COLUMBUS, Ohio — Monday marks the first day of Ohio State’s spring semester.
For nine incoming Buckeyes, it will double as the official start of their college careers.
Enrolling early is hardly a new trend in college football, let alone at Ohio State, where players have gotten a jump-start on their football careers for the better part of the past two decades. Before helping lead the Buckeyes to the 2002 national title, Maurice Clarett enrolled early, and the following year, Donte Whitner and Ashton Youboty did the same.
Eleven years ago, 5-star prospect Chris “Beanie” Wells reported to school a full six months before he was required to.
“It helped me with able to know the playbook,” the former Ohio State running back told Land of 10. “Getting in there a little bit early and being comfortable with guys that were older than me in the locker room. But more so, it was the playbook aspect. By the time the season rolled around, I knew the playbook like the back of my hand. I attribute that to coming in early and having an opportunity to be there in spring ball.”
Under Urban Meyer, the practice has only picked up at Ohio State. And over the course of his first five seasons with the Buckeyes, it’d be tough to argue with the results.
Whether it be a player acclimating himself to OSU’s playbook or earning an early spot on the depth chart, early enrollees seem to have an easier time adjusting to life in Columbus.
“I think it’s a heck of an advantage,” Meyer said in 2012. “But we don’t ever force that.”
You can read Jeremy Birmingham’s breakdown of the Buckeyes’ nine early enrollees in 2017 class here. As for what Ohio State’s newest players can expect, here’s a look at the success early enrollees have experienced in the Meyer era.
As for what to expect from Ohio State’s newest players, here’s a look at how early enrollees have fared in the Meyer era.
Ohio State’s 2012 class
Quarterback Cardale Jones
While he’s best remembered for helping lead Ohio State to the College Football Playoff championship in 2014, Jones got off to a rocky start, failing to even appear in the Buckeyes’ 2012 spring game.
Once he did get his opportunity, however, Jones made the most of it. But who knows what the former 3-star prospect‘s legacy would be had he not gotten a head start on adapting to Meyer’s program three years prior?
Wide receiver Michael Thomas
Thomas enrolled at Ohio State in the winter of 2012 and appeared to initially benefit from the head start to his college career. In the 2012 season, he was just one of three offensive freshmen to receive playing time on the offensive side of the ball.
A redshirt season in 2013 followed, however. But by the end of the Buckeyes’ run to the 2014 national title, Thomas had established himself as one of college football’s top receivers. By the end of his college career, the Los Angeles native had tallied 113 catches for 1,602 yards and 18 touchdowns. As a rookie with the New Orleans Saints this past season, Thomas totaled 92 receptions for 1,137 yards and nine scores.
Linebacker Joshua Perry
A native of nearby Olentangy, Perry enrolled early at Ohio State, where he sought to take advantage of a depleted Buckeyes depth chart. After playing predominately on special teams as a freshman, Perry served as a three-year starter for Ohio State, recording 296 career tackles, 18 of which came for a loss, and 7.5 sacks.
The San Diego Chargers selected Perry in the fourth round of last year’s NFL draft. He finished his rookie campaign with 22 tackles in 15 games, including one start.
Offensive lineman Jacoby Boren
Boren arrived at Ohio State in the winter of 2012 and immediately became the primary backup to future NFL starter Corey Linsley at center. Boren then succeeded Linsley. In Boren’s two seasons as Ohio State’s starting center (2014-15), the Buckeyes amassed a 26-2 overall record.
Defensive back Tyvis Powell
After redshirting in 2012, Powell became an unlikely three-year starter in Ohio State’s secondary. In 2013, he served as the Buckeyes’ starting nickel back, intercepting Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner on a would-be game-winning two-point conversion attempt. The following the season, he moved to safety, earning MVP honors in the College Football Playoff Championship Game.
By the time he declared for the 2016 NFL draft, the Bedford, Ohio, native had amassed 198 career tackles, eight interceptions and nine passes defended. After going undrafted, he spent his rookie season in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks.
Running back Bri’onte Dunn
A former 5-star prospect, Dunn never quite lived up to hype he received coming out of Canton (Ohio) GlenOak High School. In three seasons, he amassed 591 yards and three scores. Prior to the start of the 2016 campaign, Meyer dismissed Dunn from the Buckeyes program.
Ohio State’s 2013 class
Cornerback Eli Apple
Although he redshirted in 2013, Apple earned a starting role as a freshman and quickly became one of the more dependable defenders on the Buckeyes’ national title team. After he tallied 86 tackles, 17 pass defenses and four interceptions in two seasons as a starter, the New York Giants selected the New Jersey native with the No. 10 overall pick of the 2016 NFL draft.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett
Barrett is already one of the most decorated players in Ohio State history and his college career isn’t even over yet. Last week, the Buckeyes quarterback announced he’ll return to Ohio State for his senior season.
Having already broken several Buckeyes passing records, the Wichita Falls, Texas, native now has several Big Ten marks in his sights. Most importantly, he lays claim to a 26-4 career record as Ohio State’s starting quarterback, meaning that with his mere presence alone, the Buckeyes could be considered College Football Playoff contenders for 2017.
Defensive end Tyquan Lewis
The reigning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, it was reported last week that Lewis, like Barrett, would return to Ohio State for his senior season in 2017. After redshirting in 2013, the North Carolina native has tallied 92 career tackles, including 27.5 for a loss and 16.5 sacks in the past three seasons.
With another season in Columbus, he’ll likely become a three-year starter and have a shot at moving up to second all-time in sacks at Ohio State.
Defensive lineman Tracy Sprinkle
Following a redshirt season in 2013, Sprinkle served as a reserve defensive lineman for two seasons and was set to start for the Buckeyes at defensive tackle in 2016. A knee injury in Ohio State’s season opener, however, brought his junior campaign to a premature end. The Elyria, Ohio, native is set to return in 2017, where he’ll attempt to regain his starting spot.
Defensive back Cam Burrows
The first commitment in Ohio State’s storied 2013 class, injuries derailed Burrows’ once-promising career. His playing days in Columbus came to an end in 2016, with the former 4-star prospect having tallied 29 career tackles.
Ohio State’s 2014 class
Linebacker Raekwon McMillan
One of the signature recruits of the Meyer era, McMillan arrived at Ohio State in the winter of 2014 and instantly pushed senior Curtis Grant for his starting spot. After splitting time with Grant throughout the Buckeyes’ run to the national title, McMillan manned the middle of Ohio State’s defense on his own from 2015-16.
Over the course of his college career, McMillan recorded 275 tackles, 18 of which came for a loss, and six sacks. Last week, he opted to forego his senior season and enter the upcoming NFL draft.
H-back Curtis Samuel
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Samuel cracked the Buckeyes’ depth chart as a true freshman, serving as Ezekiel Elliott’s primary backup at running back throughout Ohio State’s run to a national title.
It wasn’t until this past season, however, that Samuel was able to truly shine in the Buckeyes offense. Playing the role of H-back, Samuel totaled 1,636 yards (865 receiving, 771 rushing) and 16 touchdowns throughout Ohio State’s run to the College Football Playoff.
Publicly, he remains undecided whether or not he’ll enter the NFL draft.
Wide receiver Johnnie Dixon
After flirting with early playing time as a true freshman, injuries have seemingly derailed the college career of former 4-star prospect Dixon. He’s totaled seven catches for 55 yards and one rushing touchdown in the past three seasons. Because of his recent injury history, it’s possible Dixon’s playing days at Ohio State are over.
Offensive lineman Kyle Trout
Kicker Sean Nuernberger
After enrolling early at Ohio State in 2014, Nuernberger earned the Buckeyes’ starting kicker role as a true freshman. During OSU’s run to the national title, he connected on 13 of his 20 field-goal attempts and all 89 of his extra-point tries.
Nuernberger’s playing time, however, has since been sporadic, and he didn’t even attempt an official kick in 2016. Still, at this point, he is considered the front-runner to succeed Tyler Durbin as the Buckeyes’ starter.
Quarterback Stephen Collier
A former 3-star prospect, Collier redshirted in 2014 after his early arrival in Columbus. A year later, he served as the third-string quarterback behind Jones and Barrett. After dealing with a torn ACL that kept him on the sideline throughout the Buckeyes’ 2016 campaign, his playing days at Ohio State could very well be over.
Offensive lineman Marcelys Jones
The first commitment in Ohio State’s 2014 class, Jones lasted just one season in Columbus before transferring to Kentucky in 2015.
Ohio State’s 2015 class
Defensive lineman Jashon Cornell
A former 4-star prospect, Cornell redshirted in 2015 before serving in a reserve role this past season. He recorded three tackles in 2016, 1.5 of which came for a loss.
Linebacker Nick Conner
A native of nearby Dublin, Ohio, Conner redshirted in 2015 and primarily played on special teams in 2016. As a redshirt freshman, he totaled three tackles in four games.
Defensive back Jamel Dean
After enrolling early at Ohio State two years ago, Dean’s Columbus career came to an end before it ever truly began. Following a knee injury, the Buckeyes medical staff disqualified him from competing. He then transferred to Auburn, where another knee injury prevented him from getting on the field in 2016.
Offensive lineman Grant Schmidt
After failing to crack Ohio State’s depth chart in 2015, Schmidt transferred to Cincinnati in the spring of 2016. Per NCAA rules, the former 3-star prospect sat out this past season.
Ohio State’s 2016 class
Offensive lineman Michael Jordan
Perhaps no player in the Meyer era has taken more advantage of enrolling early than Jordan. A former 4-star prospect, he became the first Buckeyes freshman to start on the OSU offensive line since Orlando Pace in 1994.
With one year as a starter under his belt, the Buckeyes left guard appears to have a promising future ahead. He’s also created to blueprint for offensive linemen to do what few have done at Ohio State — and it starts with enrolling early.
Wide receiver Austin Mack
Like his classmate, Jordan, Mack got off to a strong start as an early enrollee and even became the first Buckeyes freshman to have his black stripe removed in spring football. The Fort Wayne, Ind., native, however, seemed to hit a freshman wall and, as a result, playing time in 2016 only came sporadically. In four games, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound wideout caught two passes for 15 yards.
With a full year of experience at the college level behind him, Mack is expected to play a more prominent part in the OSU passing game in 2017.
Running back Antonio Williams
Buried on the Buckeyes’ depth chart behind Mike Weber, Samuel and Demario McCall, Williams appeared in just one game in 2016. In a 58-0 win over Rutgers, the true freshman tallied 28 yards on six carries.
Should Samuel declare for the NFL draft and McCall move to H-back, Williams could become the primary backup to Weber in 2017.
Defensive tackle Malik Barrow
Although he enrolled early, Barrow spent the bulk of his first offseason in Columbus rehabbing the knee injury that prematurely ended his high school career. After redshirting in 2016, Barrow should provide depth on an Ohio State roster thin at defensive tackle in 2017.
Linebacker Tuf Borland
A former 4-star prospect, Borland took a redshirt season in 2016.
Defensive end Jonathon Cooper
A highly touted defensive end from nearby Gahanna (Ohio), Cooper saw sporadic playing time in 2016 on a loaded Buckeyes defensive line. In four games, the former 4-star prospect totaled six tackles, including the first sack of his college career.
Offensive lineman Tyler Gerard
As Meyer often prefers to do with his offensive linemen, Gerard redshirted this past season. He could, however, see time as a reserve guard in the coming year.