Ohio State head coach Ryan Day has Buckeye coaches, players, and fans eager for the 2022 college football season. Newly-hired assistant coaches are on the staff, with a 21-man recruiting class inked and ready to contribute. Eleven members of Ohio State's 2022 recruiting class are already enrolled and will be participating in spring practice. In addition, the Buckeyes are welcoming some new faces via the transfer portal.
With winter conditioning well underway in Columbus, and spring football practice rapidly approaching, here are five players who may have opportunities to make sizable contributions to the 2022 Ohio State Buckeyes.
Tanner McCalister, S
McCalister is one of two players who joined Ohio State via the transfer portal (incoming running back turned linebacker DeaMonte "Chip" Trayanum is the other, having arrived from Arizona State). McCalister comes to the Buckeyes after starting the past two seasons at Oklahoma State. Known for being a physical run defender as well as a good cover man, McCalister is well-versed in new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles' scheme, from their time together with the Cowboys. McCalister should be able to help his new teammates get acclimated to Knowles' terminology and concepts. McCalister should secure one of the starting safety jobs, most likely the cover safety.
Bennett Christian, TE
Christian's inclusion here may come as a surprise. A star at Acworth (Ga.) Allatoona High School, Chrisitan is the highest-rated prospect in his school's history. An early enrollee, Christian joined a position group undergoing a transition with Jeremy Ruckert in the 2022 NFL Draft and Cade Stover moving back to linebacker. Christian's size (6-6, 240) could help get on the field right away, especially if he proves adept as a blocker. Day has already emphasized that the Buckeyes need to do a much better job this season when it comes to run blocking.
Devin Brown, QB
Brown has an opportunity to emerge from a crowded competition for the backup quarterback job behind Heisman Trophy finalist C.J. Stroud. Sophomore Kyle McCord has the experience edge but Brown should get his chances to impress the coaching staff. The No. 2 spot on the QB depth chart takes on added significance when you consider the possibility that Stroud could decide to leave early and enter his name into the 2023 NFL Draft. Either way, it will be interesting to see if Brown is able to work his way on to the field this fall.
C.J. Hicks, LB
The top-ranked player in the state of Ohio from Archbishop Alter high school, Hicks earned the nickname of "Captain Buckeye" for his efforts in trying to get other highly-ranked players to join the 2022 recruiting class. Another early enrollee, Hicks will get plenty of time with defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, who also is set to coach the linebackers. Hicks could emerge as a core special teams player right away but a new scheme also increases the chances he gets some defensive snaps before the 2022 season is over and done with.
Sonny Styles, S
Listed as a safety in the news release on the 2022 recruiting class, Styles is a player who will likely project as a linebacker. Styles reclassified from the class of 2023 to sign with the Buckeyes in December and comes to Columbus with appealing size (6-4, 215). Styles' versatility is another asset that should help him see the field earlier rather than later, according to head coach Ryan Day. "We will use him everywhere we can... He can do a lot of things. He can cover, he can blitz, he can play zone, and he can play man. He's like a Swiss Army knife out there. Our guys on defense will be excited to have him as he builds roles," Day said. Styles is not enrolling early but should have plenty of opportunities over the summer and into fall camp to impress the coaching staff. He's another incoming freshman who could carve out an early role on special teams and his varied skill set makes him a candidate for the "Leo" position in Jim Knowles' defense.
— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also is podcasting for Buckeye Scoop. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.