Emeka Egbuka Ohio State Buckeyes Receiver

Ten Standout Buckeyes From Saturday’s Student Appreciation Day Practice

Ohio State held its annual Student Appreciation Day spring football practice on Saturday, inviting students, football families, high school coaches, and accredited media to attend. It is always an entertaining event, and Saturday was no different as the sidelines were crowded and folks were looking forward to a competitive day of action.

The back portion of practice featured mostly 11-on-11 and provided a pretty good opportunity for all onlookers to get a little irresponsible with their assessments of how things went.

So as not to be left out of these assessments, here are 10 players who stood out to me. The list could have been longer but people like round numbers, so who am I to try and normalize lists that are 26 items long.

Devin Brown

Saturday was the best I have seen Devin Brown look, though I admittedly haven’t had many opportunities. He hit big throws down the field to Emeka Egbuka and Jeremiah Smith — with both players covered well. Brown also hit downfield throws to Egbuka and Bryson Rodgers that went for touchdowns. Among the quarterbacks, Devin Brown made the splashiest plays. He was comfortable in the pocket and his short throws were on point as well.

Bryson Rodgers

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Bryson Rodgers had several catches on the day, but none were bigger than this one. Rodgers caught a deep crosser from Devin Brown and outraced safeties Brenten Jones and Jaylen McClain into the end zone. Rodgers showed the speed that his coaches and teammates have been talking about. He was also used a number of times as a short-yardage target over the middle.

Quinshon Judkins

TreVeyon Henderson didn’t get much work, which allowed for more touches for all of the other running backs. Quinshon Judkins had the biggest play among the tailbacks with this wheel route from Will Howard. This is an impossible ask of defensive end Mitchell Melton. Judkins also had some nice runs between the tackles early in practice.

James Peoples

It’s not easy for running backs to stand out in practices that don’t feature tackling. Rules limit how many practices can actually have full-on tackling, but you can still get an idea of a player’s quickness and explosion. Freshman running back James Peoples showcased all of his skills in trying to avoid the two-hand touch tackling that was going on. Peoples has very good balance. He didn’t get a chance to showcase his power, but that’s gonna show up on most other Saturdays.

Jeremiah Smith

Freshman wide receiver Jeremiah Smith has already been talked about plenty this spring. He was talked about plenty this winter. He was talked about plenty before he signed and when he signed. And based on what he did Saturday, the talk is only going to increase. It’s clear that the Ohio State quarterbacks love throwing to him. He’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds but he looks bigger than that. He was running by defenders but would have to wait for the deep balls a couple of times, allowing the defense to catch up. That wasn’t always a deterrent from catching the ball, however. As Ryan Day said after practice, “I’m going to be careful what I say” regarding Smith. He had the entire crowd buzzing, and it’s not the first time he’s done that this spring. Far from it. Senior cornerback Denzel Burke continues to be a believer.

Emeka Egbuka

While Jeremiah Smith commanded a lot of the buzz, senior receiver Emeka Egbuka also had some big plays. This catch over his shoulder on a nickel blitz from Devin Brown showcases Egbuka’s ability to track the ball and bring it in. Sophomore safety Caleb Downs was in coverage. Egbuka also had a catch down the seam on senior nickel back Jordan Hancock that went for about 40 yards (see header photo above). Egbuka also caught a quick slant from freshman quarterback Julian Sayin that would’ve gone for about 70 yards but the refs blew it dead because of a touch sack. Bottom line, if you had forgotten what Emeka Egbuka did as a sophomore, you might want to start refreshing your memory.

CJ Hicks

It can be difficult to get a good read on the linebackers when there is no tackling, so you basically just wait for notable plays that are obvious to everyone. Junior linebacker CJ Hicks had two of those instances on blitzes up the middle. He sacked Devin Brown twice. Hicks did it against both the first and second-team offensive lines. His quickness was apparent as he dodged the interior linemen and his speed kept Brown from being able to do anything with the ball. Even when he didn’t get to Brown, he was able to disrupt the timing. As Day said after practice, Hicks likes to blitz and he’s timing them up very well right now.

Kayden McDonald

Sophomore defensive tackle Kayden McDonald was one of a number of young defensive tackles who was making life difficult for the Ohio State offensive line. He was part of three-consecutive safeties at the one-yard line. One of those plays saw McDonald put one offensive lineman on his back, blowing up the play instantly. Jason Moore and Hero Kanu also had good plays down there as well.

Sonny Styles

Sonny Styles may have moved to linebacker in the offseason but he’s still moving around. When the Buckeyes were in a 4-3 alignment, Styles was at the Sam. That alignment could either put him out a bit wide or up on the line of scrimmage. He blitzed from the edge but was also used to contain. One such play saw the Buckeyes run a jet sweep to Emeka Egbuka but Styles shot through the line of scrimmage and “tackled” Egbuka in the backfield. Styles also played Will linebacker.

Lorenzo Styles, Jr.

Lorenzo Styles, Jr. redshirted last year after transferring from Notre Dame and switching positions from receiver to cornerback. Styles put that year to good use and it showed on Saturday. There were several throws downfield to slot receivers on Saturday that were just out of reach or just short, and on a few occasions that receiver was being blanketed by Styles. Stride for stride

There was a lot more than just these 10 names in my notebook from the event. I downloaded everything into this thread right here if you want to check it all out.

You can also check out our post-practice reaction show from the WHAC.

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