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: Jantzen Dunn.
After what was a disappointing season from the defensive backs in 2020, Ohio State reloaded its secondary with a handful of talented corners and safeties, among which is four-star freshman Jantzen Dunn. Coming to Columbus by way of Bowling Green, Kentucky, Dunn was the No. 10 safety and the No. 170 player overall in the 2021 class. He is the second-highest rated player out of his home state in the cycle, and a guy who is expected to play a big role at the back end of the Buckeyes’ defense at some point or another.
As you would expect, Dunn was a heavily-pursued prospect during the recruiting process. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound safety racked up over 30 offers, including from most of the big names among the likes of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma and many more. In March of 2020 he cut his list down to a top seven, which of course included Ohio State alongside Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, Oklahoma, Tennessee and USC. He would verbally commit to the Buckeyes about a month later, and he made things official when he signed this past December.
Dunn was a star at South Warren High School as a two-way player, originally being listed as an athlete on his recruiting profile before sticking with safety as his position at the next level. Playing multiple positions on defense as well as wide receiver, Dunn caught six touchdown passes while also totaling 37 tackles and an interception in 2019. This followed up a breakout campaign as a sophomore which saw him record 30 tackles with a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries as he helped lead the Spartans to a 15-0 record and a Class 5A state championship.
Dunn also ran track at South Warren, winning the Class 3A Regional 2 long jump and high jump events. He is undoubtably a tremendous athlete across the board, and it shows in his highlight tape.
Surprisingly enough, Ohio State hasn’t had a ton of success in recent years recruiting its neighbor to the south. Dunn is the first Buckeye commit from Kentucky since three-star corner Rodjay Burns in 2016, who wound up transferring to Louisville after one season in Columbus. It looked for a while as though they would land 2021 four-star offensive linemen Jager Burton to join Dunn, but in the end he committed to the in-state Wildcats. Kentucky isn’t the most fertile recruiting ground in the country, but Ohio State will happily take its No. 2 player this year — especially when that guy is a top-200 national prospect.
Dunn has drawn a ton of praise for his style of play, and 247Sports national writer Charles Power compared his game to Juan Thornhill of the Kansas City Chiefs — a safety who started eight games for Andy Reid’s squad in 2020 — and pegged him as a Day 3 NFL Draft pick with greater upside. Here is the full extent of Power’s scouting report of Dunn:
“Long and lean with an angular frame. Thin build with long arms and thin throughout his lower body. Has plenty of room to add mass. Is a high level athlete on the track and in combine settings, showing his explosiveness with strong marks in the vertical, long jump and broad jump in addition to very good speed and change of direction. Plays wide receiver and safety for his high school and projects on defense at the next level at safety or corner. Has top notch play speed, closing quickly when moving downhill from his safety spot. Shows a wide range with ability to get to the sideline in zone coverage. Has the physical framework and athleticism to develop into a strong tackler and run defender over time. His wide receiver background helps with the ball skills in coverage. Also shows his athleticism at receiver with the ability to rip off long catch and runs, outpacing opposing defenses. Has some rigidity in his backpedal and can continue improving his man cover skills. A high upside type who should continue getting better at a steady rate. Projects as a Power Five starter with the upside to develop into a NFL Draft pick.”
Like fellow freshman Andre Turrentine, who we previewed not too long ago on another edition of Freshman Focus, Dunn joins a safety room at Ohio State still searching for answers. People were expecting a drop off on defense after the loss of both Jeff Okudah and Chase Young to the NFL Draft, but I don't think many realized just how big a role Jordan Fuller played until he was gone. Guys like Marcus Hooker and Josh Proctor tried to fill the void in 2020, but both come with their own set of flaws that you can’t really afford from the last line of defense in the secondary.
Ohio State will have some options this season, and I think there is a good chance we see some of the young guys get playing time early in the season as Kerry Coombs and the rest of his defensive staff try to figure out exactly what they have. I think Bryson Shaw will get a chance to prove himself after looking decent in flashes in 2020, but the young guns in Dunn and Turrentine will have every opportunity to get on the field with a good preseason camp — especially with Lathan Ransom expected to transition more towards playing in the slot.
They likely won't thrust him out there as the starting high safety against Minnesota in Week 1, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Dunn on the field in non-garbage time situations sooner rather than later.