Five Buckeyes who could surprise, break out in training camp

Spencer Holbrookabout 2 months
Javonte Jean-Baptiste by Birm-Lettermen Row

COLUMBUS — Ryan Day is still trying to figure his Ohio State team out.

The Buckeyes certainly have the most talented roster in the Big Ten. But Day still needs to find out more from the roster before passing any judgment on the state of the program heading into fall camp.

Last season, Day was comfortable making sure everyone knew the Buckeyes had a special team when the season was canceled and they were fighting to play. This fall, however, he’ll wait until he sees more from his young, talented group before making any assessments.

“I think that we have a chance to be pretty good,” Day said. “Do I know really right now where we’re at? Still a lot of unknowns, because a lot of young guys haven’t played a lot of football. So I can’t sit here and tell you that. I think I have a feeling on where we’re at in certain areas. And I think that we have some really talented position groups, but there’s several of those that just haven’t played a lot. So it’s hard to say. But I’m hoping somewhere around midseason, we’ve got a better idea of that.

“If it is what we think it is, then we got some special.”

Who could make a big move in training camp to help elevate the Buckeyes roster and turn it into a special group? Lettermen Row is breaking down five candidates to break out and make an impact as Ohio State gears up to prepare for another run at a national title.

DE Javontae Jean-Baptiste

Ohio State appears to be loaded at defensive end again this fall. Tyreke Smith and Zach Harrison will lead the charge, and Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau can flash their five-star status as strong role players. But Javontae Jean-Baptiste has been quietly transforming his body and becoming a more complete defensive end for the Buckeyes all offseason. Jean-Baptiste has never been the headliner of the Rushmen, but with a strong training camp following his impressive offseason, he could become a key contributor for the Ohio State pass rush that is hoping to return to its 2019 form.

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Ohio State sophomore Gee Scott is moving to play some tight end. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

TE Gee Scott Jr.

Gee Scott was a borderline five-star wide receiver prospect coming out of Eastside Catholic High School in Washington. He spent last season in Brian Hartline’s wide receiver room but decided to make a switch to tight end following conversations with his father and all-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman — and the Ohio State coaching staff. Now fully invested in the tight end room, Scott is an intriguing weapon for the Buckeyes offense. He could play as a bigger wide receiver split out wide or he can block inside and become a dual-threat tight end. This fall will be crucial for his development at his new position — and it could even lead to a breakout campaign.

BLT Ronnie Hickman

The Buckeyes have talked about the Bullet position in the defense for years, but they have never deployed the hybrid role in their defense. That could change this fall. For the first time, Ohio State listed two players as playing the “Bullet” on the roster and have become more willing to use a hybrid player. As a bigger-bodied safety, Hickman fits the role of a versatile defender who can tackle against the run and be useful in pass coverage. Hickman has struggled with injuries so far during his Ohio State career. Now healthy and in a versatile role, he could be ready for a big training camp — and a huge role in the defense this fall.

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Ohio State offensive lineman Donovan Jackson has a chance to be great for Ohio State early in his career. (Donovan Jackson/Courtesy)

OL Donovan Jackson

Offensive linemen are not supposed to come into the Ohio State program and compete for starting roles as true freshmen. Donovan Jackson isn’t like most offensive linemen, though. Jackson, described as ‘different’ by Buckeyes star left tackle Thayer Munford, enrolled in June and has been with the program for two months now. He was able to learn from afar during spring practice, even though he didn’t enroll early. And he’ll have a chance to compete for the opening at left guard. Can he make up the time he missed in the spring and break out as a freshman star? Most offensive linemen couldn’t do it. But Donovan Jackson is different.

DT Tyleik Williams

Ohio State has a star-studded defensive line. The ends may be the deepest and most talented defensive end group in the country. The Buckeyes return an all-American at defensive tackle in Haskell Garrett. But Garrett will need help in the middle, and there are plenty of candidates. One of them is Tyleik Williams, a four-star recruit who enrolled early in January to begin competing in Columbus. As the Buckeyes have made their way through the offseason workout program, Williams name has come up plenty of times, a sign he’s gaining steam. At near 330 pounds, Williams is a run-stuffer who has the agility to make a difference in pass-rush situations. Will he continue to surge and make a push for playing time this fall? He seems to be trending in that direction.