What Denzel Burke’s Commitment Means for Ohio State’s 2021 Recruiting Class

By Zack Carpenter on May 24, 2020 at 3:55 pm
Denzel Burke
Denzel Burke (Brandon Huffman/247Sports)

Ohio State kept the defensive back train rolling today.

With the commitment of Saguaro (Ariz.) High School four-star athlete Denzel Burke, the Buckeyes continued to address their need at cornerback – potentially filling out their 2021 recruiting class at the position, though they may not be done yet.

Let's take a look at what Burke and his commitment brings to Ohio State on the field, off the field and in its class:

On the field

The last time Kerry Coombs and the Buckeyes landed a cornerback named Denzel, it worked out pretty well all around.

Like Denzel Ward (No. 270 overall, No. 26 cornerback, No. 10 Ohio), the 6-foot, 190-pound Burke comes to the Buckeyes with a fairly low ranking (relatively speaking, of course) at No. 183 overall, No. 7 at athlete and No. 4 in the state of Arizona.

Burke, however, will be coming to Ohio State more physically ready than Ward, as the senior-to-be out of the powerhouse Saguaro program – which has also produced star cornerbacks Kelee Ringo (five-star Georgia signee in 2020) and Byron Murphy (who was an All-Pac-12 performer at Washington and the Arizona Cardinals' No. 33 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft) in addition to Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk.

Burke will come to the Buckeyes looking to improve on official times and measurements of 4.72 seconds in the 40, 4.50 seconds in the shuttle and 32.20 inches on his vertical – all which were measured at The Opening more than a year ago in February  2019, though, as he looks much faster and quicker on his junior season film. 

Burke played in only seven games in 2019 after having to sit out the first half of the season following a transfer from Phoenix's Brophy College Preparatory so his numbers – two interceptions as a corner and 313 yards receiving and four touchdowns on 12 receptions – are not very high. 

But though Burke is low on numbers and on-field experience at Saguaro, he showed off his incredible upside at Brophy, where he played in all 21 games in his two seasons there. He showed off his athleticism and explosiveness in a breakout sophomore campaign in which he had 719 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns on 50 receptions in addition to a kick return touchdown and rushing score.

Burke's experience as a receiver should also help him in his continued development as a cornerback, as his time on offense could aid in his understanding of how to defend the position and how to hone his technique as a corner.

“I’m very physical,” Burke told Eleven Warriors. “I compete at the highest level at practice and games.”

Saguaro head coach Jason Mohns, who is entering his eighth year in charge of the program and led it to an Arizona record of six consecutive state championships prior to a runner-up finish in 2019, believes Burke can follow in the footsteps of his former star cornerback.

“Denzel reminds me a lot of Byron Murphy, our All-American corner who went to Washington and was the first overall pick in the second round last year,” Mohns told Eleven Warriors. “Exceptional ball skills, elite acceleration, fluid hips and physical. Denzel is more powerfully built than Byron with similar height and length. Denzel could play Power 5 football at WR or DB. Very instinctive, competitive and mature. He’s a big-time player.”

Off the field

Burke has been playing football since he was five years old. His natural pull to the game eventually transformed into a full-blown love of the sport that now has him wanting to play until he no longer can.

The senior-to-be hit the ground running once he arrived at Saguaro, and his propensity for putting in work throughout the week was equaled by him putting in extra time in weekend workouts. 

Burke's main goal for several years has been to earn his way to the Division I level and find his way to a powerhouse program, and he saw a major step in that journey after earning a starting cornerback spot at Brophy as a freshman. Throughout his life, Burke has surrounded himself with a supportive inner circle, so the Buckeyes appear to have once again tallied a win in the character fit column.

In the class

Back to Arizona the Buckeyes have gone, grabbing their third commitment from the Grand Canyon State in the past two classes after signing Lathan Ransom – whom Burke has a good connection with – and Jack Miller in 2020. Miller's Chaparral High School team lost to Saguaro in 2019, but Miller was out with an injury and Burke was not yet eligible following his transfer.

Ohio State has a strong reputation of zeroing in on states where the prime in-state programs have hit downturns and attacking as sharks seeing blood in the water, and this is yet another example. Since the modern recruiting era began in 1999, Ohio State had not signed a player from Arizona until signing Ransom and Miller in December.

The Buckeyes, however, have not yet offered any prospects in the 2022 class from Arizona, as it projects to be a down cycle with just one player ranked in the top 220 of 247Sports' player rankings (Chaparral strongside defensive end Anthony Lucas at No. 104 overall).

“Denzel (Burke) reminds me a lot of Byron Murphy, our All-American corner who went to Washington and was the first overall pick in the second round last year.”– Saguaro head coach Jason Mohns

As for Ohio State's 2021 class, well, the beat keeps on drumming. 

Ohio State had already eclipsed its 2020 class (which finished No. 5 overall with 25 commitments) in the rankings with seven fewer commitments in the 2021 cycle.

With Burke's commitment, Ohio State's 2021 cycle of 19 commitments (301.39 points) continues its push toward finishing No. 1 in the 247Sports composite rankings for the first time ever and has a shot at taking down Florida's 2010 class of 28 signees (324.62 points) for the best-ever class. The Buckeyes, at a 95.34 per-player average rating, also have a shot at eclipsing the 2017 class' record-breaking 94.59 per-player average.

This Ohio State class – which now has more five-star prospects (four) and four-star prospects (11) than any other program in America – would now rank No. 4 overall in the 2020 cycle, better than an LSU class that had 25 commitments (300.54 points) and less than 12 overall points behind Georgia's No. 1-ranked class (313.34 points).

The Buckeyes now have what would be a complete haul at defensive back for 2021 if they did not land any more commitments with three pure cornerbacks (Burke, Jakailin JohnsonDevonta Smith), a slot cornerback/safety (Andre Turrentine) and a safety (Jantzen Dunn) they have accumulated. (Jaylen Johnson is listed as a safety but is likely to move to outside linebacker at Ohio State.)

However, I don't believe the Buckeyes are done in the defensive back market. If he wants in the class, Gateway (Pa.) High School four-star safety Derrick Davis Jr. is a take no matter what, and Mater Dei (Calif.) High School four-star cornerback Jaylin Davies, according to a source, will still be pursued by Ohio State. We will cover that more in tonight's Hurry-Up.

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