The No. 9 player on this list was just a true freshman last season, but he played well enough to step in ably for the Buckeyes when Denzel Ward declined to play in Ohio State’s bowl game.
No. 9 — Jeff Okudah, So. Cornerback
Jeff Okudah was one of five Top 25 players who signed with Ohio State in the 2017 recruiting class. He was ranked as the No. 8 player overall and the No. 1 cornerback.
At 6-foot-1 and 199 pounds, Okudah possesses prototypical cornerback size. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, he has the athleticism and determination to match.
Okudah played in every game last season. Most of his playing time came via special teams, but he also saw plenty of defense in blowouts throughout the season. That experience helped him tremendously when he was called upon to be part of OSU’s three-man rotation at cornerback in the Cotton Bowl.
Okudah played a career-high 64 snaps on defense against USC and finished with four solo tackles. Okudah gave up two catches and was also flagged for pass interference, but the experience against quarterback Sam Darnold and the Trojans’ talented receivers was invaluable.
Named a starter in the rotation following a spring camp that he didn’t even participate in, the future is expected to be very productive for Jeff Okudah.
What He Does Well
Like all Ohio State corners, Okudah specializes in an aggressive man-to-man style of defense. He is big, strong, and fast, so he is able to match up with any kind of receiver that he will face this season.
It was a learning experience for him last season, as he was mostly in off coverage in high school. Now, he finds himself closer to the football.
We haven’t seen enough of him on defense in college to know what kind of playmaker he is, but going off of what his coaches have been saying since he signed, it isn’t unreasonable to expect the production to match the hype.
Jeff Okudah in 2018
Following labrum surgery in the winter, Jeff Okudah is about to be fully healthy for the first time since his sophomore year of high school. We saw what he could do in high school with a shoulder that wasn’t 100%, so it will be interesting to see what he can do when he is fully healthy.
Okudah will be in the rotation from the get-go this season, and he and his fellow starting corners will be relatively fresh throughout. A corner who can trigger just as well in the fourth quarter as he did in the first is a guy who is going to have opportunities late in games to make plays.
Okudah showed himself as a player who could make something happen with the ball in his hands in high school. Given his physical traits and ability to find the football, we should see similar results this season.
What They Are Saying
“Jeffrey Okudah’s an elite corner to be. He’s not right now, but if he continues to work, he will be.” — Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano
“We have a three-man rotation at corner right now with Damon Arnette, Kendall Sheffield and Jeffrey Okudah. Okudah, obviously with the shoulder, didn’t play — but we’d like to play three guys. There might be another pop in there if the young guys keep developing.” — Urban Meyer following the spring game
“I’ve been doing a lot of conditioning, lifting weights. You know Coach Mick. That’s been one of the interesting points of this rehab process. Just do individual as well as sitting down with the coaches and watching film. Just trying to get my technique up to date with the new stuff that they implemented.” — Jeff Okudah this spring