COLUMBUS — There was no drop off from the Urban Meyer recruiting classes to Ryan Day’s first at Ohio State.
The machine kept rolling along, and the Buckeyes signed yet another top-five class loaded with talented players. The wide receiver haul is historic. The defensive backs stuck with their commitments despite a coaching change at their position. Ohio State continues to get it done in the trenches.
The 2020 class has it all. But that doesn’t mean all 24 signees will step in and play on offense or defense right away.
But the new Buckeyes could find time on special teams, where players begin to make a mark on their way toward playing their position in meaningful moments.
Which true freshman could find the field on special teams this year and get a head start on climbing up their positional depth chart? Lettermen Row is breaking down the five most likely candidates as part of Special Teams Week.
DB Cameron Martinez
At just 5-feet-11-inches and near 185 pounds, Cameron Martinez is slated to be a defensive back in college, although he hasn’t played that position much and his high school tape is nine minutes of just touchdowns. The impressive athlete from Michigan has the tools to do anything the Buckeyes ask him to do. If he wants to find the field early in his career, he could find a path as a return man or a speedster on the outside on kickoff and punt team. He’s dynamic enough to be on the field early in his Ohio State career.
WR Mookie Cooper
Mookie Cooper could be the most electric player in the class, but he flew under the radar all year last season after being forced to sit out following a transfer. When he did play in high school, Cooper thrived as a running back, H-back and slot receiver — and he certainly wasn’t afraid to throw impressive blocks when he wasn’t scampering away from defenses for touchdowns. Can he be the athlete to finally become a dynamic punt and kick returner for the Buckeyes? His spring was cut short due to the pandemic, but fielding kicks and returning can be picked up in fall camp. If the Buckeyes don’t want to risk and injury to Garrett Wilson on returns, Cooper could be the guy.
LB Cody Simon
Cody Simon was a tackling machine at St. Peter’s Prep in New Jersey, nearing 100 tackles in each of his last two seasons of high school. The quick, physical defender showed good range and explosiveness from his linebacker spot in high school. Oh, and he returned punts during his high school career. He’s going to be an athletic option for the Buckeyes in the future in an outside role. But while the logjam persists at linebacker, Simon could find a good home on multiple special teams units to gain valuable experience moving forward.
LB/DB Kourt Williams
Williams could be the perfect athlete for Ohio State’s fabled Bullet position, making him a prime candidate to play on special teams before making the jump to the defense. A quick hybrid defender, Williams showed versatility on the field and leadership off the field. His work ethic will land him on one of the special teams units, too. Ohio State seems to have a loaded linebacker room and plenty of depth across the defense, so special teams is a good place for Williams. He might just become one of the stars of the unit.
DB Lejond Cavazos
Cavazos played at one of the best high school football factories in the country, IMG Academy, meaning he played against top opposition and he faced tough competition every day in practice. The leap from high school to Ohio State may be a big one, but he could make it happen and carve out a role on special teams in Year One. He’s not the top-rated player in his class, and he’s not the biggest. But he’s one of the best-prepared, and that could help vault him to a spot during his freshman campaign.