Antwuan Jackson was one of the top defensive tackle prospects in the 2016 recruiting class. The Buckeyes wanted him badly, but ultimately Jackson signed with Auburn instead of Ohio State.
Pretty early on, however, he realized he had made a mistake. After his redshirt freshman season, he transferred to Blinn College for the 2017 season. He finally arrived at Ohio State this winter and will have three seasons of eligibility remaining for the Buckeyes. Jackson is still working his way back from a broken foot, but he is now suited up for the Buckeyes. He isn’t full go yet, but he’ll get there in plenty of time for the regular season.
There are high expectations for Jackson, who was the nation’s top junior college prospect in the 2018 recruiting cycle. He has the same expectations, but knows he has work to do before he gets there.
“I want to be one of the top players just how Nick [Bosa] is and try to be out there and gain respect from my teammates and coaches,” he said. “I just want to gain respect and gain their trust. That’s the No. 1 thing with the sport and with the coaches and with the players, you’ve got to gain trust. That’s my first thing. I’ve got a little setback right now, but I keep pushing and going to rehab and not trying to do as many make-ups as I have after this.”
Antwuan Jackson is not the only 2018 signee looking to make an impact in 2018. In fact, every player that comes to Ohio State expects to be an important cog in the scarlet and gray wheel. For freshmen, however, that’s much more difficult to do. Rookies need to find their niches and places where they can contribute.
Generally, that involves the scout team or special teams. Contributors like J.K. Dobbins last season are very rare. While nobody is asking for that kind of season from freshman linebacker Dallas Gant, he has already shown enough this spring to make Urban Meyer think that he can play somewhere in 2018.
“He’s probably going to play. He’s shown enough,” Meyer said. “What scale? I’m going to get him ready to compete on special teams, because he’s one of those very mature players to come right in. He’s not where he needs to be, but he doesn’t have to be. He just needs to give us everything he’s got, and he’s been doing that. Very smart player too.”
No Surprise Saunders
When C.J. Saunders walked onto the Ohio State football team a few years back, he began his career at cornerback. He fit right into the high-octane strain that former coach Kerry Coombs put on his players.
Prior to last season, however, Saunders was moved to the offensive side of the ball. There was very little attention paid to the move on the outside, since walk-ons can change positions quite regularly.
It wasn’t until the Buckeyes’ fourth game last season that people really began to notice Saunders. Even though his first career catch came one week earlier, it was game four against UNLV where he truly came on, catching six passes for 102 yards and a touchdown
Saunders finished with 17 receptions for 221 yards and a touchdown on the season, but it was that game against UNLV that convinced fans he should see more action. Urban Meyer has said repeatedly that Saunders needs to get bigger and stronger, which he is doing.
And while fans may have been surprised to see such production from a walk-on, his fellow receivers weren’t surprised at all.
“Honestly, we weren’t surprised because we’ve seen it every day here on the practice field,” Parris Campbell said. “C.J.’s a guy who when he first came in at corner, from my perspective, he was a guy that came in and didn’t really say too much. He just put his head down and would grind.
“Then when he moved to receiver, we saw him run some routes and we were like ‘He should have been at receiver the whole time.’ He’s a guy that works hard when no one is looking. He’s always in here trying to get extra work. He is always coaching guys up. I think that brings a huge impact to our unit this year.”
Rather than have reporters requesting FOIAs for assistant coaching contracts, the Ohio State football department simply released the contract numbers this past February once all contracts were settled.
The information confirmed that the Buckeyes would now have two “million-dollar assistants” in defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Ryan Day. Day also had a 3-year deal attached to him, which was the first of its kind that we know of under Urban Meyer at Ohio State.
“An excellent coach. One of the better ones I’ve had,” Meyer said of Day. “We can’t get into that rotating door. I’ve always asked for at least two years, then we’ll have a conversation. So I would expect him to stay because that’s what he told me he would do.
“He did have some very intriguing offers, yet at the end of the day, you start doing that, start bouncing every year, it’s not really good for your career. It’s not really good for your family. He’s a smart enough guy to know that.”
Ryan Day has already explained why he stayed, but does that mean he was the one who pushed for the extended deal?
“Oh, no. He didn’t push for anything,” Meyer said. “I was the pusher, I guess, if that’s the right word.”