Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
This week’s topic: Player you’re most excited to see after another Ohio State scrimmage
Ohio State football is going through the program’s annual “spring swing”, getting the 2023 team together for their first live practices, opening up scrimmage activities, and hosting recruits by the dozen. Late March/Early April seems to be going well for OSU thus far, as the Buckeyes have landed verbal commitments and crystal ball predictions on the recruiting trail, and seen a number of players step up during these afore mentioned scrimmages.
The latter is what Gene and I wanted to break down today, as we look at early standouts and try not to overreact. But really, what fun would that be? If we can’t hype up true freshman and/or backups who may never see the field – based on a couple of glorified practices – then what are we even doing here, Gene!? Let’s get reckless and talk about which player is really grabbing our attention this spring and already has us eyeing their plot of land in Buckeye Grove.
The player who has stood out to me through a handful of practices and a few, let’s face it, sort of inconsequential scrimmages, is sophomore defensive end Kenyatta Jackson. His frequent trips to the backfield have me reminiscing about Chase Young, while also sweating bullets over the Buckeyes’ offensive line. But that is a different conversation for a different day.
Jackson committed to Ohio State as a top-60 player in the 2022 recruiting class and seemed like a guy who could make early contributions as a rotational pass rusher. At 6-foot-5, 240ish pounds with long arms and plenty of bend, I honestly expected him to see the field before Caden Curry. Then, as the season went along and OSU struggled to get pressure, I said to myself: “Please, for the love of Vernon Gholston, give me somebody in this rotation with a little juice.” And I thought Jackson could be that somebody, but he never got an opportunity.
Then came the offseason transfer rumors, which were admittedly never given legs by Jackson or Ohio State. But they did exist, and I was a bit worried. Fortunately, all appears to be well on the Jackson front, and he is now making some serious noise for Larry Johnson, Jim Knowles, and the Buckeyes’ defense in general.
Helping matters is the fact that Jackson is simply around for spring activities. He was not an early enrollee last year, which put him a bit behind the 8-ball... just by enrolling at OSU when a “normal” student would. Crazy, but true. He has also added 15 or so pounds to his long frame, with the program now listing him at 6-foot-5, 252 pounds — closer to the Chase Young zone.
I don’t want to put too much on a young, unproven player, but not only does Jackson have a build similar to that of the 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, he is also playing like the latter in these spring scrimmages. Nearly two weeks ago, when the Buckeyes held their first official team-on-team battle, Jackson was credited with back-to-back sacks against Devin Brown.
This past weekend, during Ohio State’s student appreciation day, the sophomore DE was credited with a strip sack and seemingly set up residence in the backfield. So did every other defensive lineman apparently, but again, we’re focusing on the positives and the potential breakout players.
Jackson has also earned glowing reviews from Johnson, Knowles, and Ryan Day this spring, and appears poised to earn some real playing time in 2023. These recent scrimmages only add(ed) to the confidence I have in saying as much. And while Gene and I both know scrimmages and things of that nature are not always indicative of future game performance, I was already bullish on Jackson’s potential.
Now I have reason to plant my flag on Jackson Island and watch opposing quarterbacks run for their lives.
I was going to pick a defensive end as well after the group really seemed to steal the show at the last spring practice. Jack Sawyer was going to be my choice, as I am excited to see what he is capable off with a full year as a normal defensive end and not some stand-up hybrid that takes away from his natural ability to get to the quarterback. Josh’s pick of Jackson is a good one though, so I will set my sights elsewhere.
I’ll stick with the defense, though, as I and many others are keeping a close eye on transfer corner back Davison Igbinosun.
Ohio State cornerbacks struggled mightily pretty much across the board last season. As Chris discussed in his column on Monday, it is kind of a ‘chicken or the egg’ discussion when it comes to the shortcomings of the secondary in tandem with the defensive line, but from expected top corner Denzel Burke down to Cam Brown, JK Johnson, Jordan Hancock and others, there was zero consistency from the guys expected to defend the pass in 2022.
Johnson and Brown are now gone, and in comes Igbinosun. A former freshman All-American at Ole Miss, the 6-foot-2 corner transferred to Ohio State because he expected to play, and it is looking like there is every reason to believe that he will be a starter opposite Burke to begin the year. He has continued to create buzz throughout the Buckeyes’ spring practices, and made the only interception of the day during 7-on-7 drills during Student Appreciation Day. Playing with the ones, Igbinosun also broke up a pass intended for Carnell Tate during the full 11-on-11 portion of practice.
Ohio State made some additions to the roster this season in attempt to bolster what was a lackluster secondary last year. While big pieces like Burke and Lathan Ransom return, guys like Igbinosun and transfer safety Ja’Had Carter are here to make a splash. In addition to likely starting at their respective positions, they also bring with them some veteran leadership that was lacking on last year’s group, as well as forcing everyone around them to step up and play better if they want to see the field.
I still have my gripes with the way Ohio State is distributing its reps in practice. There is no reason a guy like Sonny Styles should be taking a backseat to Cam Martinez, and C.J. Hicks should be every bit cemented the No. 3 guy at linebacker and a significant rotational piece behind Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers. However, with the way a guy like Igbinosun has come in and immediately made an impact, I remain very excited for what year two for the Buckeye defense under Jim Knowles can look like.