The spring of 2020 has been unusual, to say the least, as efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus caused almost all sporting events to be canceled.
But this week Ryan Day can look forward to something familiar: The feeling of watching Buckeyes be taken early in the NFL Draft.
This year’s edition starts at 8 p.m. Thursday night, and two Ohio State players could be off the board before the clock strikes 9.
Defensive end Chase Young is widely assumed to be the choice of his hometown Washington Redskins at No. 2 overall while cornerback Jeff Okudah is also a likely top 10 pick. He could go as high as No. 3 to the Detroit Lions.
“I think both are very, very high end, NFL players who will play a long time the NFL,” said Day, Ohio State’s head coach who spent two seasons coaching quarterbacks in the NFL before arriving at Ohio State in January 2017 “They're both great people, good leaders (and) very productive on the field.”
Young was a unanimous All-American who won multiple national awards and was named the Big Ten’s Most Valuable Player by the Chicago Tribune. He led the nation in sacks with 16.5 and was second in tackles-for-loss (21.5).
Okudah was also a unanimous All-American who broke up nine passes and logged three interceptions last season.
Day noted that aside from being productive, both were durable at Ohio State.
“They don't miss practice. They don't miss games. They don't miss snaps. I mean, they just play,” Day said. “So I think you're gonna get a lot of production out of both of those players. And I think they’re both can’t-miss guys.”
Young and Okudah are both true juniors who arrived at Ohio State on the fast track to the NFL as five-star prospects. They are on the cusp of living up to that promise by hearing their names called Thursday night.
With Day looking to continue the recruiting success the Buckeyes have enjoyed for decades now, he confirmed that is a fact he has made sure to share while putting together what currently ranks as the No. 1 recruiting class in the country for 2021.
“(NFL success) is certainly not the only part, but we don't shy away from it,” Day said. “We're very proud and proud of our development.”
The latter includes not only highly regarded prospects but also players such a DaVon Hamilton. A three-star recruit coming out of Pickerington Central east of Columbus, he developed into one of the best defensive linemen in the Big Ten by his senior season and is likely to hear his name called before the draft is over, too.
Ohio State’s other 2020 NFL prospects also have varied histories.
Like Hamilton, defensive lineman Robert Landers of Wayne High School was a three-star prospect in the class of 2015. So were offensive lineman Branden Bowen and cornerback Damon Arnette. That year also produced four-stars Jashon Cornell, a defensive lineman who blossomed as a senior, and K.J. Hill, who turned out to be one of the most productive receivers in Ohio State history.
The 2016 class produced four-star receivers Austin Mack and Ben Victor and defensive back Jordan Fuller while linebacker Malik Harrison of Columbus Walnut Ridge turned out to be another three-star gem from Central Ohio.
While among the headliners of the 2017 class were Young and Okudah, four-star running back J.K. Dobbins turned out to be a three-year starter. He hopes to be the fourth member of that class to be selected, joining them and cornerback Kendall Sheffield from last year.
“Everybody kind of has their own story and different development,” Day said. “Everybody has their own journey that we're proud of their development, that guys don't only just get drafted, but they have great careers. If you look at (current NFL stars) Michael Thomas, (Joey and Nick) Bosa, Zeke Elliott – it just goes on and on that not only are they going to the NFL, but they're playing, and they have a long careers. And that goes to, obviously recruiting but also our development in the strength and conditioning area, but then also in terms of football and our technique and the styles of offense and defense that we're running.”
Who ends up being the third Buckeye off the board this year is much harder to predict than who will be the first two, but Dobbins is among the candidates.
“I think his future is really strong because he can do a lot of things,” Day said of Dobbins. “I don't know the other guys really in the draft in terms of like where he compares with those people, but from what I'm hearing he's got a chance to be the first guy taken in the running backs.
“And so I think he's gonna project really well because I think his skill set is versatile. He can do a lot of things. He can run the zone scheme, he can run a gap scheme, he can protect, he can run routes. I think he's kind of shown that he can do all those things and he's such a great kid with a great work ethic, so you combine all those things, he is a pretty attractive draft pick.”
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