Welcome to an ongoing series here at Land-Grant Holy Land — Freshman Focus. The summer months are rapidly approaching as we anxiously await the beginning of preseason camp, when this year’s crop of Buckeyes will be back hard at work preparing for the 2021 campaign. That being the case, now is a great time to introduce you to Ohio State’s incredibly talented freshman class. Each edition of Freshman Focus will highlight one of the newest Buckeyes, and will hopefully provide a glimpse at what they will bring to the team in the coming years.
Today’s Freshman: Andre Turrentine.
It almost feels like Andre Turrentine has sort of gotten lost in the shuffle with all of the talent Ohio State added to its defensive backfield is this recruiting class, but that certainly should not be the case. Turrentine comes to Columbus by way of Nashville, TN as the nation’s No. 9 safety prospect and the No. 169 player in the country overall. He is the highest-rated member of the three safeties the Buckeyes added in the 2021 cycle, and while he is one of the quieter players in the class when it comes to social media, his play does all the talking for him.
Ohio State was definitely not the only big program chasing after Turrentine during the recruiting process. The 6-foot, 175-pound defensive back hauled in over 23 offers, including from the likes of Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Oregon and many more. He made unofficial visits to quite a few places, including multiple stops at in-state Tennessee and Alabama as well as a visit to Vanderbilt. However, his last visit was to Ohio State in November 2019, and that was the one that must have made the biggest impression as he committed a few months later in March 2020.
A product of Ensworth High School, Turrentine was a two-way player for the Tigers, lining up both at defensive back as well as at wide receiver. In his breakout junior season in 2019, he recorded a whopping 73 total tackles on defense while also tallying 248 receiving yards and two touchdowns on a casual 25 yards-per-catch average, helping lead Ensworth to the Division II-AAA state semifinals. While he is listed as a safety, Turrentine did a little bit of everything for the Tigers, showcasing his versatility as he is capable of playing both cornerback and nickel as well.
Checking out his highlight tape from that junior season, Turrentine is a player that really jumps off the page:
Ohio State has had a little bit of recent success in Tennessee in these past few recruiting classes, but with mixed results on the field. They landed a pair of prospects from the Volunteer State in 2018 in Master Teague and Max Wray, the latter of which has since transferred to Colorado. They then added Cormontae Hamilton in 2019, who was recruited as a tight end but has since switched to the defensive line. While there are still chapters to be written when it comes to Teague, Turrentine will be looking to become the first Tennessee native to make a significant impact for the Buckeyes in recent memory.
As a four-star prospect, Ohio State fans will love to hear that the player comparison given for Turrentine is none other than former Buckeye and current Cincinnati Bengals safety Vonn Bell. Bell was a big contributor on that 2014 National Championship team, and Turrentine would love to emulate that success. Here is the full extent of what 247Sports former director of scouting Barton Simmons had to say in his analysis of Turrentine:
“Versatile defensive back body type capable of projecting to safety or cornerback but not an imposing body in either role. Playmaker on film. Flashes in game settings and was often the best player on the field as a junior amid high quality competition and teammates. Shows great tackling instincts and ability. Takes good tackling angles. Tackles in space and on the perimeter effectively. Brings physicality from the safety position in a frame more typically suited for cornerback. Quickness and lateral ability flash. Disruptive in coverage but has a limited interception count. Ball skills show up on offense in limited touches. Not an elite athlete. Will need to improve in man coverage settings and is going to win more with instincts and effort than with traits and athleticism. Projects as a Power Five starter with enough football instincts to track towards a mid-round NFL Draft pick.”
Turrentine is joining a safety room at Ohio State that is still searching for its next Jordan Fuller. With the Buckeyes moving to a 4-2-5 set on defense this season, it will be interesting to see the split Kerry Coombs and the rest of the defensive staff utilize when it comes to having two safeties on the field versus one safety and a bullet. I would expect to see lots of Josh Proctor and Lathan Ransom this year, but both guys don't come without their own set of potential flaws — Ransom obviously lacking in experience and Proctor being more of a boom-or-bust type of player.
There is also a better-than-good chance that Ransom instead plays slot corner, which opens up playing time for guys like Bryson Shaw or Marcus Williamson, who moved around between corner and safety last year. However, I wouldn’t totally close the door on someone like Turrentine or even fellow freshman Jantzen Dunn getting a look back there. Ohio State has been looking for a guy to be the ‘eraser’ at the back end of the defense, and hearing a scouting report about a guy that includes good instincts, tackling angles, and ability to make plays in space certainly fits that bill.
We won’t really get a good look at Turrentine until preseason camp, as he was not one of the many early enrollees from the 2021 class. But, with safety seemingly one of the more wide open positions on the depth chart at this time, it wouldn’t be all too surprising to see Turrentine on the field in some capacity this fall.