Ohio State Freshmen Who Could Make an Impact in 2024

23 Ohio State freshmen are set to suit up in 2024. While it's rare a true freshman makes an impact, there are a few who could this year.
Ohio State freshmen

Making an impact early on is a great way of making sure a player etches their name in history. J.K. Dobbins and Maurice Clarett had massive true freshman seasons for the Buckeyes and are considered two of the best. The Ohio State freshman crop is filled with talent both on offense and defense. The recruiting class was considered to be the fifth-best in the nation according to 247Sports. The Buckeyes signed 23 players in the class. Naturally, they will do whatever they can to keep the freshmen from testing the transfer portal waters as so many tend to do.

In a normal season, there may be a small handful of freshmen who are in line to contribute. It’s going to be a bit harder this season with the roster full of NFL-ready seniors who spurned the draft for one more crack at it. Even then, there will be quite a few players who burn redshirts but only a few will make a legitimate impact. With a few months to go before the Week 1 tilt with Akron, four Ohio State freshmen stand out as early-impact players in 2024.

Ohio State Freshmen Who Can Make an Impact in 2024

Jeremiah Smith

Quite possibly the most obvious is the top-rated recruit in the entire nation, Jeremiah Smith. Smith comes to Ohio State as the crown jewel of the recruiting class and will be too good to keep off the field in some capacity.

As a recruit, Smith was touted as about as much of a sure thing as a player could be. He has impressive size for an 18-year-old, a massive catch radius, and legitimate track speed. Smith comes to Ohio State already at six-foot-three and 215 pounds.

The thing that will play in Smith’s favor is the fact that the Ohio State wide receiver room is unproven. Emeka Egbuka is expected to be a high draft pick but after him, the room is full of unproven talent. Smith is not the only highly-rated receiver in the room and has had to prove that he belongs on the field.

Through Spring practice and the Spring Game, he has done so. Smith has wowed coaches and fans alike with his playmaking abilities by both blowing by the defensive back or just going over the top and plucking it off their head. He was running with the first-team offense frequently, so he was doing these things against a secondary considered one of the best in the country.

If there is going to be one Ohio State freshman to make an impact in 2024, it’ll be Smith.

Eddrick Houston

Of these four, perhaps the most difficult path lies with Eddrick Houston. There are two potential first-round picks at the top of the depth chart at defensive end/EDGE and they are not coming off the field for anything short of injury or a blowout, for better or worse. However, it’s due to the second line of players not solidifying their spots that could come to Houston’s aid.

Houston was a hotly-recruited player and it went down to the wire for the Buckeyes. In his Early Signing Day presser, head coach Ryan Day let out a considerable sigh of relief when Houston’s Letter of Intent hit their faxes. Considering Houston was headed to Alabama until the pen hit the paper, it makes sense. He was sold on Larry Johnson’s vision.

Houston is a mountain of a man and already looked like a seasoned veteran in Spring ball. He looks big even next to the Ohio State starting offensive line and has shown that he’s able to win as a true freshman. In an interview with Buckeye Huddle, Houston’s high school coach said, “I don’t know how many weaknesses he has. He’s strong, he’s fast, he’s technical. He’s got great pad level. Great motor.”

Being good is only part of the equation. He has quite a few bodies in front of him. After Jack Sawyer and Jaylahn Tuimoloau, there is a drop in terms of experience and productivity. As of now, Kenyatta Jackson, Jr. and Caden Curry are expected to be next in line in the rotation but Houston has the skill and the drive to do it.

Garrett Stover

The linebacker room has been the subject of much ire for what feels like a decade. From watching a linebacker attempt to cover the Heisman Trophy winner in the College Football Playoff National Championship to last year’s duo of a fifth-round pick and an undrafted player, the Buckeye faithful yearn for the Jim Tressel days. While C.J. Hicks, Sonny Styles, and Cody Simon look to have what it takes, both freshmen linebackers could have what it takes to rotate in. Garrett Stover may have an edge over Payton Pierce due to Pierce having to sit out of Spring ball to continue to heal from an ankle injury.

While Pierce is a physical run-stopper, Stover is more of an athletic coverage backer. Coming from Big Walnut High School in Ohio, Stover was rated as a four-star player and a top-20 player at his position. It’s not often that you see a linebacker also star on the track but that’s Stover. He ran both the 100-meter and 200-meter as well as the long jump and high jump.

Stover still has some growing to do but he could be rotated in on special packages this fall. His athleticism and burst would benefit the Buckeyes and he might not be a massive drop-off from the top-of-the-lineup guys. He could be utilized as a blitzing backer as well as someone who drops into coverage.

Miles Lockhart

This Ohio State freshman class has quite a few top cornerback recruits from Aaron Scott to Bryce West to Miles Lockhart. While Lockhart was considered to be the third-best of the three, his path to the field is quite a bit easier. In high school, he was moved around the field and will bring that positional versatility to Columbus.

Based on Eleven Warriors‘ post-Spring depth chart projections, Lockhart is sitting third in the pecking order at slot corner. At the top is potential NFL Draft pick Jordan Hancock, and he is not going to be challenged. Between him and Lockhart, however, was Lorenzo Styles, Jr. While Styles transferred to Ohio State to be a corner, he has been taking reps at wide receiver, the position he played at Notre Dame. If Styles spends more time at receiver, the door could open for Lockhart to get plenty of playing time in relief of Hancock, assuming Jermaine Matthews is elsewhere on the field.

Compared to the other two Ohio State freshmen corners, Lockhart was a distant third in terms of ratings. Even then, he was coveted in the recruiting cycle. He may not have the size that college coaches are looking for. However, he looks the part of a solid slot corner. He can drop into coverage and can locate the ball in the air. Of course, as a slot corner, Lockhart will have to come up and defend the run. Despite his smaller size, he is willing and capable to come up in support to make the play.

Plenty of Fresh Talent

This Ohio State freshmen class has plenty of talent. Mylan Graham is a receiver worth keeping an eye on. He did not enroll early, so he has gone the wayside in the minds of fans. Both of those aforementioned corners could work their way into the rotation. Both Air Noland and Julian Sayin have pockets of supporters who want him as the starter over Will Howard.

Ohio State is in a good place when it comes to its 2024 roster. Any way you slice it, this team has the talent to compete for more than just the Big Ten. Perhaps one of these freshmen will be the key to hoisting the trophy. Just as Tua Tagovailoa and DeVonta Smith were after the 2017 season for Alabama.

 

Ohio State freshmen
photo courtesy: Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

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