Spring football practice can be the make-or-break time in a player’s career.
While veteran members of the “2,000-rep club” might be able to take things a little easy, spring ball can be career-changing for players trying to earn a regular spot for the fall.
There are guys who fit that description in virtually every unit on the Buckeyes’ team this year. But there might not be one of them who could make a bigger impact on the 2020 Ohio State team than redshirt sophomore CB Tyreke Johnson.
Johnson came to Ohio State as one of the most-hyped members of the 2018 recruiting class. He was rated as a 5-star prospect, and the No. 21 player overall in the nation. Kerry Coombs helped convince Johnson to come to Ohio State from Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Fla.
“Coach Coombs, when he recruited me, he told me what the deal was. That you come in here and you’ll be around top guys, and you’ll play a little bit your first year and the second year will be your year,” Johnson said.
But two years into his career, Johnson is still looking to make a significant impact at the college level.
He enrolled early, but took a redshirt season in 2018, then saw action in eight games for the Buckeyes during an injury-hampered 2019.
“Due to injuries, you know, my second year didn’t go as planned, but things are starting to get on track for me now,” he said.
A lot has happened during his first two seasons as a Buckeye, and Johnson said he has learned a lot, even without spending a lot of time on the field during games.
“I feel like the biggest adjustment for me was learning how to take care of my body. Because my first year I didn’t really understand that. And then it caught up to me right before camp,” Johnson said.
He said that simple things like “going to get stretched out, signing up for massages or contrasting, getting in a cold tub when you don’t have to” were all things he had to start doing to stay healthy during the grind of camp and workouts.
It was all part of the difficult adjustment from being a big fish in a small pond in high school, to a much larger body of water at the college level.
This spring, Johnson is ready to dive in to earn one of the positions open on the cornerback depth chart.
Redshirt junior Shaun Wade is the only returning starter. He’s expected to slide from the slot corner position to one of the outside spots. But the other outside position, the slot position, and a nickel spot are all open.
Guys like Cameron Brown and Sevyn Banks are likely to fit in there somewhere, and Johnson is also in the running for a role, along with names like Marcus Williamson, Lejond Cavazos, and Ryan Watts.
Coombs said the Buckeyes plan to continue rotating their corners, which means that anyone who shows they’re capable of playing at a high enough level will have a role somewhere on the 2020 defense.
“I absolutely anticipate doing it. I think you got to get your best players on the field,” Combs said. “I also think you got to keep fast fresh players on the field. And I think that for for the sake of continuity and a program over the course of years, guys need to play.”
Johnson’s chance to be one of those guys starts Monday with the first practice of the spring.