As happens every year, you blink and a big chunk of the college football season is gone. So it is with Ohio State having already played four games, which is a third of the regular season schedule.
With no game for me to pick apart this week, I thought I’d take a positive approach and shine the spotlight on five (more or less) players who stood out to me over the first third of the 2023 season.
5. “The Tandem” (Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka)
This is a free space, so it seemed like a good idea to put these guys first. Yes, this feels a little like cheating by putting them together, but both starting wide receivers have been as good as they normally are, despite breaking in a new quarterback and not having as much time to get open due to an offensive line with three new starters.
While it’s logical to expect more production through four games, given some of the opposition, there needs to be a curve on this with Kyle McCord growing into the starter’s position and the aforementioned new guys on the offensive line. The running game has also helped the offense, which takes away some of the wide receiver production. Still, Harrison is on pace for more than a thousand receiving yards and Egbuka is on pace for nearly 800. Both starting wideouts have three touchdowns on the season.
4. Sonny Styles
A player who hasn’t put up big numbers but has flashed for me is sophomore safety Sonny Styles, who should be on the field for as many snaps as he can give the Buckeyes (in my opinion). Styles always seems to be around the ball, is seventh on the team in tackles (14) through four games and is tied for third in tackles for loss (1.5). It seems like a matter of when, not if, Styles will have an absolute monster game with perhaps a takeaway or two, raising his stock even further.
3. TreVeyon Henderson
The burst is back! After an injury-plagued 2022 season, the Buckeyes’ RB1 is showing once again just how explosive he can be. Henderson has shown his big-play ability this year and averages 6.7 yards per carry. He already has five rushing touchdowns on the season. The only reason he’s not quite on a 1,000-yard season trajectory is that his day has ended early a few times this season and his carries have been limited. He averages only 11 attempts per game in Ohio State’s running-back-by-committee system.
2. Tyleik Williams
Big Ty is off to a great start. He’s even scored a touchdown already this season, which is not something one expects to see out of a defensive tackle. Williams is third on the Buckeyes in tackles (21), leads in tackles for loss (3), and is one of five Ohio State defenders to register a sack so far this season. One of the reasons Ohio State has been better against middle runs this season is Williams’ presence, and he’s been able to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks up the middle. He’s been impressive.
1. Denzel Burke
Like many Ohio State fans, I was down on Denzel Burke last season — and with good reason. Whether he was playing with an injury, had trouble adjusting to a new scheme, or some other issue was going on, Burke allowed a lot of big plays in 2022. One of the most welcome sights in 2023 has been the return of Burke as a lockdown corner.
He’s been one of the most effective cornerbacks in the country at shutting down the receiver on his side of the field. He also has done something this year that he wasn’t able to last year — intercept a pass. Davison Igbinosun hasn’t been bad on the other side, but Burke’s been fantastic through a third of the schedule.
Those are the guys who have stood out the most to me over the first four games. Others who have looked good include Kyle McCord — who seems to be settling in nicely — Cade Stover, Chip Trayanum, Lathan Ransom, Igbinosun, and Jordan Hancock.
On the flip side, I’d like to see more production from guys like Steele Chambers, Jack Sawyer, Julian Fleming, and the offensive line.
Who has stood out to you? Who needs to improve? Let me know in the comments section below.