Thinking Out Loud: Fresh Off the Presses
By Brandon Castel
Roby and Wilson.
Those are the two names that will appear on the back of a scarlet No. 1 jersey this month when the Buckeyes open the 2013 season against Buffalo. One of them is a two-year starter, all-Big Ten performer and potential first round draft pack. The other had his first practice wearing an Ohio State jersey on Sunday.
While Bradley Roby waits for Urban Meyer’s other shoe to drop concerning his bar incident in Bloomington, Ind. last month – still haven’t figured out what would lure Roby to Bloomington, of all places – there was another No. 1 on the field Sunday.
If the legend of Dontre Wilson hadn’t proceeded him to Columbus, he certainly has his teammates buzzing after summer workouts with the 2013 recruiting class.
Wilson wasn’t the biggest name in Ohio State’s class – that honor goes to 5-star safety Vonn Bell – but he may very well be poised to make the biggest impact for the Buckeyes as a rookie this fall.
If what Braxton Miller and the other players are saying is true, then it’s no wonder Urban Meyer was willing to hand over the No. 1 jersey to an incoming freshman without seeing him on the field for one practice in a scarlet uniform.
Wilson wasn’t the only freshman on the field Sunday. All 21 of them on the active roster were in uniform for their first workout with Meyer and the OSU coaches. Defensive tackle Donovan Munger won’t join the team until the start of Fall Semester at Ohio State and 4-star tight end Marcus Baugh has been suspended from team activities for his alcohol-related incident over the summer.
Freshman punter Cameron Johnston – the kid from Australia – will also join the Buckeyes with the rest of the team this week (look for the guy kicking the ball in a No. 95 jersey).
Another intriguing player on the field for the Buckeyes Sunday was Jeff Greene – not to be confused with the guy who plays for the Boston Celtics – a 6-4 wide receiver transfer from Georgia Tech who will wear No. 8 for the Buckeyes.
Greene is a Georgia kid – from Peachtree City – who played in 25 games the past two seasons for the Yellow Jackets. He started seven games in 2012, tying for the team lead with 18 catches for 284 yards and pair of touchdowns last season before transferring to Ohio State this summer.
He was only a 3-star prospect coming out of Starr’s Mill High School in 2011, but Greene is an experienced receiver who could give Ohio State a dangerous red zone target next season. Even though he walked on at Ohio State, Green will have to sit out the 2013 season; he will have two years of eligibility remaining at the start of next year.
With the arrival of guys like Greene and Corey Smith – a junior college transfer – it’s clear Meyer was not overly thrilled with the group of receivers he inherited when he took over the team in Columbus. Devin Smith has as much potential as anyone in college football, but Ohio State relied far too heavily on Smith and Philly Brown last season. Those two combined for 90 of the team’s 161 catches. The next-leading pass catcher at the receiver position was Evan Spencer with a total of 12. Remember, this is a group that didn’t have a single player catch more than 14 passes two years ago.
That’s why guys like Wilson, Smith, James Clark and Jalin Marshall could all get a chance to at least show what they might be capable of this fall. Michael Thomas is the guy who appears most ready to make a jump to become that No. 3 option behind Smith and Brown, but Marshall is an intriguing option for Meyer and the Buckeyes.
He hasn’t played much receiver in his career, but that’s exactly where they are going to play him in Columbus. He could also see some time in that flex hybrid role, although Wilson makes the most sense as the guy who could emerge to challenge Jordan Hall for playing time at that spot. The suspension of Carlos Hyde might facilitate a more complex role for Hall in early nonconference schedule.
The Buckeyes have plenty of other options at tailback, including Rod Smith, Warren Ball and Bri’onte Dunn, but Meyer is going to want to get his best playmakers on the field. If that includes Wilson, it might mean more snaps at tailback for Jordan Hall.
Six Freshmen to Watch This Fall
15 Ezekiel Elliott (6-0, 210, RB) – It will be interesting to watch what happens at tailback over the course of fall camp. Hyde’s absence opens the door wide for a number of players, but it also means Elliott could get a chance to step in and impress some people enough to be in the mix.
17 Jalin Marshall (6-0, 190, WR) – We talked about Marshall earlier, but he seems like the most likely candidate to jump in there and make an impact at the receiver position. He’s not as experienced as some of the other guys, but let’s see what happens when Urban Meyer gets a look at No. 17 with the ball in his hands.
97 Joey Bosa (6-5, 270, DL) – The Buckeyes love versatile linemen and Bosa’s ability to play inside at tackle or outside at strongside end could make him a valuable asset for Mike Vrabel, even as a freshman. He appears to have the strength and size to contribute right away for the Buckeyes, it will just be a matter of getting him enough reps. Not everyone is Cam Heyward the moment they walk in the door.
36 Trey Johnson (6-2, 220, LB) – Meyer mentioned the linebacker spot as an area where some these freshmen might be able to contribute right away for the Buckeyes. Johnson is a heady player who should pick up the scheme rather quickly. Whether it’s quickly enough to make an impact this year will be something to watch, but the opportunity will be there.
44 Mike Mitchell (6-4, 225, LB) – Mitchell is a physical freak and it’s going to be fun to watch him develop. He hasn’t played a ton of true linebacker, but he could be used as a pass-rusher in some obvious passing situations. He should also get a look on special teams early in the year.
6 Vonn Bell (6-1, 190, DB) – Finally, the guy everyone has been waiting for is here. Exactly where he fits on this defense is hard to say right now, but my guess is they will find him a spot. Everett Withers is enamored with his skill set and it makes sense that he could jump in there and compete for playing time the nickel or dime spot in anticipation of Christian Bryant, C.J. Barnett and Corey Brown’s exit at the end of the season.