COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nearly half of Ohio State’s class of 2017 is already on campus, with 10 of the 21 signees enrolling early and taking part in spring practice.
But what about the players who arrive in June? There’s nearly a dozen players yet to come to Columbus, and those players have just as much talent as their early arriving peers.
Here’s a look at five such players who could compete for playing time despite not going through winter workouts and spring practice.
DE Chase Young
This might be the biggest no-brainer of the bunch. Chase Young is 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds and finished the recruiting cycle ranked as the No. 2 defensive end and No. 8 overall prospect in the class of 2017.
“He has a lot of things that he brings to the table,” defensive line coach Larry Johnson said. “Not only a great kid but he is a great student of the game and he really loves the game. Great football IQ. He has got some athleticism that I think that is really unique for a guy that [size].”
Because he’s a defensive end, the rotation the Buckeyes utilize will give him a good chance to see the field. The only reason the reps won’t be higher is that Ohio State returns three defensive ends who each could have opted to enter the 2017 NFL Draft. Between those three and sophomore Nick Bosa, the top four spots on the depth chart are pretty much spoken for.
Young will play, though, and he’ll be given a chance to fight for reps.
“He will have an opportunity to compete,” Johnson said. “I think that is the bottom line. The thing that we have got to be careful about, that even if we have four guys returning, those four guys have got to work to keep their jobs, keep their status. It is going to be an open process — always have the ability to play the best players on the field. If he walks in and is ready to go and has got a chance to help us, then there is a good chance that we are going to find a way to use him.”
OG Wyatt Davis
The improvement shown by Demetrius Knox and Matthew Burrell will probably prevent Wyatt Davis from becoming the second true freshman offensive line starter at Ohio State in as many years. The longer that battle drags on, though, the better shot he’ll have.
Davis is the No. 1 offensive guard in the class of 2017, and he plays with the nasty streak required of offensive linemen at this level. Because he played at Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, one of the top high school teams in the country, he’s incredibly polished.
“Wyatt Davis, I went out and watched him practice,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said. “Obviously he’s a great story, how we got him. Wonderful high school program, one of the best programs in America. I don’t want to say he’s ready-made because that’s not fair for him, but that’s how much respect we have for Bosco football program.”
It will be an uphill climb for Davis to win the job outright because he didn’t enroll early, but he’ll almost certainly be in the mix and feature prominently on the depth chart.
WR Trevon Grimes
The Ohio State receivers struggled last season, and Trevon Grimes will be given every opportunity to crack the rotation.
His quest could be hampered by a couple of factors. Previously underutilized receivers such as Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin impressed wide receivers coach Zach Smith this spring, so a spot could be harder to earn. Additionally, he tore his left ACL during his senior season and has spent the time since rehabbing the injury. However, Nick Bosa tore his right ACL at the same time in his senior season (and went to the same school as Grimes) and still enjoyed a successful freshman campaign.
Despite those concerns, it’s not easy to shake off the way he tormented opposing defenders as a high school player. He has great size and speed, but it’s his ability to win 50-50 balls that Ohio State really needs. If he’s healthy, he absolutely has the skill set to make a difference for the Buckeyes.
“That’s what I hope he is,” Smith said. “You know, we’ll see when he gets here, how he adapts to the game. But I think he should be.”
DT Haskell Garrett
Ohio State has improved its depth over the past year, but defensive tackle still isn’t where the Buckeyes want it to be. That’s one of the biggest reasons Haskell Garrett has a chance to make an impact.
The defensive tackles didn’t appear to rotate as much as defensive ends last year, and there are times where the Buckeyes don’t even have one on the field. But there’s still a rotation there, which gives Garrett a path to the field.
He’s the big, athletic defensive tackle the Buckeyes have missed on in recent years, and it’s certainly possible that he shows enough to find his way onto the field.
CB Amir Riep
Amir Riep’s situation is similar to that of Young. His position, cornerback, is one of the most crowded on the team but also one that rotates heavily.
Given that he’s the only true freshman cornerback not enrolled early, it’s a bit of a disadvantage for him. But to hear cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs tell it, they’re going to throw everyone out there this year. Riep even got a shoutout when his new coach was interviewed to wrap up spring.
“We have the most depth that we’ve had at the position since I’ve been here,” Coombs said. “I’m extremely excited about the totality of the room. We have to get better in order to match the standard that we have here. That was obvious on Saturday in the spring game. It was a great experience for those young players to have that happen to them and not have it count. We have more depth than we’ve had.
“I won’t pretend to tell you what the depth chart looks like other than to say that [Damon] Arnette had a fantastic spring. He is going to be in the mix. [Kendall] Sheffield had a fantastic spring. He is going to be in the mix. [Shaun] Wade, [Marcus] Williamson, [Jeff] Okudah and [Rodjay] Burns are all going to be competing along with Amir Riep for playing time. They’re going to play.”