Ohio State football cornerback Denzel Burke looking forward to facing Penn State's Jahan Dotson

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch
During the past three games this month, opponents have targeted Ohio State's Denzel Burke (on right) an average of just three times per contest. Indiana threw his direction once last Saturday.

Freshman cornerback Denzel Burke has enjoyed a breakout season in Ohio State’s secondary.

Now comes his biggest test to date when the Buckeyes host Penn State Saturday night, bringing a matchup with All-Big Ten wide receiver Jahan Dotson.

Through nearly two months, Dotson has caught more passes than anyone else in the conference with 49 receptions for 563 yards and six touchdowns.

But Burke isn’t fazed by the prospect of covering him, embracing the possibility.

“That's something I’m looking forward to,” Burke said. “I want to go out there with my team, get the dub and just ball out.”

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Dotson made a lot of plays against Ohio State on Halloween last season, when he caught a career-high three touchdowns.

Several of his grabs were worthy of highlight-reels and showed excellent body control by the 5-foot-11 receiver, especially the second of his three touchdowns.

While running a route along the sideline and just inside the 10-yard line, Dotson was blanketed by Shaun Wade, then the Buckeyes’ top cover corner. Dotson leaped into the air and grabbed the pass from quarterback Sean Clifford with his outstretched right hand.

Wade, who tried to intercept the throw, landed out of bounds, allowing Dotson to trot into the end zone.    

The performance was not likely lost on Buckeyes coach Ryan Day. Earlier this week, he referred to Dotson as one of the better receivers in the country.

“We got to know where he is at all times,” Day said.

Burke offered similar praise when asked about facing Dotson. He also showed no lack of confidence in himself in such a matchup.

“He’s a pretty good receiver,” Burke said. “Nothing I can’t handle, though.”

Despite being the most decorated receiver to face Ohio State this fall, Burke said he is trying to maintain a consistent level of preparation this week.

“It doesn't change at all,” he said. “We're going to stick with what we do, trust our coaches in what they want us to do, and go out there and play hard.”

Teams are also giving more respect to Burke as this season has progressed.

When Burke debuted as a starter, teams were eager to pick on a true freshman. In four games in September, he was targeted six times per game, according to Pro Football Focus.

During the past three games this month, he’s been targeted an average of three times per contest. Indiana threw his direction only once last Saturday.

Burke said the trend has felt humbling, but he also likes having chances to make plays. He's broken up six passes this season and picked off another at Rutgers, returning it for a touchdown.

“I really do want to get tested,” he said. “If they don't, they don't.”

TreVeyon Henderson’s workload

Star freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson said he is “happy” with the number of carries he’s been getting in recent weeks.

Henderson has seen double-digit carries only once in the last four games and has been held out of the second half of some of the Buckeyes’ blowout wins.

“When we're up 50-something against a team, there's no reason to get 20 carries and put myself at risk of getting an injury,” he said. “I think they're being smart the amount of carries I'm getting. Twenty carries a game will come sooner than later.”

Henderson has only surpassed the 20-carry mark once this season when he rushed for 277 yards and three touchdowns against Tulsa last month, running 24 times.

Latest on Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford’s health

Penn State coach James Franklin said on Tuesday that he expects banged-up quarterback Sean Clifford to be 100% for Saturday’s game at Ohio State.

A day later, Clifford reiterated the encouraging prognosis, adding that he “truly believes” he’ll be back to 100% against the Buckeyes.

In a loss at Iowa on Oct. 9, Clifford was knocked out of the game after absorbing a tough hit to his ribs, and was replaced by third-year sophomore Ta'Quan Roberson, who struggled against the Hawkeyes.

Clifford returned against Illinois last week but didn’t appear fully healthy.

“We’re prepared for whatever they give us,” Buckeyes linebacker Tommy Eichenberg said.


Reserve running back Master Teague, who was unavailable in Ohio State’s previous game at Indiana, was seen stretching after practice on Wednesday night. Day remains hopeful he will return against Penn State. "But we’ll see how today and tomorrow goes," he said Thursday. 

Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman.

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