COLUMBUS, Ohio — Eight members of the Class of 2018 have already started their Ohio State careers, enrolling early to take part in the spring semester.
The group includes quarterback Matthew Baldwin, cornerback Sevyn Banks, linebacker Dallas Gant, cornerback Tyreke Johnson, offensive lineman Matthew Jones, running back Master Teague, defensive tackle Tommy Togiai and offensive lineman Max Wray.
Enrolling early has become common at Ohio State under Urban Meyer and has exploded the last few seasons in particular. Meyer welcomed six early enrollees in 2012, five in 2013, seven in 2014, four in 2015, seven in 2016, nine in 2017 and eight in 2018. Six of those nine players in the Class of 2017 saw the field this past season, with J.K. Dobbins leading the way as a second-team All-Big Ten running back.
As history has shown, showing up six months early often helps players jump-start their college careers. Here is a look at how early enrollees under Meyer have fared in their first seasons and the rest of their college careers.
Ohio State’s 2012 early enrollees
Offensive lineman Jacoby Boren
Boren wasted no time, becoming the backup to center Corey Linsley in his first season on campus. He played in two games in 2012 and went on to start for the Buckeyes in 2014 and 2015.
Running back Bri’onte Dunn
His Ohio State career got off to a promising start as he rushed for 133 yards and two scores in his first season in Columbus. However, he redshirted in 2013 and was never able to challenge Ezekiel Elliott on the depth chart. Prior to the start of the 2016 campaign, Meyer dismissed Dunn from the Buckeyes program. In 2017, he was charged with rape and kidnapping.
Quarterback Cardale Jones
Jones didn’t play in the 2012 spring game and sat out the entire season. He played sparingly in 2013 and 2014, until J.T. Barrett’s injury thrust him into the starting role. He famously led the Buckeyes to the first College Football Playoff title, earning his place in Ohio State history after an inauspicious start to his career.
Linebacker Joshua Perry
In 2012, Perry took advantage of his early start and carved out a special teams role that led to appearances in 10 games. He became a starter in 2013 and really shined in 2014, when he led the national champion Buckeyes in tackles with 124. He finished his career as a three-year starter, making 104 tackles in 2015.
Defensive back Tyvis Powell
His career began with a redshirt in 2012, but Powell soon began to show a knack for timely plays. As the starting nickel back, he intercepted the attempted game-winning 2-point conversion pass from Devin Gardner against Michigan in 2013. One year later he moved to safety and was the defensive MVP in the Buckeyes’ win over Oregon in the National Championship Game. He started again in 2015 before declaring for the NFL draft.
Wide receiver Michael Thomas
Though he played in his first season in 2012, Thomas wasn’t able to escape a redshirt. Maturity concerns led to him sitting out the 2013 season after a debut campaign in which he caught 3 passes for 22 yards. His year off appeared to have changed his course, as he became the Buckeyes’ most dependable receiver in 2014 and 2015. He finished his Ohio State career with 113 catches for 1,602 yards and 18 touchdowns and became a second-round draft pick.
Ohio State’s 2013 early enrollees
Cornerback Eli Apple
A medical issue kept Apple from seeing the field in 2013, and he didn’t lose his black stripe until April 2014. He started in 2014 and 2015 and made 4 career interceptions before becoming a first-round draft pick of the New York Giants in 2016.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett
Barrett didn’t play as a freshman in 2013, but he found his place in program history one season later when he replaced an injured Braxton Miller and led the Buckeyes to a perfect 12-0 record before an injury knocked him out for the postseason. He went on to rewrite the Ohio State record book, though he became a somewhat polarizing figure for the fan base in his final two seasons as the passing game struggled at times.
Defensive back Cam Burrows
Burrows was one of only a few freshmen to play for the Buckeyes in 2013, contributing largely on special teams. His playing time was derailed by foot injuries and his career ended ended following the 2016 season.
Defensive end Tyquan Lewis
After redshirting in 2013 and playing sparingly in 2014, Lewis’ career took off in 2015. He registered 8 sacks in 2015, 8 in 2016 and 7 in 2017. He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in each of his last two seasons and was the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2016.
Defensive lineman Tracy Sprinkle
An up-and-down career at Ohio State began with a redshirt, and Sprinkle played in only three games in 2014. He became a rotation player in 2015 and earned a starting role in 2016, only to suffer a season-ending injury in the first game. In 2017 he stayed healthy enough to crack the rotation and made 3 tackles for loss.
Ohio State’s 2014 class
Quarterback Stephen Collier
Collier was never able to challenge Barrett and Jones for playing time. He redshirted in 2014 and played in one game in 2015. An ACL injury cost Collier his 2016 season, and in January 2017 he announced the end of his playing career in an exclusive story with Land of 10.
Wide receiver Johnnie Dixon
Dixon’s career very nearly came to an end after the 2016 season when chronic knee problems had him considering giving up football. He gave it one more shot, though, and finally got a chance to show how good he could be. Dixon led Ohio State in 2017 with 8 touchdown catches. He’ll be back for a fifth and final season.
Offensive guard Marcelys Jones
After playing sparingly in 2014, Jones transferred to Kentucky. He lasted less than two months in Lexington before being kicked off the team.
Linebacker Raekwon McMillan
McMillan was an instant star at Ohio State, splitting time at middle linebacker with starter Curtis Grant throughout the Buckeyes’ 2014 national championship run. He started every game in each of the next two seasons and was a second-team All-American and team captain in 2016. He was drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins.
Kicker Sean Nuernberger
Though he didn’t handle kickoffs, Nuernberger came in and started at kicker in his first season in Columbus. He made 13 of 20 field-goal attempts with a long of 49. After losing his job to walk-on graduate transfers in 2015 and 2016, he reclaimed the field goal job in 2017.
H-back Curtis Samuel
The Brooklyn, N.Y., native saw some playing time as a freshman in 2014 and even scored a pair of touchdowns in the 59-0 Big Ten title game rout of Wisconsin. His career took off the following two seasons. In 2016, Samuel was a first-team All-American and the only player in the country with 700 yards rushing and receiving. He was drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers.
Offensive tackle Kyle Trout
Trout redshirted in 2014 and was never a factor for playing time in 2015 and 2016. After graduating in May 2017, he transferred to Cincinnati. Playing for former Ohio State assistant Luke Fickell, Trout started at right guard for the Bearcats in 2017.
Ohio State’s 2015 early enrollees
Linebacker Nick Conner
The Dublin, Ohio, native redshirted in 2015 after a knee injury and enjoyed a breakout spring game performance in 2016. However, he played sparingly that season and missed all of 2017 after sustaining another knee injury.
Defensive tackle Jashon Cornell
A highly regarded recruit, Cornell emerged in 2017 after redshirting in 2015 and playing just five games in 2016. He finished the 2017 season with 3 1/2 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks while becoming a regular in the interior defensive line rotation.
Defensive back Jamel Dean
Dean lasted only a few weeks in Columbus because he was medically disqualified shortly after arriving. He transferred to Auburn. After missing the 2016 season with a knee injury, Dean started the final 11 games of Auburn’s 2017 campaign.
Offensive tackle Grant Schmidt
Ohio State’s first scholarship player from South Dakota never saw the field for the Buckeyes. After redshirting in 2015, Schmidt announced the following spring that he was transferring to Cincinnati. One year later, in May 2017, he transferred to FCS program South Dakota State.
Ohio State’s 2016 early enrollees
Defensive tackle Malik Barrow
Knee injuries have prevented Barrow’s career from taking off. His first season in Columbus was spent rehabbing an ACL tear from high school, and Barrow tore his ACL again shortly into the 2017 season after seeing some playing time in two of the first four games.
Linebacker Tuf Borland
Though he didn’t play in 2016, Borland made his mark as a redshirt freshman in 2017. He burst onto the scene with a breakout performance against Army and earned a starting role when middle linebacker Chris Worley missed games due to injury. He finished the season with 58 tackles and 3 1/2 tackles for loss.
Defensive end Jonathon Cooper
Cooper came to Ohio State as a celebrated recruit, but a loaded defensive line group kept him from making an immediate impact. He played in six games and had a sack as a freshman in 2016 and worked his way into the rotation in 2017, when he played every game and made 2 sacks.
Offensive lineman Tyler Gerald
Gerald redshirted in 2016 and left the program in March 2017. He has not resurfaced at any other college program.
Offensive lineman Michael Jordan
In 2016, Jordan became the first freshman offensive lineman to start for Ohio State since Orlando Pace in 1994. He picked up in 2017 right where he left off, starting at left guard for the Buckeyes all season.
Wide receiver Austin Mack
His first spring in Columbus was a good one, with Mack impressing the coaching staff on a regular basis. He also became the first player to have his black stripe removed. However, he struggled to crack the rotation in 2016, catching 2 passes for 15 yards. His sophomore season showed glimpses of a future star, as he hauled in 24 passes for 343 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Running back Antonio Williams
Williams found his way onto the field in 2016 but has struggled to climb the depth chart at running back behind Mike Weber and Dobbins. He did get his fair share of carries during some routs in 2017, carrying 57 times for 290 yards and 3 scores.
Ohio State’s 2017 early enrollees
Linebacker Baron Browning
Browning played in 12 games and made 14 tackles, including 1 1/2 for loss. With two linebacker spots opening up, he should compete for a starting job in 2018.
Running back J.K. Dobbins
Dobbins followed Jordan with arguably an even more impressive freshman star turn, starting all 14 games at running back. He finished with 1,403 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns en route to earning second-team All-Big Ten honors.
Quarterback Tate Martell
Though he didn’t play in 2017, Martell made an impression on those who played against him in practice. He’s expected to challenge for the starting job in 2018 and could find his way onto the field even if he doesn’t beat out Dwayne Haskins or Joe Burrow.
Offensive tackle Josh Myers
As is often the case with offensive linemen at Ohio State, Myers redshirted in his first season. He suffered an injury late in the year, showing up to games in November in a sling around his left arm.
Cornerback Jeffrey Okudah
Widely praised for his impressive showing in extended bowl practice reps, Okudah came on strong toward the end of the season. He made 17 tackles and was on the field for nearly 400 snaps, setting himself up for a big role in 2018.
Safety Isaiah Pryor
Pryor played in 12 games, recording 13 tackles and making a sack. He’ll be a factor in the safety competition this spring with Damon Webb out of eligibility.
Safety Shaun Wade
An injury-plagued first season officially came to an end in November when Wade had surgery to repair an abdomen injury. He didn’t see the field in 2017.
Safety Brendon White
White played in five games, switching back and forth between wide receiver and safety.
Cornerback Marcus Williamson
The speedy defensive back played in 10 games and recorded 6 tackles, proving to be a valuable special teams asset.