ARLINGTON, Texas — Ohio State cornerback Jeffrey Okudah and TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson will line up across from each other Saturday night at AT&T Stadium, but it wasn’t the first time they’d been in such proximity.
They grew up 15 miles from each other in the Dallas suburbs, Okudah from South Grand Prairie High School and Robinson from DeSoto High School. The last time they were eye to eye, in high school two years ago, Robinson and DeSoto held sway.
“I’m really excited to have a chance to talk some noise to him on the field,” Okudah said headed into the game. “We’re going to have a little friendly trash talk during the game, just because we know each other.”
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Okudah had nothing but praise for Robinson before the game. He likened the running ability of Robinson, 6 feet 2 and 228 pounds, to former Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner.
“I think he’s a really elusive runner,” Okudah said of Robinson. “If you watch his high school tape, you see spin moves, you see jukes in there. It’s kind of like, maybe even you could say, a stockier Lamar Jackson kind of player.”
Robinson is playing in the same offense that elevated current Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to fame, but Robinson entered TCU with even higher expectations. He signed in the winter of 2017 as a four-star recruit, the highest-rated QB to pick the Horned Frogs.
Having started his school days in Denton, Texas, he moved to DeSoto for his senior season. He led DeSoto to the class 6A state title — being named the Gatorade Texas player of the year along the way — while passing for 3,413 yards and 28 touchdowns and rushing for 1,469 yards and 19 scores.
To prepare for the TCU quarterback, the Buckeyes went against freshman hybrid back Jaelen Gill in practice this week, as well as backup QB Tate Martell, an elusive runner. And this is the same defense that practiced for years against J.T. Barrett, who ended his Ohio State career after the 2017 season with the most yards in Big Ten history.
Only Okudah, a freshman last season and five-star recruit before that, could offer a realistic critique.
“J.T. wasn’t as elusive as Shawn was in the open field,” Okudah said. “He (Barrett) had a running element. It wasn’t just that elusive, but it still was a threat. So, I mean, J.T. kind of gives you that feel, but I wouldn’t compare it.”
And what about Martell, considered one of the top dual-threat QBs in the country when he signed last year?
Robinson “and Tate are both guys that can run the ball, but Shawn kind of has a more sturdy frame,” Okudah said. “So when you go against Shawn, he has the option to put his shoulder down and try to run you over, as opposed to trying to shake you and go out of bounds.”