You’ve likely seen a lot of not-so-great news on the recruiting front for the Buckeyes in the last 24 hours, so Tom Orr and I thought we would brighten up your day and talk about some of the good things that yesterday brought.
What follows is 10 questions, predictions, picks, whatever you want to call them, involving Ohio State’s 2018 signees and what we guess might happen with a handful of them. We did not collaborate on any of the answers. We’re not that organized.
1. Instant Impact Offense
Tom: A lot of this depends on who goes pro and where the openings are on the depth chart. If Mike Weber goes, then there is a chance Brian Snead or Master Teague gets on the field early. If Parris Campbell goes, that could open up some snaps for Jaelen Gill. But with a bunch of WRs draft-eligible and Trevon Grimes’ status for 2018 still up in the air, I’ll go with L’Christian “Blue” Smith. He’s a 6-foot-6 receiver and could get a chance to be a red zone target early in his career.
Tony: I’m going with Jeremy Ruckert here. Urban Meyer said he might be the best tight end prospect he’s ever seen or recruited, which means there will be an opportunity if he can work his way past some incumbents. At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, he may look like the rest of Ohio State’s tight ends, but he might be the best receiving prospect the school has seen at the position in a very long time.
2. Instant Impact Defense
Tony: I can give you a scenario where defensive tackle Antwuan Jackson starts in 2018. As a junior college transfer, he is more mature than most newcomers, and the Buckeyes will be losing at least two defensive tackles following the season. There will be a number of players vying for the rotation, and Jackson is going to be right in the middle of it, so to speak.
Tom: This is the easiest answer on here: Antwuan Jackson. I’m kind of cheating here by taking a JUCO guy, but as Hugh Freeze taught us, all is fair in love and recruiting. Jackson is exactly the kind of big, space-eating DT that the Buckeyes have seemingly finished second for a half-dozen times since Urban Meyer arrived. Now they landed a potentially great one. It’s entirely possible that he only plays one year in Columbus and then jumps to the NFL, but I think he’s going to be a massive difference-maker during his time at OSU.
3. Wait a Year Then Watch Him Blossom
Tom: Tommy Togiai looks like an absolute monster in his highlight videos. While he’s certainly not playing super high-end opposition in Idaho, a year of learning under Larry Johnson and mostly sitting behind a pretty deep DT rotation should have him ready to play at a high level in 2019. Taron Vincent would be a totally viable answer here as well because he’s going to come in more polished, but could also struggle to get on the field in 2018 due to the depth at DT.
Tony: Jaelen Gill may be the most explosive overall athlete in this class, but he needs to get stronger. A year in Mickey Marotti’s weight room will make that happen. He is more advanced than most H-backs in terms of his receiving skills, but he’ll also need to block in order to get on the field. That will take some time. With that strength will come more touches, and with more touches will come more home runs.
4. Time-Release Star (Give him a few years)
Tony: I think it will take receiver L’Christian Smith a couple of years to be able to handle college cornerbacks. He has a lot of surface area to get jammed at the line of scrimmage, and he will probably need to get faster in order to free himself from every other coverage as well. There is too much potential here to not expect it to eventually be realized. I just think it might take a little longer than people may like.
Tom: We’ve seen this movie already: it’s Marcus Hooker. The last athletic 3-star defensive back from his family spent two years under the radar and then turned into a ball-hawking monster of a safety and a first-round NFL draft pick in the span of 12 games. That’s a lot to put on Marcus, but if he ends up even 75% as good as Malik was in 2016, that’s a massive win.
5. First to Score
Tom: I feel like I’m falling into an obvious trap here, but I’m going to take Jeremy Ruckert. Yes, this would mean that Ohio State threw the ball to a tight end. Yes, I am aware of the last 20 years of Ohio State football. With Marcus Baugh, A.J. Alexander, and Kierre Hawkins all gone next year, there is an opportunity for Ruckert to make an immediate impact. From what I’ve seen, his receiving is further along than his blocking, so early on he may play split out wide more than as an in-line TE. I assume Rashod Berry will probably stay at TE, but if the coaches really love what they see from Ruckert, Berry could theoretically move to DE and open up more playing time.
Tony: Jeremy Ruckert seems like a perfect red zone weapon. I can see him in the flats, with tight end screens, leaping about 14 feet in the air in the back of the end zone. Back shoulder fades against corners. Front shoulder fades against corners. Middle shoulder fades against corners. And he’ll also be a weapon down the seams. In order to be the first, however, it will simply require a play-action pass inside the 10-yard line in the season opener next year.
6. Most Likely to Land in Buckeye Grove
Tony: I originally read this as “Quickest to Land in Buckeye Grove,” which is odd because I’m the one who wrote it. My answer for quickest is offensive lineman Matthew Jones. I’m comfortable with him as the most likely as well because the Buckeyes know what they’re doing at center.
Tom: Greg Studrawa has put together a nice track record of developing guys, especially on the interior spots on the line, so I’ll take Matthew Jones. He won’t see the field for a year or two behind the huge logjam the Buckeyes have at guard and center, but he’s got the tools to turn into a mauler in a couple of seasons.
7. Future Heisman Winner
Tom: The Heisman is a stupid, overrated award that only goes to quarterbacks and occasionally running backs, so the options here are pretty limited. I’ll go with Jaelin Gill because he’s been my runner-up for about three other questions above and he definitely needs to be included here somewhere. This is probably predicated on him turning into a superstar in the return game, which is definitely a possibility.
Tony: There are about four possibilities here, and I’m going to go with the most likely, which is quarterback Matthew Baldwin. Master Teague and Brian Snead will cancel each other out and if Curtis Samuel can’t get any Heisman love, it will be difficult for any H-back in this lineup to win the award. Jaelen Gill does check an awful lot of boxes, however. Back to Baldwin, Urban Meyer loves everything that he does, and he can do anything that this offense requires. And if he has to wait until his senior season to make it happen, he’s used to it because he had to do the same thing at Lake Travis.
8. Next Kick Coverage Assassin
Tony: I’m thinking of the guy who comes around the edge like Jeff Okudah does, and for me that is defensive back Tyreke Johnson. He is big and tall and can run, so what is there not to like? I’m also expecting something from linebacker K’Vaughan Pope somewhere. I really like him and could see him maybe having a Zach Turnure impact down the road.
Tom: I had this all written out with Teradja Mitchell in here, but it seems like it’s always a DB, so I’ll change my answer and go with Josh Proctor to take over Jeff Okudah’s role instead.
9. Who Starts First
Tom: I’ve already cheated once by picking Antwuan Jackson, so I’ll go a different direction here. I don’t think it’s particularly likely that any of the true freshmen will start in 2018, but Ruckert is going to be a starter at TE some point soon. It may take a year of bulking up and working on his blocking to get there, but he’s going to be a fixture in the offense sooner rather than later.
Tony: Antwuan Jackson is an easy answer here, but it’s probably a trap. I like what Ohio State is returning at defensive tackle, and they’re not scheduled to lose any more any time seen, other than Dre’Mont Jones. I am now talking myself out of this and leaning to receiver Kamryn Babb in 2019. However, since I’ve already got Matthew Jones as an All-American, I must expect him to start by next year. Okay, now I’m going with Jones.
10. One Random Prediction
Tony: Master Teague and Brian Snead will both rush for 1,000 yards in 2020. It won’t happen in 2018 or 2019 because J.K. Dobbins exists, but once Teague and Snead get to year three of their respective careers, look out. You know what, this is more like two random predictions, which is so typical of me to go above and beyond what I normally ask of myself.
Tom: I have this weird feeling that Master Teague turns out to be one of those borderline 3/4-star guys that everyone points to in 5 years and says, “SEE, RECRUITING RANKINGS DON’T MATTER!” (They actually do, by the way.) It may be hard for him to get a ton of carries early in his career with J.K. Dobbins ahead of him on the depth chart, and Antonio Williams, Brian Snead, and perhaps Mike Weber there as well. This is definitely a “fave this tweet and check back in 2020” pick, but you’ll be sitting in C Deck screaming “TEEEEEEEEEEEAGUE” at some point in three years.