Buckeye Football Freshman Focus — Cornerback Tyreke Johnson

Tyreke Johnson Ohio State Football Buckeyes


This is the first of 25 or so pieces on Ohio State’s incoming freshmen over the next 25 or so weeks. I plan on taking a closer look at each of the newest Buckeyes every week, and first up is Jacksonville (Trinity Christian Academy) defensive back Tyreke Johnson.

A 5-star prospect, Johnson is ranked the No. 1 safety and the No. 21 player overall per the 247Sports Composite. He is already enrolled at Ohio State.

At 6-foot-1 and 191 pounds, Johnson has safety size, but he will start out at cornerback for the Buckeyes. How long he stays there is up to him. We have seen other corners — like Tyvis Powell, Damon Webb, and Jordan Fuller — all make a successful move to safety in the past. Johnson’s potential as a big corner — like Jeff Okudah and Shaun Wade — is too intriguing to bypass right out of the gates, however.

What To Like

As I mentioned, he’s a legit big cornerback, but he is also fast. We will see if he has the hips and feet to play corner, but the Buckeyes believe he’ll be just fine. He played corner and safety in high school, and is a football magnet at either spot.

Simply put, he finds the football.

He has experience playing any number of coverages, but for Ohio State’s purposes, the experience in press coverage is what they like about him. There will be plenty of technique to clean up and work on, but there are some natural abilities that will allow him to eventually get it done.

Johnson is a very physical defender who will need to improve his wrapping, but that’s to be expected. The good news for the Buckeyes is that he sees physicality as a perk, and it shows. He is physically advanced for a true freshman, which will help keep him from being held back due to a need to add strength or weight. It will obviously still depend on how well he responds to Kerry Coombs’ teaching that determines his role on Ohio State’s team this coming season.

The Potential

Tyreke Johnson is also a punter and he might just be the best punter I have ever seen. Move over J.K. Scott.

Johnson is 6-foot-1 and nearly 200 pounds while running in the 4.5s. That’s easy math. He puts that size and burst to very good use in off-man coverage, as you can see here.

When cornerback prototypes are forged in the bowels of Mount Doom, they come out looking a lot like Tyreke Johnson. But then comes the coaching, and nobody has done a better job of preparing his players than Kerry Coombs. At this point, playing cornerback at Ohio State is a golden ticket to the NFL.

The Expectations

There is no reason to expect anything but success for Tyreke Johnson. There is some reason to maybe expect him to eventually play safety when you consider how well he can come off of one receiver and defend another. That’s a tremendous quality for a defensive back to possess, but one that can also be utilized quite well at cornerback.

Enrolling early is huge for Johnson, which will allow him to get to the size and weight they want him before spring football. There will be eight cornerbacks participating in spring football — Kendall Sheffield, Damon Arnette, Jeff Okudah, Marcus Williamson, Amir Riep, Shaun Wade, Tyreke Johnson, and fellow freshman Sevyn Banks. A move to safety could be in the works for somebody, but don’t expect it to be Johnson for the time being.

The Bottom Line

Johnson is a talented and intelligent defender who can cover a ton of ground. His physicality is a plus because he doesn’t need to be convinced to help out in the running game. When the football is in the air, he views it as an invitation, and he doesn’t mind high-stepping his RSVP all the way into the end zone. He returned six of his nine career interceptions for touchdowns.

I think what I like most is his ability to help out. In college, that will become much more difficult to do, but he does show a lot of field awareness already in high school. Check out this clip of him being forced to defend two receivers. He recognized the primary read and was able to stop what should have been an easy touchdown from happening.

Tyreke Johnson’s aggression will need to be tailored somewhat to fit the Ohio State defense without putting holes in it, but you’d rather have an aggressive guy with no fear over a timid corner who is worried about screwing up his footsteps and hand placement.


2 Responses

  1. “It will obviously still depend on how well he responds to Kerry Coombs’ teaching that determines his role on Ohio State’s team this coming season.”

    What a darn pity that that is not going to happen. I once thought Coombs was an OSU lifer. Shoot!

  2. Forget cornerback. The kid is a heat seeking missile. Put him at safety and watch him destroy the opposing offense. He will be gone after 3 years. He was a hell of a good get. Meyer is the Best!!

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