The Buckeye 20: Ranking the Best Football Players on Ohio State's Roster

The Buckeye 20: Ranking the Best Players on Ohio State's Roster

Last Update: March 4, 2024

The Eleven Warriors Buckeye 20 is a year-round ranking of the best players on the Ohio State football team’s roster.

Our initial rankings for the 2024 season ahead of the start of spring practice are led by cornerback Denzel Burke and running back TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State’s top returning players from 2023. Alabama transfer safety Caleb Downs joins them in the top three while defensive end Jack Sawyer and wide receiver Emeka Egbuka complete the top five.

Our full pre-spring Buckeye 20 rankings can be found below. Stay tuned with Eleven Warriors for ranking updates throughout the year, the next of which will come later this summer.


01 Denzel Burke

CB 6-1/193 SR

Burke was already one of the best cornerbacks in college football last season, leading the way for Ohio State to lead the nation in passing defense by shutting down his side of the field in coverage. Now entering his fourth year as a starter, Burke is Ohio State’s most experienced and established player and the leader of a secondary that should be the nation’s best in 2024.


02 TreVeyon Henderson

RB 5-10/208 SR

Arguably the best running back in college football, Henderson offers a rare combination of explosiveness and agility that makes him one of the nation’s most dynamic offensive players. Henderson led the entire Big Ten last season with 115.5 yards from scrimmage per game; following the departure of Marvin Harrison Jr., he’ll enter 2024 as the biggest star on Ohio State’s offense.


03 Caleb Downs

S 6-0/205 SO

The nation’s best freshman in 2023, Downs is a strong candidate to be college football’s best safety in 2024. A star in his only season at Alabama, where he recorded 107 tackles and excelled in coverage to earn second-team All-American honors, Downs will be an immediate difference-maker as Ohio State’s starting free safety after transferring to OSU in January.


04 Jack Sawyer

DE 6-4/260 SR

Sawyer finished the 2023 season stronger than any other Buckeye, recording 7.5 tackles for loss with five sacks in Ohio State’s final three games. An elite run defender who’s shown he can also be a highly disruptive pass rusher, Sawyer can be an All-American in 2024 if he plays all season the way he finished last year.


05 Emeka Egbuka

WR 6-1/205 SR

Egbuka was a top-10 receiver nationally in 2022 when he caught 74 passes for 1,151 yards and 10 touchdowns. His 2023 numbers were more pedestrian after he missed part of the season with an ankle sprain, but he’s more than capable of reemerging as one of college football’s best receivers in 2024. His combination of elusiveness and strength makes him a dangerous weapon in the open field and he’ll have the chance to be a true No. 1 receiver this year as the Buckeyes’ only returning starter at the position.


06 Tyleik Williams

DT 6-3/327 SR

Williams was Ohio State’s most consistently productive defensive lineman in 2023, rarely leaving the field and recording 53 total tackles en route to earning second-team All-American honors. An explosive interior penetrator who has proven he can be an every-down impact player for the Buckeyes, Williams presents a tough matchup for any interior offensive line with his combination of quickness and power.


07 JT Tuimoloau

DE 6-5/269 SR

A first-team All-Big Ten honoree in both 2022 and 2023, Tuimoloau has garnered respect throughout the conference for his ability to be a difference-maker off the edge. He hasn’t yet recorded more than five sacks in a season, but his impact goes well beyond quarterback takedowns as he often draws double teams and has a track record of stepping up to make big plays in big moments.


08 Quinshon Judkins

RB 6-0/219 JR

Judkins earned first-team All-SEC honors in both of his seasons at Ole Miss, where he rushed for 2,725 yards and 31 touchdowns in just two years. The first SEC player since Herschel Walker to score 15 touchdowns in each of his first two seasons, Judkins excels at breaking tackles with his contact balance and cutting ability. He’d be the clear-cut feature back at nearly any other school, but he’ll pair with Henderson to form the nation’s best running back tandem in 2024 after transferring to Ohio State.


09 Jordan Hancock

CB 6-1/195 SR

Hancock proved he could be a standout slot cornerback after emerging as Ohio State’s starting nickel midway through the 2023 season. Skilled at covering receivers both inside and outside, Hancock also plays bigger than his size as a run defender, allowing him to do everything the Buckeyes want their nickelback to do and be an every-down staple of the defense.


10 Davison Igbinosun

CB 6-2/193 JR

Igbinosun is an exceptional run defender from the cornerback position, racking up 59 tackles in his first season as a Buckeye after transferring in from Ole Miss. He’s more than adept in coverage, too, bringing great physicality and a fearless mindset that forces opposing receivers to earn everything they get against him.


11 Lathan Ransom

S 6-1/210 RS SR

Ransom has been a linchpin of Ohio State’s secondary since becoming the Buckeyes’ starting strong safety in 2022 and returns for his third season in that role in 2024. His 2023 season was cut short by injury, but he was one of Ohio State’s most consistently reliable defenders before that, providing strong coverage over the middle and making tackles at all levels of the field.


12 Will Howard

QB 6-4/237 RS SR

Howard brings a boost of experience, arm talent and athleticism to the quarterback position for Ohio State after transferring from Kansas State. A 27-game starter at KSU who led the Wildcats to a Big 12 title in 2022 and earned second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2023, Howard gives the Buckeyes a dual-threat QB who defenses will have to account for in the running game. While he never put up elite passing numbers in Manhattan, Ohio State is betting on his ability to take a step forward in that area with better weapons around him in Columbus.


13 Cody Simon

LB 6-2/235 RS SR

Although he was a backup for most of last season, Simon was Ohio State’s most consistent linebacker down the stretch, recording 44 tackles in the Buckeyes’ final eight games of the season. He’ll be the anchor of OSU’s defense at middle linebacker in 2024 after providing quality play at all three linebacker spots – Mike, Will and Sam – off the bench a year ago.


14 Sonny Styles

LB 6-4/235 JR

After two years as a safety, Styles is now a linebacker, where he’s a candidate to fill Ohio State’s vacancy at Will linebacker. His demonstrated skills both in coverage and as a playmaker in the box could make him a dangerous weapon at the second level of the defense for the Buckeyes, as he possesses an ideal blend of size and athleticism for the linebacker position.


15 Donovan Jackson

OG 6-4/320 SR

Jackson has earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in each of the past two seasons and is the only lock to start on Ohio State’s 2024 offensive line entering spring practices. He wasn’t as consistently dominant as he was expected to be in 2023, but Ohio State will be counting on him to lead the way for the offensive line to bounce back from a rough year.


16 Carnell Tate

WR 6-3/191 SO

Tate appears well on his way to becoming Ohio State’s next superstar wide receiver entering his sophomore season. Ohio State coaches and players haven’t been shy about saying they think Tate has elite potential, making him a clear frontrunner to start this season after serving as the top wideout off the bench as a freshman. He’s the surest bet among OSU’s sophomores to be an impact player for the Buckeyes in 2024.


17 Ty Hamilton

DT 6-3/295 RS SR

Hamilton quietly became more and more productive as the 2023 season progressed, recording 19 tackles with four tackles for loss and two sacks in the Buckeyes’ final five games of the year. He is expected to be a full-time starter at nose tackle for the first time in 2024. He’ll look to follow in the footsteps of his older brother DaVon Hamilton by making the leap from solid role player to disruptive force as a fifth-year senior at Ohio State.


18 Jeremiah Smith

WR 6-3/215 FR

Freshman receivers don’t usually play major roles at Ohio State, but Smith is no ordinary freshman. The No. 1 overall prospect in the 2024 class, Smith possesses a rare blend of size, speed and ability to make plays on the ball with route-running polish rarely seen from a receiver who has yet to even play a collegiate game. He’s in the Buckeye 20 solely based on potential right now, but his ranking could rise rapidly if he lives up to the hype.


19 Seth McLaughlin

C 6-4/305 RS SR

As long as the snapping issues that plagued him in Alabama’s Rose Bowl loss to Michigan prove to be a fluke, McLaughlin should provide an upgrade in both run blocking and pass protection at the apex of Ohio State’s offensive line in 2024. His experience as a 25-game starter at Alabama over the past three seasons gives the Buckeyes a battle-tested veteran that they can build their offensive line around as they look for much-needed improvement up front.


20 Jermaine Mathews Jr.

CB 5-11/189 SO

Mathews looked like a polished veteran rather than a true freshman when called upon to play in spot duty last season, demonstrating excellent coverage skills and unmistakable confidence. The biggest thing keeping Mathews from being higher in this ranking is the lack of an available starting spot; he’d likely start for any other team in college football right now, but he’s in line to be Ohio State’s No. 4 cornerback this season, though he played well enough in 2023 to give the Buckeyes good reason to find a spot for him in the rotation in 2024.