Ohio State football: 3 true freshman who can play early

Ohio State Buckeyes safety Kye Stokes (37) celebrates a pass break up during the spring football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on April 16, 2022.Ncaa Football Ohio State Spring Game
Ohio State Buckeyes safety Kye Stokes (37) celebrates a pass break up during the spring football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on April 16, 2022.Ncaa Football Ohio State Spring Game /

It’s been two months since the Buckeyes wrapped up spring practice. There are a lot of things you can do in those two months. One of those things is to think about Ohio State football. Ya know what happens when you have two months to think? You tend to overthink. You look at the roster and begin to convince yourself that such-and-such true freshman has a chance to supplant a veteran starter.

While TreVeyon Henderson and Denzel Burke did just that last season, it rarely happens. That doesn’t stop us from talking ourselves into these true-freshman-beats-out-veteran scenarios each off-season.

It is important to keep all of the above in mind, because when you look at the current roster there just isn’t a lot of room for a true freshman to make a real run at significant playing time. Regardless, I still think there are three guys who you could see on the field very early in the 2022 season.

C.J. Hicks – Linebacker: There are some who feel the five-star recruit will be a starter by the end of the season. I’m not going to go that far out on a limb, but the nation’s top linebacker recruit certainly is talented. A big factor in determining if he becomes a part of the regular rotation early is his knowledge of the new defense.

Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said he throws a lot at the linebackers and Hicks is still figuring out things. He does acknowledge he’s impressed with the young linebacker’s ability to get from point A to point B when he is able to cut loose. That’s good because there was not nearly enough getting from point A to point B from the linebackers last year.

Related Story. Ohio State Football: Who plays at linebacker?. light

Kye Stokes – Safety: The Florida native was one of the lowest-rated members of this most recent OSU recruiting class and ranked just 351st nationally by 247Sports, but he was the first member of the class to lose his black stripe. Stokes impressed Ryan Day and Jim Knowles throughout the spring and capped it off with an impressive performance in the spring game when he made nine tackles and broke up two passes (watch his spring game highlights here).

The three starting safety spots all appear to be locked down, but after that, there is a lot of uncertainty. If his performance in the spring game is any indication, Stokes is a playmaker and the Buckeyes have had a lack of playmakers at this position the last few seasons (read my article on that here). This bodes well for him to be part of the rotation when the season opens.

Bennett Christian – Tight End: With five scholarship tight ends already on the roster, you’d think the second-lowest member of his recruiting class would not have a prayer of playing. Not so fast with that thinking. None of the other five tight ends are jack-of-all-trades types, so there is a good chance you’re going to see guys rotated situationally.

Christian is an adept blocker and at 6’6”, 245 pounds is already as big as any other Buckeye at this position. He could be the biggest by the time August practice rolls around after spending time with strength and conditioning guru Mickey Marotti. Combine his blocking ability with that size and I can see him being used in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

You want a long shot to play early? I think receiver Kyion Grayes is talented enough to play early in 2022, but I’m not sure if he can climb over the mountain of talent in front of him to see the field in anything more than mop-up duty. He very much gives me a Chris Olave vibe (he’s wearing number 17 like Olave did as a freshman) because he is very smooth and fluid.

If he gets significant playing time this season it will probably be later rather than sooner. Regardless of how much he plays as a true freshman, I don’t doubt he’s going to have an outstanding career for the Ohio State football team.

Next. Ohio State Football: Donovan Jackson is a budding star. dark

It isn’t going to be easy for any true freshman to contribute early this year, but I think these three (plus one) have the best chance to make a dent in the lineup.