Tag Archives: malik hooker

2017 Ohio State Signees That Could Make an Instant Impact

For Ohio State under Urban Meyer, a consensus top-five ranked recruiting classes is something you come to expect. With National Signing Day 2017 officially in the books, the Buckeyes once again bring in a loaded group of prospects with limitless talent and NFL futures ahead of them.

Urban Meyer has had a number of great players come in over his five seasons as head coach in Columbus, with a number of very talented signing classes. The 2013 class comes to mind first as undoubtedly the best class Meyer has assembled to date, with players like Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Eli Apple, and Vonn Bell to name a few.

With as good as that class was, the 2017 signees come in with the most hype of any class Meyer has had. The 2017 class saw Ohio State bring in nearly as many five-star players in this one class than all of Meyer’s previous classes at Ohio State combined.

The Buckeyes suffered more early departures this off-season, with six players from the 2016 team deciding to forgo their remaining eligibility at Ohio State to enter the NFL draft. With those players leaving, and the Buckeyes suffering even more early departures from the 2015 team, it was very important to sign a class like this in 2017.

With some openings for playing time available for the upcoming season due to those early departures, or simply a lack of production from current starters, the extremely talented 2017 class will have its opportunities to prove its worth early.

Ohio State’s secondary took the worst hit when it comes to depth and experience for the upcoming season. Early departures from Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conely, and Malik Hooker leave Damon Webb as the lone returning starter in the defensive backfield.

With those openings available, look for 2017 signees and five-star players Shaun Wade (ESPN No. 1 ranked corner), and Jeffrey Okudah (ESPN No. 1 ranked safety) to have a say in filling that void. Wade (Jacksonville, Florida), and Okudah (Grand Prairie, Texas) come from powerhouse football states and have the ability to play right away as both have enrolled early to get a head start of the college learning curve.

Okudah may have the better chance at playing due to his ideal size and Wade still needed to add some muscle, but both players will have a shot come fall. Kendall Sheffield, (ESPN No. 1 ranked JuCo corner) a former five-star prospect and Alabama signee will also get a crack at playing time after spending a season at Blinn College. Sheffield is known for his blazing speed and has the ability to get on the field right away if he can catch on quickly in Columbus.

After losing center and team captain Pat Elflein to graduation, the Buckeyes will move Billy Price from his right guard spot over to center next season. That leaves a hole at guard for mauling 6’3′, 319-pound incoming freshman Wyatt Davis from Bellflower, California. Davis is one the top ranked guards in the 2017 class and has a college ready (some could argue even NFL) body coming in. Davis could be in line to earn a starting spot as a true freshman. Josh Meyers, a 6’6′, 310-pound tackle/guard from Miamisburg, Ohio and another one of the nation’s top offensive line recruits in the 2017 class will also get his shot to earn early playing time this season.

Ohio State is loaded at defensive end with names like Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, and Nick Bosa. But what Ohio State doesn’t have is a household name at defensive tackle. Season-ending injury to game one start Tracy Sprinkle saw the Buckeyes playing with a number of inexperienced defensive tackles during the 2016 season.

Dre’Mont Jones and Michael Hill stepped up for the most part, but the Buckeyes could use some more talent at the position. Enter incoming freshman and four-star prospect Haskell Garrett, who ESPN ranks as the No. 7 Defensive tackle in the nation in the 2017 class. Garrett comes in as a winner, playing at powerhouse program Bishop Gorman high school in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a very well coached player and is stout against the run and pass, and should give the defensive line group some much-needed bulk weighing in at just under 300 pounds.

Urban Meyer is in very good hands with this incoming recruiting class, it has the potential to be the best Meyer has ever brought in when it’s all said and done. With a class this good, the Buckeyes should see a few if not a number of true freshman see the field in 2017.

E-mail Derek at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @D_Woods21.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Ohio State’s Defense Deserves Equal Time

The old football adage that “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships,” recently recycled by the Denver Broncos, rings true because a great defense rarely has a bad day. It’s way too early to start talking about championships for this young Ohio State team, but on Saturday it was the Buckeyes’ defense coming to the rescue when Urban Meyer’s high-powered offense sputtered to a slow start.

After the first game of the 2016 season, Ohio State fans assumed that their Buckeyes would simply bludgeon opponents into submission with an offense that set a team record for total yards against Bowling Green. Lost in the glow of a 77-point outburst in the opener was the fact that the defense had allowed just three points to a Falcons offense thought to be capable of much bigger things.

Then Tulsa came to town, off a bowl game appearance in 2015, and a 31-point offensive showing in their own opener. The Golden Hurricane moved the chains in the early going, and the Buckeyes could manage just two field goals on offense as Tulsa frustrated J.T. Barrett with blitz packages and pressure. Cue the defense.

Buckeye defensive backs Malik Hooker and Marshon Lattimore finished the half with interception returns for touchdowns to boost the halftime lead to 20-3, and the Silver Bullets pitched a second-half shutout in the rain and wind at Ohio Stadium, eventually finishing off the visitors 48-3.

Two games, zero touchdowns and six total points allowed by the defense, to opponents reputed to be capable, if not explosive offensively. That, not the 125 points scored in two games, is the story of the early Ohio State season. That, and Malik Hooker.

Hooker exemplifies the stockpile of talent accumulated by Urban Meyer over the last four years. The safety from Newcastle, PA redshirted after struggling with injuries as a freshman in 2014, and played mostly on special teams a year ago, laboring behind two safeties currently on NFL rosters, Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell. All of which answers the questions on the minds of OSU fans after watching two games this year: “Where have you been keeping this guy..and why hasn’t he been playing before this season?”

Hooker had previewed his two-interception starting debut against Bowling Green, with a two-interception performance, including a one-handed pick and 70-yard TD return in this year’s spring game, so close followers of the team knew something of what to expect.

Even the most wildly optimistic partisans didn’t foresee an OSU secondary returning just one starter being tied for the FBS lead in team interceptions (7) and leading the nation in interceptions for TD’s (3), and in total interception return yardage (185 yds) after two games.

Lattimore is another third-year Buckeye just getting his first opportunity to show his stuff to the faithful. Injuries, including a major knee surgery, have kept him off the field for his first two years in Columbus. The ability of the young man from the Glenville High football factory in Cleveland has never been in doubt. He picked off Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans on the first play of the game Saturday, and later corralled a wobbly throw in the last minute of the half, and weaved through the raindrops for a 40-yard TD return.

Surely, some combination of inferior opponents, pass-heavy offenses, good pass rush, and rain-slicked footballs has contributed to the seven interceptions in two games. But Ohio State has not been much of a ball-hawking secondary in recent years, to say the least. Hooker already has more interceptions than 2nd-round pick Vonn Bell had (2) all last season. Some credit has to go to new defensive coordinator (and safeties coach) Greg Schiano, and cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs. Meyer acknowledged that after the game, adding, “but it’s obviously very talented players”.

It’s still quite early to be drawing conclusions about this defense, however. For starters, the ability to stop the interior rushing games of its better opponents is still very much an unanswered question. Tulsa appeared to be exploiting the OSU defensive line at will for a stretch in the first half Saturday, although the insertion of some younger defensive tackles, namely true freshmen Robert Landers and Davon Hamilton, seemed to generate some penetration and worked to disrupt the Tulsa rush game.

Defensive ends Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis are playing as advertised, and MLB Raekwon McMillan is doing nothing to diminish his preseason All-American hype. The Buckeyes are deep at the ends, with Jalyn Holmes, Jonathan Cooper, Nick Bosa and Rashod Berry waiting in the wings, but perilously thin in the middle of the line, more so now after the season-ending injury to starting tackle Tracy Sprinkle.

It will take solid play from starter Michael Hill, plus the emergence of young defensive tackles Jashon Cornell and Dre’mont Jones, along with Landers and Hamilton, over the course of the season to solidify this defense against the rush and make it potentially elite. Two opponents with quick-release passing attacks have kept the sack numbers down to this point, and it is the secondary that has been the beneficiary of the pressure.

That secondary has been the surprise and the highlight of the season thus far for the OSU defense. If they can remain consistent in their overall play, and in their pass-pilfering ways, maybe this defense can grab some attention from their mates on the other side of the ball.

Continuing to surrender about three points per game should do the trick.

E-mail Dan at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @dwismar.

Image Via Flickr/Indiana Public Media

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Does Ohio State Have Enough to Take Down Oklahoma?

Following blowout victories over Bowling Green and Tulsa, it’s no shock that the Ohio State football team is 2-0 heading into a pivotal showdown with one-loss Oklahoma on Saturday. Are the first two performances enough to go on the road and take down a Sooners team seeking redemption for a season-opening loss to Houston? A loss to the Buckeyes would certainly remove Oklahoma from the playoff conversation.

Offensively, the first half performance against Tulsa is not going to be the recipe for success in Norman. In fact, it won’t be anywhere close. Thanks to a couple of interceptions returned for touchdowns by Malik Hooker and Marshon Lattimore, the Buckeyes looked impressive on the scoreboard, but it was the offense that was limited to six points prior to halftime.

However, the lackluster performance in the first half doesn’t concern me one bit. Not that Ohio State was looking ahead, but it’s fairly common to play flat against an inferior opponent with such a significant game upcoming, especially for a young team. Although the two teams reside in the same state, the focus for a team like Tulsa was not be anywhere near the level it will be for Oklahoma. The majority of these new-look Buckeyes will receive their first taste of big-game experience, so don’t think Ohio State won’t be amped and ready to make a statement right out of the tunnel.

When I made my game-by-game predictions for Ohio State back in the spring, I didn’t see Oklahoma as a team the Buckeyes were capable of defeating this early in the season, especially on the road with a lack of experience in a setting like Norman. Unsurprisingly, I think I was wrong. The home field and “backs against the wall” mentality will certainly represent a huge advantage for Oklahoma, but the Buckeyes simply have more talent, particularly on defense.

That’s not a knock on Oklahoma as it is still one of the top teams in the nation despite the loss to Houston. There isn’t a team on Houston’s schedule that is going to knock them off. And who knows, maybe Oklahoma comes out of the gate and lays an old-fashioned whooping on Ohio State en route to a 52-10 pummeling of the Buckeyes. However, the defensive side of the ball is what separates Ohio State from Oklahoma.

Even against lesser competition, I don’t think many expected the Buckeye defense to yield zero touchdowns through the first two games of the season. Granted it was in mop-up time with the game already out of hand and mainly reserves on the field, but the Oklahoma defense allowed multiple touchdowns to the University of Louisiana-Monroe. I realize that has no meaning concerning this matchup, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that Oklahoma’s defense is anything but shutdown.

The Sooners possess plenty of playmakers on offense that will put points on the board against any defense, including quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Samaje Perine, but defense wins championships right? Well, it also wins big games on the road, under the lights.

Oklahoma has more than a fair chance to squeak out a top-five victory to keep their playoff hopes alive. As a result, there shall be no couch-burning along High Street or thought that a playoff appearance is out of the question with a loss. I have previously stated that this is as close to a win-win situation as you can get for Ohio State, especially for the magnitude of this game.

Obviously, a win means the Buckeyes remain undefeated and enjoy a week off before beginning conference play. Even with a loss on Saturday night, if you were to tell me that Ohio State runs the table in the Big Ten and ultimately wins the Big Ten Championship with the only blemish on their resume being a loss at Oklahoma, I would say the Buckeyes are still going to be included in the playoff.

Regardless of how the Ohio State-Oklahoma game plays out, the Buckeyes will take to the bye week with their playoff aspirations still intact.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

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