COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State is on a ridiculous recruiting run right now, with just two 3-star prospects among the 21 players it signed in 2017 and none among the 12 players currently committed to the class of 2018.
That doesn’t mean that the 3-star recruits on the roster can’t turn into key contributors, however. In recent years, players such as Darron Lee and Malik Hooker have gone on to become first-round draft picks after being assigned a 3-star rating.
Here’s a look at five former 3-star recruits who could do big things for Ohio State this season.
Damon Arnette came to Ohio State as a 3-star cornerback from Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas, the same school that produced the 5-star Bosa brothers and elite 2017 wide receiver Trevon Grimes. He was the fourth cornerback in 2016 as a redshirt freshman, but some struggles led to reduced playing time as the season went on.
However, he seems to have shaken off the mistakes he made in the past. He ran with Denzel Ward on the first team in spring practice and impressed cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs with his play.
“There’s no question, he’s had a great spring,” Coombs said. “He’s had a great offseason. He’s maturing as a man, which is very important to us. He has a ridiculous skill set, and when we harness all of his energy in the right direction, he is going to be a dynamic football player. I’m very excited about his spring.”
Robert Landers was a late addition to Ohio State’s Class of 2015, having really impressed Ohio State’s coaches while romping through the high school playoffs his senior year. After redshirting in 2015, he worked his way into the defensive tackle rotation last fall.
Although he’s undersized — he’s listed at 6-foot-1 by Ohio State, but that’s a bit generous — he has a knack for making plays. He increased his playing time as the season went on in 2016 and finished with 7.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
He should continue to get better with age, and 2017 figures to be an even more productive season for him.
Sean Nuernberger/Blake Haubeil
This feels a bit like cheating, since kickers are almost never given ratings above 3 stars, but it’s my list so I’m going to do what I want. Plus, there’s no denying the struggles Ohio State has had at the kicking spot the last two seasons.
With that being said, I think whichever player wins the job will end the worrying of Buckeyes fans come field goal time. Sean Nuernberger kicked for Ohio State in 2014 without incident but lost his job in the 2015 season — only to regain it late in the season. An injury kept him out in 2016, but he’s back and feeling good about his 2017 form.
He’ll still be pushed by Blake Haubeil, the No. 2 kicker in the Class of 2017, who says he’s kicking better than ever. Having two options makes it much more likely that Ohio State will put its kicking woes in the past.
Tracy Sprinkle arrived in the Buckeyes’ elite Class of 2013, which already has produced four first-round draft picks. He saw little playing time in his first few seasons but looked poised for a breakout season in 2016 after drawing rave reviews. Instead, the defensive tackle sustained a season-ending injury when he tore the patellar tendon in his right knee in the first game of the season.
Ohio State’s depth at defensive tackle is stronger, but there’s still a place for Sprinkle to make an impact. He wasn’t at full speed during spring practice but should be ready to go by fall camp. If he can replicate last year’s fall camp performance, he should find his way onto the field.
“He is going to be a bonus for us coming back,” defensive line coach Larry Johnson said. “Actually, I think he is pretty close. We are still monitoring him a little bit. He got some work right down at the end of spring ball but now we will go full speed and see what happens.”
Like Sprinkle, Chris Worley is one of the seven players in the Class of 2013 to stick around for five years. In a bit of a surprise — to those not on the team, at least — he won the starting job at linebacker in 2016. He quickly showed why he deserved to be out there and finished the season with 70 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss.
With Raekwon McMillan off to the NFL, Worley is sliding inside to the middle linebacker role. Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano liked what he saw from Worley in that role during spring practice.
“I thought he looked good,” Schiano said. “It’ll be a different way probably. Not everything, but some things will be a little different than you were used to with Raekwon because he’s just not that body type. But I know Chris is a really smart football player, so he’ll know how to manage situations differently than maybe Raekwon where he could just go ‘pop.’ He may have to slip the block rather than butt the block, but he’ll get the job done because he’s a smart football player.”