Every day until fall camp begins for Ohio State we will profile a different Buckeye football player. Today that player is freshman cornerback Denzel Burke. Yesterday it was safety Jaylen Johnson. You can find all of the daily Scoop Profiles right here.
No. 29 | Cornerback | 6-0 192 | Freshman | Saguaro High School | Scottsdale, Arizona
How’d He Get Here
Ohio State offered Denzel Burke on January 27 of 2020. A few months after that he added offers from Idaho and Northern Arizona. He committed to the Buckeyes on May 24 of that year, choosing Ohio State over offers from programs like LSU, Arizona State, USC, Texas, Oregon, Tennessee, and others. Most of Burke’s film and highlights come on the offensive side of the ball as an outstanding receiver prospect. That’s nothing new to the Buckeyes, who have turned outstanding receivers like Bradley Roby, Denzel Ward, Marshon Lattimore, and Gareon Conley into first-round cornerbacks. Burke missed all but one game of his senior season at Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was the No. 8 athlete in the 2021 recruiting class and the No. 195 player overall.
Denzel Burke enrolled early at Ohio State and when he arrived in Columbus in January, that was actually the first time he had ever been to campus. He never got to take an official or unofficial visit to Ohio State and the Buckeyes didn’t get as long of a look at him on the high school field as they would have liked. They had clearly seen enough, however, to offer him when they did. Burke is one of three true freshman cornerbacks on the roster this year, but he’s the only one of the three who enrolled in January and participated in spring ball. That was a huge help for him and any experience he can gain at the position is only going to be put to good use.
What to Like
Defensive backs coach Matt Barnes couldn’t say enough good things about Denzel Burke in the spring. In fact, he had to stop himself from saying too much, and also had to add in the standard caveats that he’s a young player still learning the position. But Barnes still tossed around words like “natural” and “uncanny” while watching Burke in the spring. Even early on spring, Burke was still nursing an injury that cost him his senior season, but he was still impressing in non-contact 7-on-7s. Being a wide receiver, Burke’s ability to find the ball and play it comes to him naturally. He was lauded for his quick feet and he also took quickly to the techniques and lessons he was getting from Barnes and defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs.
What’s the Ceiling This Year?
The Buckeyes are searching for a starting cornerback to play opposite of Sevyn Banks — or maybe a couple of them. There’s nothing saying one of them can’t be a true freshman like Denzel Burke, but it would certainly be rare. There are a number of different spots in this Ohio State secondary and they’ll each need a depth. Regular reps may not be available for Burke this year, but he may only be a spot or two away from being in a regular rotation. Getting in for the spring was a huge help and even if it doesn’t result in excess playing time this year, it still got him to where he can better keep up once fall camp gets underway.
There’s almost never a reason to doubt the potential of an Ohio State cornerback before he ever takes the field. The Buckeyes have produced talented cornerbacks for decades, and it has only gotten better under Kerry Coombs’ watchful eye. Ohio State knows what they want in a cornerback and Denzel Burke fits their type. He’s long, athletic, and has the necessary speed to play the position. A year of learning is pretty standard for the position, followed oftentimes by a second year of learning. By year three, it’s generally time to be in the regular rotation or else it may just not happen. Ohio State technically has five cornerbacks who can be considered true freshmen this year, and they’re looking to add another three or four in 2022. This room is about to get very crowded and very young. The sooner Burke gains his footing, the better he’ll be able to fend off the other contenders. At this point, there’s no reason to think that Burke isn’t going to be another in the long line of NFL draft picks at cornerback for Ohio State.