Ohio State sophomores Burke, Williams looking to build on best games of the season

COLUMBUS -- Sophomores were expected to have a big impact for Ohio State this season, and they have.

Emeka Egbuka leads the team in receiving yards (788) while Marvin Harrison Jr. is right behind him (783).

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TreVeyon Henderson leads the team in rushing 552, while Mike Hall Jr. and J.T. Tuimoloau are 1-2 in tackles for loss with 7.5 and six, respectively.

Two more members of the Class of 2021 who were actually a bigger part of last season than most of those players (excepting Henderson) have rejoined the party and could play big roles in the second half of the season for the Buckeyes.

Cornerback Denzel Burke and defensive tackle Tyleik Williams matched their season-highs with five tackles apiece last week at Penn State.

Williams logged his first sack of the season and stuffed a fourth-down run early in the third quarter with Penn State looking to build on a one-point lead.

He said that play was an example of how he has developed since bursting on the scene last year when he had five sacks.

“They were going the other way, but the quarterback checked it,” Williams said. ”As a D-lineman, the O-line like looks where they’re goin’ so I squared back up. And I seen him look at me, all I knew was I had to take off and defeat the block. I made the play.”

That it wasn’t the only play he made is also an example of what has changed for the 6-3, 315-pounder from Virginia.

Consistency has been his focus starting with practice.

“I gotta show up more,” he said. “Every play is not one play, 10 plays off, another play. I gotta do every play, every play, every play and show ‘em like what I can really do.”

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Unlike Williams, Burke has not had a problem getting on the field.

He broke into the starting lineup last season, and has started every game this season except when a painful finger injury sidelined him for the Wisconsin game.

Burke was a third-team All-Big Ten pick last season, and he earned Freshman All-America honors from multiple sources, but a preseason shoulder injury set him back this year.

That is healed now, but Burke admitted feeling the effects of missing a lot of practice time in August.

“Yeah, no doubt because the way you practice is the way you’re gonna play on Saturdays, too,” he said. “I didn’t have the most reps. I think I had one of the least amount of reps out of the whole corner room throughout fall camp and the offseason. So yeah, being able to be out here fully healthy, I’m happy.”

Against Ohio State’s toughest opponent to date, Burke turned in likely his best game of the season.

The Nittany Lions hit a handful of big plays, but none were on Burke.

“Yeah, obviously the start of the season wasn’t what I expected or what I wanted either, but I’m not really worried about the past,” he said. “I’m really just worried about going forward, stacking games and just winning games. Game by game, just doing what I can to the best of my ability for this team.”

While defensive coordinator Jim Knowles expressed confidence in him throughout the first half of the season, Burke said the solution to playing better was simple.

“I mean, honestly, just keeping my head down and just keep working and applying the technique,” Burke said. “I believe in myself. I believe in my technique. And I play for an audience of one. So, yeah, no offense. I don’t listen to what you all have to say or the media or anything like that so I just had to keep going and play the game I play.”

SATURDAY’S GAME

Ohio State at Northwestern, Noon, ABC, 1410

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