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Player to Watch: Caden Curry looking to turn flashes into consistency in 2023

Unfairly labeled a ‘tweener’ and overshadowed by certain peers in his recruiting class, Curry beat most to the punch and saw the field early in Columbus. With a year of solid experience now under his belt, he will look to establish his name as one of the household variety.

Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images

Every day from now until the start of the season, Land-Grant Holy Land is highlighting Ohio State football players that you should be watching this season. Check out all of our ”Player to Watch” articles to get ready for the season opener against Indiana.

Coming out of Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Indiana, defensive lineman Caden Curry was the 13th highest ranked player in Ohio State’s 2022 recruiting class (4th in team rankings). And despite being the equivalent of the ‘bee’s knees’ in the Hoosier State and a top-150 player nationally, there were some who pegged him as the ‘other’ pass rusher in OSU’s class, because he was ranked well behind Omari Abor and Kenyatta Jackson.

The latter two were prospects out of Texas and Florida, respectively, which may have given them a slight, slight edge in terms of profile and/or visibility. But I am in no way stating or even suggesting that their rankings were artificially inflated... My actual suggestion is that Curry’s ranking may have been adversely affected by not playing in a traditional high school football hotbed.

Regardless of where he came from or how he got to Columbus, Curry officially joined the Buckeyes in January of 2022, arriving on campus as one of eleven early enrollees. He was one of six such enrollees on the defensive side of the ball, a group that did not include Abor or Jackson. And although early enrollment is certainly no requirement or predictor of immediate success, it may have given Curry a leg up over his peers. Because not only did Curry see the field early, but he also did so (relatively) often.

Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

After making his Ohio State debut on special teams against Notre Dame (Week 1), Curry played 12 impactful snaps against Arkansas State in Week 2. In the blink of an eye, seeing his first ‘real’ action, he totaled four tackles, including one for loss. He then played a season-high 18 snaps against Toledo (Wk 3), before averaging approximately 10 defensive snaps per game against Wisconsin, Rutgers, Michigan State, and Iowa. That is real experience against real Big Ten teams, even if OSU did beat all of them by infinity.

Curry primarily saw action during the second half (‘garbage time’) of these early-season games, but he was at least part of the Buckeyes’ defensive line rotation. He also continued to earn playing time on special teams, which is rare for a defensive end and certainly not nothin’. However, his defensive reps dwindled away as the 2022 season progressed, to the point where he played a total of just five in Ohio State’s last six games. Whether it was Curry hitting the freshman wall or something else, his breakout against Arkansas State became a bit of a distant memory by season’s end.

Still, Curry gained valuable experience, flashed high-end potential at times, and played the third most snaps of any OSU freshman defender. His pass rushing peers, Abor and Jackson, played a combined 33, although the former battled injury and the latter was adding weight to his impressive but slim(mer) frame. Again, no knock on either, as I expect both to contribute and/or even flourish in Columbus very soon. Just pointing out that Curry outperformed expectations.

Now heading into the 2023 season, Jackson is being hyped up thanks to his impressive spring (rightfully so), and Abor is seemingly healthy. So there is a world in which Curry takes a back seat – again – to his class of ’22 peers. But I do not see that happening. Not with the latter’s experience, versatility, and incredibly high motor. Not to mention the fact that he was able to make a difference on special teams while also adding 15 or so pounds to his compact frame.

Simply put: Curry is a freaking athlete. And he showed against both Arkansas State and Iowa that he can play a very disruptive brand of football.

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

With Jack Sawyer moving to defensive end full-time, there may be fewer reps to go around at that position, but Curry should begin the season no lower than second on the Buckeyes’ depth chart, backing up either Sawyer or J.T. Tuimoloau. At 260 or so pounds, Curry could also be used in a pinch at defensive tackle, which is why some have referred to him as a tweener.

But I think Curry’s perceived ‘tweenerness’ could work to his advantage. The sophomore from Indiana could theoretically be moved around as a versatile chess piece, earning snaps at multiple positions. Since Curry does not profile as a Bosa-esque pass-rushing specialist or a space-eating interior monster a la Johnathan Hankins, he may ultimately develop into a very useful and dangerous jack of all trades. And forget about master of none, because Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles wants versatility. Actually, he needs it to maximize his defense’s potential.

Caden Curry is not yet a household name, but it may just be a matter of time. His early experience and versatility should lead to plenty of opportunities and/or playing time in 2023 and beyond. And Buckeye fans will surely be watching to see if he can build on an unexpectedly impactful freshman season.