COLUMBUS, Ohio — The final verdict is still at least a couple years away, and the sample size for Ohio State’s touted 2017 recruiting class is small.
But it’s never too early for a progress report, particularly after so many newcomers made splashy debuts with the Buckeyes and appear to be well on the way to becoming stars in the Big Ten.
In at least one case, that happened pretty much after the first game of the season — and ended with an MVP in the conference championship game.
So, who is leading the way for that group of signees after nearly a full year in the program? Here are the five Buckeyes heading into their sophomore seasons who are already living up to the recruiting hype.
RB J.K. Dobbins
Regardless of how excited the coaching staff may have been about his potential, there’s almost no chance anybody saw that debut campaign coming from J.K. Dobbins. Thanks to the nagging hamstring injury that plagued projected starter Mike Weber, Dobbins was thrust into the lineup in Week 1 — and promptly went on a tear that ended with him as the most prolific freshman rusher in school history. Propelled by the 181 yards on 29 carries in the opener against Indiana, Dobbins finished with 1,364 yards rushing and 8 total touchdowns this season — a season that will only raise expectations for him for the next two seasons. He is probably going to find himself in the Heisman Trophy conversation sooner rather than later.
DE Chase Young
There wasn’t much reason to think Chase Young was going to have much to do on a crowded, talented defensive line in his first year with the program. It turned out he was too talented to leave on the sideline, though, and by the end of the season he was getting meaningful snaps with the outcome of The Game on the line. Young didn’t play extensively thanks to all those veteran stars returning for the Rushmen, but he finished with 5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks anyway. And now the Buckeyes are already salivating over the opportunity to pair him with Nick Bosa on the starting unit next season.
CB Kendall Sheffield
Coming in with junior-college experience and a previous redshirt season at Alabama gave Kendall Sheffield a jump on contributing for the Buckeyes, but he still counts as a member of the 2017 class. And his work in the secondary certainly provided a boost to the overall grade for that group as he instantly jumped into the rotation at cornerback and broke up 5 passes and made 37 tackles. Sheffield wasn’t perfect in coverage all season, but the signs of improvement from the start of the year to the end were clear to see. Assuming he sticks around for another season of development, Sheffield could be in line to continue Ohio State’s remarkable run of first-round draft picks at the position.
CB Jeffrey Okudah
Primarily a fixture on special teams, Jeffrey Okudah made the most of the playing time available to him there. And that’s where it all begins for anybody looking to make the jump into the starting lineup for Ohio State. An early enrollee after coming in as one of the most coveted prospects in the country, Okudah earned his stripes by flying around covering kickoffs and has chipped in 13 tackles and a fumble recovery for the Buckeyes. An opportunity to do a lot more damage defensively should be following soon.
QB Tate Martell
The dual-threat weapon didn’t see the field in his first year with the program, but even while redshirting, Tate Martell continued to build buzz for his future at the most important position on the field. Ohio State has raved about how much Martell has already matured after something of a rocky start with the coaching staff, and he was routinely singled out for praise for the work he was doing leading the scout-team offense — and simulating some of the nation’s best quarterbacks to get the Buckeyes prepared. Even with Dwayne Haskins returning as the odds-on favorite to start, there’s still a chance Martell’s versatile skills could lead to him finding a way to help Ohio State next season.
The post Ohio State football: 5 early success stories from Buckeyes’ 2017 recruiting class appeared first on Land of 10.
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