COLUMBUS — You didn’t have to look too hard to find an Ohio State true freshman shining during Saturday’s annual spring game. With 15 true freshmen already enrolled this spring, the Law of Averages states that somebody among them would stand out on Saturday. What that Law of Averages doesn’t equate for, however, is that there is nothing average about this Ohio State freshman class.
Of the 15 early enrollees, 14 of them saw action on the day. The lone hold out was defensive tackle Tyleik Williams, who has been slowed a bit with an injury this spring.
When it comes to the skill players, on the other hand, there was no slowing any of them down.
The first touchdown of the game was scored by freshman receiver Marvin Harrison on a 5-yard slant pass from redshirt freshman quarterback CJ Stroud. Harrison was a popular target on the day, moving the chains as a possession receiver with seven catches for 49 yards. He wasn’t just a short-yardage guy, however, as he nearly snared a deep shot down the sideline that was underthrown. Even though he averaged just seven yards per catch, he looked awfully smooth doing it. And at 6-foot-4 and over 200 pounds, Harrison is a big target for his eventual starting quarterback.
Harrison wasn’t the only busy rookie receiver, however, as it was classmate Emeka Egbuka who had the biggest day. Playing in the slot, Egbuka found himself free on a couple of occasions, which helped him lead the team with 123 yards receiving on seven catches. With Garrett Wilson moving out of the slot and back outside this year, Egbuka will become Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s backup. And he already looks like a very capable option for the Buckeyes.
Fellow freshman receiver Jayden Ballard also had a couple of catches, and true freshman tight end Sam Hart had a 7-yard catch as well. And while it wasn’t a running showcase, freshman running backs TreVeyon Henderson and Evan Pryor both got involved with the passing game. Pryor caught two passes for 12 yards and Henderson caught five passes for 29 yards. After the game, head coach Ryan Day hinted that the running backs could be quite involved in the passing game this season.
One of the three quarterbacks throwing the ball on Saturday was a true freshman as well. Kyle McCord was extremely impressive at times. He completed 12-of-17 passes for 184 yards with two touchdowns. Of the eight completions in the game of 15 yards or more, McCord had three of them. The first came almost immediately when McCord came into the game in the first quarter and went deep to Garrett Wilson for a 55-yard yard between defenders.
Then later in the quarter, McCord completed this pass to Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
McCord found Egbuka for a 35-yarder in the “fourth quarter” as well. Overall it was an impressive performance for the freshman who missed a couple of passes early, but looked promising throughout.
The star on the defensive side of the ball was also a true freshman. Defensive end Jack Sawyer was credited with three sacks and a forced fumble, but there is even some debate that the refs cost him a sack or two throughout the game. Sawyer wasn’t going up against the ones, but it was still easy to see his quickness off the ball and speed to the quarterback. As junior defensive end Zach Harrison said after the game, Sawyer has things that can’t be taught and he’s putting them to good use.
Heading into and out of every spring game, the message is always clear: don’t make too much of this one game because it’s only one of 15 practices in the spring and there is still an entire offseason and preseason camp to come. However, nothing that was seen from the true freshmen today was unexpected. As both Day and his teammates said after the game, what Jack Sawyer did today is what he does every day in practice. The same can be said for Marvin Harrison, who has scored more touchdowns than any of his teammates while reporters have been in attendance over the course of now four spring practices.
This is a group of freshmen who came in with immense expectations and the guys who were expected to play a role this season certainly didn’t look overwhelmed by anything on Saturday afternoon.
Ohio State has a deep and talented team and the freshmen only make it deeper and more talented. The rookies are going to make an impact this season — and maybe larger than anyone is anticipating.