Malik Hooker

“We started grading college football players for the first time in 2014 and have seen countless All-Pros enter the league in that span. These are the players that at the time we thought would be All-Pros based on their college performance. These are the best prospects we’ve graded at each position over the past six years.”
– Michael Renner, PFF.com

We discussed last week the impressive run Ohio State has had as an absolute juggernaut of developing NFL talent in recent years. The coaching staff the Buckeyes have had in place, even with a head coaching change, has its players not only playing at a high level at the collegiate level, but also has prepared its guys for success at the next level. As a result, Ohio State has been consistently pumping out early first-rounders better than almost every other program in the nation throughout the past half decade.

PFF has been one of the leaders in grading college football players’ performances over the course of the past six seasons, with almost all of its top-graded athletes moving on to have tremendous success at the next level. Heading the 2020 NFL Draft, the site just recently released its All-Time Prospect team, taking a look at the highest graded players at each position since the system’s inception. Unsurprisingly, the list is filled with former Buckeyes.

Ohio State has absolutely crushed it along the defensive line in recent years, with an ostensibly never-ending assembly line of incredible NFL-ready talent. The most recent product is Chase Young. Almost certainly a top-two selection in the upcoming draft, Young’s 96.5 pass-rushing grade makes him one of the most dominant edge prospects PFF has ever seen. While Myles Garrett earned the other first-team nod opposite Young, both Nick Bosa and Joey Bosa were named honorable mentions — two guys who went on to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in their respective inaugural seasons in the pros.

Of course, the Buckeyes love to tout their talents at defensive back, choosing to go by BIA (Best in America) rather than DBU. Whichever one they’d prefer to call themselves, the team can back it up with some elite production in the secondary.

Despite playing only one full season in college, Marshon Lattimore earned a first-team spot at cornerback opposite Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey. Lattimore’s 2016 campaign was certainly enough to earn him that recognition, allowing just 18 catches on 40 targets with four picks, amounting to an opposing passer rating of just 31.9. Another likely top-five pick in this upcoming draft, Jeff Okudah earned an honorable mention.

At the free safety spot, Malik Hooker made the list for his ridiculous 2016 season. Showcasing absurd range and innate ball-hawking abilities, Hooker picked off seven passes (three of which he returned for TDs) to earn a 91.5 coverage grade. The safety has not quite been able to show out at the next level thus far and has battled a few injuries, but did start in all 27 games he played in the past two years with the Indianapolis Colts.

This weekend saw the first ever action of the new XFL, and whether you liked what you saw or not, Ohio State fans definitely had a reason to tune in on Saturday. The DC Defenders took the field in the inaugural game of the season, lining up with quarterback Cardale Jones at the helm. The man affectionately known by Buckeye fans as 12-Gauge famously led them to a National Championship in 2014 following an injury to starter J.T. Barrett, and while his NFL career didn’t exactly pan out, the XFL is providing an opportunity for him to resurrect his football career.

Jones could not have asked for things to go much better in his first start for the Defenders, leading his team to a 31-19 win over the Seattle Dragons to start the season 1-0. The strong-armed QB lit it up on Saturday afternoon, passing for 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jones also showcased the ability to effectively use his legs, escaping the pocket multiple times to extend plays while also rushing for 28 yards in the game.

After going a perfect 11-0 as a starter at Ohio State, Jones has still not lost a game as a starting QB since high school. Jones was also the highest-graded offensive player from the weekend’s slate of XFL games, according to PFF. With quarterback play looking pretty lackluster overall in the league’s first contests, the former Buckeye was one of the lone bright spots at the position as one of the biggest names in the eight-team circuit.

Jones is joined on the Defenders by two more former Ohio State players, including defensive lineman Tracy Sprinkle and cornerback Doran Grant.

Jones and the rest of his DC teammates will next take the field this Saturday at 2 p.m. EST when they face-off against the NY Guardians. The game will be broadcast on ABC.

Rumors were floating around late Sunday night that former Ohio State coach and current Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell would be leaving the Bearcats to take the now-vacant Michigan State job. He did interview with the Spartans on Sunday, however after talking it over with his family and weighing his options, the now fourth-year Cinci head coach has decided to stay put in southwest Ohio.

Fickell has done a tremendous job in his first three seasons with the Bearcats. After a 4-8 season in his first campaign with the team, the former OSU interim HC and co-defensive coordinator has led Cincinnati to 22-5 overall the past two years while winning a pair of bowl games over ACC opponents. While he is passing up the opportunity to take over a Power Five job, he is clearly happy with the success he is having with the Bearcats, especially given that eight of the 20 recruits he signed in this year’s recruiting class chose to go to Cincinnati despite also having offers to MSU.

The decision to stay put is good news for Ohio State for multiple reasons. Obviously not having to face-off against Fickell both on the field and in the recruiting game at MSU — especially given his Ohio ties — is a plus. However, had Fickell decided to leave Cincinnati, the Bearcats head coaching vacancy could have been an intriguing draw for newly-appointed OSU defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs. The Buckeye assistant likely would have been Cinci’s top candidate for the job, and with Coombs’ ties to the city would have made for a very interesting decision to make for the career assistant coach.

In other coaching news of interest to Ohio State, it is being revealed by senior NFL reporter Albert Breer that the Philadelphia Eagles were interested in hiring Buckeye assistant Brian Hartline as their wide receivers coach, but Hartline instead elected to remain at OSU. Just recently named the national recruiter of the year by 247Sports, Hartline is a massive asset for Ohio State both with his on-field coaching ability within his position group and as a phenomenal player in the recruiting game.

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