Redshirt Forecast Part 1: Look for Me on Saturdays
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The 2011 season is rapidly approaching and it won’t be long before the Ohio State coaches have to start making some hard decisions about which players are going to be on the field.
The Buckeyes are replacing a number of key starters from last season—including the three suspended players who will miss the first five games of the season. That has opened the door for a number of young players to make an impact this fall, but which ones?
We take a look at the 2011 class in our three-part “Redshirt Forecast” series, starting with the guys who are all but certain to see the field this fall.
Photo by Jim Davidson
QB Braxton Miller (Wayne) — At this point, it’s a sure bet that Braxton Miller is in Ohio State’s plans in some capacity this fall. He may not start the opener against Akron, but offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said they are getting two quarterbacks ready to play. Braxton will be one of them.
WR Devin Smith (Massillon Washington) — The Buckeyes have more talent at the receiver position than it looked like in the spring, but that hasn’t stopped Smith from making an early impact. The Massillon product has a great combination of size and speed, but his hands and route running are what will get him on the field as a true freshman. He might also find himself returning kicks if Jaamal Berry isn’t healthy.
Photo by Jim Davidson
TE Jeff Heuerman (Naples, Fla.) — Like Miller, Heuerman enrolled at Ohio State back in January and it’s amazing how far he has come. Besides completely remaking his body in seven months, Heuerman has become one of the team’s surest pass catchers. With Reid Fragel sidelined, he was repping behind Jake Stoneburner at tight end, but he is certain to be in the mix now that Fragel has returned.
C Brian Bobek (Palatine, Ill.) — It’s not easy to step in and learn the intricacies of playing center as a true freshman, but Ohio State is putting Bobek through a crash course the way they did with Michael Brewster back in 2008. Brewster is back as the team’s All-American center, but Bobek will get a chance to play at some point this year.
OL Antonio Underwood (Shaker Heights) — Offensive Coordinator Jim Bollman mentioned Bobek and Underwood as the two freshmen who will likely contribute this fall. Underwood has handled playing the right tackle position about as well as anyone could have expected, and he might be asked to play early if they have any injuries up front.
Photo by Dan Harker
DL Michael Bennett (Centerville) — No freshman has made a bigger splash this fall than Bennett. The Centerville product was coming off a vicious broken forearm, but it only took him a week of hitting to work his way up the depth chart. Right now he is in the two-deep on the defensive line and he will almost certainly be in the rotation this fall.
DL Joel Hale (Greenwood, Ind.) — Another guy who should be in the defensive line rotation this fall is Hale. He was another of the early enrollees and really made a name for himself with a strong spring practice. He hasn’t gotten as much notice this fall, but Hale has added some weight and could really help provide depth both inside and out.
Photo by Jim Davidson
LB Ryan Shazier (Plantation, Fla.) — The Buckeyes are thin at linebacker this fall, but that isn’t the only reason Shazier is likely to see the field this fall. Not only does he look the part, but Shazier has been a playmaker since the time he stepped on campus. His ability to play both outside linebacker spots (Sam and Will) means he will likely get some good playing time as a freshman.
CB Doran Grant (St. Vincent-St. Mary) — It didn’t seem like there would be a lot of room for Grant to grab playing time this fall, but the freshman out of St. Vincent-St. Mary has impressed the coaching staff. He’s done enough to leapfrog senior Dionte Allen and now appears to be a fixture in the two-deep behind Travis Howard. He could also find himself on the kick coverage team.
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