From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about the most important questions yet unanswered for the season. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our “Burning Questions” articles here.
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: Which Ohio State transfer addition will have the biggest impact?
You feel that, Gene? A tickle... a tingle... a burning sensation, perhaps? That of course means it is Burning Questions week here at LGHL! As the slow summer months without Ohio State football (and every other sport for that matter) drag on, we embrace weekly themes, and this is definitely one of my favorites. Because nobody can be proven wrong... yet.
After careful consideration and deliberation, my former podcast co-host and I decided that we wanted to answer a burning question regarding new faces within the OSU football program. We landed on this topic or subject because many (new faces) are expected to make significant contributions for the Buckeyes during this upcoming 2023 season.
But we’re not talking ‘new’ as in new to a role. So no Kyle McCord/Devin Brown, Josh Fryar, Cam Martinez, etc. Instead, we mean new to Columbus. But not ‘new to Columbus’ as in ALL new arrivals. You know what, Gene and I want to talk transfers, okay? That’s what I’m getting at, and I thought I could tease it intelligently, but the wordplay became too much. So I’ll just pose the question: Which transfer will have the biggest (positive) impact for the Buckeyes in 2023?
There is only one correct answer here, in my opinion, and that is Davison Igbinosun. The tall, rangy cornerback transferred to Ohio State in January, giving Tim Walton, Perry Eliano and the Buckeyes a young but experienced cover guy — which is something they desperately needed. He was ranked by 247Sports as the No. 17 most impactful transfer, and by March it was easy to see why.
Igbinosun performed very well in all of OSU’s spring competitions, while also infusing some much-needed nastiness into the secondary. His attitude and approach seemed to not only influence or rub off on fellow corners, but also motivate them to compete harder. Motivation and/or incentive should never be necessary in Columbus, however Igbinonsun’s arrival seemed to light a fire under the likes of Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock, and others. All should continue to grind and push each other into the fall, hopefully resulting in a well-prepared and battle-ready CB room for the Buckeyes.
While nothing is currently decided, it appears that Igbinosun and Hancock are competing for the CB2 role opposite Burke. And based on what have seen (or haven’t seen) from the latter, I expect Igbinosun to eventually win out. Not that Hancock can’t or won’t contribute – or lacks talent – but he has just dealt with a ton of injuries, and it seems like those injuries have really hindered his development. Igbinosun, on the other hand, hit the ground running at Ole Miss and was voted a Freshman All-American while playing in the SEC. Gene, meet proof of concept.
Igbinosun’s appeal extends beyond just playing in games and playing well. Listed at 6-foot-2, 200 or so pounds, he is a physical presence unlike any other Ohio State corner. Burke, Hancock, Jyaire Brown, and others are all great athletes, but none of them look like a slightly sawed-off Richard Sherman out there. I mean, you could easily convince me that Igbinosun is 6-foot-3, 215. Regardless, he gives the Buckeyes a corner with extreme size, who should be able to match up with just about anybody. Which is good, because I seem to remember jump balls being an issue for the boys last season.
Who knows if Igbinosun will become an All-Big Ten player or even a full-time starter in Columbus. His experience, while more significant than that of all OSU CB not named Denzel Burke, is still only a dozen or so games. And we saw with the guy I just mentioned (Burke) that sophomore regression is very possible. But I like the cut of Igbinosun’s jib. I think he is going to play big and physical, and add a special dimension to the Buckeyes’ secondary. Out of all the transfers Ohio State added, I am most confident in Igbinosun making a tangible and significant impact this season.
Josh took likely the most highly anticipated Ohio State transfer off the board here, so while I consider Igbinosun in a tier of his own at the top, there are a few guys in tier two that are worthy adversaries and players I consider to be crucial to the Buckeyes’ success this season.
Ryan Day and his staff added seven fresh faces through the portal this offseason, a handful of which are purely depth pieces. Guys like quarterback Tristan Gebbia and offensive lineman Victor Cutler, while nice to have on the roster, will likely not play a down for Ohio State this season unless things have gone very very bad in the injury department. There's also those like Tywone Malone, who will be an important rotational piece on the interior of the defensive line, and Lorenzo Styles, who will likely need a year to adjust to a new position on the other side of the football.
Which brings us to Igbinosun and the other two names that are in position battles to start immediately in Columbus: Josh Simmons and Ja’Had Carter. I could really go either way here, as I do think both will ultimately start for the Buckeyes this season. Simmons will almost definitely line up at right tackle for Justin Frye’s group in 2023, and Carter will compete for the nickel safety spot against Cameron Martinez — a job I’d like to see him win. With so much attention on the offensive line this offseason, I’m going to take Carter, as I feel his addition has flown a bit under the radar.
Ohio State’s defense was much improved in 2022 from 2021, albeit not the highest bar to beat. Still, the secondary was less than stellar, and it is the reason why guys like Igbinosun and Carter were brought in to shore things up this year. The issues in the defensive backfield really reared their ugly head against Michigan, when the Buckeye safeties were torched time and time again by a good but not great quarterback in J.J. McCarthy. This years group, however, should be much improved.
The 6-foot-2 Carter comes to Columbus by way of Syracuse, where he started 10 games as a freshman and earned Freshman All-American honors. Named an All-ACC Honorable Mention in 2022, the Richmond, VA native led the Orange with three interceptions, and also had a fumble recovery he returned for a touchdown. Carter finished his three-year stint at ‘Cuse with 136 total tackles, five picks and seven pass breakups, and will now be looking to continue his success on a bigger stage at Ohio State.
In my opinion, Carter would already have one of the starting safety positions locked up if not for an injury sustained during spring practice. With Tanner McAlister off to the NFL, the Buckeyes could use an experienced and consistent presence at the nickel. Martinez is a tremendous athlete, but was exposed big time against the Wolverines and hasn’t exactly inspired a ton of confidence when given the opportunity to make plays. Carter had been a stalwart of the Syracuse defense for several years, and if health isn’t an issue, he should be the day one starter at the nickel in 2023.
I’m all for letting the fresh faces play if the guys in front of them have not quite earned it themselves, whether that be a transfer like Carter or young guys like Sonny Styles. Martinez and Proctor are both fine players, but they have also both had ample opportunities and not ran away with the job. If the three starting safeties for Perry Eliano this season are Carter, Ransom and Styles, I think that gives the Buckeyes its highest possible ceiling at the back end of the defense.
Carter has a chance to be in the difference in an OSU secondary that lacked experience a year ago.