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What is Ohio State getting in Lejond Cavazos?

The Buckeyes have added the talented cornerback for a second time

This is the second time in the last year that I’ve written this piece — or at least something like this piece — on IMG Academy cornerback and now Buckeye commit Lejond Cavazos. As we know, Cavazos’ circumstances are, well, unusual. The Florida star committed to Ohio State last June, and seemed steady in that pledge until December, when Urban Meyer announced that he would be retiring, and Ryan Day would be coaching at Ohio State moving forward.

In the wake of the news, Cavazos decommited on December 4th, citing uncertainty at the program and a lack of familiarity with Day as the cause. He made sure to specify that Ohio State would continue to be considered for as long as they recruited him, and that he was just taking some time to explore all of his options.

Now, about five months later, Cavazos is, once again, a member of Ohio State’s 2020 class. After exploring his options, taking visits to Florida and Miami and talking to several top programs, it was Ohio State that still felt like home for the four-star defensive back. He was walking around like a committed prospect on March 22nd when he visited Columbus, and now he’s officially pledged to the school that he always felt like a perfect fit for.

So, about a year after his first commitment, what more have we learned about the rising senior and the game that he will bring to Columbus?

On the field

When Cavazos committed to the Ohio State Buckeyes last time, I painted a pretty familiar picture to describe his game:

He doesn’t have a ton of the technique down yet, and the game hasn’t seemed to slow down for him consistently quite yet, but when it does, he could be a star. He has great range, and because of his speed and natural instincts, he’s able to cover a ton of ground, even when he has to survey the entire field.

His coverage skills, while not perfect yet, are pretty solid. He has fluid hips, and can usually keep up with receivers. He has the body control to make plays in the air, and his hands are very good, especially for a defender. With more experience and coaching, especially at the next level, Cavazos could look a lot like former Buckeye Malik Hooker in a couple of years.

When it comes to tackling, it’s the same story. Cavazos is strong, and willing to tackle, but his technique needs some help. He tends to hit a bit high, and takes very aggressive angles that can sometimes get him in trouble. I don’t think that he’s ever going to be a devastating hitter, but when he learns the rugby style tackling that Ohio State runs, he’ll be as solid as a safety needs to be.

All of that, when summarized, essentially meant that as of June of last year, heading into his junior season, he had a whole lot of potential, a whole lot of athletic ability, but not a ton of technical skill down, be it in coverage or in tackling. I projected him out as a safety, which I believe is still true and will be true when he arrives in Columbus, but there are some noticeable differences between Lejond then and Lejond now.

Firstly, he’s grown at least an inch, jumping from 6-foot flat to 6-foot-1, and he seems to have added about five pounds to get up to 190. That’s good size for a safety. It’s even better size when you see his speed, both on tape and in a track setting. Cavazos is a track-runner and has the speed to back that up, and I think he’ll probably be a sub 4.5 guy after a year or so in Columbus.

In terms of the on-field changes, it seems that Cavazos has improved his pursuit angles and willingness to hit quite a bit. He still tackles sloppily at times, but that can be taught. Pursuit and vision is much tougher to coach, and I think that he’s improved both since his sophomore season.

His man-coverage, however, still isn’t a ton to write home about. He’s capable of playing man-coverage, but I think that he fits much better in an over-the-top zone as a safety than he would as a one-on-one cornerback. His speed and range are much more valuable in the back of the defense than they are up on the line in man-coverage, where I think his physicality is nice, but when paired with his aggressiveness, can get him into some trouble.

That said, safeties at Ohio State probably won’t need to play a ton of man coverage now that Greg Schiano is out of town. I expect a lot of deep-zone for Cavazos once he arrives in Columbus, and given his skill-set, he should be able to excel in that system.

In the class

Cavazos is the eighth member of Ohio State’s 2020 class. The Buckeyes are looking to take anywhere from three to five defensive backs in this class, and with Cavazos in, I’d expect three more members to surround him. Right now, my guess would be that he’s joined at safety by Lathan Ransom, and in the backfield by corners Kelee Ringo and Henry Gray.

While this pledge doesn’t change Ohio State’s standing in the national rankings (sixth), it does move the Buckeyes closer to Florida, as they’re now within about five points of the Gators.

Cavazos chose the Buckeyes over offers from 20 other schools. His final six was packed with top programs, including Georgia, Oregon, Miami, Florida and LSU, but none could overcome Ohio State’s connection with Cavazos and the opportunity Ohio State presents to grow as a player, and as a person, with the now famed Real Life Wednesday and BrandU programs.

You can read more about Lejond’s commitment here, and watch his film below.