Jeremiah Smith, C.J. Hicks and Quinshon Judkins Among Top Standouts at Ohio State Student Appreciation Day

By Andy Anders on March 31, 2024 at 8:35 am
Quinshon Judkins

Ohio State's Student Appreciation Day is a day the Buckeyes' media also enjoys.

It offers an opportunity to watch the Buckeyes go head-to-head in 11-on-11 drills, giving some insight into which players are leading key position battles and which ones are stepping up their play.

There's no question who the biggest standout was from Saturday's practice – freshman wide receiver Jeremiah Smith. But a long list of other players stood out, including some Buckeye linebackers and defensive linemen.

WR Jeremiah Smith

Smith might have had a better practice than any player on the field for Ohio State on Saturday. Two spectacular catches highlighted his day, the first a leaping grab through a jersey and shoulder pad pull from Jermaine Mathews Jr.

The second eye-popping deep ball grab came over the head of cornerback Denzel Burke, with new star safety Caleb Downs also in the vicinity.

Smith even showed off some sideline body control on an out route thrown by Will Howard to haul in a 15-yard grab later in the practice.

“I’m gonna be careful what I say, but he’s been certainly a pleasure to watch, and we’re all really excited about his future,” Ryan Day said of Smith after practice. “If he continues on the path that he’s on, he’s gonna play a lot of football and certainly will have a chance to start as well.”

LB C.J. Hicks

Hicks looked like the five-star prospect he was rated as coming out of high school. He made plays sideline-to-sideline out of the Will linebacker spot, collecting multiple tackles for loss while being an absolute menace on the blitz.

“I think you're seeing C.J. play fast,” Day said. “He really likes blitzing, you can tell. He's quick in there and he's doing a nice job timing up the blitzes. Another year under his belt of experience being in a room with Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers, watching how they did it, now he's doing it.”

LB Sonny Styles

Speaking of linebacker play, Styles' transition from safety to linebacker is coming along swimmingly. He involved himself in plenty of plays, running sideline-to-sideline but also playing along the line of scrimmage some as an edge defender. He flew to the flat to tackle Jelani Thurman for a loss during one snap in pass coverage.

RB Quinshon Judkins

Judkins' violent running style and excellent burst were on full display on Student Appreciation Day. A short, aggressive strider similar to Miyan Williams at his best, Judkins' superior athletic gifts make it clear why he and TreVeyon Henderson project as the nation's best running back tandem. Oh, and he made plays in the passing game, too.

RG Luke Montgomery

As he did during Ohio State's first couple of spring practices, Montgomery started at right guard and looked sound in pass protection. He frequently walled up defensive tackles in pass rush one-on-ones and won a few reps against Tyleik Williams during team drills.

WR Emeka Egbuka

Egbuka projects as one of the best receivers in college football this year and he was making plays right alongside Smith on Tuesday. He worked both in the slot and outside.

QB Devin Brown

While Will Howard struggled throwing the ball further than 20 yards downfield on Saturday, Brown had the best all-around day of the quarterbacks. He scrambled to extend multiple plays and his accuracy was the most consistent. Contrary to Howard, deep-ball accuracy might have been the most impressive part of his game on Saturday.

QB Julian Sayin

Ohio State's freshman five-star transfer from Alabama wasn't far behind Brown's performance. There was a ton of zip on his throws and he laced a few balls between tight coverage windows quite nicely. His consistency needs some work but he could easily become a factor in the quarterback competition with more days like Saturday.

DT Kayden McDonald

Many players along the defensive line stood out on Saturday, with Ty Hamilton also blowing up a play or two, but a few depth pieces stood out above the rest. McDonald was one of them, consistently penetrating the backfield and gathering some TFLs with a sack for a safety.

DE Mitchell Melton

No player got pressure off the edge more consistently than Melton on Saturday. Starters Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau made several plays in their own right, but Melton is building well now that he's finally sustained some health.

DT Will Smith Jr.

Speaking of players that have built well after sustaining some health, Smith worked in with the second-team defensive line and proved disruptive with his backfield penetration. He was another defensive lineman in on multiple tackles for loss, including a sack for a safety.

“He's finally healthy and he's actually stacking practices together,” Day said. ”I think that's probably the biggest thing. I don't think he's been able to show what he can really do because he's had some injuries here and there. He put on a lot of strength, a lot of weight early on, had a few issues, but now he's healthy so at least we're seeing him out there learning and growing, making plays.”

CB Aaron Scott Jr.

The five-star freshman corner had one of the day's most impressive pass breakups, a diving swat on a deep ball. He was sound in coverage consistently, though he did get burnt by Jeremiah Smith once. Then again, so did everyone else.

CB Davison Igbinosun

Igbinosun had his own impressive PBU on a deep ball up the sideline. His physicality continues to stand out after a year starting in Ohio State's cornerback room.

WR Bryson Rodgers

Rodgers had the day's longest touchdown grab, going 70 yards on a post route after a fantastic ball from Brown. It wasn't the only play he made as he showed the agility and quickness to be a strong depth piece at wide receiver.

“I think that he's an excellent route runner. I think we need him to play for us this year,” Day said of Rodgers. “He's very quick in short areas. I think he does a nice job in the slot in particular. I think he's a mismatch for a lot of guys in there because of his quickness. He's a very good route runner for the quarterback.”

CB Lorenzo Styles Jr.

A year after his move from Notre Dame wide receiver to Ohio State cornerback, Styles seems to be taking well to his new position, specifically at nickel. His coverage held up well on Saturday and he stuck his face in the fan on a few running plays for Ohio State's second-team defense.

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