Sometimes, young offensive line recruits can be a little bit hard to project. It’s really the only part of football dependent primarily on physical attributes (strength, size), and when it comes to high school football players, you’ve got a massive pool of players that aren’t done developing physically yet. Recruits get bigger, and they get stronger, which then, in turn, makes them better if they play on the offensive line.
That’s why so much of line recruiting is often projection. It’s trait hunting, looking for things that could make for a great lineman, once the weight and strength gets added to what is usually a not-yet-complete frame. While that’s the norm, it isn’t always the case. There are some recruits, like Paris Johnson Jr. for example, that come out of high school ready to play college football, at least from a physical perspective.
Those players are rare, but they exist. Ben Christman, Ohio State’s latest commitment and 2021 standout, is such a player. What does landing him mean for the Buckeyes?
On the field
It’s important to define what I mean by “physically ready for college” because I think that can be misconstrued about. Being college ready for an offensive lineman isn’t just about being massive, nor is it just about being technically sound. It’s about pairing the two, and having, for lack of a better word, the grown man strength that a lot of guys don’t develop until they’re grown men.
As just a rising junior, Richfield’s (OH) own Ben Christman has that grown man strength. he has that college ready frame, college ready strength, and college ready talent. It shows up firstly on his measurables, where he checks it at an impressive 6-foot-6, 299 pounds. Then it shows up on his tape.
Good lord does it show up on his film. Christman is an extremely built 299, and honestly, I don’t think Ohio State has a ton to work on with him physically. He’s already very, very strong, and he’s already in very good shape. He could probably go up to about 310 pounds, and I’d imagine that Ohio State’s weight program can maintain his athletic ability while doing that, but honestly, he may not need it. He’s already nearly unstoppable.
He has great length, which allows him to make contact much quicker than his assignment can, and it also allows his feet to catch up with the rest of him a bit. He’s solid in pass protection, though his footwork could use, and will get some work, but he really shines in run blocking. He’s a tremendous athlete for his size, and can get downhill quickly, which spells doom more often than not for just about anybody in his way.
That’s an extremely dangerous skill set for a tackle to have. That’s an NFL first rounder kind of skill set. On top of his ability to just maul defenders, Christman has shockingly good control over his own movements. It’s almost reminiscent of 2019 signee Harry Miller, one of the most controlled linemen I’ve ever seen coming out of high school. Christman always maintains composure, opting for an extremely solid block rather than a blowout, highlight play. That’ll take him really far if he can keep it up.
In the class
It appears that Ryan Day isn’t playing around, folks. His first class, the 2020 group, has had some growing pains, but it’s off to the races as we enter the dog days of summer. His 2021 class, on the other hand? No hitches. No stop signs. He’s established those relationships quickly, as has his new look staff, and the Buckeyes have no interest in slow playing their top prospects. They’ve identified their targets, and it’s pretty obvious that they want the best class in the country in 2021, and they couldn’t have asked for much better of a start.
Christman is the fourth member of the class, along with defensive end Jack Sawyer, quarterback Kyle McCord, and another recent commit: receiver Jayden Ballard.
That’s four players who could very well finish in the 247Sports top 100, and honestly, four guys who have a pretty serious argument to be considered five-stars. Christman may have the best case of the bunch (outside of Sawyer, who is already a five-star), and I’d be stunned if he doesn’t make the jump into the top 32 sooner than later.
While this is obviously a massive victory for the Buckeyes, it’s mostly a victory against the unknown. Ohio State had been leaders in this race for a while, and they wanted to lock Christman down before any other team established a serious connection. They did just that, which means that Penn State, Michigan, Notre Dame, and the usual Buckeye opponents will have to look elsewhere.