Five for Friday: OSU Freshmen Who Need to Make an Impact
By Tony Gerdeman
Even though the Buckeyes went 12-0 last season, they weren't exactly perfect. This was an offense searching for playmakers, and a defense that went through so many changes that they probably should have done it in the privacy of a cocoon.
In other words, there is plenty of room for improvement from last season, and in college football, improvement comes through recruiting.
Urban Meyer says that he doesn't recruit players to redshirt, and if they can play, then they'll play. He brought in a class of players who were meant to fill in the present voids, as well as build the foundation for the future.
Overall, it's a balanced class, but there are certainly a few freshmen who could impact this team right away. Listed below are the freshmen who most need to succeed this season for the Buckeyes to reach their ultimate goal.
1. Dontre Wilson
Dontre Wilson was one of the popular topics among his teammates at the Big Ten Media Days, which should have been music to Urban Meyer's ears. Jordan Hall performed very well when he was healthy this past spring, but he isn't necessarily a big-play threat the way that Wilson is. Playing in the slot, the Buckeyes will need Wilson to run between the tackles, take a fly sweep, beat a safety in the passing game, and any number of other duties. If he is up for it, then he and Hall will be able to open up this offense even more.
2. Joey Bosa
Joey Bosa's importance is due to the fact that the Buckeyes are rather thin at strongside defensive end. Starter Adolphus Washington should be perfectly fine, but behind him are Steve Miller (6-3 252) and J.T. Moore (6-3 262), both of whom are a little undersized for the position. Bosa (6-5 270), meanwhile, is already bigger than both of them, and he may be a little better suited to give Washington a breather. In their combined four seasons, Moore and Miller have a total of 14 tackles and one sack. They need production at this position, and it may have to come from Bosa.
3. Vonn Bell
The Buckeyes will be graduating their top three safeties after this season, so it will be important for some young players to get snaps. Vonn Bell is probably at the top of this list, given the hard work that Everett Withers put into landing him. Bell should find some snaps in dime packages throughout camp. If he shows himself capable, then he could be in a battle with Corey Brown in the dime package as the third safety. Given that they'll need Bell next year, expect the coaches to give him plenty of opportunities.
4. Jalin Marshall
Jalin Marshall's role in this offense will mirror that of Dontre Wilson. However, Marshall will spend the bulk of his time in the receivers room with coach Zach Smith. Marshall has the type of big-play ability that was hit-and-miss out of the slot last season. Yes, Philly Brown had a few big plays, but even he will tell you that he needs to have a lot more this season. Brown was shoe-horned a bit in the slot last season, and the belief is that the position more suits Marshall. By the way, Braxton Miller said this week that Marshall was the most impressive freshman receiver.
5. Trey Johnson
The Buckeyes lost both of Ryan Shazier's backups following spring football as Luke Roberts and David Perkins left the team. This means that somebody is going to have to back up Shazier, and it might just be Trey Johnson. Linebacker depth is a concern for Urban Meyer, and a solid performance from Johnson either in special teams or spot situations would go a long way towards easing those concerns.
Bonus: Mike Mitchell
Similar to Trey Johnson, the Buckeyes need Mike Mitchell to find his way quickly. While Ohio State has their three starting linebackers set, there is still a need for depth, rotation and special teams, and just because starters are set in July doesn't mean they'll be set in October. Linebacker has been a position of turmoil for Ohio State for a couple of years now, and it may not be safe to assume that this season will be any different.
Bonus: Billy Price
On signing day, Urban Meyer said that Billy Price would be the defensive tackle who was most physically ready to play. At 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds, it's easy to see why. Price is strong for his age, and big for any age. With just three defensive tackles on the roster who have any meaningful playing time, the Buckeyes need to get some good snaps from one of their three freshman defensive tackles. Price is just the likeliest to come through.
Bonus: Defensive Back To Be Named Later
This is mainly for special teams. The Buckeyes need to find a special teams demon who can't be blocked on punt and kick coverage. This is the fastest way for a freshman to make a name for himself, no matter who it is. If they want to see the defense, they'll have to be seen here first.
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