What you mean we won't line up in exactly what we are doing and dare you to beat it which only really works with 1st round talent at all 3 levels?"You want to present a picture that [the quarterback] doesn’t necessarily know what’s coming, and then do some different things out of that picture," Knowles added in the interview last summer. "Make him read post-snap, don’t just let him line up and know where he’s going with the ball."
I dont have to know anything else about the man to know he's an improvement over what we've been doing.
“I JUST THINK THERE'S A TON OF POTENTIAL THERE.”– JIM KNOWLES ON JORDAN HANCOCK AND JAKAILIN JOHNSON
As well as Denzel Burke played as a true freshman, it might be easy to forget that he was only the third-highest-rated cornerback in Ohio State’s recruiting class of 2021.
Before Burke soared up the depth chart, the freshman cornerbacks who seemed like the strongest candidates to make an immediate impact last season were Jakailin Johnson and Jordan Hancock. Both of them were ranked among the top 75 overall prospects in the 2021 recruiting class, making them the highest-rated pair of cornerbacks in an Ohio State recruiting class since the Buckeyes signed five-stars Jeff Okudah and Shaun Wade in 2017.
Yet while Burke ended up playing the most snaps of any Ohio State defender last season, Hancock and Johnson played only sparingly. Hancock played just 31 defensive snaps in 2021 – all in the second half of blowout wins – while Johnson played only eight defensive snaps, all against Akron, after which he did not play again for the rest of the year due to a shoulder injury.
While Burke went through a full offseason with the Buckeyes before his freshman season, Johnson and Hancock didn’t arrive until the summer, which likely impacted their chances of playing right away. They didn’t end up in last season’s three-deep at cornerback, which consisted of Burke, Cameron Brown, Sevyn Banks, Ryan Watts, Lejond Cavazos and Demario McCall.
Now that Hancock and Johnson are going through their first full offseason as Buckeyes and Banks, Watts and McCall are all gone from Ohio State, the door is wide open for both of them to compete for spots on the two-deep and potentially earn significant playing time as second-year Buckeyes. And it certainly sounds like they did what they needed to do in winter workouts going into spring football to put themselves in position to take advantage.
“We definitely know that we weren’t where we were supposed to be, and the term Silver Bullet is thrown around, we kind of took that for granted,” senior defensive end Zach Harrison said Thursday. “We’re taking it more personal now, we know that there was a standard that was set at Ohio State years before we were even born, and we’re the next up to hold that legacy and hold that standard. We’re taking pride in that and all of us know that’s where he need to get to.”
“We talk about that every day. We had a couple past players talk to us about it too. Being a Silver Bullet, you can’t take it for granted,” Sawyer said. “I think last year maybe we kind of just expected things to happen because it did earlier, years previously. We just expected to win. I think kind of we got complacent a little bit, and that’s why we slipped up a couple times here and there, and almost slipped up in the Rose Bowl again. I think this year we’re just taking everything more seriously and really trying to lock into every little detail.”
What could make the group special is its mix of old and young talent, with five-star sophomores Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau coming off the edge and Williams – who was second on the team in sacks as a true freshman – on the interior. Sawyer said that combination could be lethal for opposing offensive lines if all parties maximize their potential this offseason.
“I think the sky’s the limit. It could be something that no one’s ever seen before,” Sawyer said. “We all truly believe that as well. I think last year maybe (the freshmen) kind of got lost in the moment that we weren’t playing that much, and it kind of affected us a little bit. But we just put our head down and went back to work, and this spring you can already see it how the hard work’s paying off. I’m just really excited to see these guys get a chance too.”
“I think we already fixed that now, because we can see it in practice,” Sawyer said. “(Thursday) we had a really good day. I think towards the end of the Rose Bowl, too, you started to see quarterbacks not being able to step up in the pocket like you’re used to seeing Ohio State defensive lines do. Because obviously when you got a great defensive line, it’s hard for a quarterback to get the ball out right.
“We’re working towards being one of those defensive lines all season every snap this year, so I think you guys will see that.”
Just sayin': You look at who they have on the DL...Harrison, Sawyer, Tuimoloau, Hamilton, Vincent, Williams, Cage, Jean-Batiste, Friday, and Hall. They will have a real solid 2 deep on the OL. The sky should be the limit.