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Ohio State early enrollees primed for big roles in 2020

Which incoming Buckeyes have a chance to make an immediate impact?

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: JAN 02 Under Armour All-America Game Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“Ohio State signed 24 players last month during the signing period, and 14 of them begin classes this week. The record-high for freshman joining the program, some of them might be able to find playing time quickly.”

- Spencer Holbrook, Lettermen Row

Some were worried that losing Urban Meyer would mean a drop-off in the recruiting game, but that has certainly not been the case in the first season under Ryan Day. The Buckeyes currently have the No. 4 class in the country according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Of the 25 players committed in the class, 24 have signed their letters of intent (still awaiting the decision of Cameron Martinez) and a whopping 14 of them are enrolling early.

As a result, these incoming freshman will have an extra semester to get acquainted with the program, and put themselves in a prime position to earn significant minutes in 2020. Whether it be a result of Ohio State losing a starter at a certain position to the NFL or graduation, or just a product of a player’s elite skillset right out of high school, a few of these early enrollees seem the most likely to see the field early and often for the Buckeyes in their very first season.

The most obvious players in this position appear to be wide receiver Julian Fleming and offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. The No. 1 overall player according to ESPN’s rankings, Fleming appears to be on a similar track to that of Garrett Wilson. Ohio State is losing a trio of wide receivers to exhausted eligibility, and the third spot behind Wilson and Chris Olave is wide open. A supremely talented wideout like Fleming, with the added bonus of working under Brian Hartline, should put him on the fast track to significant playing time next season.

The same is true for Johnson Jr., as although Ohio State only needs to replace two starters along the offensive line, one of those is at right tackle. The No. 1 OT and No. 7 player overall in this class will find himself in a battle for the starting job with second-year man Nicholas Petit-Frere, who himself was a former five-star recruit. Petit-Frere likely has a leg up on Johnson Jr. having experience with the Buckeyes, but it will be a battle worth keeping an eye on.

Speaking of the early enrollees, Ohio State posted a short video on Twitter welcoming its freshmen and showing Ryan Day welcoming them to Columbus as they begin their journey as Buckeyes.

For the second time this season, Ohio State guard Kierstan Bell has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week. The team’s second-leading scorer on the season, Bell earned the honor after leading the Buckeyes to a comeback victory over No. 24 Minnesota on New Years Eve. Against the Gophers, Bell scored a team-high 13 points — all in the second half — making a season-high three shots from beyond the arc and recording two blocks.

Starting in 10 of the team’s 12 games thus far, Bell is averaging just under 10 points per game on nearly 40 percent shooting. Despite playing fewer total minutes than five other players on the team, Bell finds herself second in both total points scored (119) and steals (21) on the year.

The lady Bucks have had a bit of an up-and-down start to the season, but are hoping the big victory over Minnesota will help turn things in the right direction. At 8-5 on the year, Ohio State will have a tall task ahead of them as they travel to College Park on Monday night to take on No. 17 Maryland. The nationally televised showdown will tipoff at 7:00 p.m. EST, and will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Flipping from one Ohio State basketball team to another, the men’s squad has hit a bit of a rough patch, losing its second game in a row on Friday night as they fell 61-57 to Wisconsin. As a result of the short two-game skid, including a loss to now No. 17 West Virginia, the Buckeyes have fallen to No. 11 in the latest AP Poll.

The road doesn't exactly get much easier for OSU, as they now enter what is sure to be a grueling Big Ten schedule, continuing with No. 12 Maryland on the road on Tuesday night. They will be doing so without the efforts of Kyle Young, who will be out indefinitely following an appendectomy. Ohio State was obviously missing the forward’s 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game — good for No. 4 and No. 2 on the team, respectively — against the Badgers, but what they missed the most was the high-motor and effort on both ends of the floor as one of the Buckeyes most important big men.

At the end of the day, Ohio State is still 11-3 on the year and has already taken down three AP Top 10 teams on the season in Villanova, UNC and Kentucky. Chris Holtmann has done an incredible job building this program up from obscurity back into the forefront of the college basketball scene, but will have to find a way to get more out of his players in the absence of Young — especially when it comes to finding scoring options outside of just Kaleb Wesson.

As if you needed anymore reasons to love Cardale Jones, the former Ohio State quarterback posted a picture of his cleats on Monday as he practices for the DC Defenders in the XFL, featuring Buckeye leaves as well as an OSU logo as he continues to rep his school with pride.

Jones will begin his XFL career when his team takes on the Seattle Dragons on Saturday, Feb. 8 at 2:00 p.m EST. The game will be broadcast on ABC.

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