Closer Look at Ohio State’s 2013 Early Enrollees
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — National Signing Day is still a month away, but the Buckeyes welcomed a new crop of freshmen into the mix this week. Six players from the 2013 class – including one preferred walk-on – joined the Ohio State family as early enrollees for the Winter Semester in Columbus.
Players like Texas quarterback J.T. Barrett had their own signing day a month earlier than everyone else, and they are already on campus learning the playbook and preparing for life as a student-athlete at one of the largest universities in the country.
Ohio State has yet to officially confirm these players as early enrollees, but we were able to locate all of them except William Houston, a preferred walk-on out of Dublin Scioto, in the University’s online directory.
Here is a breakdown of what the Buckeyes are getting and what to expect as Urban Meyer and his staff work hard to finish out the 2013 class before the Feb. 6 signing day.
* CB Eli Apple (6-0, 185, Voorhees, N.J.)
Who is He: A U.S. Army All-American this season, Apple is coming off a strong showing down in San Antonio. He drew rave reviews from scouts, including our own Michael Chung, and it sounds like Apple is an even better person than player. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because he recently changed his name from Eli Woodard to take his stepfather’s last name. Whether it’s Woodard or Apple, this kid looks like a legit corner prospect out of New Jersey, the same state that produced All-American Malcolm Jenkins.
What to Expect: It’s far too early to make any predictions about where Apple might figure in to Kerry Coombs’ plans at cornerback this season, but one things we know right now is that there should be opportunities. The Buckeyes got a huge boost over the weekend when All-American Bradley Roby committed to returning for his junior season, but there is limited depth at corner even with Roby. Akron native Doran Grant will get the first chance to replace Travis Howard on the other side, but Apple will have a chance to compete for a spot in the two-deep with guys like Adam Griffin, Armani Reeves and Najee Murray, who suffered a nasty knee injury in practice this year.
* QB JT Barrett (6-1, 210, Wichita Falls, Tex.)
Who is He: Some will question Meyer’s decision to look so far and wide for a quarterback in the 2013 class when he had Ohio’s Mr. Football, Mitch Trubisky, right in his backyard. The Buckeyes felt Barrett was a better fit to run the offense in Columbus, because he has that ability to make plays with his legs. He ran for over 1,500 yards as a junior, but suffered a nasty knee injury during his senior season.
What to Expect: Barrett is only 3-4 months removed from tearing his ACL, so there is almost no chance he will participate in much of spring practice for the Buckeyes. He could do some limited work on the side, but contact is absolutely out of the question. That’s not a big deal at this point, however, because Barrett wasn’t going to come in and beat out Braxton Miller or Kenny Guiton for one of the top two spots. The important thing for Barrett is that he has a chance to come in and learn the playbook, get comfortable with the college lifestyle and do his rehab work with one of the best strength coaches in the country. He should be back by fall camp, but really it’s 2014 when Barrett will be asked to step in and compete – at least for the backup spot.
* DB Cam Burrows (6-0, 205, Trotwood-Madison)
Who is He: Only one of the top players in the state of Ohio. The defensive back out of Trotwood-Madison could play either corner or safety for the Buckeyes. He played a little of both in practice leading up to the Under Armour All-American game down in Florida last week. A lot of people have him rated as the top player in the Buckeye State for 2013. Our friend John McCallister of McCallister Scouting Report had him behind Jalin Marshall when it came to the state of Ohio, but agreed that he could be an impact player at the next level.
“I don't know if he has great hips, but he can play safety. He's smart. He's gonna be an inside defensive back. He's big. He's started since halfway through his freshman year, so he understands the game. He's just gotten bigger and stronger. He's probably a free safety.”
What to Expect: Chances are, the Buckeyes will let Burrows start out as a cornerback, especially if that’s the position he wants to play. They did that with Tyvis Powell last year, but it will be interesting to see where Burrows eventually ends up. Like McCallister said, he looks like more of an impact player at free safety than he does as a shutdown cornerback. He’s a tremendous athlete who could even get a look at the “Star” position in Ohio State’s nickel defense. De’van Bogard probably won’t be back to full strength by spring, so Burrows could get a look inside as the backup to Corey Brown at the Star position.
* FB William Houston (6-0, 235, Dublin Scioto)
Who is He: If you haven’t heard of Houston, it’s probably because he is not a scholarship member of Ohio State’s 2013 class. The former Dublin Scioto FB/LB accepted a preferred walk-on spot with the Buckeyes this season over a full scholarship offer from Bowling Green. At 6-foot, 235 he could help the Buckeyes fill the void of a traditional power fullback, although he will be playing more of that H-back role behind guys like Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett. He is the son of former OSU fullback Willie Houston.
What to Expect: Houston is probably going to be a guy who comes in and redshirts, unless he can find a spot on special teams. That might be a realistic goal for him, however, because the Buckeyes were really short on bodies for their special teams units last season. That would be an area where Houston could make an early mark in the spring, and possibly work towards a scholarship down the road. He probably would have gotten one in the past, but Meyer probably won’t hand out too many of those to traditional fullbacks, especially while he is down three scholarhips.
* DE Tyquan Lewis (6-3, 225, Tarboro, N.C.)
Who is He: Lewis is a kid Ohio State absolutely pilfered out of North Carolina. He is a 4-star prospect who had offers from Clemson, LSU, UNC, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Virginia Tech. He has great speed and size for a defensive end and will likely play the LEO/Viper position on Ohio State’s defense. That’s the same position as guys like Vernon Gholston, Bobby Carpenter and Thad Gibson have played in the past.
What to Expect: We can never really know exactly what to expect with these kids until they get on campus. That’s why it’s good Lewis is getting in early, so he can get in the playbook and hopefully get himself ready to compete during spring practice. The Buckeyes will likely go with sophomore Noah Spence at the Leo/Viper position when they break camp, but they need more guys who can rush the passer. After Spence, that position is wide open. Steve Miller has played there in the past, and it’s possible Curtis Grant could get a look there as well, but Lewis is more of a natural pass-rusher than either of those two.
* DE Tracy Sprinkle (6-4, 245, Elyria)
Who is He: For starters, Sprinkle was the Defensive Player of the Year in the state of Ohio. He’s another rush end who put up big numbers as a senior at Elyria High School. He is only rated as a 3-star prospect by most recruiting services, but Sprinkle had 103 tackles and 19 sacks in 2012 to go with 30 TFLs against some of the better talent in the state of Ohio.
What to Expect: Again, it’s always tough to know how kids are going to adjust to college life and Mickey Marotti’s new workout regiment. It’s going to be a blast of intensity for these kids, but Sprinkle comes across as someone who works hard and will rise to the challenge. The question is whether he can learn the plays and get himself ready to go for spring ball. He is a big kid who can play strongside end or even move inside to the 3-technique position. He probably starts outside, however, as the Buckeyes search for more pass rushers off the edge.
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