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You’re Nuts: Which 2021 recruit will have the best career at Ohio State?

Who got it right?

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Ohio State vs Clemson Anderson Independent Mail-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that you, our lovely readers, love a good debate when it comes to Ohio State fandom. We’ve seen enough Twitter battles and back-and-forth arguments in our comment section related to play calling, position battles, alternate jerseys — you name it— to convince us that you guys would probably do pretty well on a real debate team (as long as all the topics are Ohio State related).

So, we wanted in on the action. Welcome to our new weekly series, You’re Nuts, where two or more Land-Grant Holy Land writers will pick two sides of a subject and argue why they’re right and the other is completely and utterly nuts.

In honor of today being National Signing Day, the topic for our first debate is: Which 2021 commit will have the best career at Ohio State?

First up in the ring we have writers Tia Johnston and Matt Tamanini. Who do you agree with? Are they both nuts? Make your case in the comments!

TreVeyon Henderson
by Tia Johnston

Choosing Henderson might be the easy way out, seeing how the five-star running back is No. 1 at his position, No. 24 overall and the highest-rated running back recruit Ohio State has brought in since Beanie Wells in 2006.

However, that’s neither here nor there, as many of Ohio State’s incoming freshman are ranked Top 5 at their position. They all should have great careers at Ohio State. But Henderson is going to have the best. Here’s why:

Almost every recruiting analyst predicts that Henderson will be an instant impact contributor and multi-year starter at Ohio State, adding that he has first-round NFL draft potential and comparing him to Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey.

He doubled as a defensive back for his high school and, while his recruitment was still open, experts said he could have been a top prospect at corner. In other words, the guy is fast.

The speed anecdote is made even more impressive by the fact that he is 5-11, 195 pounds and, according to 247Sports expert Brian Dohn, has a wide-shouldered frame with the ability to add 20-plus pounds and play at 215 pounds (à la Coach Mick).

As mentioned above, Henderson will almost definitely find himself as RB1 on the depth chart right out of the gate. The running back and quarterback positions are depleted with the departure of Trey Sermon and Justin Fields, so if any 2021 prospects are going to see playing time immediately, it’s quarterback Kyle McCord and Henderson. However, McCord— 2021’s No. 3 quarterback— has a tougher position battle than Henderson does, as he’s competing against 2020’s second ranked quarterback C.J. Stroud and thirteenth ranked quarterback Jack Miller.

Meanwhile, Henderson’s competition consists of Master Teague (who hasn’t been the most productive ball carrier and who more or less lost his job to Sermon last season), fellow freshman all-purpose back Evan Pryor, Miyan Williams and Marcus Crowley. Williams was a three-star and the No. 45 running back in the class of 2020, while Crowley was a four-star, and ranked No. 26 at his position in the class of 2019. Now the question is, can the No. 1 ranked five-star freshman running back beat out guys who were ranked much lower but who have collegiate experience under their belt? The answer to that question is yes.

Like I mentioned previously, other 2021 prospects will likely not see the field as soon or as often as Henderson. Freshmen wide receivers are sitting behind the likes of Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Jameson Williams, Julian Fleming and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. And while Ohio State has the No. 1 DE (No. 4 overall) Jack Sawyer in their 2021 class, he will likely have to sit behind Tyreke Smith and Zach Harrison for a year. The same goes for the rest of the defensive line, with the return of Haskell Garrett, Antwuan Jackson and Co., as well as the offensive line. You get the idea.

On top of that, Ohio State is clearly putting an emphasis on its offensive play. And as we saw in the national championship game against another offensive-heavy team, that usually results in a shoot out. So when points are at a premium now, and you have an unproven quarterback group with minimum experience, you have to put an extra emphasis on the run game. Ryan Day is going to ensure that the best guy is on the field to take some of the load off his new quarterback, and that will ironically be his new running back.

But why does any of this matter in regards to our debate? Well, say Henderson does win the job right off the bat, that means he has significantly more time than his other classmates to rack up his stats and gain invaluable in-game experience. Some might argue that Beanie Wells had the best career out of anyone in Ohio State’s 2006 class, seeing how he recorded the sixth most career rushing yards and the seventh most single season rushing yards in program history (and that was all after he split carries with Antonio Pittman during his freshman year).

Now, I’m not saying that the amount of playing time directly correlates with the success of one’s career. So don’t start throwing Trey Sermon, Cardale Jones, Dwayne Haskins, Justin Fields at me. How we determine whether or not someone’s career was more successful than someone else’s is pretty relative, but if we’re looking solely at production and how they translate in the record books, might I suggest giving one Joe Thomas Barrett IV’s stats a quick google?


by Matt Tamanini

Tia, hear you, and your thoughts and feelings are valid, they just also happen to be wrong in this particular case. While I understand the instinct to go for the highly rated offensive player, I think that the Ohio State 2021 recruiting class is a good example of a time in which we should be looking on the other side of the ball.

Now, I will give you that if you are going to go with an offensive player that it should be Henderson, because despite normally everything revolving around the quarterback, and Kyle McCord is an excellent QB prospect, he can’t be the player most likely to have the best career at Ohio State, for the simple fact that he is coming into a quarterback room that is super young and super talented.

Not only will McCord have to deal with 2020 QBs C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller, but in a year’s time (assuming he doesn’t decommit) he will also be welcoming in the No. 1 player in the 2022 class, Quinn Ewers. So, while any of those guys could end up having a legendary career with the Buckeyes, for the simple fact that any of those guys could end up having a legendary career with the Buckeyes, you can’t pick the QB here.

And while it makes sense to go with the running back next — since picking a wide receiver would present the same problems as McCord does — I don’t think that we should undersell the impact that a game-changing pass-rusher can have on a team, and Jack Sawyer is a special one.

Sawyer is the No. 4 player in the country and the No. 1 player in the state of Ohio — he’s also from my hometown of Pickerington. But beyond that, he is also the 42nd ranked player in the history of 247Sports’ recruiting rankings, dating back to the year 2000. In fact, 247 not only projects him as a first-round NFL talent, but they compare him to Nick Bosa, and we know how dominant that guy was.

In fact, dating back to 2013, when Nick’s older brother Joey Bosa got to Columbus, having a stud defensive end has had a big influence on the success of the defense. In three of the four seasons in which the Buckeyes have averaged three or more sacks per game, they have kept opposing teams to under 202 passing yards per game.

In seasons with 3+ sacks, they’ve averaged 195.5 passing yards allowed per game (that wonky 2018 defense really throws off the numbers), and in seasons with less than three sacks per game, they gave up 232.2 passing yards per game.

Sack/Yardage Totals in Bosa-Young Era

Year Passing Yards Allowed Sacks Sacks Per Game Sack Leader Record Final Ranking Playoff Berth
Year Passing Yards Allowed Sacks Sacks Per Game Sack Leader Record Final Ranking Playoff Berth
2013 268 40 2.86 Noah Spence, Joey Bosa (7.5) 12-2 No. 10 N/A
2014 201.1 45 3 Joey Bosa (13.5) 14-1 No. 1 Yes
2015 184.5 33 2.54 Tyquan Lewis (8) 12-1 No. 4 No
2016 172.2 28 2.15 Tyquan Lewis (8) 11-2 No. 6 Yes
2017 195.9 45 3.2 Nick Bosa (8.5) 12-2 No. 5 No
2018 245.2 42 3 Chase Young (10.5) 13-1 No. 3 No
2019 156 51 3.64 Chase Young (16.5) 13-1 No. 3 Yes
2020 304 21 2.6 Jonathon Cooper (3.5) 7-1 No. 2 Yes

While the Buckeyes did not have a dominant pass-rusher in 2020, they did lead the country in quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. But that wasn’t good enough to help a shaky secondary. Now, I certainly hope that the 2021 iteration of the OSU defensive backfield can improve, now that Matt Barnes has been promoted to the DBs coach and Kerry Coombs has become the sole defensive coordinator, I also know that having a game-changing edge rusher is invaluable to a defense, and I think that Jack Sawyer can be just that.

And look, the proof is in the pudding. When the NFL Honors are announced on Saturday, it is likely that former Buckeye DEs will win three of the last five NFL Defensive Rookies of the Year (with OSU’s Marshon Lattimore sandwiched in there as well). So, we know that Larry Johnson can coach elite rushers, and we know what type of impact they can have on the collegiate and professional levels.

So, I am buying all the stock for Jack Sawyer. After all, check out these highlights: