How about those freshmen, huh?
I think I can speak on behalf of all Ohio State fans when I say that I am extremely impressed with how well the young players on the team are stepping up and performing. Obviously there are a lot of new kids playing this year in key positions, but they have not backed down. The two true freshmen I am focusing on are TreVeyon Henderson and Denzel Burke— dare I say they are two of the most important players on the field?
I have to start with Henderson. Also, I am patting myself on the back because I called it back in July saying he would break the freshman rushing record. I mean, I was talking about the season, but he broke Archie Griffin’s single game record for a freshman on Saturday. He’s on pace for the season, though!
Henderson ended up starting as a result of Miyan Williams missing practice this week, and therefore missing the game. This upped Henderson’s carries a lot— and he absolutely shined. On 24 attempts, he rushed for 277 yards, averaging 11.5 per carry, with three touchdowns. This man was the entire offense. It’s pretty safe to say that this game could have ended a lot differently if the run game didn’t return to form after the Oregon disaster.
While he only had 54 yards against the Ducks and 15 versus Minnesota (aside from the long score on a screen pass), he really didn’t get too many opportunities. Once he was given this chance against Tulsa, he went off! This could definitely shift things moving forward, with Henderson perhaps receiving the majority of the reps over Williams and Teague. I did not forget how great Williams has been, but you cannot deny the greatness that we saw from Henderson on Saturday.
Henderson picked a good game to be amazing. Stroud struggled, finishing with 185 yards, so it was relieving to be able to rely on the run game. His best TD came in the third quarter, when he broke away on a 48-yard run to put the Bucks ahead 20-6.
His quickness and explosive power is already jaw-dropping. Then you think about how young he is and how much better he can get and you get really, really excited for the future! It will be interesting to see who gets more carries between Henderson and Williams the rest of the season, but either way, it is clear that the freshman will make the most of the opportunities he is given.
On the flip side of the ball, I want to shine the spotlight on Denzel Burke. After having somewhat of an off game last week (didn’t everyone? Besides Stroud, of course), Burke bounced back in a major way against Tulsa. With five tackles, two pass break-ups, and what should be an INT (take a look below), the freshman led the way in a DB room that has caught the injury bug.
Burke is clearly not afraid of stepping up in big moments. He started in the first game of the season with Cam Brown and Sevyn Banks being out, but it didn’t matter that he has only been a full-time DB for the past few months (he played mostly WR in high school), or that he is a freshman. He had four tackles and a team-leading three PBU’s. He truly deserved to start in that game.
This guy goes all out every single play. Burke receives high praise by the coaching staff for his effort and willingness to learn. As I mentioned, he is not a cornerback by nature. The fact that he honed his skills enough in time to start as a true freshman for the first game of the season says something!
Again, the fact that he is so young and doesn’t have a ton of experience at this position is also very intriguing. The more reps he gets, the more scary he is going to be for opposing receivers. It sure has helped that he has gotten to go up against the best receiving core in the nation at practice. Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson both have voiced their praises for Burke, which obviously means a lot.
So, if we got nothing else from that, um, interesting game against Tulsa, at least we learned that we have two star freshmen — one on each side of the ball. Henderson and Burke’s futures are very bright, and they are shouldering the load of a struggling team like pros. Hopefully their teammates start drinking whatever water these two guys are guzzling.