Five Things: Spring Game Confirms The Kids Are Alright

By Chris Lauderback on April 19, 2022 at 10:10 am
Jack Sawyer

It's easy to make too much of Ohio State's annual spring game. We're all chomping at the bit to get a feel for what some of the newcomers are about and gauge what kind of progress may or may not have been realized for other players expected to fill bigger roles this fall. 

And of course we caught a view at the known commodities as well. Quarterback C.J. Stroud emerged healthy while Jaxon Smith-Njigba and TreVeyon Henderson looked poised to pick up where they left off, among others. 

I didn't quite get the same warm and fuzzy watching Paris Johnson Jr. at his natural left tackle spot after starting at right guard a season ago but it's early. I also didn't leave yesterday overly confident the linebackers will be leaps and bounds better and the depth along the offensive line wasn't a highlight. 

But boy does it look like Ohio State has a host of kids from the 2021 and 2022 classes that are going to be beasts this year and beyond. 

Key names from the 2021 class we saw included Henderson, Marvin Harrison Jr., Donovan Jackson, Tyleik Williams and Denzel Burke. The 2022 group is just getting started including Devin Brown, Caden Curry, Jordan Hicks and Gabe Powers, to name a couple. 

That said, six other names from the 2021 and 2022 classes that really stood on Saturday included J.T. Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, Emeka Egbuka, Kye Stokes, Jordan Hancock and Evan Pryor. 

With that, let's get to Five Things from Ohio State's 2022 spring game. 


Ohio State has some veterans at defensive end, notably in Zach Harrison, Javontae Jean-Baptiste and Tyler Friday. Harrison logged a team-high 507 snaps at the defensive end spot last season while JJB saw 313. Meanwhile, Tuimoloau and Sawyer came in as true freshmen, logging 285 and 173 snaps, respectively. 

With that game experience and additional time to adjust physically for the two young guys, it might be time to flip-flop the snap counts. Simply put, Tuimoloau and Sawyer look like the two-best options at defensive end and we're still unsure of their ceilings while it seems pretty clear what we can expect from the older guys. The veterans are certainly fine, but I'd argue none are great and there's a chance Tuimoloau and/or Sawyer can be great. It's time to find out. 

Tuimoloau looked quick off the snap recording two sacks on Saturday while Sawyer recorded a sack of his own and would've had another if not for a last-ditch hold by Johnson. Sawyer also seems best-suited for the "Jack" role we've heard but not seen much about and even dropped in coverage once on Saturday. 

If these two prove worthy of 475+ snaps this fall, Ohio State's front four will be in great shape. 


Ohio State's #2 jersey is one of the more decorated in school history. Cris Carter, J.K. Dobbins, Mike Doss, Malcolm Jenkins, Marshon Lattimore, Terrelle Pryor, Ryan Shazier, Chase Young, and most recently, Chris Olave all donned the deuce during their time in Columbus. 

Now that Olave is off to the NFL, fellow wideout Emega Egbuka has made the switch from 12 to 2 and there's reason to believe he has a shot at being mentioned among the other greats to wear the number. 

Yes, Ohio State's top receiver will be Smith-Njigba but after that, most fans are pointing to Harrison Jr. to be Stroud's next-favorite target. I'm not so sure. I expect great things from Harrison, no doubt, but I'm more bullish than most on Egbuka emerging as the Buckeyes' second most productive receiver in addition to being a lethal weapon on kickoff returns, and maybe even punt returns too. 

A 2021 signee, Egbuka caught nine balls for 191 yards last season including three for 46 in the Rose Bowl win over Utah. In the spring game, he picked up where he left off, catching four passes from Stroud for 39 yards. Not eye-popping numbers to be sure but the dude just has a knack for getting open and where I think he's going to dazzle fans this year is with yards after the catch. 

He certainly showed speed and elusiveness a year ago, primarily on special teams, averaging 29.0 yards per kickoff return, taking 20 returns a total of 580 yards. By my count, that's the best kickoff return average by any Buckeye with at least 10 returns in a single-season over at least the last 10 years. Egbuka ranked No. 2 in the country with eight kickoff returns of at least 30 yards and No. 7 with three going for at least 40 yards. He had a long of 67 and had a 75-yarder called back in the Rose Bowl. 

If teams key too hard on Smith-Njigba, Egbuka could have a field day this fall. 


Despite arriving in Columbus as an early enrollee ranked the 357th-best prospect in 247's composite, safety Kye Stokes has done nothing but turn heads. 

That trend continued Saturday as the rangy 6-foot-2, 185-pound safety showed impressive ball skills with two athletic pass breakups. He also posted nine tackles, good for second-most on the afternoon. 

Stokes looked like a centerfielder capable of earning reserve snaps at the "adjuster" position in Jim Knowles' defense, nearly picking off a C.J. Stroud throw in the first half. His ability to read the play and break on the ball laterally with quickness was something to see. 

It's obviously going to be tough for Stokes to earn a ton of snaps with Ronnie Hickman, Josh Proctor and others in the mix in the back end of Ohio State's defense but here's to hoping Stokes' performance was a sign of things to come. It's certainly not out of the question he could become Hickman's top backup. 


True sophomore cornerback Jordan Hancock, the No. 4 corner in the 2021 class, was already making some waves in spring ball and on Saturday, fans got a chance to see what the buzz was about. 

If not for Cameron Brown opting to return to Ohio State, Hancock might be in line to start this fall opposite Denzel Burke. But even with Brown and Burke likely to serve as starters at the two cornerback spots, it seems like Hancock is the team's third corner at this point. 

The way Ohio State traditionally rotates guys in the back end, it should mean we get to see plenty of Hancock this fall and if last Saturday was any indication, that's a good thing. 

Hancock showed a penchant for finding the football with two pass breakups but his most impressive play came as he diagnosed a throw to Miyan Williams in the flat, closed hard, and dropped Williams for a four-yard loss. 


After recording just 23 total touches last season - across four games before taking a redshirt - Evan Pryor showed he's worthy of some touches this fall. 

The No. 2 all-purpose back and No. 83 player overall in the 2021 class, per 247's composite, Pryor chewed up 106 yards on 13 touches Saturday, with the prettiest coming on a touchdown scamper showcasing his ability to flash and dash. 

TreVeyon Henderson is the clear-cut starter at tailback and last year's primary backup, Miyan Williams, also looked good on Saturday but Pryor's versatility certainly adds value to Ohio State's backfield. 

Plus, Williams missed three games last year and even Henderson, while playing all 13 games, took a few dings limiting his participation from time to time. It's nice to know it appears Ryan Day and company have another talented option in the backfield with a bright future. A pair and a spare? Yes, please. 

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