Ohio State Buckeyes: Majority of 2021 team together with early-enrollees on campus

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day watches his team during the first half of an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game against Alabama, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day watches his team during the first half of an NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game against Alabama, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Credit: Chris O'Meara

Credit: Chris O'Meara

Fifteen members of Ohio State’s 2021 recruiting class made their way to campus this weekend.

That means 15 more players for director of strength and conditioning Mickey Marotti to work with, and newcomers in every position group on offense and defense as well as punter Jesse Mirco.

Explore5 things Ryan Day had to say about the Buckeyes' offseason so far

“The sooner guys can get that organized, the sooner they can get on the field,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said last week. “We’ll start off right away with learning the plays and getting going schematically, and then once Mick gets going with them in terms of the weight room, before you know it we’re getting into practice.”

While enrolling early has become more common than not for recruits in recent years, this group faces a unique situation as many of its members were not able to play last fall because their states postponed or canceled the season in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The guys who are in really good shape in terms of their aerobic shape, their strength, their flexibility and all that stuff without playing for a whole year will definitely have a chance to get on the field faster,” Day said. “The guys who don’t? We’re gonna have to build them up. And we’ll look all that stuff. I think they’ll learn quickly. They’ll learn the plays, they’ll learn the playbook. I’m just interested to see what kind of shape they’re in. It’s one thing to be able to play in high school as a junior. It’s another thing to be able to go play in the Big Ten.”

The brightest spotlight is likely to shine on quarterback Kyle McCord, a five-star prospect from Philadelphia.

He is expected to compete with C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller III, who both enrolled a year ago and began learning the offense from Day and position coach Corey Dennis, to replace Justin Fields as the starting quarterback this fall.

A trio of potential targets for whoever ends up being the starting quarterback are also among the newcomers: Five-star prospect Emeka Egbuka of Steilacoom, Wash., and four-stars Marvin Harrison Jr. of Philadelphia and Jayden Ballard of Massillon Washington in northeast Ohio. Aside from having a famous name, Harrison also has familiarity with McCord as they were teammates at St. Joseph’s Prep last season.

Egbuka, Harrison and Ballard will join a crowded receivers room with nine scholarship players, including former five-stars Garrett Wilson, Julian Fleming and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, jockeying for time in coach Brian Hartline’s rotation.

The running back room also figures to look a lot different this spring as late-blooming star Trey Sermon is gone, but coach Tony Alford adds five-star prospect TreVeyon Henderson of Hopewell, Va., and Evan Pryor, a four-star from Cornelius, N.C. They join veterans Master Teague, Miyan Williams, Steele Chambers and Marcus Crowley to give Alford lots to work with a year after depth looked perilously thin.

At tight end, Sam Hart of Aurora, Col., joins Kevin Wilson’s room, which lost a pair of seniors but returns senior standout Jeremy Ruckert and youngsters Cade Stover and Joe Royer.

When spring football starts in March, offensive line coach Greg Studrawa should have 16 scholarship players to work with, including four-star early-enrollees Zen Michalski of Floyds Knobs, Ind., and Ben Christman of Richfield Revere in northeast Ohio.

ExploreStaff opening creates another opportunity for Day on defense

On the other side of the ball, four-stars Denzel Burke of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Jantzen Dunn of Bowling Green, Ky., are set to join a group of defensive backs that will look to bounce back from a down season under coaches Kerry Coombs and Matt Barnes.

At linebacker, Al Washington adds Reid Carrico, a four-star prospect from Ironton who was one of the top players in Ohio last season. Washington is set to have three seniors, a sophomore and two redshirt freshmen to work with — all but one of whom was a four-star prospect in high school.

And up front, Coach Larry Johnson has yet another five-star pass rusher to work with. This time it’s Jack Sawyer of Pickerington North, who was the No. 1-rated prospect in Ohio and No. 4 in the country.

Sawyer will have at least a half-dozen scholarship ends to compete with while four-star early-enrollee Tyleik Williams of Manassas, Va., is expected to at tackle, where Tommy Togiai is gone but seven scholarship players are still around, including All-American Haskell Garrett.

Day said having the majority of his recruiting class on campus at this time for the second year in a row creates a different situation than he is used to.

“Usually when you don’t have a chunk of your guys in at mid-year, it’s close to a quarter of your team or 20 percent of your team isn’t there until the summer,” Day said. “Now we have the majority of these guys already here. So we can already start on all that stuff and they can get ahead of the game. We have to do a great job of getting them in here with Mick and figuring out where they are and what’s their baseline.”

The rest of the recruiting class, which is ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten and second nationally, is set to report in the summer.

That includes five-star offensive lineman Donovan Jackson (Bellaire, Texas), four-star defensive backs Jakailin Johnson (St. Louis, Mo.), Andre Turrentine (Nashville, Tenn.), and Jordan Hancock (Suwanee, Ga.), three-star defensive back Jaylen Johnson (Cincinnati La Salle) and four-star defensive tackle Mike Hall (Streetsboro, Ohio).

With the traditional February signing day coming up, Ohio State also still has the opportunity to add a player or two if the right fit presents itself.

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