The No. 6 player on our list was the top cornerback in the 2017 recruiting class and is coming off of his first year in the rotation as a de facto starter at cornerback for the Buckeyes.
No. 6 — Jeff Okudah, Junior Cornerback
As a recruit in 2016, Jeff Okudah was a top 10 player overall and the No. 1 cornerback in the 2017 class.
When he arrived at Ohio State in 2017, he found himself on the depth chart behind Denzel Ward, Kendall Sheffield, and Damon Arnette.
Okudah was also part of a 5-man cornerback class for the Buckeyes. He was joined by the junior college transfer Sheffield, as well as Shaun Wade, Marcus Williamson, and Amir Riep.
Okudah enrolled early and got his feet wet. He played here and there as a true freshman, but was finally thrust into the 3-man starting rotation when Ward decided to sit out the Cotton Bowl against USC.
Facing the Trojans and Top 10 NFL QB prospect Sam Darnold, Okudah posted a season-best four tackles and comported himself quite well.
Last season, sharing the rotation with Sheffield and Arnette, Okudah finished with a team-high eight PBUs.
He also finished with 34 tackles, earning Honorable Mention All-Big Ten notice from the conference’s head coaches.
What He Does Well
Okudah closed very well last season and was a dominating performer against Washington in the Rose Bowl. He finished with a pair of breakups and four tackles.
Okudah has played press coverage his entire career at Ohio State, so he is well-versed and comfortable with the aggression needed at the position.
A first career interception is still eluding Okudah, but with a more diverse plan for coverages this season, he shouldn’t have to wait too much longer.
Okudah is the prototype at the position and has done a very good job of limiting completions in his direction.
Jeff Okudah in 2019
Secondary coach Jeff Hafley is bringing a more varied approach when it comes to coverage for his cornerbacks. There will still be press coverage, but it won’t always be that way. Sometimes the corners will bail at the snap and other times they’ll be playing off coverage.
In other words, quarterbacks won’t always know what to expect from Okudah and his counterparts, which should help when it comes to making more plays this season.
Many expect this to be the last go-round for Jeff Okudah, and a season full of big plays would greatly help his draft stock. It would also elevate him into the pantheon of Ohio State cornerbacks where he wants to be.
If he can be as good as the All-Americans and first rounders in the past, then the plays will come.
What They Are Saying
“Going from Coach Schiano and Coach Johnson to Coach Hafley and Barnes, I feel like at first, it was unfortunate to have your third coach in three years. But then at the end of the day, you realize how smart of a coach, Coach Hafley is. Coach Day told us when he hired him that he’d be one of the best coaches we’ve ever had. And so far it seems like that’s been the case. He’s a really high-energy guy, his energy is actually pretty contagious. Just the drills that he’s implemented so far, everyone is getting better every single day.” — Jeff Okudah on having a third position coach in three years.
“Definitely coming in as a recruit, that’s one of the goals you set out for yourself, is to be on that wall right there with all those elite cornerbacks. I would say moreso the end goal, not being acknowledged as one of the top cornerbacks to come through Ohio State would be moreso disappointing.” — Jeff Okudah on if this would be his last year at Ohio State.
“If you want to get into specifics, I think Okudah at the line of scrimmage right now is a different player. He has got to learn to win at the line of scrimmage and maybe I am getting too detailed, but that is the truth. Really talented guy, to me he has a ton of tools. His skillset at the line of scrimmage with the ability to get his hands on people, that is the one thing that I told him that we needed to work on, and I think that he did that. I think if you turn on the tape, you will actually see. He still needs work at it, he does, it is going to take time, but I think he got better at that.” — Jeff Hafley on where Jeff Okudah has gotten better.