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Could a freshman corner make a big impact for Ohio State in 2020?

The QB-turned-DB will have a chance to fight for a spot in a rebuilt secondary

NCAA Football: Penn State at Ohio State Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

“Watts’ frame fits nicely into the mold of the Buckeyes athletic, long and rangy defensive backs who have turned the secondary into B.I.A. — the Best in America. Hatcher has watched Watts work to get to this point, where Watts soon will participate in his first-ever college spring camp and challenge for a spot in a revamped Ohio State secondary.”

- John Brice, Lettermen Row

When it comes to high school football, the best athlete on the team usually finds himself playing both sides of the ball, and almost always winds up at quarterback. You want to have the ball in your best players hands as much as possible, and putting him at QB for that reason makes sense. But what happens on the rare occasion when your freak athlete isn't interested in offense all that much, and instead aspires to play cornerback at the highest level? Well, you wind up with Ryan Watts.

Watts, an Ohio State early enrollee, is a consensus four-star recruit in the 2020 class, and the No. 15 cornerback in the country. At 6-foot-3, 186 pounds, he already possesses a frame that fits the scheme the Buckeyes have utilized in the secondary as DBU (or BIA, as the team prefers): a long, athletic and rangy defensive back versatile enough to play coverage almost anywhere on the field.

Little Elm High School assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Donald Hatcher has coached some highly regarded NFL guys, including Von Miller and Jalen Mills, and has very high praise for his latest star pupil. He thinks Watts is going to be something special, noting that guys with his athletic makeup that would rather play defense over offense are a rare breed.

“Everybody loves the 6-foot-3 corner that’s got long arms and can run. That’s where the money’s at,” Hatcher said. “He saw these big receivers, and the defensive backs were 5-foot-9, 5-foot-10. He was like: ‘Man, I’ve got the range and I can break the mold.” He also noted how Watts rarely takes a bad step, and is focused on always being in good position. Hatcher loved what he saw in Watts so much that he even drew up a specific defensive scheme for him, which he appropriately named the ‘Buckeye’.

With the losses of Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette, there are two starting cornerback positions wide open heading into spring camp. As an early enrollee, Watts will have a great chance to make a good first impression with the coaching staff — including the returning Kerry Coombs — and even potentially get his name on the short list of potential starters. If Watts is able to carry over his impressive high school play to the next level, it would not be surprising for the first-year man to see significant snaps in his first season with the Buckeyes.

Things have not be great for Ohio State mens basketball in 2020. It seemed like just yesterday the team was 11-1, with impressive AP Top 10 wins over Villanova, UNC and Kentucky. As recently as Dec. 23, they were the No. 2 team in the country. The defense was out of this world, and the offense, while lacking star power, was clicking on all cylinders.

Fast forward to today, and the Buckeyes are now 12-6. The Big Ten being an absolute slugfest from top to bottom certainly hasn’t helped, but Chris Holtmann’s squad has shot itself in the foot at every possible corner in the last few weeks, and just like that has fallen out of the AP Top 25 entirely. The defense does not look nearly as good as it did earlier in the year, the offense has fallen off a cliff entirely, and between player suspensions and overall lackadaisical effort, things are not looking good in Columbus.

Ohio State has lost five of its last six games. The team has not won a game away from home since its 25-point victory over the Tar Heels on Dec. 4. To be fair to the Bucks, the Big Ten Conference as a whole is just 7-42 on the road this season as it continues to prove to be the toughest conference in college basketball, but there should be no excuses for a team that looked nearly invincible earlier in the year.

Holtmann’s squad will need to find some way to turn things around and quickly, as a unit that once looked destined for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament now hangs on the fringe of making the postseason tourney altogether. Luckily for them, the Buckeyes’ next game will be at home, a 6:30 p.m. tip on Thursday night against Minnesota on FS1.

While one team that plays in Value City Arena is having a tough go of things, the Ohio State men’s hockey team is thriving. The Buckeyes, who just moved up to No. 6 in the polls, defeated No. 18 Notre Dame on Saturday, moving to 9-1-2 at home and 15-6-3 overall.

After the Irish took an early lead, sophomore Quinn Preston tied things up a short while later with his ninth goal of the season. In the second period, OSU took the lead on a power play goal by Gustaf Westlund, and the Buckeyes would not look back as they prevailed 2-1. Despite being outshot 29-16 overall, Ohio State got a phenomenal effort from freshman goalie Ryan Snowden as his 28 saves helped lead them to victory.

Ohio State has not lost a game at home in 10 straight contests, including two-game series sweeps over No. 20 Michigan State, Michigan and Colgate, with a win and a tie each over Minnesota and Notre Dame. Senior forward Tanner Laczynski leads the team with 25 points on seven goals and 18 assists, while the aforementioned Westlund has a team-high 12 goals on the year. Tommy Napier has started 20 games in net, posting a .933 save percentage, while Snowden has started five contests with a .905 save percentage.

At 8-4-2 in Big Ten play, Ohio State’s 26 points are good for the top spot in the conference, just one point ahead of Michigan State and Penn State. The Buckeyes will be hitting the road for back-to-back series against Minnesota and Michigan, and will return home Feb. 7 for a series against the Nittany Lions.

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