Ohio State welcomed a dozen new freshmen football players this week as the first members of the 2023 class enrolled for spring semester.
Three local players highlight the group: safety Malik Hartford of Lakota West and offensive linemen Joshua Padilla of Wayne and Austin Siereveld of Lakota East.
Hartford might have the best chance to play early because his position group does not have a lot of depth, let alone proven starters.
Senior Lathan Ransom returns after having some ups and downs at the boundary safety position, but free safety Ronnie Hickman and nickel Tanner McCalister are gone.
Not only are two starting positions open, but only four scholarship players return: Ransom, 2022 class members Sonny Styles and Kye Stokes and junior Cam Martinez.
That is an area that figures to get a lot of scrutiny in the spring as it is vital in the scheme of Jim Knowles, who was hired a year ago to try to revamp the Ohio State defense and achieved middling results in year one.
Offensive linemen are less likely to make an immediate impact as true freshmen than players at other positions, but Padilla and Siereveld figure to benefit from some extra time in the weigh room with Ohio State director of strength and conditioning Mickey Marotti regardless.
Like Knowles, offensive line coach Justin Frye is entering his second season in Columbus, so some reshuffling of the depth chart can be expected.
That could also benefit the other early enrollees on the offensive line, Luke Montgomery of Findlay and Miles Walker of Greenwich, Conn.
Montgomery is the top-rated prospect in Ohio for 2023 and could help at tackle or guard while Walker is a three-star rated as a tackle.
The other early enrollees are receivers Bryan Rodgers of Zephyrhills, Fla., Noah Rogers of Rolesville, N.C., and Carnell Tate of Chicago; cornerback Jermaine Matthews of Cincinnati Winton Woods; defensive lineman Will Smith Jr. of Dublin, Ohio, and tight end Jelani Thurman of Fairburn, Ga.
At No. 45, Rogers is the highest-rated Ohio State early enrollee in the 247Sports Composite Composite.
Montgomery is No. 52, and Tate is 61st while Thurman just snuck into the top 100 at No. 99.
The receivers are in a unique spot as they join a room that includes 1,000-yard producers Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr., who are both juniors-to-be, along with senior Julian Fleming, sophomore Jayden Ballard and four members of the 2022 class who weren’t really heard from in their first year on campus.
On the flip side, Mathews could be another with a chance to see the field early because he joins a cornerback room with only four scholarship players and no seniors.
Along with the freshmen scholarship players, Ohio State added Massillon Washington running back Willtrell Hartson as a preferred walk-on and three transfers.
Ja’Had Carter is a defensive back who started for three seasons at Syracuse while Casey Magyar is a kicker who previously played at Kent State and John Ferlmann is a long snapper from Arizona State.
They will all be able to take part in spring practice when it begins during the first week of March.
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