The recruiting rankings told a simple story about last year’s incoming freshmen, and they told a similar story about this year’s first-years.
Among the offensive linemen headed to Ohio State in last year’s class, tackle Paris Johnson stood out as the sole five-star prospect. And among those who joined the team this year, guard Donovan Jackson was the one five-star. They just so happened to be the No. 1 players at their respective positions, too.
Johnson has backed up his sky-high recruiting rating by becoming the frontrunner to start at right guard as a true sophomore. And Jackson? Well, he’s only been on campus for a couple of months as a summer enrollee, but the early signs are positive.
“I think Donovan Jackson is different in that class,” starting left tackle Thayer Munford said at Big Ten media days. “Paris Johnson was the different one in his class, as well. But Donovan, he's going to be something as well. Paris was the first one. Donovan's the next one up. It's kind of like that continuing cycle.”
Munford called Jackson “quiet” but noted he “loves to compete.”
“Donovan Jackson in his class has came in and performed well in the weight room,” he said. “Now you've got to transfer that to the field, because the weight room is different from the field, you know?”
For Jackson, translating his work in the weight room onto the field begins next week with fall camp opening on Wednesday.
Greg Studrawa, the offensive line coach, said in the spring that he’d have an opportunity to compete to start just like anybody else. And yes, there is an opening. Johnson has right guard locked up and Harry Miller is expected to start at either center or left guard. The spot that Miller doesn’t man is available for somebody to win. But Matthew Jones and Luke Wypler are regarded as the two most likely candidates there. Plus, only twice in Ohio State history – first with Orlando Pace, then more recently with Michael Jordan – have true freshman offensive linemen started.
More likely than not, Jackson will be vying for a spot on the two-deep depth chart behind Johnson, Miller and Jones or Wypler. He didn’t enroll until this summer, which puts him behind the mid-year enrollees, but as Munford says, he’s different. The Texan came to Columbus as the 18th-best player in his class and top interior offensive lineman.
“Donovan Jackson just jumps off the film,” Ryan Day said in December when he signed.
And now he’ll try to jump off the field with camp opening next week, which will be almost 19 months since he committed to Ohio State.
“He had a funny commitment to us. When it was still early on in the process, he was in our office and I was not expecting him to commit and he kind of did, and I almost fell to the floor,” Day said. “That was a huge deal for us. His family is unbelievable. They've been great during this whole process just with schools continually trying to recruit him out of Texas and he just stayed strong. His loyalty and faith has been tremendous. Another really, really good student. A great culture fit.”