True freshman Denzel Burke, the real deal

It’s not often you see a true freshman come into Ohio State and get a start at the defensive back position — injuries, and other off-the-field things can allow this to happen — but for Denzel Burke it was deserved this summer.

Burke was a four star recruit in Ohio State’s 2021 class and is looking like a ‘steal’ for this Buckeyes secondary.

Ohio State’s defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs met with the media this week and was asked if he ever imagined starting a true freshman at cornerback, and before the question was even finished Coombs said “no, no.”

Coombs went on to says he likes his corners to have a bit more experience before starting in a Big Ten game, but due to the absence of Cam Brown and Sevyn Banks, the Buckeyes needed someone to step up.

Burke took the field in Minneapolis Thursday night and did just that — he led the Buckeyes in pass breakups (3). — According to PFF/Eleven Warriors he also tied senior safety Josh Proctor for the most snaps among the Ohio State defensive backs Thursday night.

The typical true freshman would be nervous out there, but nothing fazed Burke and he was the only cornerback on the Buckeyes defense to earn a champion grade from the coaches on Monday.

Not only have the coaches been impressed with what he’s been able to bring to the team, the players have taken note of Burke’s abilities all summer long.

Wide receiver Chris Olave met with the media and said he’s a “huge fan” of Burke and said the true freshman is “one of the top guys we have at the cornerback position.”

“He’s a pro to me. In camp he’s running with the first team, he’s batting me and Garrett, talking mess, playing with his swag,” Olave said.

“He’s going to be great, so I can’t wait to see that.”

The Buckeyes have had some great defensive backs enter the NFL the past few seasons with names like Denzel Ward, Marshon Lattimore, Jeff Okudah, Bradley Roby, Damon Arnette, Eli Apple, Kendall Sheffield, and Shaun Wade

It seems like the freshman from Scottsdale, AZ is heading towards that path.

The Clash In C’bus

Photo Credit: @CFBONFOX

After a Covid ravaged season in 2020, the Buckeyes will host their first home game of the season against an Oregon team that squeaked by Fresno State in week 1. The Buckeyes on the other hand utilized Coach Days’ knack for engineering second half adjustments to defeat Minnesota on the road by double-digits. This game was supposed to be the second leg of a home-and-home but with Covid, both parties were restricted to only conference games during the regular season.

In a showdown between two of Nike’s favorites teams in terms of uniform combinations, the 3rd ranked Buckeyes will face the 12th ranked Ducks at home. Will there be a special jersey combination for this week? While it is doubtful, one could hope but this game will be a spectacle to see from start to finish.

Both teams are 1-0 and are looking to make it to 2-0, but both are young and are unproven at this post of the 2021 season. Both teams must figure it out quickly on defense because both offenses have talent that could put up points in a hurry.

Ohio State has a new toy at QB in CJ Stroud, a redshirt freshman. They have stars that share the backfield with him in Miyann “Chop” Williams, Master Teague III, Treyveon Henderson, and Evan Pryor (who we didn’t see yet). They have a wall of pancake with Petit-Frere, Munford, Miller or Wypler (if Miller cannot go), Johnson Jr and Jones. Beyond the line, WR’s Olave, Wilson, Smith-Njigba, and TE Ruckert are the available pass catchers.

For Oregon, Anthony Johnson is their starting QB and he has CJ Verdell and Travis Dye to form a trio of game breaking speedsters in the backfield. On the perimeter he has Johnny Johnson and Micah Pittman to throw to. Oregon has a three new starters along the offensive line and with Penei Sewell departing for the draft, they sit 52nd overall in sacks allowed per NCAA.com, giving up 3 sacks for a total loss of 11 yards.

On defense, the Buckeyes started slow but the defense is young and inexperienced, and we’re also without a few starters at cornerback. No excuses but they’re still green. Linebacker is the same but the trenches contain the difference-makers. Smith, Harrison, Vincent, and Garrett are the disrupters that have yet to make it to the opposing quarterback consistently. They have one sack from the group but they could feast in week two.

Oregon will return their two players at corner in DJ James and Jamal Hill. They have McKinley and Stephens and that adds more depth to the secondary. The talent in the front seven is young but there are questions and rumors about who is available and who isn’t. Kayvon Thibodeaux, a presumptive first round talent and #1 overall NFL prospect siffeeed a sprained ankle and might now suit up in week two. Justin Flowe has fans panicking over rumors that he broke his foot and is out for the season.

Here are my five bold prediction for Saturday:

  1. CJ Stroud will have at least 210 yards passing with at least 3 TD’s.
  2. Williams has another 100 yard rushing game with other backs chipping in for a 190+ yard 2 TD day.
  3. Defense shuts Oregon down on offense and holds them to under 20 points.
  4. Buckeyes gather a fumble, an interception, at least 2 sacks, and a defensive score.
  5. Ruckert-focused game plan with at least 4 catches, 45 yards and a score.

Final Score: 45-17

#GoBucks

So You Drafted A Buckeye: Josh Myers

The second Buckeye drafted in the second round, Myers was taken 62nd overall and he was drafted by the Packers. After Corey Linsley left for the Chargers, the Packers have replaced him with another Buckeye in Myers. Myers is a tough one and is very durable. We saw the impact of him being lost for a short time and it wasn’t pretty. Being like the rock on the offensive line, he brings experience that could translate instantly in the NFL.

Making calls at the next level would be tough for a rookie who is unfamiliar with the system but Bakhtiari will welcome him in and mentor him along the way. Like in Werner’s situation, he goes into an ideal situation to where he could also contribute right away. He has the tools and the knowledge to succeed but he would need to study the playbook and get stronger. Either way, his potential speaks for itself. He finds himself in an ideal situation that could blossom into a long career.

So You Drafted A Buckeye: Pete Werner

Pete Werner was the first Buckeye defender taken in the second round. Werner was taken 60th overall by the New Orleans Saints joining former Buckeye Marshon Lattimore. Werner, a four star recruit according to 24/7 was an Inside Linebacker prospect that bloomed into a Swiss Army knife on defense. A linebacker with good coverage skills that could also blitz when called upon. Let’s say he’s in good company with him lining up alongside Demario Davis.

Werner is a gamer that will be asked to cover TE’s and if needed receivers. He won’t be asked to start but the current group aside from Davis leaves a lot to be desired. Werner is a sure tackler, but he does try to get that big hit in from time to time but when he makes contact, he shifts momentum fast. He sometimes takes risks on defense as well as bad angles but under the tutelage of Cameron, Davis and Lattimore, he will get right. Either way, he is a competitor and he should be able to secure a decent role on this aging defense.

So You Drafted A Buckeye: Justin Fields

After an unceremonious pre-draft thrashing, Justin Fields slipped past QB-needy teams like the Panthers and the Broncos, and found himself donning a Bears hat. From being the clear-cut QB2, to getting drafted QB4, he lands in Chicago and behind newly signed Andy Dalton to begin his career. Dalton is on his third team after beginning his career in Cincinnati, a single season in Dallas, and now Chicago. Can Fields come in and contribute immediately? Or will he have to grind it out and wait for his time like Mahomes?

All the talk and the doubt have fueled him up to this point. He will let his play do the talking and I personally think he will reverse the QB trend in the NFL. Fields brings immediate competition for Dalton. Enough to be worried about but not until he dissects the playbook and learns the system. He brings toughness and that feistiness you like to see in a quarterback that coincidentally slipped in the draft. A huge chip lays squarely on his shoulders and he wouldn’t want it any other way. Beware. For the teams that passed on him, I feel like this gem will make teams regret it.

Fandom Origins: RJ Tongohan

Fans often are so attached to teams and this fan is definitely addicted to anything Ohio State, but would it be crazy to know that I wasn’t always an Ohio State fans? Would it shock you to know that little detail about me, a writer that has been following and writing about Ohio State? Well believe it and here is my comic book-ish origin story for those who have followed me and have enjoyed my fan perspective content over the years.

So to set the stage, I was born and raised in Guam, a U.S. territory located in the Pacific Ocean. I was raised on basketball and knew little about football. The only teams I knew of were the Cowboys and the Dolphins in the NFL. I joined the military in 2005 and I became a Broncos fan by default when watching a Chargers/Broncos game on Turkey Day while attending tech school for my job in the Air Force. He was a Chargers fans and being me, I picked the other team and rolled with it.

Fast forward to my first duty stationed or base, I was stationed at Nebraska in December 2005 and I knew nothing about college football. The husker fans around me were annoying and I watched college football casually but I had no favorite team. Now after watching on and off, I tuned into an Ohio State game in 2006 and I was hooked on them instantly. #10, #7, #28, #33 and #2 reeled me in and that is how I developed my affinity for Ohio State everything.

The offense dazzled. I remember watching Troy Smith slinging and running it, Ted Ginn Jr’s electric skills every time he touched the ball and Beanie Wells dashing past and running over TTUN defenders. The defense was a forced to be reckoned with with stalwarts like James Laurinaitus being involved in every defensive play and Malcolm Jenkins shutting one half of the field down as a shutdown corner.

These are my fondest moments as a fan and it came with its highs and lows. Highs were defeating TTUN consistently, a streak that has few blemishes. I didn’t live through the Cooper years but I did my research and I pray I never see times like those. Demolishing Clemson last year was also another awesome moment and obviously the crowned jewel was winning it all in 2014.

The lows? I’ll start with 2011’s Fickell season and the last loss at the hands of TTUN. There were also the losses to LSU and Florida in the championship games. Add the Bama loss and the Clemson shutout to that, but it has never stopped me from switching teams.

I have been writing for five years and I have stayed loyal to a smaller, lesser known company in the Men Of The Scarlet And Gray or MOTSAG. I sometimes wish for an opportunity to join the ranks of a bigger company but it is unlikely and I’m okay with that. I cannot wait to see what is in store for me and the future but it’s been awesome and I’ve met some cool people on the way. Here’s to more content and I hope you enjoyed this little spin. Look for all my companions to follow suit.

#GoBucks

Tongohan’s 6 Spring Tings

Spring games are used to build players and to showcase their progress after the winter workouts have concluded. Now after the spring game, players are vying for starting positions and trying to separate themselves among the pack. With multiple starting positions up for grabs, you could expect to show out—and a few players caught my eye. I am no pro scout or anything but as a fan, I am pleased with what I saw for the future. Here’s how we saw it a MOSTAG.

1. Quarterback Battle Intensifies

Stroud, Miller and McCord all have the tools to become the heir to Justin Fields’ vacant starting gig. Hear me out. Stroud and Miller have a slight leg up while learning under Fields and they have some in-game experience, but neither has thrown a pass as a Buckeye. McCord is a true freshman with the capacity to learn quickly and urgently to overtake the two redshirt freshman, but it’s too easy to tell and this battle should bleed into the fall.

Stroud, the odds favorite to succeed Fields had an efficient game and finished with over 100 passing yards and a touchdown strikes to Marvin Harrison Jr and Joe Royer. The poise and confidence was there but Miller and McCord proved their cases as well.

Miller started efficiently as you could. He brought his team up into the red zone but was picked off by Watts after forcing a pass to Wilson. After the pick, his decisiveness resurfaced but he was held to 100 yards and no touchdowns. Mistakes happen and the future cannot be predicted. Miller needs to take it all in and push forward like his competitors.

Finally, McCord started with a bang. A 40 or 50 yard bomb to Wilson who ended up getting the wind knocked out of him on what to me was one of my favorite plays of the game—and what a way to introduce yourself young man! McCord brought that sauce and he too went for 100+ yards with a strike to Smith-Njigba. He is a gamer that could surprise folks.

The scout team players also got some play and Andrade and LaRoe flexed their skills. Both were efficient and it looked cerebral at times. Sure, it was against other scout players and a few scholarship players but to cap off the game LaRoe hit Wiglusz for a spinning walk-off score to end the day. What a tremendous play and way to send fans out on a high note.

2. Hartline’s War Chest

Brian Hartline is by far the best recruiter on the Buckeye staff and he has proved it over the last 3-4 recruiting cycles as he seamlessly stockpiles and develops his talent at the wide receiver position. For perspective, in 3 of 4 of these years, he reeled in at least one big fish each cycle. By big fish, I mean a five-star fish and Egbuka (2021) Fleming (2020), Smith-Njigba (2020) and Wilson (2019) are the big fish that he has stockpiled in recent classes. This season, he has Olave and Wilson so he can afford to get these younger players ready for their time after the aforementioned two depart for the pros.

Out of all the receivers, I’d say that Egbuka and Harrison showed out with a combination of tough catches and route running prowess. For Egbuka, his run after catch talent was evident and Harrison’s polished route running makes the future bright for the offense and for zone 6.

3. Cadillac Backs

So the running back position struggled a bit after the departure of JK Dobbins. Injuries have ravaged the position, but with fully recovered players in Chambers and Crowley, a returning mayhem meatball (Williams), and two talented true freshman in Henderson and Pryor—the future is bright for this group as well.

Henderson stood out as a pass catcher, Chambers broke off a sizzling run, mayhem meatball didn’t stray away from contact and Pryor’s effort to make plays stood out. Pryor did not have any wow plays, but none the less he showed up.

4. The Jack Sawyer Show

So tap football was different but Sawyer had himself a day. He was disruptive and as he reeled in 4-5 sacks with one being a strip sack that would’ve led to a turnover. He did not play last season, but he is as advertised. He set-up his pass rush moves and got to his target occasionally.

Although Smith and Harrison are ahead, I can see him in sub packages to spell either of the two. He is too valuable to leave off of the field and although it’s a spring game—he was an impressive player. A high motor, relentless type of player that could be the next rushman star of the future.

5. Secondary Flashes

With Shaun Wade leaving, a hole remains in the secondary. Johnson and Banks remain, but they were not playing today. Watts and Burke got some reps and they did well enough to be mentioned. Watts picked off Miller in the first quarter and Burke got best here and there but he got some valuable reps.

Ransom flashed again and nearly picked off a pass one-handed while in zone coverage. Although they weren’t perfect, the future is still bright. The Buckeyes have a couple of more defensive backs that have yet to show up, so we won’t truly know what we have in that room. All I know is they have the talent to be better in pass defense after getting torched last season and finishing 116th in the nation. I feel like they will have a massive chip of their shoulder to reclaim the BIA title.

6. Kicking Woes

So With Haubiel and Chrisman departing for the pros, enter Jake Seibert and Jesse Mirco to replace them. Mirco had no issues but the Seibert went 0-2, missing wide on both field goal attempts. His extra points were good but the kicking game should be better than that.

You never know when a game would rest on the leg of the kicker and I think he needs some work to build confidence during crunch time. Special teams and field flipping are staples of the Ohio State game plan—so moving forward, I think Day will focus on this aspect of the game.


Marvin Harrison Jr., TreVeyon Henderson, stars in the making

Coming to a program like Ohio State as a highly ranked recruit is enough pressure for young collegiate athletes, but living up to the hype and making a name for yourself early on is another thing.

Former 4-star WR Marvin Harrison from St. Joseph’s Prep High School and 5-star RB TreVeyon Henderson from Hopewell High School are doing just that — living up to expectations.

Marvin Harrison Jr.

From the minute Harrison Jr. stepped onto campus Ryan Day was impressed with his ‘more’ defined physique, and he didn’t disappoint on the field either. — Harrison Jr, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, was the first freshman from the offensive side of the ball to lose his black stripe. You saw why from the Ohio State Football media team post ”Throw it up. Marv will catch it” (@OhioStateFB) as Harrison Jr. caught three INCREDIBLE passes, one being a tough catch in the back of the endzone for a touchdown thrown by quarterback C.J. Stroud.

Coach day had high praise for the freshman WR:

“Excellent attention to detail with his routes,” said Day. “Somebody who cares a lot. He’s in here after hours. He’s here early in the morning. He takes a lot of pride in his work, and he’s making plays.”

Reports say Harrison Jr. lined up with the second-string offense, along with junior Jameson Williams and fellow freshman Emeka Egbuka.

TreVeyon Henderson

Being ranked the #22 player in the country, and #1 ranked running back — you’re going to have a lot of eyes on you, and Henderson didn’t disappoint anyone with his performance in camp thus far.

Henderson did not get to play his senior year of high school football at Hopewell due to the COVID-19 pandemic but seems to have left off right where he started — Henderson rushed for 2,424 yards and 45 touchdowns his junior season.

Henderson is the first freshman running back to lose his black stripe in spring practice since Urban Meyer introduced the routine in 2012. (He was the third player to lose it this spring — (Sawyer, Harrison Jr)

Coach Day met with the media this past week and stated that Henderson is doing all the right things early:

“He’s had a good attitude. He’s got a good work ethic. He’s done everything right so far,” Day said. “Now he’s still gotta play more and learn every day. He needs a million reps. But the talent is there. The work ethic is there. I think he’s going to have a really bright future here. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do so far.”

Day went on saying: “He’s flashed at times already,” Day said. “So excited to see what that looks like during the spring game.”

It’s too early to say Harrison Jr and Henderson are going to be immediate factors for the Buckeyes offense this season, as they have a LOADED WR and RB room, but there’s no denying the future for these two freshmen are BRIGHT, and they will see the field sooner rather than later.

Spring Ball Updates

Stroud Leads QB battle

  • The notable discussion this offseason for the Buckeyes was the three-way quarterback battle between C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller, and Kyle McCord. Ohio State opened practice to the media for the second time and reporters noted Stroud was the first quarterback in the passing order followed by Miller and then by true freshman McCord.
  • Reports note Stroud is building momentum due to his “big arm, underrated athleticism, and strong personality.”

Jeremy Rucket

  • Buckeye nation loved the news when Jeremy Ruckert announced he was returning for his final season with the Buckeyes and he looks to dominate
  • Ruckert will be a big-time weapon for Ohio State’s offense this year. Kevin Wilson thinks he can be “the most complete TE in the nation.”

Master Teague

  • Teague is back and ran an UNREAL 4.35 40 yard dash this offseason. That’s very impressive for a guy that’s 5-11 226.
  • The other RB’s to note are Miyan Williams and true freshman 5-star TreVeyon Henderson

WR core

  • We all know this unite of Zone 6 is ELITE with studs Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson returning but some freshman have been making some noise
  • Reports note Emeka Egbuka (5-star #1 ranked WR) is FAST
  • @OhioStateFB posted a video of Marvin Harrison Jr. catching three TOUGH passes against the Buckeyes secondary
  • This unit also has Jameson Williams, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Julian Fleming returning

Center Position

  • With Harry Miller sidelined this spring, Day says “Matthew Jones, Luke Wypler and Jakob James have been taking the reps at center.”
  • Luke Wypler is looking like the guy at center during spring ball per reports
  • Wypler has been getting first-team reps and making big improvements heading into his second year with the Buckeyes

Secondary

  • A big topic heading into this season is how the Buckeyes’ secondary will play after a ‘disappointing’ year this past season:
  • Kerry Coombs says Lathan Ransom is practicing at the cover safety/slot position right and from videos posted by the Ohio State social media team (@OhioStateFB) he’s looking to have a breakout sophomore season for this secondary
  • Coombs also noted Josh Proctor started the spring as the first-team deep safety and has been playing “really well.”
  • The coaches have been IMPRESSED with the true freshman defensive back from Arizona, Denzel Burke. Ryan Day says that he has already “flashed” and is making plays in practice. Defensive backs coach Matt Barnes says he’s been “blown away” by Burke thus far. The 6-0, 189 Burke has a bright future for the Buckeyes
  • Another name that keeps coming is Ryan Watts. Reports note Watts had a very productive winter off-season in the weight room. Watts is showing his potential and could be a HUGE contributor to the secondary this upcoming season

Tyleik Williams

  • The 6-3, 330 freshman DT from Manassas, VA. has been getting some high praise from his teammate this spring
  • Zach Harrison says Williams looks “really good” and “really promising” so far

More to come:

MOTSAG Draft Profiles: Justin Fields

With the 2021 NFL Draft fast approaching, the odds of a Buckeye getting drafted are pretty high—especially after the championship run this past season. Although the game did not go as planned, the legacy of the outbound players cannot be underestimated and their achievements speak for themselves. Here are just a few tidbits about each draft eligible Buckeyes starting with Justin Fields.

Although the scoreboard failed to showcase his improvements, Justin Fields’ had plenty of good plays that were captured on tape. His intangibles are good enough to be a great, productive quarterback in the NFL and he could potentially break the stigma for future Ohio State Quarterbacks.

Fields is accurate from deep and he has improved his mid and short range accuracy as well. The know of locking onto his first receiver is a thing of the past because he has shown that he is actively coming off of the first receiver and is working through his progressions. Yes, sacks and holding onto the ball is bad but Fields has the potential to be a good one in the future. Pack in the speed and toughness—and you have a durable player with leadership capabilities and the concept I’ve drive to help your team turn things around.

If oddsmakers have it right, there is very little chance Justin Fields winds up a New England Patriot after the 2021 NFL Draft says Paruk from SportsBettingDime.com had mentioned. After the 49ers traded up to #3, they became -150 favorites to take the Ohio State pivot. The Patriots were not among the other eight teams listed. That’s because the chances of Fields lasting until the 15th-overall pick are basically nil, as is Bill Belichick’s history of trading up in the draft.

The NFL Draft is never lacking in drama, but there many teams looking for a future signal caller/playmaker. Fields fits the mold in being one of those future stars and all he needs is to hear his name to begin putting in the work.

PROS:

  • Deep ball accuracy/placement
  • Durability
  • Athleticism/Speed
  • Leadership Qualities
  • Arm Strength

CONS:

  • Holds onto ball too long/Eats sacks