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Two Ohio State Buckeyes named to ESPN’s 2020 ‘way-too-early All-America team’

The college football season doesn’t start for more than seven months, but ESPN is already looking at some of the best players in the country ahead of the 2020 season.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 28 CFP Semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ohio State may be losing a number of key contributors from last year’s squad, but the Buckeyes will have a number of impact players returning for 2020. ESPN recently released their 2020 “way-too-early All-America team”, which includes two Buckeyes. Many would probably assume Justin Fields would be on the team at quarterback, but the junior fell just behind Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

The Ohio State player on the offensive side of the football who was named to ESPN’s “way-too-early All-America team” is guard Wyatt Davis. After coming to Columbus as a highly-touted offensive lineman, Davis saw his first action towards the end of the 2018 season when he was forced into action as a redshirt freshman due to injury. Last year Davis was even more impressive, earning first team All-American honors. Davis will generate the most headlines this year on an Ohio State offensive line than returns center Josh Myers and tackle Thayer Munford.

Shaun Wade had a difficult decision to make after the 2019 season, and nobody would have blamed the cornerback if he decided to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft. Wade had a bad taste in his mouth after being ejected in the first half of the Fiesta Bowl against Clemson for targeting. Fellow cornerback Jeff Okudah decided to declare for the NFL Draft, which will lead the spotlight on Wade this fall in Columbus. Wade looks poised to become another in a long recent line of Ohio State cornerbacks to be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.

“You see it little by little. Then you get this stretch where you start losing games and people start getting frustrated. When you’re winning, people overlook things like that, the little frustrations that you get.”

Ohio State forward Kaleb Wesson via Stephen Means,

How a month can change things. On December 23rd the Ohio State Buckeyes were sporting an 11-1 record and ranked second in the country. Fast forward a month and the Buckeyes have lost five of six games and find themselves unranked. This year’s slump is eerily similar to last year, when Ohio State had a stretch in January when they lost six of seven games.

There is no way to pinpoint exactly why the Buckeyes are struggling this year because there has been a number of issues that have contributed to their slide. It started when Kyle Young missed the two games after the loss to West Virginia due to recovery from an appendectomy. The Ohio State offense hasn’t been able to find their rhythm lately either, as they had a four-game stretch in which they failed to score 60 points. Kaleb Wesson has been solid for the Buckeyes, but he hasn’t gotten much help on the offensive end, which has allowed opponents to focus more resources towards slowing down the big man.

Another problem for the Buckeyes is head coach Chris Holtmann hasn’t gotten the effort he expects from a number of players. Holtmann even went so far as to suspend Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington Jr. for the Nebraska game, which was surprisingly the only game Ohio State has won recently. Washington returned on Saturday and scored a team-high 20 points against Penn State, but the Buckeyes were dominated by the Nittany Lions.

The good news for Ohio State is it is only January, which will give them plenty of time to try and right the ship ahead of March’s NCAA Tournament. The Big Ten has been a meat grinder this year, which will help prepare the Buckeyes for some of the tough competition they’ll see in postseason play, but Ohio State have to start to turn things around soon or else they could find themselves on the outside looking in, which is something nobody would have imagined after the first month of the season.

“You need that guy. You just need him. He’s one of the most dependable guys I’ve ever been around in my 30 years.”

Ohio State strength coach Mickey Marotti on linebacker Tuf Borland via Spencer Holbrook, Letterman Row

Linebacker Tuf Borland has caught a lot of flak from Ohio State fans for his performances the last few years, but Buckeye players and coaches see him in a completely different light. Getting such high praise from strength coach Mickey Marotti shows just how important Borland is to Ohio State. The linebacker has already been a two-time captain at Ohio State, and likely will be voted a captain ahead of his senior season.

Borland knows how important this season is, which is why he has been one of the leaders of the strength program so far this offseason. Prior to his sophomore season, Borland suffered an achilles injury which resulted in a step back in production from his freshman year. Last year the emergence of Baron Browning led to less time of the field for Borland.

Now with just one season left in his Ohio State career, Borland is looking to cap off his career on a high note. Browning will still be in the mix at linebacker, but more snaps will be up for grabs with the departure of senior Malik Harrison. After hearing the criticism from fans the last two seasons, Borland is working on getting bigger and stronger to help him be at his best for his senior season.

“He was a great addition to our team. I feel like he got me better every day we went against each other ... it kind of motivated me to get better. He was a great person outside of football, a great person inside of football.”

Ohio State defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton on guard Jonah Jackson via Les Bowen, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Even though Ohio State fell to Clemson in the College Football Playoff, one of the best stories for the Buckeyes this year was offensive guard Jonah Jackson. The graduate transfer came to Columbus from Rutgers to close out his college career, and experience what winning felt like. The Scarlet Knights won just 11 games in Jackson’s four years at Rutgers, included a 1-11 season in his final year with the school in 2018.

Jackson earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors at Rutgers in 2018, which made him one of the most sought-after offensive linemen in the transfer portal. It didn’t hurt Ohio State’s chance of landing Jackson that former co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash was the head coach of the Scarlet Knights at the time. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson reached out to Jackson on the first day he was in the transfer portal, and from there it became pretty obvious that Jackson was headed to Columbus.

Jackson didn’t disappoint during his short time at Ohio State, earned first team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches, and second-team honors from the media. Now Jackson is down at the Senior Bowl this week to try and impress NFL teams ahead of April’s NFL Draft. Early returns on Jackson’s performance has been positive, which has helped to boost his stock. With the incredible work ethic and leadership of the guard, Jackson could see his name called on either day 2 or day 3 of the NFL Draft.