COLUMBUS, Ohio — A sizable portion Ohio State’s 2018 signing class is already on campus, with eight of the 26 enrolling early and taking part in spring practice.
But what about the players who arrive in June? There are 18 new 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 players who could compete for playing time despite not going through winter workouts and spring practice at Ohio State:
OL Nicholas Petit-Frere
It’s unlikely he’ll start given the emergence of Thayer Munford at right tackle, but it would be a huge upset if Nicholas Petit-Frere doesn’t see the field for Ohio State this fall. While most first-year players on the offensive line redshirt at Ohio State, a number of elite offensive linemen in recent years have gotten backup snaps as freshmen. That list includes Jamarco Jones in 2014, Isaiah Prince in 2015, Michael Jordan in 2016 and Munford in 2017.
Petit-Frere, a 5-star tackle from Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep, set off a huge celebration among Ohio State coaches when he committed in February.
“It was 50-year-old men acting silly and chest-bumping and jumping up-and-down and all that stuff,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said of the reaction to the commitment of the 6-foot-6, 272-pound player. “It was a very good feeling. He filled a need that every college in America has, and that’s an elite offensive tackle.
“Everybody in the country is looking for the tall, athletic, elongated guys that can bend, and they’re hard to find. That’s why they’re paid so well in the NFL, because those body types are hard, hard to find.”
H-back Jaelen Gill
Ohio State already has a bit of a logjam at H-back, with Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill returning as well as Demario McCall being healthy again and looking like a rising star. But with that being said, it feels impossible that Jaelen Gill won’t play some sort of role for Ohio State this fall.
He’s too fast and too skilled to not see the field, especially with the amount of blowouts the Buckeyes produce against overmatched opponents. One way or another, his talent will win out and get him on the field.
DE Tyreke Smith
The Buckeyes have one of the most talent-rich collections of defensive ends in the country, with 2017 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year Nick Bosa joined by Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper at defensive end. While the skill is there, the depth is still a work in progress. Ohio State lost three defensive ends from the 2017 team, leaving just three returning scholarship players.
Despite those losses, defensive line coach Larry Johnson still wants a rotation at that spot.
“We don’t want to add more plays than we need to have,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to put 90 plays on Nick all of a sudden. He’ll play 60-65 plays every game, but we’re not going to give him 90-95 plays.
Even if defensive tackle Jashon Cornell’s move to defensive end sticks, Ohio State could still use more depth at that spot. Tyreke Smith could very well be the one to give the Buckeyes an instant impact.
S Josh Proctor
Coming out of spring practice, Meyer called field safety the “No. 1 concern” for his team as far as position battles go. That’s bad news for Ohio State as a whole but good news for Josh Proctor’s chance of contributing in at least some capacity.
“One of my favorite players is a guy that [we were] absolutely relentless in the pursuit of was Josh Proctor, player of the year in the state of Oklahoma,” Meyer said. “Obviously a heck of a football program there, and he made the decision to join us.”
Proctor could use special teams as a path to the field, but he’ll also arrive at camp with a safety spot completely up for grabs.
TE Jeremy Ruckert
Meyer didn’t try to hide how he felt about Jeremy Ruckert in his National Signing Day press conference.
“I think Jeremy Ruckert might be the best tight end prospect that I’ve ever seen and recruited,” he said. “His skill set is ridiculous. Now it’s a question of getting him ready to play.”
Ruckert, the nation’s No. 37 overall recruit in the Class of 2018, no doubt has the ability to come in and contribute if called upon. The question, though, is whether the depth chart will allow it. Ohio State has three tight ends who spent all spring battling for the starting role. Luke Farrell leads, but backup Rashod Berry is still a threat and Meyer also praised Jake Hausmann’s progress. Ultimately, Ohio State will find a way to get Ruckert on the field.