Ohio State has signed 21 scholarship players for the recruiting class of 2021, and all 21 of them are now on campus.
Fifteen of them were already on campus for spring practices as early enrollees, but the six summer enrollees are also all now in Columbus – with most of them arriving this past week – adding another half-dozen talented freshmen to the Buckeyes’ roster for summer workouts.
There’s a chance Ohio State could still add one more player to its 2021 freshman class later this summer, as five-star defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau is set to make an official visit to Ohio State from June 18-20 and make his college decision in late June or early July. It’s also still possible Ohio State could add another player or two to its roster through the transfer portal.
For now, though, the Buckeyes have six new freshmen on campus, and there’s reason to be excited about their arrivals.
While they’ll have to get up to speed quickly in preseason camp to earn substantial roles this season, all of them have the chance to be impact players for the Buckeyes, and potentially sooner than later. Four of the six new arrivals were ranked among the top 72 prospects in the 2021 class, and all of them play positions – offensive guard, defensive tackle and defensive back – where they can immediately provide valuable depth.
A look at what the Buckeyes are getting in each of their newest players:
Donovan Jackson, Guard
Ranked as the No. 18 overall prospect and No. 1 interior offensive lineman in the class of 2021, Jackson has the potential to be Ohio State’s next All-American guard. That’s a lofty expectation to place on someone who hasn’t even played a collegiate snap yet, but he was rated even higher than Wyatt Davis as a recruit for a reason.
A left tackle at Episcopal High School in Bellaire, Texas, Jackson has the size – he’s listed by 247Sports at 6-foot-5 and 308 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan and 36-inch arms – and athleticism to play anywhere on the offensive line, but his skill set seems perfectly suited for guard. Watch his high school highlights, and you’ll repeatedly see Jackson overpowering defenders and driving them down the field. He projects to be a dominant mauler inside.
That’s why Jackson – who’s already been on campus for almost a month, arriving earlier than the rest of the summer enrollees – should push for an immediate spot on Ohio State’s two-deep at guard even though the Buckeyes have no shortage of depth at the position. Paris Johnson Jr. is expected to start at right guard while the starting left guard will likely be Harry Miller or Josh Fryar, but it wouldn’t come as any surprise if Jackson slots in as one of their backups.
If he can earn a place on the second-team offensive line this year and get some valuable game reps as a freshman, Jackson could position himself to move into the starting lineup in 2022, when Johnson is expected to move outside to tackle.
Mike Hall, Defensive Tackle
Ohio State’s class of summer enrollees also brings a potential early impact player on the other side of the trenches. Hall, who was ranked as the No. 52 overall prospect in the 2021 class, has the talent to make an impact in Ohio State’s interior defensive line rotation right away.
At 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds with excellent quickness off the ball, Hall fits the prototype for the 3-technique defensive tackle position. Playing at Ohio State will present a big jump in competition from playing for a Division III Ohio high school, but Hall was dominant at Streetsboro, and he’ll have a great teacher to help him hone his technique in Larry Johnson.
With Haskell Garrett back for one more year as Ohio State’s starting 3-technique and Taron Vincent also in the mix at that spot, there might not be a lot of snaps available for Hall as a true freshman, but Johnson often rotates three or more players at each defensive tackle spot. If Hall proves he belongs on the field in preseason camp, Johnson will find playing time for him.
Hall has the skill set, physical attributes and motor to develop into a disruptive force on Ohio State’s interior defensive line, and he could become a major factor in the rotation as soon as 2022, when Garrett will be playing in the NFL.
Jakailin Johnson, Cornerback
Kerry Coombs already felt like the Buckeyes had “significantly more depth in the back end” of their defense after their 15 practices this spring, and the secondary’s about to get another big boost, as four of Ohio State’s six summer newcomers are defensive backs.
The highest-ranked recruit among them was Johnson, the No. 49 overall prospect and No. 3 cornerback in the 2021 class, which might also make him the most likely among them to see immediate playing time as a true freshman.
Johnson, who had 11 interceptions in his final three seasons at De Smet High School while also playing receiver, shows excellent speed and change-of-direction quickness with the ability to lock down opponents in coverage, along with a good frame for an outside cornerback at 6-foot-1.
He was listed at only 175 pounds as a recruit, so this summer will be an important time for him to get in the weight room and get bigger and stronger with the guidance of Mickey Marotti and Ohio State’s strength and conditioning staff. Cornerback is a position that typically requires development at the collegiate level, too, so expectations for Johnson’s freshman year should be tempered accordingly.
Given how much Ohio State’s secondary struggled last season, though, the door could be open for Johnson to make a quick rise up the depth chart if he develops fast. Sevyn Banks, Cameron Brown and Ryan Watts are the top candidates to start at outside cornerback, but Johnson should push for a spot in the two-deep and potentially some rotational playing time in 2021.
Jordan Hancock, Cornerback
Another freshman cornerback to watch this summer will be Hancock, who was ranked as the No. 72 overall prospect and No. 5 cornerback in the 2021 class.
Hancock, who originally committed to Clemson before flipping to Ohio State, played in one of the most competitive high school football regions in the country at North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Georgia, and became one of the top cornerbacks in the country, showing fluid athleticism, consistent cover skills and aptitude for getting his hands on passes.
Hancock’s explosiveness was also evident on the basketball court, where he demonstrated ability to break on the ball and leap that should translate to the football field:
Like Johnson, Hancock will need to add bulk to his 6-foot-1 frame at Ohio State, as he was listed at only 170 pounds as a recruit.
Both of them could be on similar trajectories though as cornerbacks who could climb the depth chart quickly and challenge for starting spots, or at least regular playing time in a rotation, by year two or three. And Hancock’s experience playing against top high school competition could give him a leg up coming in at one of the toughest positions for a freshman to play.
Andre Turrentine, Defensive Back
It’s uncertain where exactly Turrentine will line up in Ohio State’s secondary, but that’s not a bad thing. While Turrentine played primarily at safety at Nashville’s Ensworth High School, he can also play cornerback and could provide additional depth for the Buckeyes at either or both spots.
The most natural fit for Turrentine seems likely to be the slot cornerback/cover safety spot, where his versatility to play in both man coverage from the line of scrimmage and as a deep safety could make him exactly what Ohio State wants from that position. His high school film shows a knack for making plays on the ball and physicality as a tackler in run support.
With second-year defensive backs Lathan Ransom and Cameron Martinez also making a strong push to climb the depth chart at slot cornerback, there might not be an immediate path to playing time for him there. Special teams is where Turrentine is most likely to contribute as a true freshman.
In time, however, Turrentine could be a valuable piece in Ohio State’s defense as it continues to evolve, as there are a wide variety of roles he could potentially fill in either the base defense or in subpackages depending on how the Buckeyes choose to line up their secondary going forward.
Jaylen Johnson, Bullet
As the lowest-ranked position player in Ohio State’s recruiting class of 2021, Johnson doesn’t arrive at Ohio State with as much hype as most of the rest of this year’s freshmen. It’s not as if he was lowly ranked, though – as the No. 411 overall prospect in his class, Johnson was ranked higher than seven position players in Ohio State’s class of 2020, including two players who are already pushing for starting jobs in Fryar and Miyan Williams – and he’s plenty capable of becoming the Buckeyes’ next three-star gem.
Ohio State’s move toward making the bullet an actually substantial part of its defense this year is good news for Johnson, as it’s the position he was recruited to play and one that he believes will be a perfect fit for his game. While he played mostly safety at Cincinnati’s La Salle High School and is capable of covering receivers in space, he’s at his best as an in-the-box strong safety who can attack downhill and make plays around the line of scrimmage.
Johnson, who’s tried to model his game after NFL strong safety Jamal Adams, already has optimal size for the bullet position at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds.
Craig Young, Ronnie Hickman and Kourt Williams are the frontrunners to play most of the snaps at bullet this year, but Johnson will give Ohio State another option at a position where no one is proven yet. The Buckeyes will likely want to see Johnson make an impact on special teams first, but he adds another versatile piece to bolster depth in the back seven of the defense and offers intriguing long-term upside as a hybrid defender.