COLUMBUS — For the second time in the last two months, one of the country’s top-ranked 2021 prospects has committed to Ohio State sight unseen. Denzel Burke, a 4-star athlete from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro High School, has chosen the Buckeyes.
Burke, offered by Ohio State in January, included the Buckeyes in his top-five schools just two weeks ago despite never making an in-person visit to the school. The versatile athlete felt the time was right to lock in his spot as a future fixture in the Ohio State secondary.
“I want to go against the best the of the best,” Burke told Lettermen Row. “I want to be challenged to reach another level, and I know Ohio State will develop me into a great defensive back.”
Ohio State toppled Texas, LSU, Oregon, Colorado, USC, Washington, Arizona State and more than a dozen other schools that had offered Arizona’s No. 4-ranked prospect.
Lettermen Row is analyzing the decision of Denzel Burke and what his commitment means to Ohio State, the Big Ten and the national recruiting scene for the Class of 2021.
What Denzel Burke gives Ohio State on field
A two-way athlete for one of the country’s top-ranked high school programs, Denzel Burke is a long, rangy athlete capable of making plays on either side of the ball. But he’ll get his opportunity for Ohio State as a defensive back. His coach, Jason Mohns, believes he could be a Division I prospect no matter what position he played.
“Denzel reminds me a lot of Byron Murphy, our all-American corner who went to Washington and was the first pick in the second round of the NFL Draft last year,” Mohns told Lettermen Row. “He’s got exceptional ball skills and elite acceleration along with fluid hips and he’s really physical. Denzel is more powerfully built than Byron, but with similar height and length and could play Power Five football at wide receiver or defensive back.
“He’s a very instinctive, competitive, and mature person. He’s a big time player.”
When watching tape of the 6-foot, 190-pound Burke, it’s possible to see instincts and natural football skills reminiscent of Gareon Conley and Denzel Ward. Those are high expectations, but coming from a place like Saguaro means he’ll be more prepared than most.
What pickup means for Ohio State 2021 recruiting class
For Ohio State, the addition of Burke is commitment No. 19 in the class of 2021 — and he’s the sixth presumptive defensive back in the class and third prospect likely to be a cornerback for the Buckeyes. Burke, the nation’s No. 7-ranked athlete, will complement Jakailin Johnson and Devonta Smith at the corner spot while Jaylen Johnson, Andre Turrentine and Jantzen Dunn are more likely to line up at safety for as Kerry Coombs rebuilds the Buckeyes secondary.
The question from here will be how Ohio State rounds out the defensive backfield in the 2021 recruiting class, because a number of big-time prospects remain a possibility — including 4-star corner Jaylin Davies and 4-star safety/linebacker prospect Derrick Davis . There has been a train of thought that the final cornerback spot was likely to come down to Davies or Burke, but sources in Columbus have suggested that there’s no doors being closed on Davies or any other defensive backs at this point.
Ohio State now has commitments in 2021 from 11 different states. The Buckeyes have continued to mine the state of Arizona recently, with both quarterback Jack Miller and safety Lathan Ransom signing in the last cycle.
How Denzel Burke impacts 2021 recruiting rankings
The first Buckeyes 2021 verbal since punter Jesse Mirco in the opening week of May, Burke moves Ohio State over the 300-point threshold and extends the Buckeyes top-ranked class over Tennessee — which has five more commitments than Ryan Day’s program does — to more than 40 points. Ohio State has a lead of more than 100 points over its nearest Big Ten competitor, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who have 16 verbals in the 2021 group.
Need more Ohio State recruiting #Stuff? Join the conversation below in the comments and sign up for Scarlet Sunrise, Lettermen Row’s morning newsletter that will get your day started with all the important Ohio State news you need to know. Prefer video? Follow Buckeyes football on YouTube with Lettermen Row. You can also get your recruiting fix by subscribing to Talking Stuff: The Ohio State Recruiting Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Stitcher