In last week's Water Cooler we asked which of the incoming freshmen on each side of the ball would have the most immediate impact for the Buckeyes in 2012.
Around the-Ozone Water Cooler — Which of the Incoming Freshmen Will Have the Biggest Career Impact
By Tony Gerdeman
This week we're stretching that immediacy out over four or five years and asking which of the incoming players on each side of the ball will have the biggest career impact.
Remember, there are no wrong answers—yet. However, feel free to mark the calendars four years from now and remind us of how wrong or how right some of us were.
Brandon Castel — There are a few guys I like in this class on the offensive side of the ball, but I am going to stick with my guy, Taylor Decker as the one most likely to have a successful career at Ohio State. Why is Decker my guy? Well, I have been preaching for quite some time about the dire situation that was coming to a head on Ohio State’s offensive line.
It is scary to think where the Buckeyes would be at offensive tackle moving forward without Decker and Kyle Dodson, two big tackles Urban Meyer was able to land in the final two months before Signing Day. The Buckeyes really only have one true offensive tackle on the roster in Andrew Norwell, although Reid Fragel is up over 290 pounds now and he could be a good tackle for them in 2012.
Fragel is also a senior. Norwell will be a junior, which means Decker will get a chance to be in the mix early in his career and he could be fighting for a starting spot on the offensive line by his second year. At 6-8 and over 300 pounds, Decker is exactly what Meyer is looking for in an offensive tackle. He went to a small school in Vandalia Butler, but Decker is an excellent athlete who could become a fantastic pass blocker for the Buckeyes if he can develop under Ed Warinner.
Defensively, I’m going with the guy who could very well be the most talented player in the entire 2012 recruiting class.Adolphus Washington would have been my pick for instant impact player on defense, but the Buckeyes have more of a need at the LEO (rush end) spot, which is why I went with Noah Spence. Both are good players, but Washington has future star written all over him.
He is big and strong and could play just about anywhere on the defensive line short of nose tackle. His best spot appears to be strongside end, but I imagine Luke Fickell and Mike Vrabel will want to move him around the way Ohio State did with a guy like Cam Heyward.
What Meyer really likes about Washington is his competitive nature. He is a winner. He wants to win, whether it’s in football or basketball. He is quick enough to play some LEO the way Will Smith or Vernon Gholston did, and I expect him to have that type of impact at the college level.
Tony Gerdeman — I don't know what this means for the class, but I had trouble deciding which player on defense to pick because there were so many options. Whereas on offense, I had trouble making a decision because I couldn't decide if any of the current signees would actually be making a significant impact.
That's not a knock against the offensive players, per se, but I just expect more and more offensive talent to make its way to Columbus over the years, thereby making it hard for any one particular player to stand out above another.
However, given that I have to choose somebody, I'm thinking that somebody is going to be wide receiver Ricquan Southward. Granted, he's an under the radar guy, but he's a versatile receiver who has touched the ball in a number of different ways in high school, including out of the backfield.
In other words, he is used to getting the football from all different angles, which will suit him just fine in Urban Meyer's offense. He is too much of a body catcher right now, but they'll fix that. His best football is yet to come, I just don't know how soon it will begin.
On defense, I'm going with defensive end Adolphus Washington. Noah Spence will likely play before Washington, but I like what Washington will become down the road. Spence may never be more than a 255-pound pass rusher, but Washington will become a 280-pound strongside defensive end that is as effective against the run as he is the pass. Both have non-stop motors, but Washington's size wins it for me.
Like Southward, he's still pretty raw, but he's got a lot to work with. I expect that work to be very productive.
Scott Dame — In last week’s Water Cooler, I selected receiver Michael Thomas as the signee who would have the most immediate impact in the fall.
Thomas has got a good shot at making the greatest career impact as well. The 6-foot-4, 203-pound receiver from California Taft High School by way of Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy will have a good chance to play early with Ohio State’s lack of experience at wideout.
As an early enrollee, Thomas will have time to develop a rapport with Braxton Miller. This is a relationship that could last three seasons and generate many touchdowns.
I also considered running back Bri’onte Dunn and tackles Taylor Decker and Kyle Dodson, but I think Thomas’ chances at early playing time make him the correct choice. Hopefully the OSU passing game can improve to the point where Thomas has a chance to showcase his talent.
Speaking of talent, Thomas comes by his genetically; former Southern Cal and NFL star Keyshawn Johnson is his uncle.
On defense, my selection is defensive lineman Noah Spence from Harrisburg, Pa.
Spence was ranked as the No. 2 defensive end in the country by Scout and will have a good opportunity to play right away, especially if senior Nathan Williams cannot make a full recovery from knee surgery.
Head coach Urban Meyer and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell have identified pass-rushers as one of their most immediate areas of need entering the 2012 season. That’s one reason Meyer called Spence the night he was hired.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, Spence has the speed to play the Leo spot in the Buckeye defense. As a senior, Spence had 84 tackles (23 for losses), 10 sacks and three blocked punts for Bishop McDevitt High School. Spence was named the 2011-12 Gatorade player of the year for Pennsylvania.
I also considered linebacker Jamal Marcus for this spot, but I went with Spence because he is generally regarded as the most talented member of OSU’s 2012 class.
Ben Axelrod — There’s arguably no player in Ohio State’s 2012 class who has a higher ceiling and a lower floor in terms of his career potential that Cardale Jones, but for some reason I can’t really explain, I see the Glenville-product reaching the former.
On the surface, Jones seems like he should be an afterthought in this year’s class. He’s joining a team that already has a sophomore quarterback in place and whether it’s Malik Zaire or Jalin Marshall, a four or five-star quarterback is likely to be joining the Buckeyes in 2013. But something just gives me a feeling that Jones’ name is going to be one to remember in Columbus for years to come.
Perhaps it’s his size that gives me positive vibes about Jones. He’s listed at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds in the most recent OSU roster. And as Josh Harris (6-foot-2, 234 pounds) Alex Smith (6-foot-4, 217 pounds) and Tim Tebow (6-foot-3, 234 pounds) has taught us, bigger is better in Urban Meyer’s spread offense.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see Jones ever taking over as the Buckeyes’ signal caller so long as Braxton’s enrolled in Columbus, but a redshirt year could give him two years of separation between himself and Miller, and a potential early declaration for the draft could give Jones three years with a shot at OSU’s starting QB job. Hey, it wouldn’t be the first time that a quarterback from Glenville overcame the odds in Columbus.
A player who’s a safer bet to make an impact during his time in Columbus is linebacker Josh Perry. The four-star prospect has been committed to the Buckeyes since before his junior high school season and like Jones, is already enrolled at Ohio State.
Perry is a playmaker in his own right, but what’s really going to help him is the defensive lineman that Meyer recruited after Jones was already committed to the Buckeyes. Between Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington, Tommy Schutt, and now Billy Price, there’s no shortage of potentially great defensive linemen that will be taking up blockers and freeing up space for the Olentangy-native over the course of his career.
If all goes right, Perry could wind up teaming up with Ryan Shazier to become to next great OSU linebacker duo.