Freshman Tracker: Emeka Egbuka Shines, TreVeyon Henderson Does It All, Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau Get Sacks in Win over Maryland

By Matt Gutridge on October 10, 2021 at 3:30 pm
Emeka Egbuka

Maryland provided the perfect opportunity for 14 of Ohio State’s 23 scholarship freshmen to get valuable experience in Ohio Stadium. Through six games, members of the Buckeyes' 2021 freshman class are proving to be stalwarts in all three phases of the game.

Let's take a look at what the fabulous freshmen did in the 66-17 massacre of Maryland

Explosive Egbuka

Due to the resurgence of the Silver Bullets, Emeka Egbuka fell just short of breaking Carlos Snow's single-game record of 213 yards on kickoff returns.

Egbuka's special day started innocuously enough with a 22-yard return in the first quarter that was stymied by a Marvin Harrison Jr. holding penalty. 

Emeka's first flash came on his second kickoff return of the day. The Steilacoom High School product caught the ball on the five-yard line, sprinted diagonally to his left, used a shoulder shimmy shake at the 20-yard line, then raced down the Terrapins’ sideline for a 67-yard return.

It's always a good thing when the return yards (67) are longer than the distance the ball was kicked (61).

Egbuka used the spin-cycle on his third return to pick up 33 yards as the Buckeyes' return team did a fine job of splitting the center of Maryland's coverage team. Emeka found the gap and burst through the hole. At the 25-yard line, he spun and picked up an extra ten yards. 

Trailing 56-17 late in the third quarter, Maryland played with fire again and kicked to Egbuka. For his final return, Emeka caught the ball at the three-yard line and followed his blockers toward the home side of the field. He found a crease and surged down the Buckeyes' sideline before getting edged out near midfield. 

Egbuka finished the day with 166 yards on four returns, 47 yards shy of Snow's record. Against Pittsburgh, Snow had five returns and averaged 42.6 yards per opportunity. On Saturday, Egbuka averaged 41.5 yards on his four returns.

Emeka has brought excitement back to the return game and appears to be on the verge of recording Ohio State's first kickoff return touchdown since Jordan Hall housed an 85-yard return against Michigan in 2010.

Jack of all trades

TreVeyon Henderson did a little bit of everything against Maryland. The Virginia native showed off his receiving, blocking and rushing skills on Saturday.

The Terrapins were able to limit the terrific tailback to only 17 yards (1.9 ypc) in the first half. However, the second half was a different story as Henderson picked up 85 yards on seven carries (12.1 ypc).

Although the rushing game wasn't there for TreVeyon in the first two quarters, the Buckeyes’ braintrust used play action and wheel-routes to exploit Henderson's receiving skills. 

C.J. Stroud found Henderson four times in the first half for 67 yards, including the 26-yard touchdown above.

TreVeyon also does the dirty work. As Garrett Wilson was showing off his body control and crazy hand-eye coordination, Henderson was putting in yeoman's work on the sideline. 

There is a lot of football to play, but people are noticing what the phenomenal freshman has been doing on the gridiron. 

Note: Henderson has 69 carries for 605 yards. He was incorrectly credited for a seven-yard carry in the record breaking game against Tulsa.

Chasing down Dobbins and Hyde

At the halfway point of the regular season, TreVeyon Henderson has accumulated 605 rushing yards on 69 carries. That is an impressive 8.8 yards per carry.

The program record for true freshman rushing yards in a season is J.K. Dobbins' 1,403 yards over 14 games in 2017. If the Buckeyes play 14 games this season, TreVeyon is on pace for 1,411 yards.

To put Henderson's yards per carry performance in historical perspective, among all of Ohio State's 1,000-yard rushers, Carlos Hyde currently has the best average with 7.3 ypc in 2013.

Tuimoloau's takedown

Late in the second quarter, and trailing 28-10, Maryland decided to go for it on 4th-and-4 from Ohio State's 5-yard line. Mike Locksley gambled for seven as he knew field goals would not be enough against Ryan Day's juggernaut offense.  

On arguably the game's biggest play, Taulia Tagovailoa mishandled the snap. As the Maryland quarterback picked the ball up, J.T. Tuimoloau's rush collapsed the pocket and forced Tagovailoa toward Ohio State's sideline. 

The Buckeyes' five-star defensive end could have quit on the play, but Tuimoloau showed his resiliency as he continued to chase down his prey. Tagovailoa felt the pressure and spun himself into the ground.

Tuimoloau's first Ohio State sack was a game-changer. He kept Maryland from reducing the Buckeyes' lead and enabled C.J. Stroud and the offense to extend the lead to 35-10 on the ensuing drive. 

Sawyer’s sack

Early in the fourth quarter, Maryland was driving and had 1st-and-10 on Ohio State's 49-yard line. Jack Sawyer decided this was the perfect time to record his second sack of the season.

The Pickerington North product started the snap as a stand-up end, showed Maryland's tackle an outside threat, then blew by Spencer Anderson on the inside. 

Tualia Tagovailoa turned tail, but could not escape the pursuit of Sawyer as the defensive end spun him to the ground. In the process, Tagovailoa lost the ball, but the Terrapins recovered for a 17-yard loss. 

How important was the sack? On the next play, Craig Young returned an interception for Ohio State's fourth consecutive game with a pick-six.

Wrecking ball Williams

On consecutive plays in the second quarter, Tyleik Williams flashed his dominance. Maryland had a 1st-and-10 on its own 37-yard line when Tayon Fleet-Davis tested the middle of Ohio State's defensive line. Williams swallowed up the Terrapin tailback for a gain of zero. 

Sensing the Buckeyes' line was ramping up the pressure, Maryland attempted a screen pass on the next snap. Williams recognized the trickery and stayed home to get a big paw on the ball. 

For the season, Williams has wrecked opponents for 12 tackles, four sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, a quarterback hurry, a broken-up pass, a forced fumble and a partridge in a pear tree. 

Stat Book Stuffers

Denzel Burke led the freshmen with 50 defensive snaps. However, Maryland didn't test the stud defender as he finished the day with a single tackle. Burke was also on the field for all five punt returns and was on the field goal block unit twice.

Jordan Hancock got his hands on the pass Young returned for the pick-six in the fourth quarter. The North Gwinnett alum played 10 snaps on defense and covered three times on the punt block team and twice on kickoffs.

Kyle McCord completed two of his three passes for 26 yards. Egbuka was on the receiving end of both completions. For the season, McCord is 16-of-24 for 348 yards and has thrown for two touchdowns. 

Evan Pryor was on the field for four snaps and given the ball twice. He accumulated five yards with his limited action.

Special teams and snaps spotlight

Jayden Ballard joined Kyle McCord's receiving corps for 14 snaps.

Reid Carrico saw action on the kickoff team twice.

Donovan Jackson played 15 snaps on offense and protected on all of Ohio State's field goal and extra point kicks.

Michael Hall Jr. played on seven defensive snaps.

Marvin Harrison Jr. was used five times on the punt block team and protected on four kickoff returns. The receiver with talented bloodlines saw 21 offensive snaps.

Jesse Mirco was relegated to holding on eight of Ohio State's extra points and its lone field goal. He was not needed for punting duties against Maryland.

Andre Turrentine played 10 snaps at safety for his first defensive playing time. He also ran twice with the kickoff coverage team.

Under the NCAA's redshirt rules, a player can appear in up to four games at any point throughout the season and still count it as his redshirt year. Through the sixth game of the 2021 season, 18 of Ohio State's 23 scholarship true freshmen have seen the field, with nine – Burke, Egbuka, Harrison Jr., Henderson, Jackson, Mirco, Saywer, Tuimoloau and Williams – now ineligible for redshirts as they've appeared in five or more games.

DENZEL BURKE CB MINN 1 tackle 6 16 tackles, 1 INT, 6 PBU, 1 TD
EMEKA EGBUKA WR MINN 3 catches, 31 yards; 4 KOR 166 yards 6 4 catches, 116 yards; 8 KOR, 275 yards
MARVIN HARRISON JR. WR MINN 21 offensive snaps 6 1 catch, 9 yards
TREVEYON HENDERSON RB MINN 16 rushes, 102 yards, 2 TD; 4 catches, 67 yards, 1 TD 6 69 rushes, 605 yards, 9 TD; 7 catches, 154 yards, 2 TD; 1 KOR, 19 yards
DONOVAN JACKSON OL MINN 15 offensive snaps 6 53 offensive snaps
JESSE MIRCO P MINN PAT snaps 6 14 punts, 618 yards, 44.1 avg
JACK SAWYER DE MINN 2 tackles, 1 sack, TFL, 1 FF 6 7 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FF
J.T. TUIMOLOAU DE MINN 1 tackle, 1 sack, 1 TFL 6 8 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QBH, 1 PBU
TYLEIK WILLAMS DT ORE 1 tackle, 1 PBU 5 12 tackles, 4 sacks, 4.5 TFL, 1 QBH, 1 PBU, 1 FF
JAYDEN BALLARD WR AKRON 14 offensive snaps 3 1 catch, 4 yards
REID CARRICO LB AKRON Special teams 3 2 tackles
KYLE McCORD QB AKRON 2-3, 26 yards; 1 rush, -5 yards 3 16-24, 348 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT; 7 rushes, -25 yards
EVAN PRYOR RB AKRON 2 rushes, 5 yards 3 10 rushes, 50 yards, 1 TD
TOBY WILSON OL AKRON 15 offensive snaps 3 38 offensive snaps
MICHAEL HALL JR. DT AKRON 7 defensive snaps 2 1 tackle
ANDRE TURRENTINE S AKRON 10 defensive snaps 2 10 defensive snaps
JANTZEN DUNN S AKRON   2 9 defensive snaps
SAM HART TE        
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