Fast forward to today, Ballard, a four-star wide receiver, seems to be a forgotten man in the Ohio State's top-ranked class. Whether it is because he isn't much of a talker or because he committed to the Buckeyes almost a year ago, one thing is for sure, Ballard should have more buzz.
Ballard is a fairly reserved and quiet person off the field, but when he steps in between the lines on Friday nights, Ballard's play is anything but quiet. With a track background, Ballard has verified speed, running a sub-11-second 100-meter dash. But he's not just a burner, he's also an exceptional possession receiver, excelling in both jump ball and contested-catch situations.
Here's a closer look at what makes Ballard such a well-rounded wideout and a potential No. 1 receiver at Ohio State.
For Buckeye fans, Ballard's speed and play style might remind some of another Massillon Tiger – Devin Smith. But when comparing Smith's 100-meter dash time during his junior year and Ballard's 100-meter time during his sophomore year, Ballard is actually the faster of the two.
And Ballard's track speed translates to the football field. He puts it to use, simply running past defenders routinely. Ballard's long speed is a game-changer at the wide receiver position and should be a great pairing with Kyle McCord's huge arm.
- Play one: Lined up at the top of the screen Ballard does run any special route or give any head fake he just simply runs by the cornerback. In this third and long situation, Ballard uses his game-breaking speed to burst past the defender and run under the ball for a touchdown.
- Play two: This time he is inside his own five-yard line but the cornerback gets caught looking into the backfield and by the time he notices Ballard is long gone. Once again he passes the defender and runs under it for a long 90+ yard touchdown.
- Play three: Similar to the previous two plays Ballard bursts off the line and with the defender worried about the fade route along the sideline he cuts inside. Running a perfect skinny post route Ballard becomes free down the middle of the field and catches another huge touchdown.
Ballard has rare speed. With some big-armed quarterbacks and plenty of deep routes in the playbook at Ohio State, he should find success early and often.
Jump Ball Ability
Ballard isn't just a burner, he can also jump through the roof and he puts those leaping abilities on display during the winters on the hardwood.
As for the gridiron, Ballard is extremely skilled at not only jumping high, but timing up jump balls and going up to get them in the endzone. Simply put, Ballard is a super special athlete not just for his long speed but also for his ability to go up and get the ball. When his big 6-foot-2 frame is combined with his special leaping ability then you get a great jump ball receiver like Ballard.
- Play one: In the red zone Massillon knows just what to do and that is throwing it up to the 6-foot-2 Ballard who can out-jump almost any defender. The quarterback throws a perfect pass for Ballard to get into the endzone then jump above the defender's head and haul in the ball for a touchdown.
- Play two: Yet another red-zone situation where Ballard's quarterback throws him a perfect jump ball high and outside. Ballard rises up near the pylon and brings in the ball above the defender for another touchdown.
- Play three: This time Ballard is lined up in the slot. He burst off the line gives a head fake with a single inside step then cuts out for a few steps and goes up over the defender to haul in this touchdown catch
Contested Catch Skills
Ballard has elite athleticism, but he also has the hands to be a go-to possession target. H has no problem catching the ball with a defender in his face on draped all over him.
His body control when tracking the ball is special and he knows just what do when the ball is coming his way to ensure that he secures the catch.
Ballard is also a matchup nightmare with his big frame with long arms, allowing him to overmatch defenders in just about any situation.
- Play one: This time Ballard motions across the field and runs a wheel route down the sideline. The ball is thrown shot so he has to turn back to get it with two defenders around him. Ballard hauls in the past with both defenders around him and shakes one defender to the ground before stepping out of bounds.
- Play two: At the bottom of the screen Ballard runs a post corner looking route and when he tries to break outside the defender is draped all over him. With a hand in his face, he hauls in the pass through the defender's arm before getting pushed out.
- Play three: Running a slant rout this time the ball is thrown slightly behind him and ends up juggling the ball. With two defenders around him, Ballard plucks the ball out of the air and powers backward for a quick touchdown.
With his blistering speed, ability to win in jump-ball situations, and his ability to make contested catches, Ballard is the total package and could become a go-to receiver for the Buckeyes.