With J.K. Dobbins already challenging for the No. 2 running back and cornerback Kendall Sheffield the first to have his black helmet stripe removed, the 2017 Ohio State recruiting class is making its presence known, and it’s still only spring.
Coach Urban Meyer said after practice Tuesday that Dobbins, a freshman from La Grange, Texas, and one of the 10 early enrollees from the class, has moved past Antonio Williams and now is competing with Demario McCall to back up returning starter Mike Weber.
Sheffield is an ipso facto member of the ’17 class. He was a five-star prospect out of Missouri City, Texas, in 2015, when he signed with Alabama. After redshirting that season he left Alabama before the season and moved to Blinn (Junior) College in Brenham, Texas. He once again was heavily recruited and signed with OSU, starting school halfway through spring semester March 1.
Having the black stripe removed from his helmet is a ritual for OSU newcomers, symbolic of being deemed ready to play. Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano indicated early on that he expected Sheffield to compete right away.
“He has a great work ethic and he’s a great competitor,” Schiano said. “Doesn’t say a lot, just goes out and plays.”
Linebacker Baron Browning of Kennedale, Texas, is another five-star member of the class and an early enrollee. But Browning is scheduled to have shoulder surgery today to fix an undisclosed ailment he likely came in with, Meyer said, and exacerbated in the second week of practice.
He will miss the rest of spring but is expected to be ready to go in the summer lead-up to preseason camp. Meyer said he expects Browning to play this season, based on what he showed before being hurt.
Defensive lineman Davon Hamilton also is out for the rest of spring. He had foot surgery on Monday to help repair a broken bone suffered last week and, like Browning, is expected to be ready for the season.
Linebacker Justin Hilliard was in an orange jersey on Tuesday, and he took part only in noncontact drills. Hilliard, the top-rated prospect of the 2015 class out of Cincinnati St. Xavier, suffered bicep tears each of the past two seasons, and though recovered from that, he now is dealing with a strain, Meyer said.
The coach did not mention linebacker Nick Conner, who observers said suffered another knee injury in practice Saturday and is expected to have surgery again, with his status unclear. Conner, a Dublin Scioto product and part of the 2015 class, was a standout in the spring that year before suffering a knee injury that knocked him out for the year.
Marcus Baugh, the returning starter at tight end who had shoulder surgery in the offseason, is not taking part in on-field drills but is jogging around the perimeter during practice. He had a jogging mate Tuesday in defensive end Jonathon Cooper, who is dealing with a hamstring pull.