Ohio State’s recruiting class of 2017 is entering a pivotal season.
Those Buckeyes are entering their third season in Columbus, which means they’re expected to be ready to play significant roles for Ohio State if they haven’t already. Each of them now have two years as Ohio State players under their belts, and by the end of the upcoming season, all of them will be on the back end of their careers while some of them will have decisions to make about whether it’s time to go to the NFL.
With that in mind, Eleven Warriors is taking an individual look this offseason at each of Ohio State’s third-year players – in descending order of their 247Sports composite recruiting rankings – and the expectations that preceded their Ohio State careers, how they have performed in their first two seasons as Buckeyes and the outlook for the remainder of their careers.
The fifth installment of the Third-Year Reset brings us to the final five-star recruit from that loaded class, offensive guard Wyatt Davis, who goes into 2019 with the opportunity to show why he was such a highly touted prospect after waiting his turn for the majority of his first two seasons at Ohio State.
Before He Became a Buckeye
The grandson of Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Willie Davis and the son of actor Duane Davis, Wyatt Davis emerged as a star offensive lineman at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. He was named to the 2016 All-USA national high school football team by USA TODAY and was named as the Los Angeles area’s high school football player of the year by the Los Angeles Times.
With Davis leading the offensive line up front, St. John Bosco won the California state championship during his senior season.
Davis was ranked as the top guard prospect and the No. 24 overall prospect in the recruiting class of 2016, and is the highest-rated guard Ohio State has signed since 247Sports began compiling composite recruiting rankings in 2000.
Career to Date
Despite his touted status as a recruit, Davis did not see any game action and took a redshirt as a true freshman in 2017.
Davis remained a backup guard behind Malcolm Pridgeon and Demetrius Knox for most of last season, but the Buckeyes began occasionally using him as a sixth offensive lineman/jumbo tight end as a way to get him on the field during the second half of the year.
After Knox went down with a season-ending foot injury on the final series of Ohio State’s rivalry game win over Michigan, Davis was called upon to start the final two games of the season at right guard in place of Knox, and filled in admirably to help lead the Buckeyes to wins over Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship Game and Washington in the Rose Bowl.
Those two starts are enough to make Davis one of Ohio State’s most experienced offensive linemen, as Thayer Munford and Branden Bowen are the only other offensive linemen on the roster who have started multiple games for the Buckeyes. (Incoming graduate transfer guard Jonah Jackson started 16 games for the Rutgers over the past two seasons.)
Even though he has only started two games in his first two years at Ohio State, Davis is a lock to start for the Buckeyes at right guard this season, barring injury. He is too talented not to be on the field as a third-year player, and he’s made the strides necessary over the past two seasons to prove to his coaches that he’s ready for a leading role on the offensive line.
While fifth-year seniors Pridgeon and Knox earned the starting jobs last year because of their experience, Davis could well prove to be an upgrade this season. He has all the tools to not only become a star of Ohio State’s offensive line but one of the best guards in all of college football.
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 313 pounds, Davis has impressive power and physicality. He’s already demonstrated the ability to knock defenders off their feet with pancake blocks and to win battles of strength at the line of scrimmage. He also has excellent quickness for a man of his size, giving him the ability to accelerate to the second level and pick up blocks in space.
He made some of the mistakes you’d expect an inexperienced offensive lineman to make in his first two starts last season, and he hasn’t seen enough playing time yet to truly be put to the test. Given that, the expectation that he could emerge as a star up front for the Buckeyes this season is mostly all conjecture, based more on his lofty ranking coming out of high school than anything he’s done in scarlet and gray so far.
Even so, it’s apparent that he has the potential to develop into a dominant guard, and both Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa spoke highly of his continued improvement this spring.
“He’s having a heck of a spring,” Studrawa said in April.
Given the lack of experience on Ohio State’s offensive line, Davis knows he is expected to be a leader of the unit this year even though he will be a first-year starter, and he’s working hard to ensure that he’ll be up to the challenge.
“I feel like I’m ready,” Davis said after the spring game. “I just got to keep on working on getting better and working out hard this summer and leading the summer workouts, leading all the young guys that come in and all the new guys that come in, and I think I could be ready for that role.”
If Davis performs up to expectations this season, he should jump onto the radar of NFL scouts. He’s been expected to be a future early-round NFL draft pick since before he even stepped foot on Ohio State’s campus, and he still has that potential.
That said, Ohio State has had only two offensive linemen enter the NFL draft after just three years since 1997, and both of them – Orlando Pace and Michael Jordan – were three-year starters who earned spots in the lineup right away as true freshmen.
With that in mind, it would be at least a mild surprise if Davis enters the 2020 NFL draft after this season – no matter how well he performs – and there’s reason to think he’ll be a core part of Ohio State’s offensive line for at least the next two years, if not three.
Davis should be in line to be Ohio State’s starting right guard as long as he sticks around, and his opportunity to be a team leader will only grow with each year, potentially putting him in position to be a team captain in 2020 and/or 2021.
There’s no guarantee that Davis will stay beyond this season, but offensive linemen typically start for multiple years at the collegiate level before moving on to the NFL, and two or three seasons could give Davis the opportunity to progressively improve his performance and his subsequent draft stock.
With limited depth that currently needs to be built up on the guard depth chart behind him, Ohio State will certainly hope to keep Davis in Columbus as long as possible, and three remaining seasons of eligibility give Davis plenty of time to make his mark on the Buckeyes and make good on the hype that has followed him to this point.