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Scarlet Sunrise: Trio of Buckeyes players named to Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list

IMG_7408by:Andy Backstrom05/31/24

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Trio of Buckeyes players named to Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list

Ohio State is the only school with three players on this year’s Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list: senior defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau, senior cornerback Denzel Burke and sophomore safety Caleb Downs.

Seven other schools have two players on the watch list. That group includes Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State and Texas.

Named after Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott, the Lott IMPACT Trophy is given annually to the Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year, which the award deems as the player “who has had the biggest impact on his team both on and off the field.”

IMPACT stands for “Integrity,” “Maturity,” “Performance,” “Academics,” “Community” and “Tenacity.”

The winner is selected by a national voter panel, one that includes former winners, members of the media, coaches and members of the Board of Directors of The IMPACT Foundation.

Whoever earns the honor will receive the news on Dec. 8 at The Pacific Club in Newport Beach, California.

There are a total of 42 candidates on the 2024 watch list: 18 defensive backs, 13 defensive linemen and 11 linebackers. The SEC has 13 players on the watch list, and the Big Ten is close behind with 12 players initially up for consideration.

As for Ohio State’s three watch list honorees, here’s a brief on-field rundown…

DE J.T. Tuimoloau: Tuimoloau is coming off the best year of his career. He finished 2023 with the most total tackles (38), sacks (5.0) and, per Pro Football Focus, pressures generated (37) as well as defensive snaps (677) of his first three years at Ohio State. Tuimoloau made back-to-back stops that set the stage for Ohio State’s game-winning drive at Notre Dame. He also dialed up a sack and fourth down pass deflection in the fourth quarter against Penn State to help deliver another top-10 win.

CB Denzel Burke: Burke helped restore the Ohio State secondary’s “Best in America” tag line last season. He wants to build on that effort and establish himself as a top-10 pick for the 2025 NFL Draft. After a breakout junior year — during which he allowed just one touchdown and 25 receptions on 48 targets, according to PFF — Burke is hoping to take the next step as a senior. He earned freshman All-American honors in 2021, dealt with some injury trouble in 2022 but bounced back in a big way in 2023 by adopting what he called a “pro approach” and leading the Ohio State cornerback room.

S Caleb Downs: Downs transferred to Ohio State this offseason after a freshman All-American season at Alabama, where he earned SEC Freshman of the Year and AP second-team All-American honors as well. Downs became the first true freshman at Alabama since at least 1970 to lead the team in total tackles. He piled up 107, including 70 solos — the 14th most of any player in the country last year — not to mention his 3.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, four pass break-ups and one forced fumble. His strength is in the box, but he also played 265-plus snaps both in the slot and at deep safety last year, according to PFF. Downs will likely start at free safety for the Buckeyes this season.

Roundtable: Buckeyes star-studded tailback room has ultra-high ceiling this season

Lettermen Row “Running Backs Week” marches on. Beat writers Spencer Holbrook and Andy Backstrom got together for a back-and-forth discussion about the position group.

Together, they covered expectations and reservations for the five-man unit, which includes only four scholarship backs at the moment but features arguably the top duo in the country.

Ohio State is hoping to get its rushing attack back on track in 2024. That partly hinges on the performance of its offensive line, however, scheme tweaks by offensive coordinator and play-caller Chip Kelly should help, too.

Check out Lettermen Row’s “roundtable” analysis here.

RELATED

Kickoff times announced for Buckeyes first two matchups

Ohio State already knew it was playing Michigan at the rivalry’s regular scheduled 12 p.m. start time on the final Saturday of November.

But the Buckeyes learned two more kickoff times Thursday. They will begin the 2024 season against Akron on Aug. 31 at 3:30 p.m. That game will be broadcast on CBS.

The following week, Ohio State will face Western Michigan under the lights at 7:30 p.m. Big Ten Network will have the broadcast.

Both of those games will be in Ohio Stadium.

For more details, head on over here.

RELATED

Counting Down

Buckeyes vs. Akron: 92 days
Buckeyes vs. Michigan: 183 days

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