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Not an early enrollee, five-star OT Donovan Jackson is ready to make his mark on OSU

Without the advantage of spring practice, Jackson looks to live up to his lofty recruiting ranking.

Offensive lineman Donovan Jackson joins the Buckeyes
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We all know that Ohio State has brought in a great recruiting class for 2021. Even without J.T. Tuimoloau (who, at the time that I’m writing this piece, has not committed), the Buckeyes’ class ranks second in the national recruiting rankings with five five-star players among the class of 21 players.

Of those 21 recruits, 15 enrolled in January and played in the spring game; four of those were five-stars. Kyle McCord showed the maturity, arm strength, and judgment to be a legitimate contender for the starting quarterback position. Emeka Egbuka looked like a veteran at wide receiver — a player who quickly reads the coverage, runs great routes, goes up for the ball, and possesses the soft hands to come down with it. Although we could see his speed and his cutting ability, it was harder to gauge TreVeyan Henderson’s considerable talents because the scrimmage was limited to “no-tackle.” And Jack Sawyer? Well, Jack couldn’t be blocked and was on the passer in a jiffy; oh yes, he reminded me of the Bosa brothers and Chase Young. What a group!

But there was a fifth five-star commit in the recruiting class and he didn’t play in the spring game. Donovan Jackson, a 6-foot-4, 308-pound offensive lineman from Bellaire, Tex. committed to Ohio State in January of 2020 and signed his letter of intent on December 16 of that year. However, unlike his fellow top-line blue-chippers, Jackson did not enroll early, instead, he decided to arrive on campus in early May and will use the summer and August’s fall camp to catch up with his fellow first-year players who participated in spring practices.

According to 247Sports, Jackson is the top interior offensive lineman in the 2021 class and the 18th-ranked recruit in the nation at any position. Scouting reports tout his strength (he was a champion shot putter and discus thrower on his high school track and field team) and his great length; his wingspan is a reported seven feet.

In his senior year this past fall, Jackson played in only six games in a COVID-abbreviated schedule. And, unsurprisingly, he played left tackle, protecting the blind side. I thought I’d take a look at his film highlights, and there are a lot of them.

When we watch football on TV, it’s often hard to focus our attention on offensive linemen. The camera follows the ball. So, unless a lineman blows an assignment and allows a sack or commits an egregious holding infraction, we watch quarterbacks, runners, and receivers. Conveniently in the highlights, Jackson is circled before each play, so it’s easy to follow his action. But it I imagine that it would be easy focus on him even without the assistance of on-screen graphics.

First of all, with his size, he’s by far the biggest guy on the field — even in Texas, where everything is proverbially bigger. More importantly, his play demands our attention. Seemingly a man among boys, on passing plays, Jackson shows great quickness and footwork. He moves well laterally; rushers don’t get past him, or around him. In terms of run blocking, he’s even more impressive. He engages his man quickly and stays on his block, often putting the opponent on the ground — something that Orlando Pace would be proud of.

The defensive linemen playing opposite Jackson were never involved in the plays. I also noticed how well Jackson can brush a lineman and move to a secondary target of linebacker, and he pulls down the line like a pro.

All in all, ten minutes’ worth of Donovan Jackson highlights is enough to justify the hype that he brings to Columbus. He won’t be a starter right away; the Bucks’ line is solid, and rarely do you see a true freshman cracking the offensive line. But he should be able to work his way into the rotation and see plenty of snaps. I imagine that by2022, he’ll be starting, and there will be predictions of post-season awards. Looks to me as though Greg Studrawa has landed a good one.