that Ruckert possesses. At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, he is a terrible matchup for both defensive backs and linebackers. He understands the nooks and crannies of zones and can do things after the catch. There isn’t a lot of production returning at tight end, but there is plenty of talent ahead of Jeremy Ruckert at the outset.
3. SAF Josh Proctor
Ohio State may have not worked this hard on a safety since Vonn Bell, and that one turned out pretty good. Getting a player like Proctor out of Oklahoma was nearly as much of a steal as Clemson coming in and taking Ohio’s top prospect. With the loss of Damon Webb, my early expectation is for Jordan Fuller to move to free safety and then for Isaiah Pryor to step into Fuller’s vacated strong safety position. Proctor will have to compete with Jahsen Wint and possibly Brendon White for No. 2 on the depth chart, but he has the kind of athleticism and explosion to make his mark quickly on the depth chart and on special teams.
4. WR Kamryn Babb
There is no telling what is going to happen with guys like Johnnie Dixon, Parris Campbell, K.J. Hill, and Terry McLaurin after this season. Who leaves early? Who stays? Probably the least-likely thing to happen would be for everyone to return. Kamryn Babb more resembles the receivers who could end up leaving, rather than the guys who will definitely be returning — like Austin Mack, Ben Victor, Jaylen Harris, Elijaah Gardiner, and perhaps Trevon Grimes. That means Babb could fill a different role and be used like a Dixon or a McLaurin, and with his abilities after the catch, he could do well in that spot.
5. CB Tyreke Johnson
When Denzel Ward enters the NFL Draft, the Buckeyes will have a cornerback room that features Kendall Sheffield, Damon Arnette, Jeff Okudah, Marcus Williamson, Amir Riep, Shaun Wade, Sevyn Banks, and Tyreke Johnson. That’s a lot of bodies for maybe four spots on the football field, and people haven’t even seen what Shaun Wade is capable of yet. Banks and Johnson might have to wait another year to make their respective marks, but there will be opportunities on special teams. Amir Riep is an example of a true freshman making an impact on the team without getting many reps on offense or defense. There’s no reason Tyreke Johnson can’t do that in 2018. He could also find himself moving to safety and getting into three-deep pretty quickly.
Bonus: WR Cameron Brown
Depending on which receivers leave, the Buckeyes could be looking for a deep threat, and Cameron Brown certainly has the speed to theorize a particular role for him.
Bonus: RBs Master Snead
We don’t know what is going to happen with Mike Weber yet, but if he leaves, Master Teague and Brian Snead are going to have to provide some snaps for the Buckeyes next season. If Weber returns, the need isn’t as great, but the desire for competition will remain.
Bonus: HB Jaelen Gill
I don’t expect Parris Campbell to return next season, but I could obviously be wrong about that. If he doesn’t, Jaelen Gill is much more in play next season. Like Jeremy Ruckert, Gill is one of those players that Urban Meyer will try to find touches for. It may be a while before he can block or run between the tackles, but he’ll still be able to help “right out of the box” if the need is there.