Several players have departed, but talent remains from the '16 class
In part one of this series on Ohio State's 2016 recruiting class, we examined the nine players who are no longer a part of the Buckeyes program. Part two focused on the players who have remained and have carved out a niche as contributors for the team.
Part three will identify the players who also signed in February 2016 and have since established themselves as starters. Several of these players have moved onto the NFL, but those who remain in Columbus this fall will be counted on by new Ohio State head coach Ryan Day to help keep the Buckeyes in contention for another Big Ten championship, and a possible return to the College Football Playoff. I will address each player from when they verbally committed to Ohio State, and what role they may possibly have with the Buckeyes in 2019.
1. Jonathon Cooper, DE
A 5-star defensive end out of nearby Gahanna, Ohio, Cooper played sparingly (appearing in six games) as a true freshman in 2016 before emerging as a strong contributor the next two seasons. He registered 6.5 tackles for a loss in 2018, earned honorable mention All-Big Ten recognition, and is expected to be one of the leaders along Ohio State's defensive line this season.
2. Tuf Borland, LB
Coming off an Achilles tendon injury that hampered his 2018 season, Borland will battle Teradja Mitchell and Baron Browning for the starting middle linebacker position in fall camp. Even not at full strength, Borland was able to provide 67 tackles in 2018, which ranked third on the team. Named a captain as a redshirt sophomore, Borland will have two years of eligibility remaining after this season.
3. Drue Chrisman, P
Considered the top punter in the 2016 class by 247Sports, Chrisman will likely be a candidate for the Ray Guy Award this season. Averaging nearly 44 yards per punt, Chrisman excels at pinning opponents deep in their territory, as 15 of his 27 punts in 2018 were downed inside of the 10-yard line. Adding to Chrisman's notoriety is his talent for bottle flipping, which is a staple of Ohio State social media.
4. Michael Jordan, OL
An early enrollee, Jordan quickly emerged as one of the top freshmen in the 2016 class. Jordan was able to emerge as a starter at left guard right away, the first true freshman to do so since legendary Buckeye and Hall of Fame offensive tackle Orlando Pace. After two years at guard, Jordan moved to center in 2018, earning All-American honors. He declared early for the 2019 NFL Draft and was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth round.
5. Austin Mack, WR
An early enrollee, Mack played sparsely as a true freshman but was one of the leading receivers during the 2017 and '18 seasons. He suffered a foot injury last October that prematurely ended his season and is looking to finish out his Ohio State career strongly. No matter how 2019 turns out, Mack will always be remembered by Ohio State fans for his clutch play versus Michigan in '17 that helped the Buckeyes rally to defeat the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.
6. Nick Bosa, DE
The top-ranked recruit of the Buckeyes' 2016 class, Bosa wasted little time making his impact as a true freshman. Rotating along the Ohio State defensive line his first two seasons, fans anticipated Bosa dominating as an every-down starter in 2018. Unfortunately for Bosa, his junior season was cut short due to injury in week four of the 2018 season. Instead of trying to return late in the season, Bosa shifted his focus to getting ready for the 2019 NFL Draft and he was taken second overall by the San Francisco 49ers.
7. Luke Farrell, TE
One of three tight ends in the Buckeyes' 2016 class, Farrell appears to be the starter entering this season. While not utilized extensively as a receiver, Farrell has caught 22 passes and a touchdown his first two seasons after redshirting in 2016. He has two years of eligibility remaining.
8. Jahsen Wint, S
A 3-star prospect out of New York, Wint redshirted in 2016 and got his first start at safety in the 2018 season opener against Oregon State. With a new defensive coaching staff, Wint will have every opportunity to contribute at safety, as well as the new "bullet" position that is a hybrid linebacker/safety role under co-coordinators Greg Mattison and Jeff Hafley.
9. Binjimen Victor, WR
A 4-star prospect out of Pompano Beach, Florida, Victor played sparingly in 2016, but was a vital part of the wide receiver rotation the past two seasons. With the departure of three of the top four targets in 2018 (Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon, Terry McLaurin), Victor will have ample opportunity to increase his role this season. Victor's biggest play as a Buckeye came during the 2018 comeback win at Penn State, with this reception that helped spur Ohio State to a win on the road.
10. Dwayne Haskins, QB
Originally a verbal commitment to Maryland, Haskins decided to become a Buckeye after the Terrapins went through a coaching change in 2016. How fortuitous for Ohio State. Even though he was a starter for just one season, Haskins made it a memorable one. As a redshirt sophomore in 2018, he set 28 school and seven Big Ten records, including new single-season marks for passing yards (4,831), touchdown passes (50), and total offense (4,939). He also completed 70 percent of his passes (Ohio State record) and finished with nine games of 300 or more yards and four with 400-plus (both school records). He declared early for the 2019 NFL Draft where he was the 15th overall pick by the Washington Redskins to become the first Ohio State quarterback taken in the first round since the Baltimore Colts selected Art Schlichter in 1982. Haskins also is the first quarterback from the Big Ten taken in the first round since the Carolina Panthers made Penn State's Kerry Collins the fifth overall pick in 1995.
11. Jordan Fuller, S
A three-time Ohio State scholar-athlete, Fuller was a 4-star prospect out of New Jersey who quickly emerged as one of the better players in the secondary. Fuller was second on the team in tackles in 2017 with 71 and tied for the team lead last season with 81 stops. A team captain as a junior, Fuller could put himself in position to be an early-round choice in the 2020 NFL Draft with a strong senior campaign.
12. Malcolm Pridgeon, OL
A massive (6-7, 310) offensive lineman, Pridgeon was signed as a junior college prospect late in the 2016 recruiting cycle from Nassau (New York) Community College. After sitting out in 2016, Pridgeon went on to play in every game the next two seasons. He started all 14 games in 2018 as a senior and led all players in snaps from scrimmage (1,170). After going undrafted this year, he signed with the Houston Texans as a free agent and is currently trying to earn a roster spot in training camp.
13. Malik Harrison, LB
The final player to commit to the Buckeyes on Feb. 2, 2016, Harrison has been among the best in his recruiting class. Harrison played in 12 games as a true freshman and has become arguably the best linebacker on the team. Harrison is a rangy linebacker with good size (6-3, 240) and will be someone NFL scouts will keep a close eye on as he's already projected as a high draft choice next year.
Out of 25 players signed in 2016, 13 eventually became starters. Add that total to the three contributors highlighted in part two and the Buckeyes produced 16 contributors of varying degrees, or a highly respectable 64 percent, when evaluating against the "Rule of Thirds." Many from the 2016 recruiting class have already moved on to the NFL, but the 2019 season will offer more opportunity for those that remain to add to their group's collective legacy.