Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer welcomed nine players from the Buckeyes' second-ranked recruiting class to campus when spring semester began on Monday.
These players graduated high school early, which allows them to enroll in college and participate in spring practices. They'll also be able to take part in the program's offseason workout program, effectively giving them a head start in their respective college careers over those who wait until the summer to join the team.
Here's a look at Ohio State's nine early enrollees, as well as predictions for each as a true freshman.
Austin (TX) Lake Travis
With the desire to take at least one quarterback in the current recruiting cycle, Ohio State assistant Ryan Day set his sights on Baldwin — who was committed to Colorado State at the time — halfway throught his senior season.
With his pledge, the Buckeyes no longer had room for long-time commit Emory Jones, who flipped to Florida during the Early Signing Period.
Baldwin suffered a right knee injury in the state semifinals in December, which sidelined him for all but one play of the title game one week later. He certainly won't play as a freshman as the Buckeyes determine the best path to recovery.
Regardless, with veterans Dwayne Haskins, Joe Burrow and Tate Martell ahead of him on the depth chart, he won't be needed for a few years.
Orlando (FL) Jones
6-foot-1, 180 pounds
Banks surprised many when he committed to Ohio State in April following a visit for the Spring Game, as his older brother, Marcell Harris, played at Florida and most anticipated he'd follow in those same footsteps.
Though he's fully recovered from a torn ACL that cost him all of his junior season, Banks will likely redshirt as a freshman with a ton of talent ahead of him at the cornerback position. When it's his turn to shine, though, Banks has all of the tools to develop into a first-round draft pick.
Toledo (OH) St. John's Jesuit
6-foot-3, 225 pounds
Ohio State identified Gant as one of the state's top players ahead of his junior season and had to fend off regional programs like Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State to land his pledge.
Though the Fighting Irish offered similar academics and a religious background like his high school, his familiarity with Buckeyes' coaching staff and their knack for sending players to the NFL won out.
Even with starters Chris Worley and Jerome Baker heading to the next level, Gant will be in a fight for early playing time. Tuf Borland has seemingly locked down the middle, while a host of talented veterans will all battle for spots on the outside.
With that said, I still anticipate Gant will make his name known on special teams as a freshman, just like Pete Werner did this fall.
Brenham (TX) Blinn College
6-foot-3, 305 pounds
Jackson's journey to Columbus was quite interesting, as he committed to Auburn in December 2015.
Ohio State was considered the runner-up, so when he went back on the market after a redshirt freshman season with the Tigers, his established relationship with defensive line coach Larry Johnson helped the Buckeyes seal the deal the second time around.
Given he already used his redshirt season, Jackson will be asked to make an immediate impact on the interior of the defensive line. It's needed, too, as his presence inside could help alleviate some of the issues seemingly brought on by a lack of depth at the defensive end position. He's following in the same footsteps as cornerback Kendall Sheffield, who saw significant time in the secondary last season.
Jacksonville (FL) Trinity Christian
6-foot-1, 191 pounds
Few believed Johnson would ever leave the south to play college football — including his father. But Ohio State pursued his pledge for more than three years, and relationships with the staff and his good friend and former teammate, Shaun Wade, helped the Buckeyes land Johnson's commitment in early December.
Much like Banks, the only thing that may hold Johnson back is the depth chart. He's one of the most confident and hardest-hitting defensive backs in the country, though, and his presence can certainly be used on special teams early.
I don't anticipate he'll redshirt because of that, which will also allow him to see the field late in games that have gotten out of hand. Then as a sophomore, he'll compete with Wade for playing time opposite of soon-to-be starter Jeffrey Okudah.
Brooklyn (NY) Erasmus Hall
6-foot-4, 300 pounds
Erasmus Hall has been good to Ohio State over the last few years, having sent running back Curtis Samuel and safety Jahsen Wint to Columbus in 2014 and 2016, respectively.
Jones — though he kept his recruitment rather close to the vest — was always expected to follow their lead, and he pledged his services to the Buckeyes during a one-day camp last June.
Jones has a chance to earn playing time early in his career, as starting center Billy Price has exhausted his eligibility and Jack Wohlabaugh transferred out of the program. That seemingly leaves only redshirt senior Brady Taylor ahead of him on the depth chart — unless someone else changes positions between now and camp.
Jones is quite versatile, too, so while winning the Rimington Trophy as the nation's best center may ultimately be in the cards, he'll provide some much-needed depth, as well.
Murfreesboro (TN) Blackman
5-foot-11, 210 pounds
Teague was arguably the most underrated prospect in the entire recruiting class, as he'd rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 24 touchdowns as a junior — only to be considered a three-star prospect. He saw his stock increase dramatically after he put up off-the-chart numbers during camps at Alabama and Ohio State last summer.
Meyer and running backs coach Tony Alford established a strong relationship prior to that, however, and Teague pledged his services to the Buckeyes just days after landing an offer.
With the emergence last season of J.K. Dobbins, getting carries as a true freshman was going to be difficult for Teague. Those chance were diminished even further when Mike Weber announced last week he'd be returning for his redshirt junior season.
Even so, Teague has a strong work ethic and may very well make a name for himself on special teams early, though a redshirt is also in the cards if he's not full healed from an ankle injury that cost him most of his senior season.
Pocatello (ID) Highland
6-foot-3, 290 pounds
Most prognosticators assumed throughout the recruiting process that Togiai would stay close to home, mirroring Ohio State's failed recruitment of Utah four-star defensive tackle Jay Tufele one year prior.
Distance was never a factor for him, though, and his relationships with Meyer and Johnson helped the Buckeyes land an unexpected third defensive tackle this recruiting cycle when he pledged his services to the coaches during an in-home visit in December.
Much like the aforementioned Jackson, there is an opportunity for Togiai to see the field early in his career. He proved last week during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, he's more than up to the challenge, as he made multiple downfield tackles, forced a fumble and pressured the quarterback all afternoon. In fact, he's my pick to have the biggest impact of all nine early enrollees.
6-foot-7, 289 pounds
Three days after Wray ended his nearly year-long commitment to Georgia, Ohio State extended a scholarship offer to both him and his younger brother, Jake. It only took one visit for the Wray family to fall in love with the program, and announced his commitment to the Buckeyes ahead of the Spring Game — just one week after that trip to Columbus.
The lone offensive tackle in Ohio State's recruiting class, Wray became even more important when the Buckeyes missed out on Fairfield five-star offensive tackle Jackson Carman, who committed to Clemson during the Early Signing Period. Don't fret, though; Wray got the start over Carman during last week's Army Bowl.
Wray's freshman season could go one of two ways. One one hand, he could take advantage of the program's lack of depth at the tackle position and cement his status as a starter at left tackle during spring practices. Or — the more likely route — he'll get experience this spring and throughout the fall as a backup and fight for the starting right tackle position to be vacated by Isaiah Prince next year.
The nine early enrollees are the most Ohio State has ever welcomed under Meyer, matching last year's total; the Buckeyes also had seven in 2016, four in 2015, seven in 2014 and five in 2013. Several from last year's class — widely regarded as the best recruiting haul of all time — saw playing time this season.
- Linebacker Baron Browning – 95 snaps, 14 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss
- Running back J.K. Dobbins – 576 snaps, 1,403 yards rushing, 135 yards receiving, eight touchdowns
- Quarterback Tate Martell – Redshirted
- Offensive tackle Josh Myers – Redshirted (shoulder injury)
- Cornerback Jeffrey Okudah – 218 snaps, 17 tackles, one pass break up, one fumble recovery
- Safety Isaiah Pryor – 114 snaps, 11 tackles, one tackle for a loss, one pass break up, one sack
- Cornerback Shaun Wade – Redshirted (abdominal injury)
- Athlete Brenton White – 22 snaps, one tackle
- Cornerback Marcus Williamson – 77 snaps, six tackles