Five Former Five-Star Recruits Set For First Meaningful Playing Time This Season

By Kevin Harrish on June 19, 2018 at 10:25 am
Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper are set for playing time this season.

Five-star recruits are not a rarity at Ohio State. In fact, the Buckeyes get so many talented, high-level recruits, fans often have to wait years to see the younger ones play as they work their way up the depth chart – even if they have clear talent immediately.

Here are five of those former five-star prospects from the 2015 through 2017 classes who will see the first meaningful playing time of their careers during this season.

Justin Hilliard – 2015 Class – LB

Justin Hilliard

Justin Hilliard was the highest-rated player in Ohio State's 2015 class. The five-star linebacker was rated as the No. 3 outside linebacker in the country, the No. 35 player overall and the top player in the state of Ohio.

He was one of the most hyped and talented recruits Urban Meyer ever recruited at Ohio State, but due to injuries, his career thus far has not gone the way that he'd hoped. Hilliard suffered three bicep tears in three years, sidelining him for longer than he was available to play.

Now, finally healthy and with three starting linebacker spots open, Hilliard is fighting for playing time, and according to linebackers coach Bill Davis, he was running with the ones in the spring.

"He’s ready to go," Davis said. "The injuries do not factor in right now. They don’t factor. He’s back."

Jashon Cornell – 2015 Class – DE

Jashon Cornell

Five-star defensive end Jashon Cornell committed to Ohio State on the same day as Justin Hilliard, on a day we like to call 10-Star Wednesday. Though he did lose his fifth star and was a four-star prospect at the time of his arrival, he's included on this list because he was a five-star player at the time of his commitment and was one of the top players in the 2015 class.

With the depth the Buckeyes had at the defensive end position, Cornell made the switch to defensive tackle, but like Hilliard, he's had to battle injuries during his time in Columbus.

With a redshirt season his first year and an injury his sophomore season, Cornell never really got going until his junior year, and even then he played only a backup role, finishing the season with just 14 tackles and 3.5 tackles for a loss.

Cornell is now moving back to defensive end – a position he says is most natural to him – to help add depth to the team after three defensive ends left for the NFL. He's unlikely to start, as Nick Bosa and Chase Young have presumably earned those spots, but he'll most certainly play meaningful minutes as Larry Johnson loves to rotate players.

Jonathon Cooper – 2016 Class – DE

Jonathon Cooper

Jonathon Cooper, rated as a five-star prospect by 247sports, was Ohio State's second highest-rated player in the 2016 class, behind only Nick Bosa.

Cooper came to Columbus undoubtably talented, but joined Ohio State's deepest and most talented unit, meaning playing time his first two seasons was scarce. In two years, Cooper has just 22 tackles, four tackles for a loss and three sacks.

This year, even though he's unlikely to start, Cooper figures to be an integral part of the defensive line rotation and will likely get the nod on third downs as part of Ohio State's famed Rushmen package, getting the four best pass rushers on the field.

Chase Young – 2017 Class – DE

Chase Young

The top player in Ohio State's best recruiting class of all time, five-star defensive end Chase Young is ready to make a real impact in his second season in Columbus.

From the moment he arrived in Columbus, Young's talented was undeniable and he was absolutely ready to play as a true freshman, but he joined the team's deepest and most talented position group, where he sat behind three now-NFL players and the possible No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Now, Young will be starting opposite of Nick Bosa, as part of what figures to be one of the most lethal defensive end combinations in the country. We got a peak of what he can do during Ohio State's spring game, when he got pressure on the quarterback nearly every down, but now Buckeye fans will see him in action as a starter this season.

Jeffrey Okudah – 2017 Class – CB

Jeffrey Okudah

Chase Young may have been the top-rated player in Ohio State's 2017 class, but it was by a razor thin margin as five-star cornerback Jeffrey Okudah was right there with him. Young was the No. 7 player in the country with a rating of .9957 while Okudah was No. 8 with a rating of .9955.

In any case, Okudah was the top cornerback prospect in the country and with Denzel Ward bolting to the NFL, he'll be an integral part of Ohio State's cornerback rotation, joining Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield.

Okudah was the fourth cornerback all season in 2017 and was the player who got the most extra reps when Ward elected not to play in the Buckeyes' Cotton Bowl matchup with USC. There are a lot of talented cornerbacks on the roster – five-star Shaun Wade and four-stars Marcus Williamson and Amir Riep – but Okudah will likely get the first crack at meaningful playing time.

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